Project Analysis

David Whale sent my Mum some pointers on analysing my recent Pi Wars project so that I could make progress for next year’s competition.  This is an important skill for people like me to learn, who want to work in the computer programming industry when we’re older.  I made notes about my project on the day, and since then I’ve looked at how best to analyse relevant points, so that I can produce a more efficient project in the future.  I can use this template for my other projects, both in advance as well as retrospect.

Project Analysis: PiWars Robot

Construction:

         Pros:

  • The chosen chassis material (laser cut acrylic) was sturdy and supported the hardware well.
  • It was a good idea incorporating pre-cut wiring holes in our design where we needed them, as this made assembly easier.

         Cons:

  • The messy wiring made it hard to locate and fix wiring problems.
  • I didn’t double check the measurements when I laser cut the chassis, meaning that it ended up being the wrong size for our design plan.
  • It was hard to see whether the ball was aligned with the built-in curve or not during the skittles and golf challenges.

         Conclusion:

  • Acrylic makes a good, strong chassis.
  • Pre-cut wire holes are convenient.
  • I need to plan better how to organise the various wires.
  • I need to double check any measurements before laser-cutting the chassis.

 

Traction:

         Pros:

  • The tyres had a decent grip, just not enough power from the motors.

         Cons:

  • The motors weren’t very strong and not able to meet the demands of the competition.

         Conclusion:

  • Strong motors are essential for competing in PiWars.

Power:

         Pros:

  • Our rechargeable battery packs for the Raspberry Pis were convenient size-wise.
  • The motors stayed powered throughout the whole competition using 4 AA batteries. Our LEDs also remained powered for the duration from button cell batteries.

         Cons:

  • The controller pi’s battery didn’t last for more than a few hours between charges, which created problems during the competition.

         Conclusion:

  • We could do with a better power source for the main RPi.
  • Batteries work well for motors and LEDs.

Lights:

         Pros:

  • The lights looked awesome on the robot.
  • They stayed lit throughout the entire competition.

         Cons:

  • The Astro Pi failed to read its program partway through the day, meaning that it got stuck on a static rainbow colour.

         Conclusion:

  • The lights were awesome! We should use similar things again.
  • I should test things like my Astro Pi program more thoroughly in advance, to have time to troubleshoot problems.

Control and Steering:

         Pros:

  • The miniature keyboard allowed me to start programs without scrolling through a list, as I would have to had done if I was using the Wii remote.
  • The keypad doesn’t require manual pairing each time the program is run, unlike the Wii remote.

         Cons:

  • Steering was awkward and difficult using the keypad, which cost me points in the various challenges. Steering with the Wii remote was considerably easier and smoother.

         Conclusion:

  • Ideally, it would be a good idea to combine the two, if possible.
  • For the sake of scoring well in the challenges, the better controller would be the Wii remote.

Attachments:

         Pros:

  • The right sensors were used for each job.

         Cons:

  • I didn’t start testing on the sensors early enough, and was unable to get them to work as needed in time.
  • I should have measured the correct distance above the floor for the line follower.
  • I should have measured the range of the distance sensors before creating the final design.

         Conclusion:

  • Testing the sensors well in advance is vital. This includes getting the correct measurements for each sensor.

Decoration and Style:

         Pros:

  • The robot looked awesome! Jim Darby said that an incredible mind must have designed it!
  • The robot won the funniest robot prize.

         Cons:

  • The decoration got in the way when we needed to access the inside wiring.

         Conclusion:

  • Similar decoration to what we had would be great!
  • We could do with making some of the decoration easily removable for when something goes wrong on the inside of the robot.

Key Points:

  • Early and thorough testing is vital, project plans could help with this.
  • Powerful motors are vital (i.e. proper motors, not beginner kit motors)
  • A responsive, smooth controller (i.e. Wii remote) is important for remote control challenges.
  • TEST WELL IN ADVANCE! That way any problems allow for troubleshooting time.
  • A good power source (i.e. Longer lasting than a mobile charger pack) is important.
  • Tidy wiring is also important.
  • It’s helpful to look at what’s gone right with previous projects, as well as what’s gone wrong.

 

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