Jack Schneider, Kevin Rockwell and Eric Rice, all juniors at Purdue’s College of Engineering, recently clinched first place in the BoilerMake Hackathon with the Arduino-powered Domino Bot.
According to Quentin Bullock of The Exponent, the trio has been competing in various hackathons since their sophomore year, with entries such as a mad lib type robot that processes vocal inputs and returns a complete sentence.
“The ideas just come out of nowhere, and you just sort of roll with one that seems doable,” Schneider told the publication.
This year, the initial idea behind the Domino Bot was to import an image, process it into basic lines and arrange dominoes in the same pattern.
“As we started working on the design, we quickly realized that the 36-hour time limit was not going to work with this idea,” Rice explained.
Instead, the team focused on basic command movements, such as lines and curves, which were processed on the robot’s on-board Atmel-based Arduino.
The base of the robot? The Roomba, a popular circular robot used to vacuum homes.
“The Roomba is made for hobbyists to play around with,” noted Rockwell. “It has a programming environment within it that would wait for input from the Arduino.”
The dominoes were loaded using a cardboard magazine, keeping the items organized in a vertical column.
“We originally wanted to just dump a bucket of dominoes in; however, they kept on jamming,” said Rice.
“So we developed an Allen wrench attached to a servo that would load them one at a time. This pushed dominoes through in a organized manner, preventing them from jamming.”
Domino configuration was also assisted by a servo, which helped prevent the dominoes from tipping over.
“During the competition, the cardboard would deteriorate over time, so there (were) modifications that had to be made regularly,” said Rockwell.
Nevertheless, Rice and the others concurred that BoilerMaker was a great experience overall.
“It’s really nice to interact with companies while you’re working on a project. It’s better than a job fair where you just hand them a resume – and they either like it or they don’t,” he added.