The BoilerMake Hackathon brought forth a plethora of innovative ideas. One idea involving dominoes and a Roomba vacuum seemed to be above the rest.
BoilerMake featured ideas ranging from abstract data analyzing applications strictly for employer use to fun, personal projects. The “Domino Bot,” presented by Jack Schneider, Kevin Rockwell and Eric Rice, was not only one of the ideas, but the winning creation.
Schneider, Rockwell and Rice, all juniors in the College of Engineering, have been competing in these events since their sophomore year. In previous competitions, they have had ideas such as a mad lib type robot that would take in vocal inputs and output a complete sentence, similar to the written version of the game.
“The ideas just come out of nowhere, and you just sort of roll with one that seems doable,” said Schneider.
The initial idea behind the robot was to import an image and process it into basic lines and from there have the dominoes be laid in the same pattern, Rice said. Most people would find this task daunting.
“As we started working on the design, we quickly realized that the 36-hour time limit was not going to work with this idea.” said Rice.
The team started with basic command movements, such as lines and curves. These were all processed on the robot’s on-board Arduino, a popular microprocessor available at affordable prices.
The base of the robot was that of a Roomba, a circular robot used to vacuum homes.
“(The Roomba) is made for hobbyists to play around with. It has a programming environment within it that would wait for input from the Arduino,” said Rockwell.
Loading the dominoes was done by a cardboard magazine which kept the dominoes readily available in a vertical column.
“We originally wanted to just dump a bucket of dominoes in; however, they kept on jamming. So we developed an Allen wrench attached to a servo that would load them one at a time.” said Rice. This pushed dominoes through in a organized manner, preventing them from jamming.
Domino setup was also assisted by a servo, a motor that can rotate to precise degrees and prevented 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.
The three engineers chose their design to gather much more attention due to its physicality, as opposed to the applications being developed by many other teams. Recruiters were then able to come up and actually see their progress.
“It was nice to work with recruiters. We would bounce ideas off of them, and they would bounce ideas off of us. That was much more realistic in terms of how you would work with people.” said Rice
“A lot of the students there were computer science majors, so their coding abilities were much better than ours. This also limited what we were able to make, so while most people were working on apps, we just sort of stuck with the domino robot,” said Rockwell.
The team found the opportunity to be better than the other events, due to the fact employers are available on campus.
“I definitely thought BoilerMake was a great experience; 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,” said Rice.