A photo of our bot.
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A few games in, the game of beer pong transforms. Cups seem to move around the table. The room comes alive, and the game becomes more challenging, but more enjoyable. It was a discussion of this that led us to Pongbot, the newest way to play this college tradition.
Pongbot gives users a new level of interactivity in the game, challenges even the best players, and, we hope, will help entertain college students and more for a long time to come.
It also puts a personal face on a robot. It's absurd, absurdly cute, absurdly fun, and certainly uncommon.
What it does
The Pongbot is a moving, robotic set of solo-cups. It follows player gestures, helping users to think outside of the tyrannical 10-cup pyramid.
In a game of Pongbot, players can be allies or adversaries. One player shoots ping pong balls, while the other uses gestures to control the cups, moving them in any way she chooses, without ever touching them. A kind partner may move the cup toward an approaching ball. A devious partner will move the cups away at the last second. It is their choice, but any ill treatment will be reciprocated when it's their turn to shoot.
How we built it
The hardware is built on top of a $9 RC car. The electronics of the car were left unchanged, but the electronics of the remote control were rethought. We started by tearing open the remote, and soldering transistors and wires in place of where buttons had previously stood. This allowed us to control the remote's functions using the current of an Arduino.
The flat base of the car on which the gaming platform sits was built from an empty container of Kind bars, carefully fitted to the frame of the vehicle, and reinforced heavily by a patchwork of coffee stirrers and hot glue. On top stands a tray for catching stray balls, and two traditional red solo cups.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into a number of issues while building this, including:
- Accessing the remote control's electrical components was extremely difficult, and required repeated and forceful prying, but we had to do it slowly and carefully so as to not damage the components inside.
- The libraries for interfacing the Leap motion with the Arduino were extremely complex, and required us to learn a number of new technologies. We're still unsure whether we'll be ready to display it by the end of the day, meaning we have devised a backup plan using the Myo.
- A number of key components we needed we did not have, so we had to scavange and network to find what we needed. ## Accomplishments that we're proud of We learned a number of new skills in hardware and software, and managed to build a beautiful bot in 24 hours. ## What we learned Plan, plan, plan. Next time we'll figure out the materials and languages we need farther in advance, to better prepare for unanticipated challenges. ## What's next for Pongbot? It depends largely on the response. So far that response has been very positive.