Fig. E: OhCrap TheresALake is retrofitted with an
orange cone to warn spectators of its approach.
Fig. F: A pit stop for Deathpod3000.
teenage son, Deathpod3000 represents design
based on observation. Weeks before race day,
Moore visited the course and came to the conclusion that the curbs would be a deadly hazard unless
he outfitted his vehicle with proper collision avoidance technology. Other teams mainly use sonar to
detect obstacles, but sonar projects a broad cone of
sound that’s too inaccurate to detect curbs. Instead,
Deathpod3000 uses infrared ranging sensors,
which locate obstacles with a pencil-thin beam.
1 p.m.: It’s OhCrap TheresALake’s turn again.
This time, the crowd keeps a respectful distance.
Its owners have taped an orange traffic cone to its
body, as fair warning for anyone who wants to stay
on the parking lot during its run.
At the signal, it pops a screaming wheelie and
makes a beeline in the opposite direction from the
course. It hops the curb, flips in the air, and splashes
into the creek. Someone wades in after it. The
vehicle is eerily silent. It’s finally, blessedly dead.
2: 25 p.m.: But then three Boulder County firefighters arrive in a fire engine with a ladder. In a few
minutes they’ve retrieved the autonomous plane. The
Droners have one final chance to show their stuff. But
it’s now past 2 o’clock, and the wind has kicked up,
which is bad news for the lightweight plane.
Anderson and Muñoz decide to increase the
radius of the flight path to avoid corner clipping.
Muñoz twiddles with a laptop, clicking new waypoints
on a Google map. He launches the drone and aims it
toward the starting line. As soon as it’s on course, he
holds the remote control over his head, to make it
clear that the drone is in autonomous mode.
Gusts rock the foam plane back and forth as it
approaches the starting line. Judges stationed at
each of the four corners of the building look up to
make sure the drone doesn’t drift across the border
between the outer walls and the parking lot. The
drone describes a large circle around the perimeter
of the building. All four judges give word that the
drone has cleared the corners. Final time: 0: 36.
The other team members congratulate the winners, and then, just for fun, everyone sets their rovers
on the ground and starts them at the same time.
Robot mayhem ensues, but oddly enough, none of
12: 21 p.m.: Deathpod3000’s first run had its
throttle set at 30%. Its second run, at 50% throttle,
completes the course in 1: 28, shattering the 2:07
record it had set just hours ago.
2: 20 p.m.: Deathpod3000’s final run, at 70%
throttle, tears off the starting line. But the microprocessor that interprets the IR sensor data can’t
compute quickly enough, and the vehicle, like so
many of its brethren this day, ends its run by bashing into the curb. No matter — since Moore fielded
the only vehicle to finish the course so far, it seems
almost certain that he’ll be going home with the
$300 grand prize. Only one other vehicle has even
made it around three turns, let alone four. Everyone
agrees the trophy is as good as Moore’s, especially
with Muñoz and Anderson’s drone (which was
disqualified in the second round for clipping corners
again) stuck in a tree.
1st Place: DIY Drones II, makezine.com/go/
Engineer’s Choice: Deathpod3000,
For more competition images and video:
Mark Frauenfelder is editor-in-chief of MAKE.
74 Make: Volume 19