Hello and welcome to this blog post. Now, a few weeks ago our school, and therefore I aswell, participated in the “Crazy Car” event hosted by the FH Joanneum in Graz Austria. It was an absolute blast for all of us who where able to be a part of this event.
But what exactly is the Crazy Car event/competition?
Basically the crazy car event is all about programming cars, which are (or atleast should be) able to drive autonomous through a course. The students get a pre build car with a microcontroller on it wich can be programmed through the Arduino IDE. But if the students are capable, they can also build their very own car. There are a few rules, one of them beeing that the car has to be in the size of 1:18.
On the day of competition, all the groups of students will be competing. There will always be two cars in the course and they have three and a half minutes to make 3 laps in the course. Now, one might start to think that time is a big factor, but it really isn’t. In this competition, the laps count more than the time needed. There are in total 3 rounds. Meaning that there are 9 laps a car can make in total. The winner is determined, first by laps, and if more cars have a total of 9 laps then the winner will be the one who has done those 9 laps in the least amount of time.
Now to our School.
I am from the HTBLuVA Salzburg and it was the second time our schoole participated in this competition. Last year (2016) our school had only one team which got second place. But this year we topped this result… by far! This year we had 5 teams.
To start things of, we only had 3 weeks. It might sound like a long time, but if you have a 43 hour week, and two different classes (those beeing 3C and 3B) which had totally different time tables, it really is not much time. But we organized ourselfs and we used every free lession we had. And thus only in the first out of three weeks, we worked 17 hours only on the car. We all spend a lot of time for this project and even stayed longer in school for this, sometimes even till 10 pm.
We had one major advantage. We had the course in the school cellar. Which meant, that we could test our cars there. But this also meant, that we spent all this time in the school’s cellar. Sounds creppy, it kinda is creppy but hey, who cares right? …. right????
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Here is a litle 360° Video of our car driving in the cellar.
How was the programming?
We as students didn’t have all to much problems. I mean, everyone who knows a bit java and worked with an Arduino could have done it…. if we hadn’t had such stupid problems. We had a few issues with our sensors. In the first week we only had one car, which is, well, 4 cars to litle. And this was a problem. This meant, that only one team could work in the first week. Or in other words, we could only prepare one car for the competition. This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if the sensors where just better. The problem was the sample strew (correct me if I am wrong, I don’t really know if thats’s the right term for it) of the sensors. This meant that every sensor we had (and per car we had 3) was completly different. Therefore it would be good to know how the sensors work. They are infrared sensors, meaning the resulting volt value we could read was determined by the distance. So, what would be the best approach to that? Well, measure it and calculate the resulting function with excel. We wouldn’t have to do this, if the distance/volt function of the sensor where like they should. Since we had distance measuring sensors we could then calculate the distance for the given volt value of the sensor. Sounds confusing, it kinda was, and doing it a total of 15 times didn’t help either way. We also figured out, that the cars got slower when the battery inside of the car got more depleted, which is kinda logical but hey, we are students after all.
Anyway. We came to the conclusion that we need to compensate that. So we tried to make an battery compensation library. In a way it worked, of course it was a total sloppy job we made there, but it worked and it was enough for this race. That where actually all the difficulties we faced during programming. When I think about it, actually, we also had two sensors which didn’t work at all. So on two of our cars we only used 2 instead of 3 sensors. And it turns out, it worked for the most part even better than working with three.
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
BUT… did we win something?
We didn’t just win this thing, we totally destroyed every other school there was! In the students rating we where 1st, 2nd, 3rd 4th, and …… last ….. BUT what is importand here is, that we won and we clearly won … as a team and as a school. But in the overall placings we managed to get 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and before last. Only one team of the FH Joanneum placed in 3rd. Which is a great result! In all honesty we all thought we werent that good, but considering those placings we students and most of all our teacher really where proud. In the end only our school and the one team of the FH got 9 laps total. Which we never thought would be the case.
The best part of everything was, it was not organized by the school, no, we completly organized it ourselfs. Which meant that it was not a reall school event. This meant that we could actually do what ever we wanted once we where in Graz. We stayed in a litle hostel called A&O Hostel/Hotel. It was ok’ish. I mean, it was cheap so I didn’t really expect anything. But since no teacher really had to look after us, we kinda used our free time. We stayed in Graz for 3 days. On the first day, we basically just arrived … at 8 pm. After spending one and a half hour finding the stupid hostel and organizing ourselfs, we all where very hungry. And so we moved through town. At 10 pm we finally found a place to eat. Damn I was really hungry back then. But the good thing was we could eat and drink what we wanted, as a group of students without a teacher. And I have to say, it was really refreshing, to sit with our friends, and just our friends. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that we where up late. Very late. The second day was only training. We spent 13 hours in the FH Joanneum training and refining our car to the very last. And then we went to a restaurant … and played billard till half past two in the morning, but that is completly irrelevant :D. On our final day, which was also the day of the competition, we where all very calm. I mean, we all knew our car was ready, and thus we really could relax. We placed our cars, they drover their three laps (or in one case not ..) and after the three and a half minute we just waited till the nex one from our school had to race. And so we spent all the time in between of the races on the couch provided by the FH.
That was the whole story. We won a total of 6 trophies and together with the one our teacher won we had 7. When we came back we didn’t really thing it was that big of a deal. But, well … our teachers had a different oppinion. They made an article on the official school website, we where in the media, or actually in the tv, and today we got the message that the next film crew is coming to our school, just because we won.
As mentioned before we totally had a blast. It was a really good time, and we already started to work on the next car for Crazy Car 2018, but this time, we will build it ourselfs.
Here are a few links.
Please note that since this project and my school are based in austria, the website language will be in german.