An Interactive Radar Demonstration for Children
Michigan State University
Spring Semester 2012
Design Team 5
Nur Syuhada Zakaria
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory
Our goal was to develop an interactive radar demonstration to appeal to children aged 5-12. Using the Massachusetts Lincoln Labs radar kit as a starting point, we developed both a hardware-based Pong emulation and a PC-based colorful spectrograph display. The user interacts with the displays by moving back and forth in the radar’s beam path, controlling either the Pong paddle position or the height of the spectrograph. The user can select between range detection and velocity detection; however, velocity detection is unambiguous only for fast-moving objects and is incompatible with the Pong emulation.
We first decided on using an Arduino board for signal processing, as this platform is relatively inexpensive and versatile, and it has an extensive user community to draw upon for ideas and code examples. For graphics processing we chose the 4D Labs PICASO µVGA card. Like the Arduino platform, the PICASO has an active internet community and a wide range of potential applications. With this combination of processing platforms, we decided an emulation of the famous Pong game would be a simple, achievable vehicle for our demonstration of the radar.
We were successful in developing the Pong emulation on the PICASO and in facilitating communication of data from the Arduino to the PICASO; however, the input signal contained limited range information and was quite noisy, so extraction of useful information is rather difficult. After testing and tweaking of the radar kit’s input circuit, we constructed a filtering and biasing circuit to optimize the signal for input into the Arduino. This helped clean up the signal and made it more useful, though the range limitation still existed. Although we were unsuccessful in improving the limited range of the radar, we succeeded in fulfilling our goal of an interactive Pong emulation for demonstrating the radar. We also incorporated into our design the ability to easily upgrade, change, or otherwise improve the functionality of our demonstration by using reprogrammable microchips and including extra switches for future features or additional game modes.
We would like to extend our thanks to our generous sponsors at MIT Lincoln Laboratories, our gracious facilitator, Dr. Radha, the College of Engineering at MSU, and the members of the Arduino and PICASO internet communities for their guidance, advice, and technical expertise.