Robots, racing, and Corgis?

In just three weeks, students in Ms. Macdonald’s Introduction to Computer Studies class were able to build, code, and design Bluetooth controlled robotic cars. After applying the finishing touches and getting some much-needed practice time in, the boys were ready to race them on the track.
Ms. Macdonald’s classroom in CLIP was transformed into a Mario-Kart style speedway, with tape on the floor outlining the track, weaving around obstacles in the middle of the floor. The boys were arranged in heats and competed against one another for the fastest time to complete the course. The challenge lied in the fact that the car must remain inside the lines. Going over resulted in having to go back to the last crossed checkpoint.
The base design for the robotic cars was mostly the same, although some had firm beliefs that theirs were the best. The main distinguishable feature was the ability to add weapons. One that stood out particularly was grade 10 student, Johannes Folttmann’s idea to use dangle saran wrap off straws attached to the car. “My hope was for the wrap to get caught in other cars’ tires and force them to slip off the track,” says Johannes.
Most of the cars were fortified with spikes intended for ramming, but Paul Zhao’s “Corgi Car” went a different route, attempting to get into the mind of his competitors. “My weapon was more of a psychological warfare, with three pictures of Corgi’s used for intimidation.” There actually was something uniquely haunting about a three-headed Corgi Car coming down the track. Well done, Paul.
The real difference in how each car operated was in the coding. Students controlled the car through an app on their phone, and through that app were able to design the complexity of the controls. For example, John Hou customized his car to perform various degrees of turning and buttons for different speeds. Owen Lapshinoff chose a more simplistic route, with controls for forward, reverse, left, right, and brake.
After testing both approaches on the track, the simplistic theory seemed to work better as students with more complex controls were overwhelmed in the heat of the race. Perhaps after more practice, the difficulty in the controls can be increased.
All in all, the boys thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of their labour as they competed for the fastest times on the track. Word got out around the School and even Mr. McHenry dropped by to catch some of the action.
Next up for the Introduction to Computer Studies students is to build and code a robot that can maneuver its own way out of a maze. Now let’s see a three-headed Corgi Car do that!
Story by Sean Maillet
St. Andrew's College
15800 Yonge Street, Aurora, ON L4G 3H7 Canada
Tel: 905-727-3178