way at some point during the competition.
4. Simulate getting attacked.
Okay, so you've finished your bot with a few months
to spare. This is the piece of advice that you are just not
going to want to take.
I want you to go to the hardware store. Buy the
biggest sledgehammer you can find (the really big kind
that makes you strain when you lift them). Now, raise it
above your robot ... and beat the living hell out of it.
Awe, did it bweak? Issums widdle wobot in a big pile
uv parts??? Well, I just saved you the indignity of having
that happen while 3,000 people watched. If your robot
cannot survive a good bashing with a sledgehammer,
circular saw, or a 10 foot free-fall, it will not last in the
Use good 6061 or 7075 aluminum, steel, or
(preferably) titanium. Make sure you have a good enough
infrastructure to support your outer shell.
Ensure that all components are securely mounted.
They're going to get knocked around. I lost count long
ago of the number of battery packs that I have seen
flying across the arena because they got knocked out of
the bot in a big hit. If you lose your batteries, you lose the
match. It's that simple.
Drop your bot off the roof of your garage. No, really.
It's a good simulation of what's going to happen when a
bot like Ziggy flips it 15 feet in the air, or a spin-bot like
Last Rites whacks it once and sends it flying across the
arena. Your bot has to be able to withstand that kind of
hit. Even if you're the best driver in the world, you're still
going to take lots of knocks (including on the bottom of
your bot, so have undercarriage armor as well). You must
be able to survive those hits, and your first match is the
wrong time to find out where your weak spots are.
(Sigh. Sorry. Editor again. Use the TeamPyramid
approach. Put your machine in the back of a pickup, hit
20 mph in an abandoned concrete parking lot, and drive
the bot off the back of the truck. Then, chase it around
while the passenger drives the bot. Sort of like a game
5. Have a weapon system.
Better yet, have two. This is robot combat. You don't
play baseball without a bat; you don't go to war without
a gun; and you don't become a pro-wrestler without
having at least two frontal lobotomies. If you want to
beat the daylights out of the other robot, bring a
Wedges can be effective, but it's extremely rare for a
wedge with no other weaponry to make it to the finals.
Watch lots of matches (everything you can from You Tube
and other videos, or better still, buy a three-day pass for
an event) and take lots of notes. See what weapons work
and which don't. Think about why things worked. Two
weapon systems that look identical may operate
completely differently, with very different results.
Better yet, come up with a new and unique weapon
system. Something that hasn't been tried before. Every
time I go to a competition, somebody has brought along
a new robot which garnishes lots of oohs and ahs from
the masses — and more than a few times of "Why didn't I
think of that?" Just make sure the weapon is allowable in
the rules (no liquids and no tasers).
6. Simulate attacking.
I swear some people show up to a competition
having only ever tested their robots on kittens. Sure, it
may give your garage a nice new primer coat of kitty
juice, but that doesn't mean it will even scratch the paint
on another 1/4" steel armored robot.
I walk the pits before competitions and between
matches to see who's doing what and how this year's
robots are sizing up. During one event, I saw a well
designed super heavyweight with a horizontal spinning
mass (that's our technical term for a big spinning hunk of
metal). Except the metal bar had not a single ding on it.
You can give something a nice coat of paint, but you
can't hide the dings. No scratches. Nothing. On closer
inspection, I noticed that the bar (which probably
weighed 40 pounds) was held to the rotating shaft with a
half ounce cotter pin. The kind your six year old niece can
bend with her pinky.
"You guys test this against anything?"
"Of course not, it could hurt someone!"
The first time that metal bar hit another robot, the
pin sheared, the bar went flying, and they were done. If
they had spent five minutes in their garage or at some
junkyard testing their weapon against a solid object, they
would have realized the cotter pin was a weak link and
they could have fixed it.
There's a term for this: Cargo Cult. It comes from
South Pacific islanders who got used to planes coming in
during World War II bringing supplies. After the war, the
planes stopped coming. So, islanders fashioned headsets
from coconuts, built runway towers, and made landing
lights. Still, the planes never came. Just because
something looks the same, doesn't mean it will work the
same. Don't be a cargo cult competitor.
While you're testing, make sure that you're able to
actually push twice the amount of dead weight as the
maximum in your weight class. This will be a good
simulation of a bot pushing against you. If you can't push
that much weight, you're probably going to lose.
A great many matches come down to pushing
matches (fifth round, both bot’s weapon systems are out,
half the armor is gone, and there’s a burned out speed
controller), so you need to be sure you can win
under these circumstances. It's also another time
to find out if your speed controller can handle the load,
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