Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Apparently you can talk about robot club!

Had a good time at Brian Corteil's Robot Club at Cambridge Makespace on Saturday, testing out Sputnik and meeting some other Pi Wars contestants. It was great to try out the real straight line speed course. On the Friday night we only had one successful test run using boxes to simulate the sides of the track - all the other times the boxes went flying. But on the real thing it worked a treat. There were only a couple of times it turned left instead of right, but we think that was due to the course not being quite complete and joined together, so our sensors got a bit confused. Brian also gave us some good advice on how we could improve the code to keep our robot in the centre of the track. Our only regret is that we forgot to film it.

The other thing we learned is that the compass in the BBC micro:bit probably isn't reliable in the real world. In the Maze test, the robot turned a nice 90 degree turn on it's own - only for the compass code to try and adjust it by another 20 degrees or so, and pointing the wrong way.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

micro:bit tells the Pi where to go ...

... but in a nice way.

Not long after applying for Pi Wars, we were thinking about the design of the robot - and one question was how to display visually which mode the robot is currently in. Also - it would be nice to have a physical button on the robot to change the mode - just in case the remote controller can't connect for some reason.

Initially the idea was to have a number of LEDs and a button connected to the Raspberry Pi GPIO pins. The LEDs would show the mode using a binary representation and the button would allow the mode to be changed. However one day I looked across at the Dimm robot from BinaryBots we had built but never quite got round to programming and the answer was there. The BBC micro:bit would be perfect for a simple display and input. And after a few months, we've finally put a lid on the robot and had somewhere to mount it (albeit with some velcro for now - whilst we finalise the position).

micro:bit centre stage on top of Sputnik

We're in ....

It's official - we've been called off the reserves bench to join the action and compete in Pi Wars 2019.

Now the pressure's on. No longer will the phrase 'Never mind - at least we're only a reserve!' be uttered in the Sputnik household. 

Not much notice for the competition - but we've been progressing well and at least we have a robot that is functional - and should be able to compete a fair few of the challenges as it stands. Two of us are off to Brian Corteil's Robot Club meetup at Cambridge Makerspace this Saturday to hopefully try out some of the challenges in a real environment. (One that doesn't involve cardboard boxes for obstacles.).

Things we've learned in the last couple of days:

- Being selected for Pi Wars with less than 2 months to go doesn't help you get a good night's sleep!