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Claire Pollard
Claire Pollard

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Formula Pi: Racing Software Engineers

This feels a little shameless (and a complete divergence from my previous posts), but I'm super excited about this so please forgive me!

Formula Pi is the first remote autonomous robotics racing series based on the Raspberry Pi single board computer, fairly niche I know...

I've got a fairly vested interest in the contest, and not from a developers context, but I'm the one who provides the commentary. It's terrifying and fascinating in equal measure (the racing, not my commentary).

Formula Pi Racers

The idea of the series is to get software engineers to compete against each other on a level playing field, i.e.: start with a library of Python code to improve how ever they choose, or start from scratch with their own language of choice, and a standardised robot which is maintained by the team at PiBorg. The races are streamed live on YouTube roughly once every two weeks.

The Python code for Formula Pi utilises the OpenCV library, a popular open source computer vision library which has a great library for manipulating image data in real time. The Formula Pi starter library uses this heavily along with Raspbian OS on the Raspberry Pi.

The first series final was broadcast in January of 2017 and featured:

  • The Hayler-Goodalls: A family from the UK,
  • The Super Ward Brothers: Brothers from the US,
  • Team Enigma: A team of engine specialists,
  • Scudaria Gato Rosso F-Pi Team: A team of ex-F1 software engineers,
  • RasPerras del Infierno: Friends from Spain who meet up at the pub to discuss their programming projects.

Without spoiling the final result, you can watch the final in full below:

What surprised me about the competition was the sheer variety of types of teams that entered. There were hobbyists, professionals and school children competing on a level playing field, and no one background was clearly an advantage. It made for some really exciting contests where anyone could win!

The second series is due to start testing on the 26th of April at 18:00BST and can be watched live below:

For more information on the series, head to the Formula Pi website.

Top comments (4)

fromlette profile image
John Hall

This reminds me a lot of Lego Mindstorms projects that my middle school had kids do. I should try doing more stuff like this with my pi

bcnzer profile image
Ben Chartrand

That is so, amazingly cool! I'll be showing this to the kids in my code club

walker profile image
Walker Harrison

This is incredible. Are contestants given any information about the track beforehand?

thetuftii profile image
Claire Pollard

Thanks :). There is a map of the track with dimensions on the website and they can use a simulator to test their code's behaviour on the track, but that's it. Any information about the track is received from the Raspberry Pi Camera on the front of the robot, there are no other sensors on the robot.