Man in the Pi Castle

Pi Day comes but once a year, but what the heck is Pi Day?

March 14th, or 3/14, is the day that all the nerds eat pie (both pizza and dessert), and celebrate our nerd culture. Specifically, we use a tiny inexpensive computer called a Raspberry Pi to build fun, sometimes useful projects. We see everything from weather balloons, to tiny loop pianos, to magic mirrors.

At ReadyTalk, we celebrate this day by giving our engineers two workdays to build these projects followed by the opportunity to demo them to our fellow geeks. Of course, we can spend more time than that on the project, and many of us do. The winning team gets to spend the year lording it over their fellow engineers by displaying this amazing trophy.

Man In The Pi Castle – A Chess Playing Robot

While there was only one named victor (and holder of the trophy), the real winners were everyone who participated. Pi Day celebrates more than just a single winner; it gives everyone a chance to work together and showcase technology in a really fun manner. Those who spectated rather than demoed learn something from the experience as well: a new way to tackle a problem or a new application for a certain aspect of software (and sometimes hardware).

I was part of the team, Man in the Pi Castle, that took the trophy this year with our attempt at building a chess playing robot. This may seem overly ambitious for a two-day project…and it was. The team spent a month of spare time and 200+ hours on three separate 3D printers to get where we did on this project.

While it may not have actually played chess, the robot arm was able to move a piece on the 3D printed board. In addition, it has an AWS hosted UI, and a microservice architecture. You can see a more detailed write-up of the robot and the software in this blog article. The team will be posting additional detailed articles, and you can check out their code on github.

Takeways

ReadyTalk has always taken great pride in its people and culture. The Pi Day celebration was one of the best examples I have seen of that since I joined the team. There were so many amazing projects and almost the entire engineering team participated.

I encourage other companies to consider having a Pi Day celebration. The level of excitement and innovation that it produced at ReadyTalk were unparalleled. Going forward, we plan to have additional days of innovation around other topics, but Pi Day was by far the largest success I have seen from an event like this.

As one of my co-workers once said about a hackathon, “You could cut the synergy in there with a knife.”

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Andrew Suderman

Andrew Suderman

Andrew Suderman is a Systems Administrator and advocate of DevOps practices. He believes that infrastructure engineers should provide tools for and empower developers to write more secure, reliable applications. He received a Mechanical Engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines in 2013, and loves to apply critical problem solving skills he learned there to all types of problems, especially those found in infrastructure maintenance. In his spare time he enjoys tinkering with robots, jeeps and other toys.

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