Robot creates ‘infinite’ WiFi network

August 8, 2012

A team of seven undergraduate students at Northeastern University designed and built a “nearly indestructible” robot that can enter rugged territory and create a theoretically infinite WiFi networks as it goes.

The team faced three problems: they needed a robot that could travel over rough terrain or rubble; the WiFi network had to be robust, cheap and easy to deploy; and they needed a way to control the robot as it built the network.

The WiFi network part of the system consists of WiFi repeater boxes carried on the back of the robot and deployed by a solenoid latch system fabricated using a 3D printer.

The clever part of the robot’s design is that its control system uses the very network it creates. The control is a web-based interface that operates over the WiFi network and provides the operator with real-time control of the robot. From a standard keyboard, the robot can be piloted, the onboard camera controlled, repeaters dropped and a GPS map of the robot’s movement displayed. Should the robot wander outside of the WiFi network, it can then retrace its path until it reacquires the signal.