Pi Wars Mini Conference Programme

Talks about Pi Wars given at the Roger Needham Building on Saturday October 5th 2019

9:30 Breakfast and registration
10:00 Welcome from Tim Richardson and Mike Horne
10:10 Keynote by Brian Corteil - How not to build a Pi Wars winning robot!
10:50 "Computer Vision" from scratch - Brian Starkey
11:20 Break
11:50 Introduction to PID control - or how to make your robot drive in a straight line - Lance Robson
12:20 Will your next Pi Wars entry be a walker? The challenges of multi-legged robots - Chris Parrott
12:35 The Art Of Pi Wars - Amy W
12:50 Lunch break, and robot show-off
14:00 Turning Toys into Toybots - Leo White
14:30 Create a Raspberry Pi HAT with KiCad 5 - Making open source hardware with free and open source software - Leon Anavi
15:00 Our Pi Wars Journey - CERCBot Team
15:30 Break
16:00 Lightning talks, raffle, and close


Brian Corteil

How not  to build a Pi Wars winning robot!


After winning the Advanced category of Pi Wars twice, Brian Corteil who runs Coretec Robotics had to come up with something new to impress us. So in 2019 he built the crazy, wonderful, self-balancing robot Faceplant for which he received the Judge's technical award.

"I failed, because my goal was to make a robot that couldn't possibly win anything," Brian told us at Makespace where he hosts the monthly Robot Club.

Three years ago, Brian previously talked on the topic of "How to build a Pi Wars winning robot". So it only seemed right, given his recent experience, to have him as our keynote speaker, presenting on the topic of "How NOT to build a Pi Wars winning robot".

We're also hoping that he'll bring his "Micro Pi Noon" arena with him so we can play some games in the breaks...

Brian Starkey

"Computer Vision" from scratch


Brian Starkey started messing around with electronics quite young, courtesy of his dad buying him a Radio Shack electronics experimenter set, and he never stopped. His studies at university and experiences in industry have cemented a keen interest in electronics and computing. Brian's Pi Wars 2019 entry, Mini Mouse, combined good things into a package so small you could have mistaken it for a computer mouse! A technical marvel, it was the aesthetic and design aspects of the project that won him the Judge's prize for artistic merit.

Brian told us, "For Mini Mouse, I wrote all the CV routines (for the maze, hubble and blast-off) from scratch instead of using OpenCV. I think people consider this to be a daunting and impossible task - but it doesn't have to be. The concepts and techniques involved (at least for my use-cases) are quite straightforward, and it's rewarding and educational to do it yourself."

This talk will start with some simple theory and build up to Brian's eventual Hubble implementation.

Lance Robson

Introduction to PID control - or how to make your robot drive in a straight line


Lance Robson has competed in every Piwars since the beginning, starting with Metabot, then Tigerbot, and Wall-E in 2019. He has a degree in electronic and information sciences, and he builds and flies RC models (rotary and fixed wing).

His talk will cover the basics of what a PID controller is, and why it can help make your robot run in a straight line (or move precisely). The talk will touch on wheel/motor encoders, magnetometer sensors, gyro sensors, and how to combine them all with controller input. We might also get an insight into what the RC modellers call "Expo" to make the robot control "feel" better.

Chris Parrott

Will your next Pi Wars entry be a walker? The challenges of multi-legged robots


Chris Parrott is a Post-Doc Roboticist with a passion for making. He enjoys 3D printing, programming, and electronics projects and sometimes even makes YouTube videos.

Chris is crazy about all kinds of walking robots, and that's something we don't see a lot of at Pi Wars. Is there a good reason why not, or could we see a competition full of walkers in 2020? In this talk, Chris will reveal what you'll need to think about if you want to build a walker of your very own.

Amy W

The Art Of Pi Wars


Amy is the official Unicorn Consultant for the Forest Fighters team. She's particularly known for her Red Dwarf inspired artwork that adorns their Shrub Bug, and of course, squirrels.

Amy told us, "Hi! I am a magical unicorn who lives on Mars! If you wish to be bestowed with Magical Unicorn Powers, please contact my lawyer."

Leo White

Turning Toys into Toybots

 Slides (on Google)

Leo White is a professional software engineer, and graduate of the University of Kent, whose interests include electronics, 3D printing and robotics. He first started programming on the Commodore 64, later wrote several applications for the Acorn Archimedes and currently programs set top boxes for his day job. Utilising the Raspberry Pi as a foundation he has mechanised children’s toys and driven robot arms, blogging about his experiences and processes along the way, given presentations at Raspberry Jams and entered a variety of robots into the Pi Wars competition.

Leo will talk about his approach/experiences of converting toys into robots, such as the Wall-E toy he repurposed for Pi Wars 2019, as well as the famous BigTrak conversion he made when the Raspberry Pi first came out.

Leon Anavi

Create a Raspberry Pi HAT with KiCad 5 - Making open source hardware with free and open source software


Although Leon Anavi is a software engineer, in his spare time for the past few years he has been developing open source hardware Raspberry Pi add-on boards and Internet of Things. This provides him the unique opportunity to combine open source hardware with free and open source software and bring entirely open source products on the market. Always take with a pinch of salt anything that a software engineer like Leon says about hardware and in the same time have in mind that if he can do it, anyone can!

This presentation will provide guidelines how to create an open source hardware attached on top (HAT) of the most popular single board computer Raspberry Pi using the free and open source software KiCad. Technical specifications of the Raspberry Pi foundation for HAT/uHAT, including for flashing device tree overlay in EEPROM, will be discussed. We will talk about the life cycle of a project starting from a prototype on a breadboard, through KiCad, to exporting Gerber files and making printed circuit board. The talk also contains information about open source hardware licenses, OSHWA certification, tips and tricks for avoiding common mistakes.

CERCBot Team

Our Pi Wars Journey


When Cambourne Electronics and Robotics Club (CERC) applied to compete in Pi Wars 2019, they promised us they would "Boldly go where no PiBot has gone before!"

CERC provides children aged 7 to 14 years a structured and enjoyable experience of working with electronics, robotics and computational languages to help nurture their understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

The team will talk us through their journey. We'll learn how they iterated their robot designs, a deep dive into one of the challenges, and how they progressed to the final day.

Lightning Talks

 Slides from Bill Corteil

A lightning talk is a short talk on any subject that the speaker thinks will be of interest to the conference.

Each talk should be a maximum of 5 minutes in duration, and the session chair will enforce this limit!

You can submit your lightning talk on the day, and the agenda for this session will be finalised during the last break. You don't need to have a slide deck, but you can use slides if you want.

If this is your first conference, it's a great way to start your conference speaking career!

The Pi Wars Mini Conference is a Cambridge Raspberry Jam event
© 2019 Pi Wars Mini Conference       "MC" artwork © eyyzarts