Ican spot a new competitor as oon as they come to the arena for their first match. It isn’t
because their hands are shaky and
their robot is a slightly modified R/C
car. It’s because they will delicately
place their shiny new robot in the
During their first match they’ll be
so aggressive that they’ll break their
own robot, their weapon will shoot
across the arena on first impact, or
they’ll hit a disabled opponent until
Here are some tips to avoid some
common pitfalls at your first
Stand on the
Shoulders of Giants
Go online and watch as many
match videos as you can. Why was the
winner successful? What could their
opponent have done differently to
change the outcome? Did you agree
with the judge’s decision? Read
through forums and ask detailed
questions. Learn from other robots,
but avoid building a carbon copy of an
existing robot. Without a real
understanding of the intricacies of a
design, you’ll have little success.
Remember there is no single
design that ensures victory. The
Internet gives you the ability to acquire
years of experience over a weekend.
Some things you’ll only learn the hard
way, but you’ll have a vast head start.
Know Your Robot
Know how it works, how it breaks,
and how it drives. Practice, practice,
Note that testing requires a
finished robot weeks before an event. If
your robot is polished and pristine
when it enters the arena, you’re already
at a disadvantage. Set up some markers
and practice driving every
chance you get. You will not
believe what an advantage
effective driving can be. This
skill alone can win matches.
Many builders overlook
this while they’re designing
their robot, but it often
becomes critical at
competition. Make your
battery accessible so that you don’t
waste 15 minutes just getting it on the
charger. Try to use a limited number of
screw sizes so you don’t have to switch
drivers constantly. Motors and speed
controllers should be easily replaceable.
Carry a multimeter and know how
to use it. It will become your best
friend when you need to diagnose
problems quickly and effectively. Most
events guarantee no more than 20
minutes between matches, so you
don’t have time to switch out a
working motor to find out you have a
broken speed controller.
SERVO 04.2014 35
New Builders, Beware!
; by Andrea Suarez
Middleweight Blender loses its shell when its welds can't take the grueling forces of competition.
Video of Heavyweight match, Last Rites vs. Sewer Snake.