Where to start?

“A man who moves mountains starts by carrying away small stones.”

Confucio

Well, we needed a test bed robot to start familiarising with the Raspberry Pi. From Robot Club at Makespace in Cambridge, I had the chance to meet Brian Corteil (Coretec Robotics), two times winner of past Pi Wars competitions. He designed a little and very cute robot called “Tiny 4WD” specifically for Pi Wars and is a great start for kids. So I bought myself one of this.

photo: Tiny 4WD (Coretec Robotics) & Pi Zero W starter kit (Pimoroni)

We planned to use this robot as test bed robot. I ended up customising it, changing the wheels and colour. Although, I knew later, that the buggy wheels have best adherence than the Pololu wheels that I installed. Something definitely to take into consideration. Following idea was to upgrade it with a Raspberry Pi B+ instead of the Zero. Even though, the Tiny is being design to be compatible with both, I find it really small when start adding things to it. It looked too messy.

Tiny 4WD (Coretec Robotics)

Anyways, the point is that it got me to the basics, I understood how to link motors to the Pi Zero and control it with the Pi game pad. It introduced me also to the Explorer Hat (and Explorer Hat Pro).

Tiny 4WD in the wild… its first steps… 😀

It looks like not much, but I actually learned a lot about the Raspberry Pi and the Zero Pi. I think the Zero Pi is enough for all the Pi Wars challenges, but we definitely will upgrade to the B+ model to add more power and capabilities. It will allow us also to use other libraries like OpenCV or ROS for the Nebula challenge where we are planning on using a Camera Pi. Next blog, Nenemeni’s birth !

The Idea & The Team

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

This is the second most important part of the competition (first one is to have fun, of course!), finding the right partner. I was not worried about hardware or electronics but I needed someone with good programming skills to help me improve and cope with my weakness. I only know ONE person perfect for the job, since I consider him the best software programmer/developer in the whole wide world: My partner Santiago!

2007 when everything started…

So here we are, for the first time “working together” after a bit more than 10 years (together). I knew what he does as job and he knew what I do, and he has always helped me when I am stuck with code, but I never got the chance to give him something back, to teach him something I am good at and passionate about: Robotics. We decided to join forces and see what we can achieve together.

My idea for the Pi Wars application was to use things that I already have, like dismantle a Smart Car (as it is Arduino based), motors, batteries, recycle material & toys like Lego or Meccano. Let’s see how it goes…

Finally the name of our robot : NENEMENI.

This word comes from a Mexican dialect, the Nahuatl, and means “walker”. Hopefully our robot will move 😀

Let the -Pi Wars- games Begin!!!

“Tell me and I’ll forget.

Teach me and I may remember.

Involve me and I’ll learn.”

Chinese proverb

I am really excited about competing in Pi Wars 2019, it really mean so much to me in so many different ways. In this first entrance to my blog, I think is important to answer the question: “Why Pi Wars ??

I decided to study robotics because I wanted to enter a competition called “RoboCup” (this was loong time ago). When I told my mother that I wanted to study robotics, she thought I was crazy. Even crazier because it meant to leave home to live by myself in the big capital: Mexico City. One of the most dangerous capitals in the world (so they said). She didn’t let me go.

photo: AI Magazine Volume 21 Number 1 (2000) (© AAAI)

I was born and raised in a small city about 500 km to the north of Mexico city called San Luis Potosí. The only career closest to robotics was electronics, and that was how it all began. For my end of career thesis project, I wanted to design my RoboCup robot to be part of the competition, but my thesis advisor got funding for a project on power electronics. I designed and built my first motor controller from scratch. AC/DC converter for a 1HP DC motor speed control (hardware and software prototype). I actually realise how important is the “control” part of it. I then studied a master on automatic control and finally a Phd in Robotics. This is how I started designing and building autonomous and semi-autonomous mobile robots for different applications. My robotics journey has being mostly fun and rewarding but I never had the chance to enter RoboCup.

So here I am, on track to Pi Wars 2019. I must say that this is the first time that I am building a robot for fun and designing it as I am, a bit crazy, rebel and impulsive. Furthermore, I am a newbie to Raspberry Pi and my weakest point is programming, so this is great opportunity improve my programming skills while getting to know this beautiful single-board computer.

Good luck to all participants and looking forward to meet you all in Cambridge !