I was absolutely shattered – physically and mentally – from the exciting Piwars event at Camjam yesterday. No, I did not actually enter a robot – but was part of the SoSLUG team with robot Darth Cthulhu. And what really took it out of me was staying fully alert and on my feet for over five hours straight. ‘Crashed’ the minute I sat in Dave’s car to go home. After a night’s sleep I can take stock . . .
I think there were around thirty robots at Camjam, from the full-size model large enough to sit in to the adorable furry sheep with a Santa hat on. The sheep was powered by Camjam’s ‘Edukit3’ robot kit. Mm! Am gong to have to give some serious thought to my robot. Of course I could just be boring and use the box that the kit came in but I would rather create something original. I’d like it to be small and compact. Most robots at the event were about the same size as Cthulhu. I suspect that this is because the sensors, motors, RPi’s and battery packs require quite a bit of space.
Raspberry Pi jams at Cambridge run by Tim Richardson and Michael Horne are the perfect model of how jams should be organised. The whole day went like clockwork and I was so impressed. The venue was ideal AND the cafeteria was open. Food and drinks are such a vital necessity for any event. Besides the seating in the cafeteria there was more seating upstairs in a designated “quiet area”. I should have gone there for a nap instead of soldiering on but there was so much going on. Struggling against the desire to sleep makes me cranky. I was beginning to ‘hurt’ with tiredness so I popped outside into the cold winter air. Ahhh! That’s better – the chill shock revived me.
Tim and Michael had recruited enough volunteers to man the front desk as “meeters and greeters” besides acting as “door stewards” in the robot preparation area and acting as judges for each challenge. And the best bit of all – to me anyway – was that the overflowing rubbish bins were emptied throughout the day. Nothing is more disheartening than to be faced by overfull bins.
So what exactly is a Raspberry Jam? Well: a place where enthusiasts gather to show off their latest projects incorporating the Raspberry Pi computer. A place where merchants meet to market their wares – gadgets, gizmos and techy stuff to enhance the RPi projects. A place where there is the opportunity to network . . . with no age barrier. I was delighted to see the two nine year olds, Femi and Crazy Squeak there with their mothers. Femi was interviewing people while his mother videoed. Crazy Squeak had entered his Lego robot for the competition. Then there was Yasmin, an independent lady of around fifteen years competently handling her own robot unassisted. Lastly there were the four youngsters involved with Darth Cthulhu. True to its name-sake the giant tentacled monster was ugly and evil, spitting out connectors and blowing out Arduinos and in general keeping Israel and Andy, Marian, Maise and James very busy. In fact, most of the robots entered seem to require running repairs and there was a “pit stop” area which was a hive of activity. When we meet at the Computer Club on Monday I must seek feedback. The Club has invested quite a bit of money in Cthulhu. I think that it is time to rebuild the robot from scratch, applying knowledge gained, amending the coding and finishing up with a robot to reflect the investment in time and effort.
Update from Andy M: ‘We came second on the straight line speed test and reached the semifinals on the Pi Noon balloon popping challenge !
The large crowd waited for us as we typed our last minute code at the side and were quite impressed as we beat 2 robots with a flapping about sharp point.
We nearly stabbed some members of the crowd a number of times and accidentally burst a waiting competitor’s balloon.
We were beaten by the amazing Triangular robot, with wheels which can go in ALL directions and won Pi Noon.
All in all we’ll be remembered as a very entertaining team.
As @Geeky_Tim said to everyone at the end about us :
“It just goes to show that you don’t have to have a highly engineered robot to do well.“‘