Liquid Interactive recently helped sponsor the 2014 Lehigh Valley Hack.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, a hackathon is an event where people from various disciplines gather together to try and develop a concept within an allotted time period.  Participants pitch various ideas they're interested in and groups organically form to hopefully create a fun or useful project by the end of the event – this year over 80 participants came together for a weekend of fun and learning.

In my role as a Tech Lead with Liquid, I work day in and day out with various web technologies so I wanted to try something different and get out of my comfort zone - I wanted to do something with hardware.  The project I pitched was to create two robots that were able to play hide and seek.  I have no electronics or robotics background and only a vague idea of how to accomplish the task, but that's the fun of a hackathon.  There were a few people interested in my project, and thankfully someone that loved electronics decided to join the team.

Richard, our resident electronics expert was a student from Saucon Valley High School and our team was rounded out by students from Kutztown University and the University of Delaware.  We decided the best route to go was to modify a few RC cars and control their motors using Arduinos.  We even made use of the 3d printers at the venue and created parts for our robots.  

The first car had a Bluetooth module added so I was able to control the hiding robot (let’s call it the mouse) using my phone while the second seeker (sticking with the analogy this guy is the cat) had a variety of sensors for boundary and proximity detection on it.

By the end of the third day, we were able to control the mouse with my phone, have the cat operate independently and successfully search for the mouse. We also built a website detailing the project for the final presentation - quite a lot of work for one weekend.

The event produced 17 teams, all with interesting ideas which can be viewed on the challenge post site.

In the end, our team's robots didn't end up taking any prizes, but the real benefit to the hack is that everyone leaves knowing a little more than they did starting the weekend, forging new friendships and maybe sparking an interest they never knew they had.

Published Apr 24, 2014