On February 20th 2018, Software Cornwall welcomed developers from the counties tech community to take part in a team building day. Based on the Mission to Mars program, the one day challenge saw teams from Bluefruit, Tempest Photography, Packet Ship and Truro & Penwith attempt to complete a series of deceptively difficult challenges. Their mission: to write software for Ada and Alan, our rover robots, so they can traverse the Martian terrain.
Following introductions, teams dove into the challenges in an attempt to win funds. Once raised, the money could be spent on hiring the robots for testing. Over the day, the teams attempted to:
- Complete a perfectly straight line
- Navigate an intricate maze
- Create a demo mode for the robots
We saw wildly different strategies employed, both in the task selection as well as the approach to development. Some chose to quickly script solutions, run the code and refactor into a class structure if working. Others used a test-driven development cycle, aiming to greatly reduce the resources spent on robot hire. The demo task created some interesting results including a long sequence of actions using the onboard sensors. One team focused on getting the robot to move around upright like a Segway. As always, the straight line caused more frustration than anything else.
Towards the end of the day, the remaining funds were added up. One team were far in the lead. The student developers from Truro and Penwith College finished with a total of £62,000, walking away with the winner’s trophy. The students turned their recent industry engagement week into an advantage and their familiarity with the robots proved to be the deciding factor. As well as completing the majority of user stories, the teams coding standard had improved dramatically since our previous interactions.
The funds Software Cornwall raised from the day are to be reinvested back into our education outreach programme. We’re now able to upgrade the robots, invest in some swag for teams and better support the Mission to Mars programme. The code from the teams will be refactored to form the basis of the applications written by future participants along with the test suite. By using a common start point, we can better introduce participants to version control and software engineering concepts.
The Software Cornwall family would like to say a huge thank you to the everyone involved. The companies who invested in their teams. The mentors who donated their time. The developers who’ve allowed us to upgrade mission to mars. You’re all awesome.
Anyone for a rematch?