PiE Robotics Competition Kickoff is always an exciting event, and this year was no exception. Teams met their mentors, received their Robotics Kits, and many were able to finish the day having achieved their goal of constructing a driving base robot!

However, just three weeks before, the 2014 Robotics Competition was in danger of cancellation.

It was then when we learned that the Fez Panda II, an irreplaceable component of our Robotics Kit, was being retired by all suppliers. Sparkfun Electronics, a longtime supporter of PiE without whom our competition could not have happened this year, was unable to supply all the Panda II’s we require.

This revelation set off a quite a stir among us, who immediately took the ‘Pandamonium’ in hand and started searching for solutions. We quickly discovered that the surest way to save the competition was to manufacture our own pandas - no mean feat, considering that we had 3 weeks to do what should take 3 months.

The manufacture of pandas would not have been possible without the support of one company in particular, GHI Electronics. PIE’s use of the Panda II requires a specific firmware to be loaded onto a key component of the Pandas. GHI, the sole supplier of this software, graciously offered to load this firmware onto the chips at reduced cost, even though PiE needed a comparatively small quantity, and even though both the chips and the software are outdated.

We are incredibly grateful to GHI and in particular Gary Beaver, their Director of Operations, for their fast response and generosity.

Without their help, Pandas would have gone extinct, and there wouldn’t have been a Robotics Competition this year.