Kosovo’s First Pi Wars

British engineer Andy Moxon recently contacted us to highlight a Pi Wars event he was organising in Kosovo.

I write to inform you about an event I am running akin to Pi Wars, here in the newly independent country of Kosovo, South-East Europe.

I am a British engineer and have been living in Kosovo as a volunteer for the last two and a half years.  For the past eight months I have been working with two groups of twelve- to fifteen-year-old students in a club we have called ‘Young Innovators’.  It is an after-school club centred around the Raspberry Pi.  We have mainly focused on physical computing, with the aim of building Raspberry Pi-powered robots, similar to those that compete in Pi Wars.

Eager to see the outcome of the event, Liz asked if he would write a blog post for us and, being the lovely chap he is, Andy agreed. We think Mike and Tim, creators of the original Pi Wars, will be thrilled to see this.

Here’s his rundown of the successful event:

Many people are confused about the country of Kosovo, and there’s much that could be written here to rectify this; perhaps most important to us is the fact that it declared independence from Serbia just eight years ago. However, even more importantly (for this blog at least!), the country is not without Python coding, physical computing, robots, and a good number of Raspberry Pis.

Since the start of 2016, I’ve been running an after-school club called ‘Young Innovators’, diving into the world of the Raspberry Pi, to prepare for our (much smaller) version of Pi Wars, happening this December. Based in the small town of Shtime, the club aims to bring to life maths and physics, while also teaching the students programming and robotics.

Kosovo Pi Wars

In one sense, our robots are pretty standard. A single Raspberry Pi Zero is powered by a thin mobile phone power bank, and four AA batteries power two motors via a L293D motor-controller chip. At the front, we have a HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor and two infrared line sensors underneath. Additionally, we use two additional infrared sensors to count wheel revolutions, having painted white stripes on our wheels using nail polish! This opens the robots up to some interesting autonomous challenges, such as the three-point turn, which was included in the last Pi Wars competition.

Kosovo Pi Wars

An area which has caused a lot of excitement in the club has been the recent introduction of an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer.  Using FreeCAD (available for the Pi2 and above) we have designed the chassis of the robots from scratch. This has been a tough but worthwhile exercise, demonstrating the wonders of 3D prototyping.

Kosovo Pi Wars

At the time of writing, the robots have been screwed together and the electronics connected. We’re now in the thick of programming using Pygame (now integral to Python), preparing our eight robots for the battle.

Kosovo Pi Wars

Big thanks must go to the Raspberry Pi blogging community.  I first used a Raspberry Pi just a year ago and, without the dedication of excellent bloggers, we would never have been able to reach this stage.

You can follow our progress on our blog: www.younginnovators-ks.com

See? Told you he was a lovely chap!