After a very nerve wracking couple of weeks, we were delighted to receive an email inviting us to compete in the beginners category of PiWars 2020 with our proposed robot poliDroid, a modular based robot, using a series of attachments to complete the challenges of Pi Wars.

So Who Are We?

Team poliDroid is made up of 3 software developers with keen interests in CAD, engineering, mechanics and robotics who work at a local printers, developing both the internal and customer facing systems primarily in VB.net

Alex Smith

Alex has previously competed in Pi Wars 2019 with his entry Code Breaker coming 6th in the beginners category. Through this he learnt a wealth of knowledge on what to do and what not. The Raspberry Pi was what got Alex hooked on coding getting his first in 2013. Since then, he has attended various events within the community. When not coding, Alex generally spends his time playing around with 3D design and printing, having just recently upgraded from Google Sketchup to Fusion 360, he hopes this added skill set should prove to be very useful in the upcoming competition.

Aaron Roach

Aaron studied digital and analogue electronics and always had an avid interest in automation, heads the development team at work being the architect and initial builder of the systems which run the entire business and has been looking for an opportunity to bring the two elements together using Pi. He has worked on connecting many machines and services across the business; working with third party manufactures to engineer bespoke connections to track work through the production process.

Lewis Davies

Lewis hasn’t had much experience with the Raspberry Pi itself, however he’s very into mechanics, and regally tinkers and fixes cars. Being a software developer, he’s also competent with coding. Lewis has also helps run and maintain the Work’s 3D printers, troubleshooting any print quality issues to try and get the perfect 3D print!

Whats the plan?

Upon analysis of robots built around disaster recovery we identified there were allot of specialised robots to complete a particular task. Because of this, we want to try and make our entry as adaptable as possible, with the ability to easily add or remove components to adapt to the conditions and task at hand. In addition to this, we want to make the software as easy to use as possible, as in the event of a disaster, there’s nothing worse than having to look through a 1000 page manual!

Software

We plan to explore the possibility of developing all our robot around the windows IoT platform, developing our own libraries. Although a bit of a challenge, we want to see what this platform can offer and if possible be the first robot that we know of to compete in Pi Wars running on this platform. From precious experience, one of the key things wee need to make sure of is that we have an easy way of operating the robot on the day of the competition. Last year Alex used a Pimoroni GFX hat, which although was very useful, it still made it a little difficult to set programs running without getting in the way of the robot once it had started. Because of this, we plan to create a flask based control page hosted on the Pi, that we can easily operate and change settings from our phone. This will be accessible via an emitted hot-spot on the Raspberry Pi.

Hardware

One of the main things we’ve learnt from the competition is that its always good to have a backup plan. Last year Alex attempted to complete the autonomous courses using as much image recognition as possible. In turn, due to lighting and calibration issues, this ended in allot of failures, specifically on the straight line speed test,and maze, relying on his helping hand following the robot with a sheet. Because of this, we plan to primarily use image recognition, however have a range of challenge specific sensors. Primarily we will have time of flight sensors on all sides of the robot, however we will look to use more specific sensors such as LDR’s. We want the motors to have roughly 400 RPM, and will run off 2 batteries in parallel to add additional capacity. We believe the PiBorg Thunderborg should provide us with everything we require to complete the challenges.

What’s Next?

Our next step is to start planning out our different aspects of the robot. Initially Aaron will start to work on the code, looking into the feasibility of the Windows IoT platform, and how achievable it will be to code our robot with this. As a team, we will also be looking to confirm our hardware choices, initially all the fundamentals such as motors, wheels and gearing layouts, however we will soon move onto looking at the sensors required any any additional motors and servos. Alex is going to be working on the initial designs, first starting with some quick mock ups of the parts, an then start to move into the finer details, initially focusing on the drive and steering, and then working on some of the more unique modules. Once done, we will then print small test pieces to confirm our designs work, before starting the process of printing the full robot.

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