CNM Hackerspace Club Wins First Place at International Pi Wars Robotics Competition

CNM students, along with the robot they built over the course of the school year, traveled to Cambridge, England to compete against other robotics teams from around the world for this international title
April 25, 2024

CNM’s Hackerspace Student Club just came back to New Mexico with a trophy and prized experiences from the international Pi Wars robotics competition, where they won first place in their division with their robot Hal.

“Everything just really came together perfectly for us,” says Kerry Bruce, CNM Computer Information Systems faculty member and Hackerspace advisor. “The atmosphere was great and the students worked together very well, all of which led to us being able to win first place in our division.”

The six-student CNM team competed at the “intermediate” level against five other teams from around the world. During the competition they guided Hal through seven disaster-themed challenges via remote control and autonomously.

The team experienced some hiccups during competition but were able to successfully troubleshoot and keep going.

“Issues are bound to come up, but I always do my best to prepare my team to handle those issues,” Kerry says. “They ran into several coding issues, but were able to come together and find creative solutions on the fly, which meant they scored points in every event. In fact, they ended up placing first in one of the challenges where they had to change their entire approach just minutes before it began. I think that’s a real testament to their skill and teamwork.”

This marks the fifth time the CNM Hackerspace has competed in Pi Wars and the first time the team has won the championship. This year they were the only team from the United States as well as the only team from a community college, which made the win even more special for Kerry and his students.

The Hackerspace Club also volunteered during the beginner’s division on the first day and visited several museums that focus on the history of modern computing and encryption.

“We of course go to Pi Wars to compete, but the volunteer experience and learning opportunities are just as critical,” Kerry says. “When the students volunteer on the first day of competition they get to engage with the next generation of students in a really meaningful way. And when we visit incredible museums, like The National Museum of Computing, the students develop a deeper appreciation of what they’re studying.”

Along with their first place trophy the team won a goodie bag filled with raspberry pi elements they can use for next year’s robot.

Kerry and the team just got home this week, but he’s already looking forward to next year’s competition and has big plans in mind.

“One of the members of the team is planning to come back next year and compete at the advanced level where all of the challenges are autonomous,” Kerry explains. “I also hope to have another intermediate team compete, so it would be the first time we have competitors in two categories. I love everything about this competition and I’m excited to get the ball rolling for next year.”

If you're interested in learning more about the Hackerspace Club, please email Kerry Bruce at kbruce@cnm.edu.