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HackerSpace Students Putting Their Robotics Skills to the Test in England

CNM's HackerSpace students will travel to Cambridge, England to compete in Pi Wars 2019.
HackerSpace Students Putting Their Robotics Skills to the Test in England
HackerSpace Vice President Paul Judge carefully applies the wheels to this year's robot.

Feb 20, 2019

A handful of CNM HackerSpace students are gearing up to travel to Cambridge, England, to compete in Pi Wars 2019 in late March.  

Pi Wars is an international robotics competition where students and professionals from around the world build and program robots to complete tasks using ‘Raspberry Pi’ computer systems.

CNM’s HackerSpace students, a student organization for those interested in technology, engineering, collaboration and coding skills, have participated in the event for the past two years. In 2017, CNM came in second place in the beginner’s category and in 2018 came in 7th in the intermediate category, a huge feat considering the competition is open to global robotics professionals.

“There are plenty of local robotics competitions, but this is an opportunity for us to give students a global learning experience,” says Kerry Bruce, a full-time faculty member in the School of Business & Information Technology and the Hackerspace faculty sponsor. “It teaches them the importance of planning ahead and gives them an opportunity to hone their communication skills.”

The small group of Computer Information Systems majors who are competing spent months developing a viable robot design using a Raspberry Pi computer system and the HackerSpace 3D printer. The robot will have to complete seven challenges, three of which are autonomous, meaning they will depend solely on system programming. There is also a blogging challenge, where students will be judged on their ability to communicate information about their project.

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CIS student Stephanie Perez is one of the coders working on the Pi Wars project.

In addition to competing during the two-day event, our CNM students will also volunteer to facilitate the children’s competition on day one. Kerry says his team will get to enrich their experience further by visiting multiple historic computer museums while abroad.

“One museum we’ll visit is focused on the early history of computer gaming systems like Atari and early Nintendo,” says Kerry. “Then, we will go to Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing and his team of mathematicians built the machine that broke the German encryption during World War II.”

Vice President of HackerSpace and CIS student Paul Judge says this experience has provided him with valuable computer programming knowledge and hardware production skills.

“I started out with a vague understanding of the materials and technologies involved in robotics, but over time I have learned how to use 3D design software, mathematical coding and have gained a comprehensive understanding of the logic behind robotics production,” says Paul.

Paul says that this kind of experience is rare in community colleges and he values the technical skills he’s learned outside of the classroom. He hopes it will give him a more competitive edge in the job market when he graduates.

“This is a community college and the expectation is that you will develop a direct-to-market ability that will make you commercially viable,” says Paul. “We are doing things here that they are not doing in any community college, that I know of.”

Additionally, Paul says his instructors at CNM, like Kerry, have showed him that they are truly invested in his success.

“They are really here to make sure that we are getting the most out of our schooling,” says Paul, “We have access to teachers who are brilliant and who have that experience in the industry.” 

Pi Wars 2019 will be held on March 30 and 31. Any students who are interested in technology, engineering, coding or collaborating are invited to join the HackerSpace. For more information, contact Kerry Bruce at kbruce@cnm.edu.

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Robot model for the 2018 Pi Wars.