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Tank Wars IRL


Github; Core team members: 3; Fall 2010

The Olin Expo is a running tradition where students present any project they worked on to the public and other students in a non-evaluated exercise, at the end of the semester, after finals. In our senior year, my friends and I had filled our semester with theoretical classes that were graduation requirements, and didn't have anything exciting to present for Expo. So we decided to spend 24 hours in a self-constrained hackathon to ideate, design and execute on an interdisciplinary project that meets our standards for being interesting, and present it at the end of that time.

We set an alarm for exactly 24 hours before our presentation time slot, and began our meeting. We first began by scrounging the academic center and the electronics stockroom on campus to find inspiring components to start working with. The most interesting things we found were a couple of tilt sensors, a PIC microcontroller, and a loose table leg from a discarded classroom desk. The 3 of us quickly arrived upon a design for turning the table leg into a joystick using the tilt sensors to tell the orientation passed through a series of level comparators on a breadboard, and the PIC to be used as a USB driver for an input device to a computer. To tie it all together, we used my Python rapid prototyping engine to build a Tank Wars game that used this hacked-together joystick. I was responsible for building the game and interfacing with the USB driver. My teammates each built the electronics and programmed the PIC to translate the signals from the electronics to something the Python could understand.

We completed the project with 6 hours to spare, so we took a nap, made a cool presentation, and showed off our work at Expo!

Competencies gained

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Project ideation
  • Resourceful product design
  • Project management


  • Game developer
  • Input programmer
  • Project designer