The boats were propelled by a submarine motor, hacked for external power. Activity organizer Jon Hylands created a 3D-printed rudder assembly so that a servo could control the rudder on the submarine motor. Some teams used this assembly, while others used the servo to turn the submarine motor directly or created even more elaborate rudder systems. A few teams used no rudder, instead using multiple motors for differential steering.
By mid-morning, the teams were getting frustrated as we’d asked them to learn the Spark Core, hack a submarine motor, control a servo, and create a circuit with an h-bridge. The frustration subsided as teams started collaborating and sharing their tips and code as they progressed past each milestone.
By the afternoon, the teams not only had working boats, they were controlling the boats with twitter messages, mobile phones, a Pebble smartwatch and even a “steero” – a steering wheel with a Sphero robot in the center.
As we headed out to the pool for some “racing”, another NodeBoat helper, Jon Gottfried of Major League Hacking, taped GoPro cameras onto two of the boats while NoatBoat helper Sara Gorecki helped organize a friendly race across the pool. As the teams setup for the race, we were all struck by not only how many teams completed a boat, but by the amount of creativity that led to so many different designs and control mechanisms.
After the race, and the next day at JSConf, I kept hearing the same sentiment over and over from those who had participated in NodeBots, NodeBoats, and NodeRockets- “I’m a software developer, I’d never touched hardware, and I made a working bot / boat / rocket!!”
If you are part of a software development community, I strongly suggest you try one of these activities within your community – you can control robots with almost any language out there, so set sail on your robot adventure today!