About four years ago I came across the Robot Wars web site. Robot Wars was a competition where competitors built remote control and autonomous robots that would compete against each other with the purpose of destroying each other. I was pretty excited about it but didn't pursue it until I mentioned the web site to one of my teachers. He mentioned that there were two other guys at the school who were looking at making a robot. He got me in touch with them and we made a deal where I would design the electronics and mechanical parts, and they would assemble the body. That was 1997. We really didn't do too good of a job that year. Everything we used in that robot was either free or inexpensive. For fighting robots, that doesn't seem to be that good of a combination. On the other hand, we built the robot for US$150.00. It remains the cheapest fighting robot that I have heard of so far. |
Here is a quick description of that robot. Its motors were from the small cars that kids can ride around in the yard. We got them for about $5 each surplus. We had a weapon that had a very sharp wedge of steel at the end of it. It turned out to be quite effective. We hit one robot and tore a two inch gash in its 1/8 " (~3mm) steel armor. This ramming wedge was also supposed to shoot out by about a foot (18cm) and be retractable as well. Unfortunately we couldn't get the retractor to work correctly so it was a one shot deal. The radio that we used was actually a toy that I hacked. In its original condition it probably pushed about 1 or 2 watts per motor. After I got done with it, It was handling about 360 watts per motor. It was a relay based full on or full off setup. It worked pretty well... we thought.
Our strategy for this robot was that it would be two sided so that we couldn't be flipped and be unable to move. It was slightly aggressive with its ramming wedge.
In our first match we started out and rammed our opponent with quite a bit of force. That was where we tore the hole in his armor. We started to get situated for our next ram when I drove towards the far edge of the arena. Suddenly our robot stopped dead. I struggled to get it to move but couldn't. The judges asked me if I could move and I said no. At that point they stopped the match. I then stepped to the side and could control the robot again! Apparently the robot got out of range of the transmitter. It was really frustrating. `
On our next match we were in the lineup to get into the area and once again *our robot became unresponsive* ! ! This time it appeared that the toy's electronics had burnt out. I was unable to get the robot to work so we had to forefit that match. Luckily, the guy who was next to me in the pits had a spare speed controller with him. It had one direction of one channel burnt out but we accepted his offer and installed it in our robot. We were able to compete in the mele where we made it to the final round! We were not the winner but it was fun anyhow. At the beginning of the mele we had just installed a small grinder in our robot that had a metal flapper that would throw sparks out the back of our robot. Unfortunately we didn't have time to refine it. When we turned it on the motor jammed and the wires to the grinder melted. It created a gigantic puff of thick white smoke. The crowd loved it!
Here are some pictures of 1997's robot.
Sorry, this picture is from four years ago when I looked like a convict who just broke out of jail... I had to doctor it after I got feedback from a friend who was trying to get me a job. He said that the guy who would hire me was going though my site trying to find a picture of me.. It made for a great first impression I'm sure.
We were planning on making a new version of Finagler that looked like this but it turned out that we couldn't make that scoop in the back because we needed to use the extra space for our drive train and batteries.
In 1998 we were building a robot for Robot Wars again but due to a conflict between the promoters, and a boycott of Robot Wars by the competitors because of this conflict, Robot Wars did not happen that year. The Society of Robotic Combat had been recently formed by the competitors. We had a show and tell event instead.
In 1999 a new competition was started by one of the former Robot Wars competitors. Again, one of the Robot Wars partners became a problem and tried to shut it down. Fortunately he was unable to do so and Battlebots had an event in Long Beach California.
We had a pretty slick robot this time. It was well designed. I had vowed to build my own electronics this time so that if anything broke I could fix it at the event. For the most part I did just that. The one part that I had trouble with was the speed controller. I had built a functional controller but I was not sure about its reliability so I ditched it in favor of some golf cart speed controls. That was a mistake. While the robot appeared to be working without a hitch, in fact it had a serious flaw that we didn't notice until the day of the competition. Up until that point we had never had the electronics in the robot and functioning. It turned out that a feature in the speed control that ramped the speed up and down made the robot extremely sluggish and difficult to steer. I then attempted to build a relay based speed control for our robot. Originally our robot ran at 36 volts but I had to downgrade it to 24 so that the speed control might work. Unfortunately even this voltage was too high for it and I blew out several relays before admitting defeat.
The 2000 Battlebots has come and passed now. My team members have graduated as well and have split up. One of us is in Washington state working for Microsoft. My other team member's girlfriend is working for the Pentagon as an art director, so he will probably move near her as they are planning on getting married. As for myself, I am probably going to stay near San Francisco. It is hard to say though as I may find a great job somewhere else that I can't pass up.
I have a plan for a robot that I would like to build that would be a new idea altogether for Battlebots. I have been unable to start building it yet because I will have to purchase a lot of new tools and the robot itself should be rather expensive as well. At the moment I have a pretty good idea of how its electronics and sensors will be working. That part will probably be the first thing that I finish. As of now, I am planning on entering it in the 2002 Battlebots. Hopefully I will have finished it by then. Stay tuned, I may be posting some sneak previews of it as it progresses.