28 SERVO 05.2015
are so prevalent in robot combat. Part
of that is the nature of the Robot
Battles open stage Sumo rule set (no
weapon may have a top speed more
than 20 fps because there's a kid 12
feet away — Heatherington helped
with that rule).
Even his 1 lb bots fighting in
"normal combat" favor flipper designs:
the beautiful flywheel powered
beastie, Thrasher, and the more recent
cock-able spring in Dead Air. His
calculators detail flywheels and spring
tensions, deflection, and trajectories.
There are videos of experiments
detailing construction, characteristics,
and results. The man is a machine-making machine. Heatherington posts
his design failures, as well as his
successes. He discusses why a design
is a failure, and then builds on that.
He tells you exactly how he's gonna
kick your ... bot.
Consider the design arc for his
most successful robot: 12 lb Omega
Force. This self-actuating flipper
powerhouse has been competing
since 2006; most recently in 2014,
winning the 12 lb bracket. Again. "It
has the most wins and is a real crowd
pleaser. They love watching bots
tossed into the air and off the stage.
So do I."
It started with what he describes
as his worst bot: "…. The unnamed
predecessor to "Omega Force. It was
an invertible rotary flipper with six
wheels and hard-to-describe
articulating body. When something is
hard to describe, it's likely to be way
too hard to build. It was. In fact, the
whole idea was stupid."
Yet sooo pretty. It is complex and
beautifully executed. Any geek's heart
would go straight out to it. It looks
hard to drive. It is very cool. It is
abandoned for the real thing.
The realized version of Omega
Force is the embodiment of
"Make it easy to
drive and automate
Look at the
of Omega Force: a
fully invertible, self-firing flipper bot.
This was the first
appearance of the
which he has
refined and applied
in some form to all
smart wedge allows a wedge to
retract from an obstacle that would
otherwise stop the robot. On his
website build report pages, every
decision is documented. The details of
its design and construction are there
for anyone to understand. It is precise
and clean. His event reports are
Heatherington claims that there is
no conscious attempt at art in his
designs, but there is a sweetness of
line and a lack of anything
superfluous. There is definitely artistry
to his fights. His driving is as precise
as his construction. The combination
is very effective, although he has been
brought low by rubber snakes caught
in his drive train. Even small bot
masters can fall to silliness. SV
Figure 4. Omega Force design fail.
Figure 5. Omega Force 2.0
Figure 8. Heatherington hanging off a 90+ft radio antenna
over his house. Figure 7. The early smart wedge.