Formula Pi is an exciting new race series and club designed to get people started with self-driving robotics. The aim is to give people with little hardware or software experience a platform to get started and learn how autonomous vehicles work.
We provide the hardware and basic software to join the race series. Competitors can modify the software however they like, and come race day a prepared SD card with your software on it will be placed into our club robots and the race will begin!
You don't need to be in the UK, you can enter the series from anywhere in the world. Just join and send code to compete!
The series will consist of races hosted here at PiBorg. The races will be live broadcast for everyone to watch online. Races will consist of up to 23 laps (approximately 1/2km) with 5 competitors per race. The robots will be provided by PiBorg for racing.
Grid position, competitor list and club robot assignments are assigned with a random shuffle script.
Each competitor will be involved in a minimum of 5 races. We will have a complete structure once we know how many competitors are involved.
Anticipated race dates
Although these dates may change (especially due to amount of entries), we expect the following:
Winter series - from October 2016 - January 2017
Summer series - from April 2017 - July 2017
The track was designed and built at the PiBorg offices. The 22.9m track has 5 corners and can be run in either direction. There is a built in timing rig and start lights to control the race. The colouring of the track helps the software identify changes in direction.
The YetiBorg HS Zero robots are a new design and will include our already successful ZeroBorg Kickstarter for motor control. The 2mm thick Aluminium chassis are made here at PiBorg.
When entering the races you will have a YetiBorg top (called a YetiLid). This is a fibreglass lid with a microsd card slot in it to conveniently store your code when shipping your top. The YetiLids will need to display a unique number for us to identify you and you can decorate your top to make sure you can see your robot.
We have written a basic control software which will be available to use. This will be available on the Formula Pi website and on github. The software can be modified by the competitors to improve performance. Or you can provide your own software if you like! It can be as simple or complex as you want.
The winners code is published at the end of the season, so everyone can start the next season from an equal standing. This helps the autonomous software improve and makes for a highly competitive sport.
History of Formula Pi
It took a lot of testing ideas and programming lots of different code before we got good results. Our very first run was less than successful! We eventually decided that if the track was painted in bright colours, the robots could dedicate more time to processing things such as the position of other robots, collision avoidance, traffic light detection and so on.
We are ready to go racing with the exception of having a fleet of performance calibrated YetiBorgs for the club robots! This Kickstarter would allow us to buy resources to build robots for competitors to use for racing. The more successful we are, the more competitors we can host.
The track has been mostly built, but is missing a timing rig. We have a laser timing rig that we developed for Pi Wars and we will be adapting this with a Pi 3 and Pi Camera to take images of the cars as they pass the start/finish line. We can also use this to check for jump starts.
We are intending to buy basic cameras to allow us to broadcast the races on a platform such as Youtube. And this way we can capture all of the action on track and record the races for you to enjoy at any time.
The software is mostly ready, we still need to do a few tweaks here and there. We are working on blog material at the same time as coding, so you can see what we have done and why.
We have a domain and website dedicated to this project at www.formulapi.com where you will find rules, code and all sorts of useful information.
The rewards vary from race entry with a YetiLid to the YetiBorgs themselves. The YetiBorgs are high quality robots which can take the bumps and rubbing of racing.You don't need to have one to be part of the racing, but you might want one to experiment with autonomous robotics or just to drive like an RC car! They come with everything you need with the exception of a 9V battery and a Raspberry Pi Zero.
The YetiBorgs are supplied with detailed build instructions and our normal high standards of PiBorg support. As always, if there are any problems with building or getting started, we're there to help on our PiBorg forum
This together makes an awesome Raspberry Pi Zero controlled robot!
It is even capable of driving after flipping upside down!
Paula Brown - robot assembly and shipping
Arron Churchill - software design
Timothy Freeburn (Director) - hardware design
Andy Frost - mechanical design and assembly
Claire Pollard - social media
Once we have run a few races, we hope to expand to include different types of robot and classes for different groups to allow experienced racers to learn new techniques once they've mastered the initial race type. We will have a high speed competition, and a battle race competition with ArmyBorgs - that is YetiBorgs with Ben Gray's fantastic MeArm attached.
Please help us get up and running to show the world that self-driving robots are awesome :)
Risks and challenges
Building the YetiBorgs: Parts such as motors and wheels may become difficult to get hold of. At best this would result in a small delay in shipping, at worst this could mean a product redesign.
We try to avoid this by only using suppliers whom we are familiar with to limit any difficulties in sourcing parts.
Delivering code to us: we are hoping to have an FTP site for people to send us code as we realise builds could get quite large. So we are hoping to set up a system using traditional mail to transport full SD cards with the competitors software and we are also hoping to set the code up in such a way that simple changes mean sending individual files to us rather than a whole build. In short, if you just want to vary some settings you can FTP the code to us, but if you wanted to send a brand new build, you could mail us the SD card.
Having too many racers: We've limited the number of entrants to ensure we're not overwhelmed (which would be a lovely problem to have!). By limiting the number of entrants we're then able to give great support to each of the entrants to the series.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
To give an equal chance to everyone, the software will be given to all competitiors at the same time. This will occur shortly after the Kickstarter has finished. This also allows us time to finalise bug fixing, structure and documentation for the code.
We will run some lessons via online blogs, have a forum where people can post questions and possibly some real time Q&A sessions to give as much help as we can. We want to give every competitor a great start to learning about self-driving robotics, no matter what their coding experience is.
The YetiBorgs support either the Raspberry Pi V1 or V2 camera. The Raspberry Pi is a Pi Zero. The Pi Zero, RPi camera, camera cable and microSD card are not included with the rewards which have a YetiBorg in them. The club robots have a Pi Zero with the V2 camera mounted on the front.
The default code is Python. You may use any language, code, and libraries you wish, however you might want to keep to using our default code for a couple of reasons:
1. If your code changes are small, you can send them electronically to us. If they are large or pull in other libraries etc., you will need to send the sdcard to us.
2. The code tutorials, walkthroughs etc. will be based around the default code.
3. You can discuss ideas, strategies and the like with other competitors who will be more likely to understand and help if everyone is using similar code.
Yes, all the YetiBorgs come with the customisable lid. If you get a reward with entry, you can customise your lid design, put on your competitior number and send it to us where we will use it in the competition so you can see your robot.
Yes you can! The ZeroBorg needs a female header to connect this. If you select a YetiBorg as a reward, we will ask if you would like a Pi3 or Pi Zero header in the surveys after the Kickstarter.
Please note that the competition uses the Raspberry Pi Zero, not a Pi 3. We will likely have Pi 3's in future competitions.
An image of a Pi 3 on top of a Yeti is available here
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