AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SPORT OF ROBOTIC COMBAT
What is robotic combat?
Robotic combat is sport combining engineering Strategy and driving skill. Two or more radio-controlled robots compete in a Lexan sided arena, attempting to inflict as much damage as they can within the time allowed (usually 3 minutes).
Is this something like I’ve seen on TV? What was it called, BattleBots or Robot Wars or Robotica?
Yes, those shows were forms of the sport.
How big is the arena?
There is no standard size or shape. The largest arena, suitable for the largest weight classes, can be over 40’ square. Smaller class robot events may have arenas as small as 4’ X 4’.
What is Lexan and why are the arenas built with it?
Lexan is a clear, bullet resistant plastic that protects the Drivers and audience from flying shrapnel. Arenas designed to handle up to SuperHeavyWeight robots may use up to 1” thick Lexan.
Ok, you mentioned a weight class. What are the weight classes and how big are the robots?
The physical size of the robots is generally limited by the weight. Some competitions specify a maximum size based on the size of the door to enter the arena.
How is the winner of battle determined?
The winner is often determined by “knockout,” or “tap out.” A knockout is when a robot becomes disabled or is otherwise rendered immobile. There is generally a ten second count before a robot is considered dead. Tap out is when one competitor surrenders. This is often to avoid further damage. If the bout goes for the full three minutes, the winner is determined by judges’ decision. Different competitions handle scoring differently but usually there are three judges, and they determine the winner based on such criteria as damage, driving skill, and battle strategy. Some competitions will have an arena hazard such as pit. If a robot gets stuck in the pit, it is counted out. Fairy Weight and Ant Weight bouts often have “push-out zones.” There are gaps in the play area perimeter where a robot can be pushed out of the play area.
What are the robots built of?
Many materials are used. The best materials are often the most expensive. Titanium is the universal favorite for protective armor. Aluminum and steel are favorites for internal structural components. Some robots, especially in the smaller classes, are largely built of plastic such as Lexan. Carbon fiber is an excellent material that is light-weight and strong. Any combination of these materials may be used. Some of the smaller classed might use household items such as a stainless steel kitchen bowl for the shell. Duct tape is considered a standard material too!
How are the robots powered?
The most popular type of power is electric. Rechargeable Nickel/Cadmium (NiCad) batteries are the most common. Lead/acid batteries with gelled electrolyte are sometimes used. The gelled electrolyte is to prevent spills/increase safety. They are less expensive but heavier. Two other types are NiMH and Li-poly.
The types of electric motors depend on the weight class. Small robots often use hobby motors such as those found in radio control cars or planes. Lightweight and middle weight robots are often powered by motor/gearbox combination cannibalized from cordless electric drills. The Heavy Weight and Super Heavy Weight robots are often powered by modified wheelchair drives souped up with higher than normal voltage. There are also a variety of electric motors that are used with custom-built drive transmission using gears, belts, chains, or a combination.
Some of the most exciting, (and noisy,) robots use internal combustion engines, (ICE) for part of their power, generally, only for the weapon power. Some competitions do not allow ICE power. Robots have used engines from string trimmers, chain saws, lawn mowers, or snowmobiles.
You mentioned weapons. What can I use as a weapon?
Can I use a gun or explosive to blow the other robot up?
That would be cool!
Was simply an arms race as to who could create the most powerful artillery, the sport would be far too dangerous, and each match would likely last only seconds. Part of the idea of fighting robots is to have fun and be entertaining. Weapons can be such thing as spinning blades, spikes, hammers, full body spinning shells, hammers, full body spinning shells, and lifting or flipping arms. They can be powered electrically, hydraulically, by engine, or pneumatics. Examples of disallowed weapons are untethered projectiles, chemicals, radio-interference, electrical weapons, and entanglement devices. Some venues allow flame weapons, but even then, their configuration and fuel volume are tightly constrained.
Can I just buy a kit and assemble a robot?
There are kits available that consist of a Pile of Parts, (PoP.) This a good starting point for a novice builder. The overall design of a robot is up to the creativity and skills of the builder. The chassis is generally built from scratch. One of the coolest things about building a robot is that each robot is an invention. It challenges the creativity and problem solving skills of the builder.
So how do I get started?
Start by reading the rules at www.botleague.com. You can see pictures of a lot of different robots at www.buildersdb.com. This will also lead you to a lot of builders’ Web sits to whet your appetite. There are books and magazines now too. Visit, www.robotbooks.com, and www.servomagazine.com.
There are many different approaches to building a robot. Many robot builders, (about 25 %,) are engineers. They often take a high-tech approach. A robot can be entirely designed using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) and the CAD files can be used By automated machine tools to produce the parts. Then there is the other kind of CAD, Cardboard Aided Design. A prototype of the Robot an be built with cardboard, plywood, and duct tape to hone the design before committing any of it to metal or other permanent material. Some builder’s styles are as simple as laying their PoP (Pile of Parts) out on a table, and start to cut and join materials to connect it all together. Some builders have an entire machine shop and welding equipment at their disposal. Other have little more than a power drill and hand tools.
Sophisticated design, expensive materials, and elaborate tools are no guarantee of building a competitive robot.
How much will it cost to build a robot?
This can vary dramatically, and of course, depends on the weight class you are building for. It typically costs $200-$300 to build a really good AntWeight, but it can be done for as little as $40 by modifying an inexpensive radio control toy. A top notch radio and receiver can cost a few hundred dollars, but it is an investment that can be used with multiple robots over time. SuperHeavyWeight robots seldom cost less than $8000 to build, and sometimes considerably more. The FeatherWeight class is where they start getting a little expensive. That is the size where the cost of motor controllers and batteries move out of the hobby realm, and into more expensive components.
Where are competitions held?
Combat Robotics is a fun sport for all ages and all skill levels. There is no better way to get kids away form the TV and video games, working with their hands, and thinking inventively.
Content compliments of Combat Robot magazine (Scott McCarthy)
Compliments of www.TeamPyramid.com
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