How to make your own fighting robot
With the Robot Wars revival over (here’s hoping the series gets renewed!), where can we get our weekly dose of robot destruction? The answer lies in the show’s US equivalent, BattleBots. Now showing every Sunday on Spike UK, it definitely has the best robot arena fights on TV. To see what it was all about, we got in touch with Co-Creator and Executive Producer Greg Munson who told us, amongst other things, how to make our very own fighting robot.
The seventh season of BattleBots finished earlier this month, what new technology was used in the robots compared to previous seasons?
Probably the biggest tech advancement is batteries. Back in the day robot builders used either nickel–cadmium batteries or even things like lead-acid car batteries. These tended to be bulky and quite heavy and ate away at your weight limit budget. Nowadays, we have lithium batteries that are quite a bit smaller and quite a bit more powerful. They can be shaped into a variety of different forms so there’s more design flexibility and a greater power to weight ratio. This allows robot builders to create insanely destructive weapons like Tombstone’s blade and Witchdoctor’s disc. This has made a significant difference. With lithium batteries there’s more weight for bigger motors, more armor, or additional weapons, ultimately making better fights.
What technology needs to go into a robot to give it any chance of becoming a champion in BattleBots?
That’s a tough question to answer, as robot combat sports are very much a rock paper scissors type of game. You can have a wedge, a lifter or a spinner, which can all beat each other. A spinner can often beat a lifter but it has a tough time against the wedge. Lifters are always beating wedges but wedges can beat spinners. It’s hard to say which one component would make a victor. It seems to be more down to driving skills and the level of attrition a robot can withstand. If you can build an insanely powerful spinner like on Tombstone, you’re going to do well but it’s more about whether the spinner can keep working and won’t break and can take a hit. There really isn’t one particular technology that wins the day; it’s a combination of things and the luck of the draw.
What skills do you need to be a good robot driver?
Practice, practice, practice! Driving robots is very challenging. When your bot is pointing away from you left is left and right is right. But when it’s coming towards you that switches. You have to put your consciousness into the robot and drive from that viewpoint. One thing I tell the robot builders is to try and get your robot done early. Save at least a week, if not more, before a competition to practice driving and get use to the controls. What you see from the great drivers, for example, is the ability to attack, spin around and come back at an opponent right after an impact. They can also anticipate the moves of their opponent and counter with a strategic attack or defense plan.
If I wanted to make a robot that will win the next season, what tips would you give me?
The number one thing is to start small. Don’t try and build a huge BattleBot for the TV show on your first time. There are many local events all over the world that you can enter and many websites that will provide tutorials and sell parts like http://www.fingertechrobotics.com/ for example. Also, visit online forums where you can learn from the best. But start small and evolve your robot into the higher weight classes once you have the knowhow and competition experience.
What if I was already a Robot Wars champion? How would I succeed at BattleBots?
Spinners are more popular in BattleBots than in Robot Wars. If you wanted to make the jump across the pond, you need to adjust for spinners and our arena. Robot Wars has the pit and the House Robots. We don’t. What we have are the KillSaws that come out of the floor—so your under armour needs to be strong and you need to watch out that your wheels aren’t exposed. We also allow each competitor to control two of the four arena Pulverizers, which are giant hammers that can do a lot of damage. You need to practice your driving so you can take advantage these arena weapons, and not fall victim to them.
What is the best robot you’ve ever had on the show and why?
Oh boy, that is so hard! It goes back to the rock, paper, scissors analogy. There is really is no best robot. You could say that Tombstone is probably one of the best blade spinners while Witchdoctor is one of the top disc spinners. Bronco has a best-in-class lifter and Complete Control is a fantastic Grappler. But to say who is best? You just can’t do it! But build your own robot and let’s find out!
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