Motorama 2005 Event Report

Remember what I said about more pictures and less talk? Well... We forgot the camera for Motorama 2005 so I don't actually have any pictures of what went on. I have a VHS tape of our fights that I managed to weasel out of a borrowed camcorder from school, but I don't actually have a VCR anymore so I can't even upload that. I guess you're just stuck with the short-and-sweetish description of what happened.

The Setup - Much More Prepared

This time we were ready. The bot was done more than two days before the event, we knew the venue and parking situation, and we had done this twice now. We even brought a hand truck to carry the tools. The battery charging station was improved for ease of use, and we brought a cooler with drinks and sandwiches in it so we could eat in a hurry if necessary. Because of this preparedness I had a lot more fun at this competition. Oh, that and the bot finally did what it was designed to do: break stuff on other bots.

The Fights

Fight #1 vs. Netherbot

Ed of Team Golden built Netherbot because he thought the Inertia Labs bots Toro and T-Minus were awesome. You may remember them from watching BattleBots long ago. They were capable of throwing opponents as much as 8 feet in the air and were super exciting to watch. Netherbot was a 30 pound pneumatic flipper that was somewhat less remarkable because it was so much smaller, but it gave a pretty good pop and could flip TRIPolar over if it got the chance. I really didn't want to try to self-right because last time it didn't go so well.

The match started like most do, with me spinning up as quickly as possible and my opponent box-rushing me. This time, though, Netherbot tried to slowly back into the shell to get it to slow down or hit the wall. I was spinning backwards because it was suggested by the team that built the super-cool shell spinner RamByte at last year's motorama. This caused netherbot to bounce off of the shell a couple of times and eventually spin around. The shell dug into the flipping arm and bent it pretty bad. In that same hit there was a loud hissing sound that started to come from Netherbot and I knew I'd broken the weapon. We bounced around for a little while longer and eventually Netherbot stopped moving.

TRIPolar had just gotten its first knockout, and I had just gotten the first legitamate knockout of my bot building career. I was shaking from the adrenaline but I had to get the bot opened up for battery charging and to see if anything bad happened. Ed came over after the fight and gave me the twisted arm from Netherbot, complete with his signature and the competition name on it. That was the first trophy I had gotten too - and is still one of my favorites. The sportsmanship and positive attitude of the builders is still my favorite reason to do this. Did I mention that Ed was actually running the competition too? What a guy...

Fight #2 vs King of Clubs

KoC was a bot that was modeled after Truncation with a thin horizontal blade skimming the floor with the idea that it would break opponent's wheels. I was seriously worried about this fight because I had to raise the shell up more than I liked because of how warped the base plate was during welding. This meant that the blade could go under the shell a lot easier and get to the juicy bits inside...

This match started with both bots spinning up as usual, but then my fears were realized - KoC came charging across the arena and dug right into my baseplate under the shell. He smashed the ball caster I was using as a third point of contact and the bot suddenly stopped responding. I tapped out and hurried to take the bot to the pit to find out what went wrong.

The baseplate had a big cut in it and the caster was toast, but I had a spare caster (learned my lesson from Alabama!) so I wasn't worried too much about that. The problem was that a broken caster couldn't have caused the bot to just turn off so something else electronic was wrong. I worked on troubleshooting all the systems with help from my dad and after a few hours we narrowed it down to a busted receiver crystal. The competition strongly recommended that you had two pairs of crystals in case a frequency conflict arose so I swapped in my backup set and the bot started working again. It was a real pain to find the problem, but though help from a couple other people we did eventually track it down. After swapping the crystals I just had to button the bot back up to get ready for my next fight...

Fight #3 vs Morpheus

Morpheus, besides being an awesome character from The Matrix, was a serious brick of a robot that had a 4HP drive system and .5" thick aluminum sides and wedge. The bot also had steel angles around all of the corners to make them stronger against horizontal spinners. It was a tank and I wasn't favored against it. On the up side, it didn't have a devastating weapon like King of Clubs did, so at least I wouldn't take significant damage from the fight (or so I thought).

At the buzzer I spun up and he came after me. The thing flew across the arena and just missed me on the box rush. He slammed into the wall and I wobbled my way out to the middle. He rushed me again and I bounced off and went to the far wall. The next hit sent my bot flying into the arena kickplate and actually dislodged it from the floor. The video I have was taken by my girlfriend and the camera was right where I hit the kickplate. The kickplate bounced off of the lexan (scaring my camera crew) and my bot went back out to the middle of the arena. At this point I couldn't believe the bot was still running. I'd never been able to take this many hits and keep on going before. Morpheus was driving me back across the arena but I kept hitting opposite corners of the front end so it was swinging back and forth on each hit. This made it look like it was a boxer trying to give another punch.

In the last 20 or so seconds of the match Morpheus got under the shell with his wedge and popped me up on top of him. The motion sheared the two screws holding the IFI Thor spin controller on the baseplate and it slipped up into the spokes of the shell. This did not bode well for the plastic controller and its fan. Naturally, without the controller the shell stopped spinning with about 10 seconds left in the match. It went to the judges and they gave the fight to Morpheus. It probably didn't matter too much in hindsight because I didn't have a spare controller (they're $220 apiece!) so I wouldn't have won again anyway. Once I got home I got picture of the damaged controller and it sits on my shelf at work now as another kind of trophy next to the Netherbot arm.

Overall the competition was great and I learned a lot. My bot performed much better than it ever had before and I was totally satisfied. I got to see some of the builders from the previous year, including my canadian friends, and had a lot of fun along the way. The weekend also didn't turn out to be too expensive, having only lost the one controller and a $20 pair of frequency crystals instead of causing real damage to many of the other parts. The only thing I ended up changing for the next competition was a bolt-on weapon mount and a flat baseplate.