Project Unicorn Mission Debrief

by Geek Squad Agent on ‎05-26-2016 12:02 PM - last edited on ‎07-28-2016 11:02 AM by Geek Squad Agent (52,259 Views)

Unified Network Interface for Collaborative Open Route Navigation (UNICORN)

In the early months of 2014, Geek Squad got another request to send a badge where no badge had gone before. Having already explored the stratosphere with the Icarus I mission, the team decided to create a vehicle that would help prepare us for future remote planetary missions. After months of development and testing, UNICORN was launched on June 21st, 2014 at 9am CDT. The goal of the mission was to put the fate of the badge in the hands of our Agents, using UNICORN to maneuver the vehicle through the Magic Castle (aka Best Buy’s corporate headquarters) and to one of three rendezvous points that would determine the fate of the Agent’s badge.



The Build


The UNICORN vehicle was made up of a few core systems. The heart of the vehicle was a Raspberry Pi (RPI) which was running Raspbian Linux and was connected to a camera and wireless network adapter. The RPI ran a Python script that triggered a vote tally on the control server, accepted the output of that tally, then sent the appropriate movement command to an Arduino microcontroller that was tied in to the vehicle hardware. Once it was moving, the vehicle used the microcontroller to check the vehicle’s health, upload that status data along with a picture to the server, and tell the control website to restart the command countdown. The vehicle was built on top of a proper 1:10th scale RC chassis. It had a great transmission and differential, independent four wheel suspension, a steering system built for servo control and more than enough room to fit batteries and control components. The control website was created using the Silex PHP framework and lots of Javascript. The interface was divided into three sections: control, a map and the vehicle status. Once logged in, a participating Agent had until the timer reached zero to submit their vote on the vehicle’s direction. The vehicle then called a tally and moved in the direction that had the most votes.  




Qty Description
1 Tamiya M-05 1/10th Scale Mini Kit
1 Raspberry Pi Model B
1 3.3v Arduino Pro Mini
1 Short MicroSD adapter
1 16Gb Class 10 MicroSD card
1 Raspberry Pi Camera
1 Cellphone magnetic lens kit
1 USB wireless adapter with external antenna
1 L298N based motor controller
1 Steering servo with wiper position lead
1 Nokia 5110 LCD Screen
1 Limefuel 13,000mah dual USB output battery
1 6 cell, double stick RC battery pack
3 Tamiya polycarbonate paints (white, silver, black)
1 Misc. electronic components (headers, terminals, wire, etc.)
1 Misc. hardware components (screws, metal stock, wood, etc.)


Project Design


Empowering a community of Agents to determine the fate of a badge via a modified RC car involves careful design and planning, lots of creativity, and, sometimes, an unexpected outcome. The descriptions, materials, and schematics provided here are for educational purposes only.



 An interior view of the vehicle under construction



The completed vehicle



Schematic of the vehicle's power and control systems



The Agent control page of the UNICORN website



Neither Geek Squad nor the members of the UNICORN team assume any liability for the accuracy of the content on this page or the outcome of any project attempting to replicate our work.




Agent Jackie P. has been in the ranks of Geek Squad since 2008. When she isn’t overseeing a team of remote repair Agents, she can be found riding around on the beach in the sunny state of Florida, or mixing electronic dance music on rainy days.

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