Recently, I started tinkering with a Board of Education (Boe) Ro(Bot); i.e., a Boe-Bot, created by Parallax, a California-based company. The Boe-Bot is commonly used in science and engineering classes to teach basic concepts of computer programming, electronics, and mechanical engineering. After assembly, the Boe-Bot is programmed by the user in PBASIC (Parallax’s version of BASIC) to carry out various functions. Additional components can be purchased for the Boe-Bot, such as text-to-speech enabling hardware, mechanical grippers which can be used to pick up objects, and infrared sensors. Because the Boe-Bot comes equipped with its own microcontroller, no additional hardware or Arduino  support are required for basic maneuvers .
Andy Lindsay’s excellent manual, Robotics with the Boe-Bot , is provided with the kit, offering step-by-step projects and learning modules for both the hardware and software. Since the Boe-Bot is frequently used in robotics maze/course challenges and competitions, I was curious to see how the robot is actually controlled. Upon completing the manual, I found that the user would have to measure the length of the desired course, including all of its various twists and turns, and then translate that into appropriate distances which would then be programmed into the code, essentially creating a grand choreography of pre-determined maneuvers. (This is done as follows: the user writes the code in PBASIC and then sends the output to the Boe-Bot by means of a programming cable connected from the computer to the Boe-Bot’s circuit board. The Boe-Bot stores in memory the last bit of code or program delivered to it and executes commands when first turned on or when its “reset” button is pressed.)
Desiring a more hands-on ability to control the device, however, I began searching for ways to use existing remote controllers, such as XBox or PlayStation controllers, to manipulate the Boe-Bot’s actions. Unfortunately, most methods seemed complicated and required the purchase of either additional hardware or software.
After a bit of research, I discovered that Andy Lindsay had also written another excellent manual, IR Remote for the Boe-Bot , which provided the answer. The Boe-Bot kit comes with two IR receivers, only one of which is required for this set up, and the Boe-Bot’s infrared object detection receiver is the same detector found in most TVs and VCRs. This detector sends a low signal whenever it detects IR flashing on/off at 38.5 kHz and a high signal otherwise. When the IR detector emits low-frequency signals, the processor inside a TV, VCR, or other device (such as a Boe-Bot) measures the duration of each. It then uses this information to determine which key was pressed on the remote. Of course, the Boe-Bot’s BASIC Stamp 2 microcontroller can be programmed to detect and interpret the sequence it receives from the IR detector.
While there are numerous communication protocols that a universal TV remote can use to send messages, I discovered that the SONY protocol works well with the Boe-Bot IR detector. Luckily, I also happen to have a Sony TV remote. With just a few lines of code, the Boe-Bot was soon responding to all of my key commands on the Sony remote. I chose simple key numbers such as 2 (forward), 8 (backward), and so forth, moving around the keypad dial to include left and right rotations. The user can also enter commands to turn the unit on and off with the keypad. You can watch a video of it here:
Assuming you already have a functioning Boe Bot, I’ve provided wiring instructions for the IR device, along with the code to make it work with either a universal remote programmed for a Sony TV or a dedicated Sony remote. The following link will direct you to another page. Simply scroll down that page and then click the link for the Word doc download: IR Using Sony TV Remote Control
Thanks for stopping by.
 A. Lindsay, “Robotics with the Boe-Bot” (Ver. 3.0), Parallax, Inc., Rocklin, CA, 2010.
 A. Lindsay, “IR Remote for the Boe-Bot” (Ver. 1.1), Parallax, Inc., Rocklin, CA, 2006.