XTerminator BattleBot Design (Projects)

This was written in 2001 IIRC, before I started building robots.

Both James and Alex are crazy about BattleBots, which has presented Robert and Natsumi with major opportunities for massive blackmail. 1)

The boys have also been scribbling up designs for BattleBots, and as Apprentice Mad Overlords bent on World Domination, Robot thinks that Total Robot Domination is a useful and instructive goal for them to strive for. Thus he obtained a large number of Lego Mindstorms components and bricks, and they are happpily prototyping robots.

This, coupled with discussions Robert has been having with the unsuspecting members, of the GT-PRFC mailing list 2), has resulted in what we consider to be a superior robot design, codenamed…


Our design philosophy is simple: Robots should not attempt to directly damage their opponents, but instead control them!

There are many sources of damage in the BattleBots arena; the Death Hammers and the KillSaws being the two most useful. Thus, a damage-causing device on the BattleBot is a waste of mass and complexity. It is much more mass/power efficient to build a robot that disrupts and controls the other robot and simply takes him over to the arena weapons for administration of punishment. If you can control the other robot, he is at your mercy. 3)

Robots typically lose in BattleBots because either (1) they break, (2) their communications electronics goes down, or (3) they are immobilized (usually flipped or carried into the spike strips) by the opponent. Thus, our design is intended to minimize these hazards.

The Design

The concept is a simple wedge with a couple of evil design twists. It's a fairly long wedge with two drive wheels near the back. The final design will almost certainly be somewhat wider that the lego model we have made, these design parameters are very flexible at this point. And all edges will probably be sloped, not just the front one.

The first evil trick is that this wedge is actually two wedges connected by a powered pivot. This means that the right and left half of the robot can rotate relative to each other under operator control.

Now you may be asking, what's the point of that. Well, it gives you two very interesting capabilities. You will notice that the pivot point is somewhat behind the center of gravity of the robot. This means that if the robot is flipped upside down, it can right itself by a simple twist maneuver. In the illustration below, we have to simulate the rotation, but note that after it gets to a certain point, the weight of the front of the bot causes it to tip and right itself; then we just reverse the direction of twisting, and the bot “lands on its feet” automatically.

This also gives the robot the ability to “squirm” out of hazards such as the spikes, or out of the grip of rival disruption-based robots (of which we expect to see a lot more in the near future).

Evil Twist #2 is the wedge itself. The front of each wedge is actually an independant lifting arm. This rough sketch gives the basic idea, although the final implementation will be a lot more sophisticated.

It's kind of hard to tell from my lousy drafting, but the upper jaw is kind of upside-down-U shaped, so that it has more clamping surfaces. All surfaces that are likely to be in frictional contact with an enemy robot are coated with a very sticky rubber (such as the C4-Stealth compound used in climbing shoes). Note that this device can be used both as a lifting arm and as a clamp or jaw.

Defense in Depth

Our philosophy is to build a bot that is as simple and rugged as possible, with as few single-points-of-failure as possible. Thus each drive wheel should have two smaller motors instead of one larger one; there should be two motors (one in each half) actuating the rotation device; each controllable component should have its own independant R/C receiver, etc.

We believe this to be a winning bot design, and are interesting in discussing it with potential builders. 4)

1) “Do your homework, get ready for bed, vacuum the house, clean up your toys, lick the patio clean, eat your dinner and scrub the toilet with your toothbrush and then, maybe, if you're good, you can watch BattleBots”
2) Soon, their usefulness will be at an end… Bwaahahaha!
3) It should be made clear, lest there be any confusion that while “mercy” is an amusing theoretical concept, it is not, of course, of any practical use to a Mad or Evil Overlord.
4) As a matter of style, Mad Overlords never actually build the infernal devices they design; that task is left for Evil Engineers, a species of Minion highly prized by their Overlords.