Pi Wars 3.0

Here’s a guest post from our old friends Mike Horne and Tim Richardson. Come and join the fun at the next Pi Wars!

Pi Wars is a challenge-based robotics competition in which every robot must be controlled by a Raspberry Pi. It’s great fun, and it will all be kicking off once again on 1st-2nd April 2017. For the first time, we are extending the event to run over two days, as we have been overwhelmed with interested applicants.


Another victim succumbs to the obstacle course and its turntable of doom

We have always tried to encourage young robot builders to get involved in CamJam and in Pi Wars. Previously we have held Pi Wars in September and December, but this did not allow school teams enough time to build, program, test, and otherwise prepare their robot around their schoolwork. We therefore decided to move the event date to later in the academic year: we think April is late enough for schools to have run enough robot club sessions, but early enough not to clash with exams.

People of all ages take part. Here's Amy, aided by Heffalump and friends, showing Eben her robot.

People of all ages take part. Here’s Amy, aided by Heffalump and friends, showing Eben her robot.

This time around, we have a celebrity judge: Dr Lucy Rogers from the BBC’s Robot Wars will be putting your robots through their paces.


Dr Lucy Rogers in conversation with an old friend

In previous years, we have categorised robots by cost (in 2014) and size (in 2015). This time, we are going to group teams into the following categories:

  • Schools and other clubs

  • Families and groups of friends

  • Amateur/beginner/intermediate hobbyists(s)

  • Professional or expert hobbyist(s)

This means that robot teams will be competing against their peers, rather than against those with different skill levels – so, it will be, for instance, school vs school and family vs family (in a non-Mafia kind of way).

This is the kind of thing you see at Pi Wars: Liz commandeers a gigantic Big Trak.

This is the kind of thing you see at Pi Wars: your friendly Director of Communications commandeers a gigantic Big Trak.

This year’s list of challenges is available on the Pi Wars website. As well as winning points for their performance in a range of challenges, this year’s robots are also being given points for artistic and technical merit. There’s even a prize for the funniest robot (the competition does start on April Fool’s Day, after all!) and a pre-event blogging competition which encourages teams write about themselves, and their journey from a collection of parts to a working robot.

We’ve come up with a list of general rules and also rules for each challenge. Perhaps the most important one this year is a requirement that your robot must be sub-A4 in size. This still leaves quite a lot of room for flexibility in design, whilst at the same time levelling the playing field. It also means that those teams who are using kits are in with a better chance of competing against those who make their robot from scratch.

Entry into Pi Wars is on an application basis, rather than first-come, first served. With the number of teams we’re expecting to apply, the quality of your application is important. You can read more about the application and selection process here.

To apply to enter the competition, please fill in the application form. Feel free to take as much time over your application, and provide as much information as possible.

If you’re interested in robotics and technology, but you don’t want to build your own robot this time, you are still very welcome to come and watch the competition. Spectator tickets will go on sale later in the year. We only charge for adults, so it’s great for those on limited incomes. Join our mailing list to be notified when tickets are available, or keep an eye on piwars.org.

The game is afoot! Competitors at Pi Wars 2015

The game is afoot! Competitors at Pi Wars 2015

If you’re an altruistic type, you may be wondering if there’s some way you can help with Pi Wars. As with all big events, we need a team of volunteers to make the day go smoothly. Rather than having just a few marshals who spend the entire day helping, we aim to have as many people as possible so that everyone can spend most of the day watching the robots take on the challenges. Depending on the number of people who volunteer, helpers spend approximately two hours doing marshalling activities. Judges generally spend slightly more time judging, but we aim to give everyone a chance to experience the event as a spectator as well as helping us out! If you’d like to help out, please do contact us. We’ll be delighted to hear from you! We are also very happy to hear from potential sponsors: you can check out our website for more information on sponsorship, and on what we can offer in return.

To whet your appetite for the upcoming competition, or if you have never been to Pi Wars and want to know what it’s like on the day, we’d like to leave you with Matt Manning’s video of last year’s event…

…and Spencer Organ’s video of the 2014 wars:


Tickets will be available for observers as well as competitors; it promises to be another great weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!



I am very excited to see a family category. This could be a great way to spend time with the kids and learn something new.


Hi! We’ve found in the past that families love entering Pi Wars – as you say, you get to spend time together, learn something new and have something positive to aim for :-)


I thought it was supposed to have some level of intelligence driving the vehicle. That can’t be possible with Liz in the driving seat.


Coming from someone of your own very special mental capacity, Dougie, that’s COLD. :p


Sorry bad typist here. Should read “artificial intelligence”.


Yeah yeah. (Dying laughing here.)


Oh no! I know from last year that my Dagu Rover 5 is a smidgen over A4 size :(

Can I be a house robot, like Sgt Bash?


How much of a smidgen? Email me :-)


The Southend Raspberry Jam entered Piwars in 2015.
It was a great learning experience and lots of fun on the day of the competition. I’d highly recommend entering.

There are some amazing, highly engineered robots at Piwars. Don’t let that put you off entering if you have never built a robot before.

I’ve put some videos of our robot here :

As you can see, we had a very low tech robot which still managed to do quite well (much to our surprise).



Did that young lady pictured, Amy, know to whom she was speaking?


She did. Amy’s great – she’s a really smart cookie. This isn’t the first of her robots we’ve encountered at events!


I remember Amy and her Heffalump from the 2014 PiWars – IIRC she was with the Ipswich Makerspace? She did a great cheerleading routine.


She was, and she was with them again this year – doing more engineering and less cheerleading!


I have met Amy at various CamJam events in the past and she is pretty darn awesome.

Favourite bit was when she referred to Eben & Liz as “Mr & Mrs Raspberry Pi” ;)


About the funniest robot, is that a contest to test AI where the one that makes up the best jokes wins? ;)
Seriously though how about challenges to test more of robot intelligence. Like a head to head game of chess with a 1 min time limit per move where each Pi robot not only has to pick up and move the correct pieces without knocking over everything but also strategize how to beat it’s Pi opponent.


Interesting idea. The trick with coming up with challenges for Pi Wars is to get enough that most people can do. The split between autonomous and remote-control is one of these ‘tricks’ – have enough autonomous to really challenge, and have enough R/C to be fun. It’s all a question of balance. We’ll keep the idea on the back burner for 2018!


…or Connect 4 ;-)
(which it’s probably a lot easier to build a robot for, than chess)


What about also considering including another type of PiBots for the event – the flying ones. There could be similar contests to their wheeled cousins ie the line following or an obstacle course flying through hanging hula hoops and past blowing fans. But other challenges could be unique to them such as target drops from a certain height etc. In any case with plenty of quadcopter parts and kits available now that are ready to have a Pi lobotomy, this could be a fun addition and bring out lots of interesting projects.
Up next: Pi Drone Wars!


…which would also be a Health & Safety nightmare.


In the interests of not promoting chopping or flaming death, we’ve specifically excluded flying robots. It’s just too dangerous.


Brilliant to see my robot on the blog on the last photo!

Really well organised and fun event. Not sure if mine is A4 sized though.. or whether it can go in next year. Here it is:


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