Pound of Pain 2005 Event Report

The official name of this event was POP9: Worst Pound Of Pain Ever. The event occurred in Nashua, NH in an old and pretty much abandoned warehouse. Rob, the guy who organized the event, managed to get space in a warehouse near where his shop was. While the venue itself was a little ghetto, the same group of great people were there.

The Trip

Nashua was around 9 hours from my house so there was going to be quite a trip involved. It was less than half as far as when we went to Alabama for RCRA so we did this trip without staying in a hotel on the way up and back. I had a description of what the venue looked like and approximate directions on how to get there, so I had booked a cheap hotel close by and we made the trip up. This time only four of us went instead of the whole family.

We arrived in Nashua on Friday afternoon and decided to go find the venue so we didn't have to worry about it the next morning. The directions to this place weren't any better than what we had in Alabama, but we were pleasantly surprised with how well the rest of that event was organized. We drove to where the directions said to go and found the "peanut sign" that marked where the venue was, but the doors were locked. We didn't have a phone number to call or anything so we just drove back and forth looking for the street number on one of the buildings. By an immense stroke of luck I noticed the event organizer Rob driving past and we started following him. After about a mile of weaving through the alleys he pulled off and tried to wave us around. At this point we told him who we were and he said something like "didn't you see the message that the venue had changed?" We hadn't, but he said we could follow him to the new venue.

It turns out that we were right near it by this point, but not really sure how we got here. We helped him unload the arena pieces and start laying stuff out before jumping back in the car and heading back out to the hotel. He gave us directions on how to get back to the highway and dad somehow figured it out. I would have ended up in Boston probably but we made it back to the hotel in like 15 minutes because dad was driving.

We got back to the hotel and decided to hit a pizza place at the end of the road for dinner. We weren't in a very good part of town so we decided to drive, but it was probably only half a mile down the road. The food turned out to be really good there so we stayed for a little while and listened to the juke box. I was a little wound up from the event excitement but was a lot more relaxed than I was before Motorama 2004. After dinner we went back to the hotel to crash and prepared to get up early to head over to the event the next day.

The Event Setup

I think we got to the venue around 8 AM the next day. There were already a couple of other people there and the box was being assembled. They already had most of it together and Ed was working on hooking up the lights. Rob had gone to get a big generator to run power because it turned out the venue had no outlets. I say "no outlets" instead of "no power" because there was a single, fairly new looking, exit sign by the door. Because Rob had been gone so long somebody decided that we should see if we can wire the box lights off of the exit sign. Fortunately it was a room full of engineers, both electrical and mechanical so we had no problem doing it. At some point I distinctly remember the person running the wires saying something like "If you see anybody from OSHA, just yell and run".

With the power crisis averted and the box lights on, we set up the pit tables and ran power strips for when Rob got back with the generator. He pulled in about the time we got everything set up and we ran power to all the tables. One of the four 30 pound bots registered, actually the one belonging to Rob himself, had caught on fire the night before and so wouldn't be competing. This left two opponents in the class besides me, so we fought round robin. This meant that as long as I could fix my bot I could keep fighting, which took some of the pressure off. There wasn't a lot of pressure to begin with because we had so few bots that if you weren't ready they pretty much said "just let us know".

I got the bot all buttoned up and prepared to do the safety inspection. It was just underweight (like it is supposed to be) and somebody commented while it was on the scale that it looked a lot like ShredHead. I wasn't sure whether to be happy or sad that it was so similar, but they were right anyway. After they said it, I sad something like "It is a lot like it, but hopefully won't have the drivetrain problems that ShredHead had". Wow, that was a mistake because I put it in the arena for the safety test and drove out to the center and spun the bot up. Everybody was impressed with how it spun, but when I turned in place to demonstrate failsafe behavior I found out that only one drive motor was working now... crap. They let me pass safety because the weapon and working drive motor both turned off on failsafe and I had shown translational movement, even though I couldn't really at the end of the test run.

At this point I ran back to the pits and started taking the drive motor that was busted out of the bot. It was easy to tell which one because when I turned that wheel with my hand the motor didn't move at all. This made that wheel freewheel really well. I took that gearbox out of the bot and found that the pinion gear had simply fallen off. Well,at least I knew the problem. I put it back on the motor shaft and tightened the screw down, then borrowed some CA glue from another builder to try to make it stay there. A test run showed that it was good enough so I got ready for my first fight.

