Another very successful Hackathon at the University of Sussex, organised by Hack Sussex! The task we faced was the Rolls-Royce Starlight Challenge, where teams had to reinvent the car’s Starlight ceiling. Click here for a link to the GitHub page.
We discussed the features and the target audience to decide which direction we would take the project. The end goal was allowing users to control the ceiling using the built-in display and a mobile app.
We divided into teams between software and hardware experts and started researching, planning and experimenting with the tools available. The project makes use of an Arduino connected to multiple sensors of sound and movement, and NeoPixel plates of 8×8 RGB LEDs. We worked fast towards the goal of achieving the first working prototype, to allow programmers to start using the LEDs. Once the first visuals were being built, we had meetings to exchange more ideas, and rotated between tasks, allowing everyone to experience working on every side of this project.
The team hard at work
The physical model consists of a scrap piece of Rolls-Royce headliner, with 256 optic fibres arranged in a square to create a display, each of these fibres connecting to the LED display. Once the model was finished, we tested the display with our visuals, fine-tuning each pattern.
In this project, I was the lead programmer also managing 2 other members of the team by giving them goals and assistance. I also helped build the physical model by assembling connectors, cutting and handling optical fibre, and aligning the LED boards with the fibres. The main programs I created were a randomly generated star-like pattern, a twinkling star animation using random events to dim or brighten stars and different speeds and intensities. I also created the light-up introduction designed to start when a user enters the car, which consists of the Union-Jack flag appearing from black, to dissolve into the Rolls-Royce logo composed of stars.
At this point of the hackathon, the sun was up and only a few hours of the competition remained. When the final presentation started, every project presented was very interesting and displayed the different skills and ideas of the people involved. We provided Rolls-Royce with our proud new vision of their Starlight Headliner, and later were awarded the prize for the Hardware Challenge, due to the amount of components and chips we worked with.
The lessons learned from this project were numerous, however the most important are that teamwork and organisation were the main factors allowing us to tackle this complex challenge. The team moved swiftly and fluidly, creating an environment where an individual can choose a task that plays to their strengths, and can also be taught new skills by their teammates.