SERVO 04.2016 15
minimalist nature of these guards,
there is the risk that a hard enough
hit could warp them and either allow
the weapon clear access to your
wheels or cause the guards to
interfere with your own wheels,
potentially immobilizing them.
The next step up in protection are
wheel pods, shown on my robot, Nyx.
Wheel pods typically serve two
purposes. Not only are they protecting
the wheels from damage, but they’re
also an integral element of the
support structure for the drive system.
Being a part of the support structure
necessitates them being much more
durable than the minimalist guards.
Wheel pods don’t offer much more
protection than the minimalist guards,
but the increased strength
requirements and tie-in with the
rest of the chassis mean they’ll
typically be able to handle
moderate impacts well. Integrating
wheel protection with overall
chassis structure is a more efficient
use of weight, but there is a risk
that a bent section of frame could
result in jammed wheels.
The top external wheel setup
is the fully wrapped guard as in
my robot, Kobalos.
With this setup, there is no
unprotected path to the wheel.
With adequate space between
your wheels and a fully wrapped
guard, it will take significant effort for
the opposing robot to reach your
wheels. If the guard can take the
blows, your wheels will be safe in
most circumstances with this sort of
guard. The major downside to this
style when compared to something
like the minimalist guards is that for
the same weight, you won’t be able
to get nearly the level of protection in
the most critical areas. This type of
guarding is a good all-around option,
but is lacking compared to other
options when it comes to defending
any specific location. Finally, the most
protected setup is the internal wheel,
shown in my robot, Dolos.
At the top of the pile, you’ve got
this setup. The wheels are completely
contained within the chassis with only
a small portion of them exposed
where they contact the combat
surface. With internal wheels,
you’ve got the most protected but
most limited setup.
Special consideration also
needs to be given to the
components in the robot near the
wheels to ensure they don’t come
into contact with the wheels after
a heavy impact. The level of
protection is unmatched by the
other options. By the time your
opponent has a clear shot on your
wheels, you’ve already likely
sustained substantial damage. The
main downside of this setup is
that your wheels will likely have a
very limited number of positions
where they are in contact with the
ground, making it easier to get stuck
or high centered. As I said at the
start, there’s really no right answer.
Everyone’s got a style that works for
them. I tend to lean toward minimal
protection for several reasons:
• Improved maneuverability. It
might be subtle, but occasionally a bit
of extra agility makes the difference.
• Lighter weight. Less weight in
wheel protection is more weight that
can be put elsewhere.
• Strategy. This is more
hypothesis than fact, but I take the
view that if you’ve got exposed
wheels they become a primary target
for your opponent. I believe that if
you know the target of your
opponent, you’re better able to
defend it. In close fights, this can be
the strategic advantage that tips
things in your favor. SV
Dolos has its wheels fully contained
within the chassis which offers maximum
Kobalos used a loop of spring steel to
protect it from horizontal attacks.
Nyx’s wheel guards serve as both
moderate protection and a structural
element of the drive system.
Klazo uses guards that protect the wheels
from the most likely angles of attack.