Tantrum combines competitive engineering
with artistic themes.
I am oversimplifying of course,
as I tell my fanciful story of steel
dragons slain by logical engineering
solutions. The engineer is the logical
box builder who realizes that a
simple, strong robot is the best
solution. (The engineer is also
responsible for the spinners,
wedges, and all robots focused on
performance over all else.) The
romantic builder has self-expression
as his motivation. The romantic
builds robots that are the subject of
a Saturday morning cartoon or an
‘80s movie. They breathe fire and
transform into spiders, or they
would, if they survived a fight.
In 2008, the sport of robotic
combat is long established. The
speed and power of the robots are
increasing year by year. Standards
keep going up and robots are so
strong now they are literally bulletproof. This would suggest that the
engineer has won and the romantic
builder has left the sport forever. In
reality however, robot combat has
developed a number of practical
artists. Romantic engineers.
My team has some robots that
are pure logical solutions and there
is nothing wrong with that. If you
Former UK champion, Razer.
Organic robots look great,
but often struggle in competition.
want to win, zero compromise is
understandable and commendable.
We also have dedicated art-bots,
which are not entered into real
fights as they are too fragile, and
the weapons are compromised in
their function in order to make
them look cool. The real difficulty
comes in finding the right balance
and creating a robot that is unique
and artistic, but that can still be
competitive in full combat.
How do you put a little heart
into your robot without giving your
opponent an advantage by doing so?
The most obvious way is with a cool
paint job. In my experience, a robot
has never lost a fight because it was
too colorful, so a paint job should
not affect your robot’s performance
— unless you are really unlucky.
I watched in horror once as
my freshly painted robot “Unity”
disappeared during a fight, as I had
accidentally painted it the exact
shade of red used in the arena
lighting. Every time the lights
cycled through blue, green, yellow,
then red, my robot would vanish
completely. This is an example of art
interfering with function in a very
Pure engineering makes for highly effective,
but uninspiring machines.
All efforts went into Hellraiser’s look,
to the expense of performance.
extreme and unusual way, but the
principle still applies. Making the
robot look good is okay, as long
as it does not interfere with your
Many robots are built originally
as simply shaped machines, with
curved pieces attached afterwards
to make them look a little nicer. This
“costume jewelery” can be spikes
and blades, extra armor, or extra
pieces to use up spare weight in an
aesthetically pleasing way. The
results are often quite remarkable,
and robots can evolve over time to
become more or less elaborate.
Once in a while, you will
have builders that achieve the
unthinkable — the perfect
application of both engineering
and art. I am sure you will have your
own builders in mind when I say
the word genius. To me personally,
robots such as the current UK
The wedge is a boring shape,
but it can dominate fights.
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