Concord Consortium Sonar Ranger (CCSR) Documentation

Stephen Bannasch,
last modified: October 6 2000

The Concord Consortium Sonar Ranger (CCSR) is a battery-powered ultrasonic ranging device based on the Polaroid ultrasonic range finder used in Polaroid cameras and several digital measuring tapes. The CCSR was developed by Concord's NSF-funded Science Learning in Context Project (SLiC).

The CCSR collects between 10 and 50 samples of distance each second and reports the values via an RS-232 serial interface to a controlling computer at 9600bps, 8 data, 2 stop, no parity. The maximum range of the CCSR is aproximately 30 feet. Internally the CCSR uses a PIC16C73 microcontroller running at 8MHz to operate the analog electronics, monitor the battery voltage and manage the serial communications. The CCSR is not a stand-alone device but is used with software on a microcomputer to display real-time graphs of distance, velocity, or acceleration over time. The CCSR uses 4 AA batteries and is housed in a 6V lantern flashlight case.

The CCSR uses a Polaroid ultrasonic transducer to generate a highly-directional 50 KHz pulse of sound and measures the time it takes for the pulse to travel out, bounce off a target and travel back to the ranger. The travel time of the pulse of sound is proportional to the distance.

We have adapted existing Mac and Windows Motion software to the CCSR so that it could be easily tested with students. SLiC also worked with the CILT Ubiquitous Computing strand to create a Palm Pilot version of the CCSR Motion software.

The CCSR is the first in a class of small instuments combining sensors and interfaces we call SmartProbes. Checkout the SmartProbe home page for more information.

CCSR Specifications:

Maximum Range: 10 meters
Data Collection Rates: 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 samples per second
Resolution: 1 mm
Communication protocol: RS-232 serial, 9600 bps, 8 data, 2 stop, no parity, 3-wire interface
Power: 4 AA Alkaline batteries, 25 hours continuous data collection
Software: Mac, PC, Palm Pilot

Hardware Interface Specifications

CCSR Software for the Palm Pilot

Palm CCSR v1.0b4 is available

The Palm Pilot is pictured below connected to the CCSR ready to take data. There is no seperate interface box, the interface is built directly into the CCSR and communicates to the Palm Pilot via an RS-232 serial interface. This portability makes the CCSR suitable for investigations outside a traditional lab.

CCSR connected to Palm Pilot
The CCSR operating with a Palm Pilot

Pictured below is a screenshot of the alpha CCSR software running on a Palm Pilot simulator. The lower trace on the graph is distance, the upper trace velocity.

Palm Pilot CCSR Software

In the graph above the CCSR was held steady, then moved slowly towards the ceiling, stopped, moved quickly away, and again held steady.

Downloading the Palm CCSR software

Version 1.0b4 of the CCSR software for a Palm computer is available here in binhex format for a Mac or zip format for a PC. After downloading you will need to install it on a Palm computer. It has been tested on thePalm Professional and the Palm III.

CCSR Macintosh Simulator

A version of the CCSR software is also available that runs on the Mac and simulates the Palm computer and interface. This is useful for demoing the software because the Palm screen image can be projected from the Macintosh screen. The software will work with the CCSR if a Macintosh serial cable is available. Here's a 723K compressed archive of the CCSR Mac simulator in binhex format.

CCSR Source Code

The CCSR Palm software has been developed by the CILT project under the standard CILT intellectual proerty agreements which means the code is in the public domain. If you would like to view or use the code please contact Stephen Bannasch <>.