Pi Wars

Liz: a bunch of the Pi Towers crew spent Saturday at Pi Wars, the amazing, community-run Raspberry Pi robot competition, now in its second year. With 500 attendees and more robots than we’ve ever seen in once place before, the event’s really come into its own. I was going to blog about it today, but late last night, I came across a blog post from one of the young people who took part, and decided he did a much better job that I could have done.

So here’s 10-year-old Femi’s beautifully written post, which includes a ton of video interviews with robot makers: you can see more of his work on his own website, hackerfemo.com. Thanks Femi, ENORMOUS thanks to Mike and Tim for organising the event, and thanks to everybody who came!

Liz Bighak

Liz driving Hitchin Hackspace’s BigHak, last seen heading for the A14.

What an amazing weekend! Very early Saturday morning me and my mum headed for Cambridge to witness the wonders of Pi Wars – run by CamJam organisers Mike and Tim.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 13.27.15

Femi, author of today’s post.

After getting  a goodie bag and our Judge and Jam Maker stickers we went to explore the amazing robots that were competing  against each other.  There were around 30 competitors. I managed to interview five of them: Darth Cthulhu, The Bomb Squad, Optimus Pi, Triangular and Revenge of the PyroBot, along with young robot fanatic  Crazy Squeak’s own robot that he brought along to test out on the challenges.  Crazy Squeak – it was really great to meet you at Pi Wars and look forward to reading your blogs too.

Crazy Squeak

Darth Cthulhu (Southend Raspberry Jam team):

Southend RJam Robot

The Southend Raspberry Jam team bring their robot to Pi Wars

The Bomb Squad (Yasmin Bey)

The Bomb Squad at Pi Wars

The Bomb Squad: Yasmin Bey talks about her small but deadly robot.

Optimus Pi (Leo White)

Optimus Pi

Leo talks about his Robot at Pi Wars

Triangula (Tom Oinn)

Triangula at Pi Wars

Tom talks about his amazing robot, Triangula at Pi Wars

Revenge of PyroBot (Brian Corteil)

Revenge of the PyroBot at Pi Wars

Brian talks about his awesome robot at Pi Wars

Crazy Squeak


Amazing 10yr old coder and robot inventor talks about testing his robot out on the challenges at Pi Wars.

*Apologies for poor sound – as my recording equipment is very limited

There were seven different challenges: Obstacle course, Skittles, Pi Noon – the Robot vs Robot  duel, Straight-line speed test, Three-point turn, Line follower course and  Proximity alert. [Liz: There’s an in-depth look at the turntable element of the obstacle course at PiBorg’s website.]

It was a great privilege to judge  the Three Point Turn challenge with my mum and JarJarGeek. He is an amazing blogger and we had a lot of fun working together as a team. He took some video of the event.

PiWars 2015 – The Next Generation

Cambridge Raspberry Jam – PiWars 2015. Held at University Cambridge Computer Laboratory

It was really interesting as the robots  have to do this challenge autonomously: some used sensors but others used measurements or adjusted the number of wheel rotations/angles etc.


I also met two other very cool bloggers called Matt – Raspberry Pi IV Beginners and Raspberry Pi Guy – also Matt.  They gave me some great advice, and their recording equipment made me realise that if I want to get serious, as a blogger, poor mum will have to help me raise some funds!


One of the real highlights was interviewing Raspberry Pi’s founder and  CEO (Trading) Eben Upton, who said that the Raspberry Pi is all about helping young people to explore coding. He also talked about the £4 Pi Zero and enjoying Pi Wars.

Eben Upton at Pi Wars 2015

Blogger, Hackerfemo, interviews Eben Upton – founder of Raspberry Pi talks about why he developed the Raspberry Pi, the new PiZero and Pi Wars. [hackerfemo.com]

In fact there were so many cool people around. I even got to speak to the other CEO of Raspberry Pi, Philip Colligan, who said that he’d really enjoyed reading my blog and that it was ‘amazing’. Wow – that has made me very happy and it does help me to keep going – even when it gets so busy with other stuff!


My favourite robot was the Revenge of PyroBot – it was so cool – with creator, Brain, putting his old robot on top of it. He said it had got trashed last year and this year he’s out for revenge – bigger and better than ever. It was true – he won  about 6 prizes.


We are having a Robot hack next week at our South London Raspberry Jam, so coming to Pi Wars was really inspiring and we got lots of encouragement from the community, at the event. Thank you to RyanTeck, Pimoroni, Ragworm, and  RapidOneline  for helping us out. I am also grateful to PiBorg, Ryan Teck (SnowPi) and Mearm for agreeing to send me products to review on this blog.


Amy Willis and her show-and-tell robot, Huggles: Amy did all the soldering herself.

So this week, we have a CamJam Robot kit that I’m going to be building and mum’s going to ask the IT department at work to do a 3D print of the chassis – see Daniel Ball’s  thingiverse.com website.  We’ll use it as an example for the young coders at our event to build, code and compete in our very own mini Pi Wars.

Last thing! I want to read something awesome over Christmas – can you recommend an iconic or essential piece of writing for a new coder and future designer/builder of robots and the gadgets (Internet of Things) – bearing in mind I’ve just turned 10?  It can be anything – article, fiction, non-fiction or comic. Leave your suggestion in the comments, please?