by Danny Staple

Piwars 2024 - Disaster Zone was recently announced by the PiWars team, and we’ve decided to make an entry.

I thought it would be fun, while making the entry, to post my form information here. We get to compare later in the year with what actually happens though!

Piwars 2019 - Big Ole Yellow - Tracked Robot

Team name: Orionrobots

Team members: Me, my robotics student and my two kids.

Robot name: Big Ole Yellow

Team category: Intermediate - although I’m a robot builder of some experience, my student is still learning and I want her to get the most out of the experience.

We are representing Richmond-upon Thames in London.

Details about our team

There’s me, Danny, an experienced robot builder, although only 1 actual robot entry has made it into piwars, I’ve built 3 robots intended for entry. I have build plenty of others. Meanwhile, I’ve a robotics student who will be contributing, and the intent will be to let them take a greater role in modifying the robot to compete - they will be learning while doing it. My children will also get involved, with my eldest involved in blogging it and my younger one pitching in with the student.

We will be building from my lab, a small home lab with robotics equipment like a soldering iron, 3d printer, oscilloscope, handfuls of microcontrollers and spare parts.

Details about our robot

Big Ole yellow was built as a previous Piwars entry (2019 I think) but didn’t get to compete.

It’s a tank tread based robot, using a modified Devastator chassis sent to me by 4tronix.

It current has a motor controller based on an Arduino Uno/Controller mash up - the 4Duino Pro. The main controller is a Pi 3a+.

Controllers on tracked robot

For sensors it has a camera with a big lens, multiple distance sensors, line following sensors abd encoders on the wheels.

There’s a custom gearbox with a 3d printed casing to turn the motors 90 degrees. The following shows how one side was done on the devastator chassis. There is a weakness in that these gears slip - a deeper keyway is needed.

Custom gearbox on devastator chassis

We plan to transplant a servo-motor based nerf gun turret from the robot “Bangers n’ Bash” onto it, as an add on, along with ways to change the camera position for the minesweeper game.

Bangers and Bash Robot Nerf Turret

Power wise it currently uses a set of AA batteries for motors plus a USB battery pack for logic. We may need to change this depending on the power requirements of the turret and to reduce weight.

Mark 3 Battery Holder On Robot

It has known flaws around traction, and the turret is untested on this robot. We will need to test it and make sure it works, then make a plan on which things to tackle, along with trying out algorithms for the challenges. We plan to do as many automated challenges as possible, but may need to do some manually.

We will use foamboard to build arenas, although we might need to scale some due to space constraints.

What robotics experience do you have?

Danny: As well as the previous Piwars entries (with the 2018 being a bit of a clown-car), I’ve written 3 books on Raspberry Pi robotics along with magazine articles.

My student: They are a fair python programmer, and have built a few robots with me recently, including a robot arm. They are yet to get into 3d printing, more detailed electronics and robotics algorithms.

My kids: They have built a few robots with me, and mentor in programming scratch at a local coder dojo.

Why do you want to enter Pi Wars? What is your motivation to design/build/program a robot? What are you looking to achieve? What are you looking to learn

I love building robots. There are some interesting challenges to try so me and my team can learn more about robotics together. It’ll also be fun to compete and meet with other robot builders. I personally want to get more experience with robotics algorithms, and building arenas. My student wants to learn more about robotics and get more experience with building robots. My kids want to come to have fun.

Please select the challenge types that your robot will be competing in

  • Challenges run autonomously - Preferably all of them, but we may need to do some manually.
  • Challenges by remote control - Those we must, and show off agility in Pi Noon.
  • Pre-competition blogging challenge - It starts here…

Were you accepted into the 2020 competition and ready to compete? If so, what was your team name?

It’s complicated. Bangers 'N Bash, then Orions Foot. We did not quite have a robot ready to compete.

Have you been involved with Pi Wars before?

Yes. I’ve attended a few times. Once as a reserve competitor, twice more as a reserve but then spectating or exhibiting there. I’ve been online for the Online competitions, came to the mini-conference.

My student has never been though.

Additional information to add to your application

We are looking forward to competing, and hope to see you there!

See the rest of my 2024 piwars blogs