We take you backstage to see these amazing battling robots up close.
We were very fortunate this month to attend the Robowars 2019 national championship, held in Brisbane. This two-day event saw thirty-two challengers pitted against each other in fast-paced, furious combat across sixty fights. Each of the eight sessions had seven 3-minute rounds.
This particular event showcases the Robowars national featherweight division, consisting of robots with a maximum allowable weight of 13.6kg, which is the largest division currently held in Australia.
Don’t let their small size fool you - these robots pack some serious energy. Take, for example, the drum spinner style Incitement robot from Creative Instigation, which has spinning blades that rotate at an incredible 11000 RPM!
Stormfront, a father and son team from Melbourne Combat Robotics, showed off their vertical spinner and titanium armoured beast, which has a top speed of 20km/h.
Check out Slingshot, a CO2 powered flipper robot that launches its opponent into the walls and roof of the plexiglass ring. The impacts of these behemoths are something you have to see to believe.
BATTLING IT OUT
A robot is considered the victor if its opponent is unable to translate controlled motion. i.e. move as directed by the human controller. If this happens, a countdown is started and if ten seconds elapse without regaining control, the match is called.
However, there are many cases where both robots maintain mobility for the entire 3-minute round. In this situation, the judges decide a victor based on the following three criteria:
DAMAGE: How much damage each of the robots gave and sustained.
AGGRESSION: How active each robot was at maintaining the fight instead of avoiding impact.
CONTROL: How well was the robot controlled by the human operator.
Of course, it’s not a free for all. There are specific rules and regulations clearly set out by the event organisers, designed to keep the combat fair and above all else safe for the competitors and the spectators alike.
- No fire or heat weapons
- No liquid weapons or hydraulics
- No electromagnetic interference (EMF) weapons
- No remote frequency (RF) jamming devices
- Weight limit specific to the class of robot
- Various safety measures specific to class
- Ant weight: 150g
- Beetle weight: 1.36kg
- Featherweight: 13.6kg
- Heavyweight: 110kg
These strict safety measures mean that the sport is tightly self-regulated and allows for a very diverse range of competitors.
We met competitors from all walks of life, ranging from school children to professional engineers and even school teachers, all working together in the pits and competing against each other in the arena.
It was fairly common to see two people who had just fought each other in the arena then help each other in the pits to repair the damage to their robots. They shared tools, equipment, and even parts so they can compete again in the next round.
Like the competitors, the robots were also quite diverse. Whilst many designs shared a similar type or weaponry (usually a hardened steel rotating mass), there was certainly a vast amount of variation among them. Take, for example, the seemingly simple robots such as “Pothead”, which as its name suggests, has a head made from a cooking pot. This two-wheeled horizontal spinner was made from box steel tubing and hid a second set of eyes just in case it loses its head.
Bender, for example, was also a two-wheeled horizontal spinner, however, it was armoured using a simple motorbike tire. Its blade was powered by a massive 250W scooter motor.
Many of the robots are made from salvaged motors from drills, scooters, grinders, and other commonly thrown away household items, likely due to failed batteries where the motor itself is perfectly serviceable. All a person really needs to do is connect a remote receiver and electronic speed controller (ESC) to such a salvaged motor and you could control it. The hard part is the engineering that goes into creating the mechanical body.
The robot needs to be capable of withstanding the immense forces of combat, whilst keeping within the weight specs.
The good news is, a lot of experimenting can be done in the lower weight classes, including Beetle and Ant weight. It’s common for competitors to use FDM 3D printing techniques to completely manufacture their battle robot. In fact, some robots such as Shrapnel started out as a 3D printed Ant weight battle robot and were simply scaled up in CAD to accommodate the higher class. Shrapnel’s current form is armed with a 10mm thick hardened steel horizontal blade that spins at 4000RPM.
This means the barrier to entry is quite low. Time and investment aren’t much, until you find a design you’re happy with and scale it to fight amongst the big guys. In fact, many of the competitors had their Ant weight robots proudly on display at this event a testament to how well regarded the entry-level robots are.
AND THE WINNER IS...
This year, the final came down to last year’s winner, Bender III, against an up and coming competitor with their robot, aptly named Abomination. Prizes and, more importantly, bragging rights went to Michael Wang, the builder of ABOMINATION. Congratulations!
If any of this has piqued your interest in building and fighting robots, you can contact one of the clubs in your area or Robowars directly to learn how best to get involved. If you’re keen to see when the next Robowars battle will be, check out the Robowars Australia website www.robowars.com.au.
Australia / New Zealand Club List
ADELAIDE:Adelaide Robot Combat
Albury Wodonga:Albury Wodonga Robot Battles
Melbourne:Melbourne Robot Combat
Ballarat:Ballarat Area Robotics League
Central Queensland Robotic Sports ClubCq Robotics