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Twitter Race

Page history last edited by Martin Owen 15 years, 1 month ago

Here's what I've been planning for Howduino. The hardware side isn't that complicated (at least I don't think it is!) because I've only had the Arduino for a little over week and want to make sure I get something working.


  1. Two people each choose a search term or user on Twitter.
  2. A script uses the Twitter API to create two timelines for the term/user (the timelines will be created in advance of the race.)
  3. The radio controls of two cheap RC cars are connected to the Arduino, and their forward motors are triggered whenever their respective signal is received.
  4. The signals are generated by a script on a laptop which runs through the timeline and sends messages to the Arduino via serial whenever a post occured. (If I can upload the full timeline data to the Arduino I won't need the serial.)
  5. The person whose car crosses the line first is the winner!


I should be able to code this up beforehand (just interfacing with Processing) and then I can hook it up to some RC cars on the day. I've already bought one of these Mazda RX8s from Argos, and it looks hackable. They also have a Subaru on a different frequency. I've ordered an L293D motor controller as suggested by Thom, but I don't think I will need it if I just hook up the forward switch of the radio control, as in this example. I've noticed oomlout has already posted about a Remote Control Car Retrofit, so I hope to get some advice in that area. I'd also like to hook the circuit up to a sliding potentiometer, which will slow down or speed up the race, but that will only be possible if I upload all of the timeline data to the Arduino.


Another possibility would be a Twitter fight, in which the objects hit each other rather than race! But it might not be as dramatic.


Race ideas (feel free to suggest any)

  • good vs evil
  • life vs death
  • apple vs microsoft (settle it once and for all)
  • red vs blue
  • happy vs sad
  • hot vs cold

Comments (7)

.:oomlout:. said

at 6:01 pm on May 17, 2009

Thanks for pointing us towards the Argos RC cars, we're going to pick up a pair for a project we're working on, and we'll hack them up on the day. Hopefully we'll be able to figure it out (we think we may be able to make the L293 unneccesary)

Sounds like you have all the kit you need (the easy part), and a great idea (the hard part), I'm confident we'll have the expertise in house to get this one underway.

Martin Owen said

at 6:43 pm on May 17, 2009

Here's a photo of the radio control for the Argos car: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mintyboy/3539856908/

I've taken the forward button cover off, and as you can see the button connects two sides of the circuit which are very close together. Am I right in thinking this will require some incredibly delicate soldering? I thought I'd warn you before you bought any.

thom said

at 10:22 pm on May 17, 2009

Hey Martin,

There's a solder spot quite near the button, you'll be able to solder straight on to that pretty easily, the other side just goes to ground. Depending on the voltage of the remote you can probably run the whole thing off the arduinos power and possibly connect the button straight to a digital pin, although via a transistor would be safer. Have you got a multimeter to test the current?

Get some long wires so you can have both remotes wired up to the one arduino. Controlling it over serial is pretty easy from any language if you want to use .NET.

Looking forward to it :)

Martin Owen said

at 8:58 pm on May 19, 2009

Thanks Thom.

I've got some transistors now, if they're the right kind I should be able to use those.

I haven't got a multimeter. I'll probably borrow one on the day. I might ask a grown up to do the soldering for me too. I have a soldering iron, but it's old and might be too big.

I've already written Ruby code for generating the timelines from trending topics. I've found that the trending topics on Twitter are quickly filled up by spammers, so the results don't feel accurate, they need to sort the spam out! I'm probably going to have better results with users racing, that will be more personal too. I want Stephen Fry vs Ashton Kutcher.

thom said

at 9:07 pm on May 19, 2009

It might be more interesting if you're not allowed to choose anything that's currently trending, otherwise the higher trending term will most likely win.

Are you using something like this? http://www.rubyinside.com/cross-platform-ruby-serial-port-library-328.html

Martin Owen said

at 11:22 am on May 20, 2009

I haven't got it talking to serial yet, it just writes to a file which I've then been reading into Processing. I'll take a look at that library, I'm going to be running off a MacBook on the day. I'll try to get it talking to the Arduino tonight!

Adrian McEwen said

at 1:39 pm on May 21, 2009

If you're using processing then you might want to try the Firmata library for the Arduino - it means you can do all the coding on the computer side of things (although that feels a bit like cheating to an embedded software guy like me :-) through this library for Processing - http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Interfacing/Processing

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