A quick introduction to Robotics Studio

Part I. Installing Robotics Studio

For all of the below, make sure that you have administrative rights on your machine!

  1. Perform a Windows Update
    Make sure that your windows installation is up-to-date.
    On most windows installations you can force a windows-update by going here:

  2. Make sure you have Internet Explorer installed (preferably as default browser).
    Some students have experienced problems when using FireFox for some of the lab-components. If you don't have it installed, get it here:

  3. Install the .NET framework version 3.5 SP1.
    Depending on your particular setup, it might already be installed on your system.
    NET 3.5 SP1 Download

  4. Install Visual Studio with C# support
    The Visual Studio C# Express Edition is available free of charge and should be sufficient for all the labs.
    The download is located here:
    (scroll down the page and select Visual C# Express 2005 English)
    We strongly recommend that you install the MSDN express documentation as well (the installer will prompt you for it). The SQL server is not required.

  5. Install Microsoft Robotics Studio 1.5
    Robotics Studio is available free of charge here:
    At the end of the installation it will ask you to install additional components. Make sure all of them are checked, then hit "install" and follow all instructions. If you need to download additional components + updates, please do so.

  6. Install the Driver for the RadioShack USB-to-Serial converter
    Note that you only need this if you don't have a serial port.
    The driver is available here:

  7. Install the CourseWare
    The courseware is available here:
    If it asks you to overwrite a couple files during deployment, simply click "yes"

  8. Install the Scribbler Services
    Download and install the scribbler services for Robotics Studio here.

  9. Undo what CMU facilities has done to your computer
    Note that you only need to follow this step if you have a CMU facilitized version of Windows on your machine, or if you installed the "Spy Sweeper" software.
    Some installations of Windows which have been supplied or modified by CMU facilities come with special settings that will prevent Robotics Studio from running correctly. The most significant problem is the anti-spyware software which prevents Robotics Studio from initializing its networking ports. The software is called "Webroot Spy Sweeper Enterprise Client" and is installed on most facilitized Windows machines.

    On some machines you might be able to uninstall it by going to "Start"->"Settings"->"Control Panel"->"Add or Remove Programs" and selecting "Webroot Spy Sweeper Enterprise Client" and clicking "Remove". However, on machines which are administered remotely by facilities, there will not actually appear a "Remove" button, so you will have to disable the software manually.

    To disable SpySweeper, follow the following steps:
    1. Run the Task Manager (right click on an empty part of the task-bar and select "Task Manager").
    2. Find the following three processes and end each of them by hitting "End Process" and confirming with "Yes" if required:
      • CommAgent.exe
      • SPYSWEEPER.exe
      • SpySweeperUi.exe
    3. Now open explorer and goto
      C:\program files\webroot\
    4. You should see a folder named "Enterprise". Simply rename this folder to something else (e.g. backup_enterprise). This will prevent SpySweeper from starting again. (Alternatively, you could also delete the folder, but this would prevent you from re-enabling spy-sweeper when you are done with this course).
    5. Reboot your machine (yes, although you killed the processes, the machine still needs a reboot...it's quite bizarre).

Part II. After the Installation

After working through the above steps you should have a fully functional Robotics Studio Environment. Here are a few things that you should consider next:
  1. Sanity Check
    To make sure that your installation and the connection to the robot works, you should start up the lab1 sample solution. To do so, follow these instructions:
    • Start the "Visual Programming Language"
      This is located in the Start-Menu under "Programs" -> "Microsoft Robotics Studio (1.5)" -> "Visual Programming Language".
      Note that this might take a bit of time to load, especially the very first time you start it.
    • Load the sample solution project
      In the VPL Window, click on "File"->"Open...". Here, open the following file:
      C:\Microsoft Robotics Studio (1.5)\samples\courseware\introductory\lab1\mvpl\lab1.mvpl
    • Switch between Robot/Simulation Mode
      If you are ready to try the real robot, you will need to ensure that you are running in Robot Mode.
      Simply left-click the "Generic Differential Drive" Box of your program and then on the right pane, make sure you select "drive in iRobot.Drive.Manifest.xml" as the Manifest. Alternatively, you can use "IRobot.Create.Simulation.Manifest.xml" if you want to run the simulator.
    • Run the program
      To do so, hit the little play-button in the menu bar (keyboard shortcut F5). This should initialize your program. A bunch of messages will appear. If a message-window from the Windows Firewall appears, make sure to select "Unblock". If you accidentally hit "block", or if it gives some other kind of networking error, please see the troubleshooting page to resolve the issue.
      Eventually a browser Window will pop up. Make sure this is in Internet Explorer as Firefox might have issues with this (e.g. it will not correctly display the form-fields and the "connect" button). You can simply copy and paste the URL to Internet Explorer. The only setting that you should really ever need to touch is "Serial Port". Normally this is "1", but when using the USB-to-Serial connector this might be a different number. You could either try out different ones, or go to the windows Device Manager to determine which one it is.
      If running in robot-mode, make sure the iRobot is on (green light on top) and that it's properly attached to your serial port.
      Now you can hit the "Connect" button in the browser window. The robot should make a beeping sound. If it doesn't then you probably have the wrong serial port selected.
      If it beeps, you can go ahead and use the joystick window to drive the robot around.
    • Close the program
      To finish running the program, simply close all the windows which popped up when you ran it.
  2. Troubleshooting
    If any of the above fails, please read the troubleshooting-page for solutions to common issues.
  3. Work your way through the introductory tutorial
    Now that you know that your environment is working correctly, it is time to try to build the project you just ran on your own.
    To do so, start with a blank project ("File"->"New" in the VPL's menu).
    Next, simply follow the instructions of the "Lab Tutorial 1" which can be found here:
    c:\Microsoft Robotics Studio (1.5)\documentation\msrscourseware.chm