The Fights

Fight #1 vs DE Ripper

DE Ripper was the first vertical spinner I had ever faced. He had a pretty powerful drive system and the vertical disk was a milling cutter with carbide tips. This made it sharp but also extremely hard and brittle. I was a little worried he would roll me over though, and at this point I generally assumed I would kill myself if the match went the whole three minutes. Team JandA was a father and son team that I hadn't met before. They were really great guys and I have competed with them since then as well.

The match started and I spun the shell up. They spun their blade up and came after me. The first hit put a scrape in the side of my shell and popped me up in the air a little before I could get spun up all the way. I worked my way (gently!) out to the middle of the arena, trying to keep the drive motors both working. I spun the shell up to pretty much full speed and DE ripper came after me again. This time, though, my tooth hit their blade directly across the middle. This resulted in pieces of the blade bouncing everywhere in the arena. He and I bounced around a little more even after I stopped spinning and I think DE ripper stopped moving alltogether. I ended up winning the fight.

I was excited to have won my first match but worried about how much damage I had to repair. The drive wheel was loose again and I had stopped spinning for some reason. one motor was kind of crunchy, and I found out that the magnets had been destroyed. That was not good news, but I had picked up a spare motor so I could replace it. I went to work fixing the drive pinion with the CA glue again, and once I had done that I took the weapon motor with the damaged wheel out of the bot. I replaced the damaged motor and buttoned the bot back up for my next fight

Fight #2 vs Gnome Portal

Gnome Portal was built by a guy named Brian who is now a good friend of mine. I've been competing with him in pretty much every NERC competition since this one and he has always been a great sport. His family actually stores the arena for NERC for free, and hauls it back and forth to Motorama from around Boston every year. Of course, I didn't know anything about him at POP9 except what I could see of his bot. The bot had 3/4" thick aluminum sides and was using Astro 940's for drive. You may recall that I was using the same motors for my WEAPON, so I was a little concerned about how fast he would be. One thing I was not too concerned about was the lifting arm because it was just a piece of aluminum angle bolted to two 1" square aluminum bars. While that was pretty sturdy, it was sticking out in a way that I thought for sure I could break it off.

The match started as they usually do, with me trying to spin up and the (extremely fast) gnome portal box rushing me. This box rush didn't miss though, and my bot bounced off of the two walls in the starting corner and out to the middle of the arena. I spun back up and hit his lifting arm a couple of times before my weapon died again. The rest of the match was Gnome Portal mostly having his way with my bot because of the much more powerful drive system and the fact that I was down to one drive motor again. The judges chose him ('cause he beat me) and we now had a problem... All three of the bots in the round robin class were 1 and 1. I beat DE Ripper and lost to Gnome Portal, while DE Ripper beat Gnome Portal and lost to me. Who won? There was no way to tell so we decided to try an elimination round.

I had damaged DE Ripper beyond repair so if I could fix my bot and fight Gnome Portal I would at least get second. Unfortunately, after my last match I took the bot apart and found that one of the weapon motor mounts had shaken loose a little and the wheel on the motor had been dragging against the inside of the shell. This caused a very high load on that motor and it smoked the armature in addition to damaging the roller wheel that was pushing against the shell side. The drive system was also down a wheel again so I had a few problems to deal with. I realized that I had one motor with a good armature, and another with good magnets so I could take them both apart and make one good spare motor. I did that and was amazed to find out it actually worked. It is not unlikely that I messed up the timing on this motor though, because I didn't even know that the motor properties changed when you rotate the brushes relative to the magnets.

I got the new motor back together and put the damaged roller on it. I needed to file off some of the rubber that was kind of shredded around the edge of the wheel so I clamped the motor in a vise and powered it up. I used the file to take the extra stuff off of the wheel. Once I was satisfied I put the motor back in the bot and fixed the drive motor again. When that was done I buttoned the bot back up and got ready to fight Gnome Portal a second time. Gnome portal was working fine, having taken basically no damage in our first fight.

Fight #3 vs Gnome Portal Again

This match went a lot like the last one, with Gnome Portal pushing me around and me trying to break the arm off. Just like the last time I ended up frying the weapon motor (probably because of a timing advance mistake) and the shell stopped moving. Gnome Portal couldn't get enough traction on the timing belt to flip me over so he just pushed me into the walls for a couple of minutes and he won by judge's decision. I had clinched second by being able to fight again so I was pretty happy. This was the first time I had ever placed, even though there were only 3 bots.

On the way home Dad and I talked about alternative motor strategies and what went wrong. Besides the astros getting ridiculously hot they did produce a lot of power in a light package. I had talked to Jr about a different kind of motor, an AXI Brushless Outrunner that had been used in 12 pounders successfully. I planned to research them when I got home. You can see where that research led by checking out the build report for Motorama 2006.