Archive for the 'Events' Category


Franklin Institute 2016 – The Post-Event and Thoughts on #season3

Oct 21, 2016 in Events, Überclocker 4

So now that we’ve gone over the build of Clocker 4, it’s time to talk about how the bot did! The Franklin event was one that I went to the first time last year, and it was quite the experience – if not extremely busy since the whole tournament has to be finished in 1 day.

Everything I needed for this event fit on one handtruck. See? Why can’t we just build 30lbers for BattleBots? Film the whole damn tournament in macro so they look huge!

I was prepared to take a few last-minute MITERS people, so I showed up ready to go. However, plans suddenly changed…

Mr. “I’m not sure if I’m going to go and it’s 9PM the night before the event” decided to take 30lb-SawBlaze. Given its reliance on conventional lithium batteries, we had to really quickly make a replacement battery using 18650-sized A123 cells pulled from my stock, using the last minute MITERS robots’ prep time to do this. This battery furthermore had to fit in the former space occupied by two flat LiPoly packs, so it ended up looking like a weird laptop battery. The vertical cells leaked into spaces the flat packs did not, in order to get some more battery energy.

MegatRON/30-Sawblaze also uses the Axiii motors attached to P60s, incidentally. That means we’re well matched for speed and power. This should get exciting!

Five hours later, we emerge out of hyperspace into the orbit of Philadelphia, only losing $26 of toll money in the process. On the way, I stopped in Manhattan to pick up two spontaneous teammates, Cassandra and Allen-chan (for whom this is public notice towards to put a real damn website together). Cassandra took most of the photos to follow, since I was too busy running around headlessly.


All set up and ready at the event, with a pipefessionalism to the left.  The pits at Franklin are always tight due to the space available, so I actually shared a table with Jamison. Getting pointy 30lbers in and out of the aisles was always a dance routine.

What’s that on the back of Clocker? Why it’s chibi-Haru-chan! Join Cynthia in a month of drawing cute chibi-style BattleBots entries!

IT’S ROBOT FIGHTING TIME! In the Red Sharpie Blob, it’s… god dammit Charles, get out of here, you’re not Faruq!

Clocker’s first opponent was Melvin, a modular pushybot with different pushy type attachments. It was a fairly easy target to grab, and I didn’t feel particularly threatened by it so I took the time to get to know the drivetrain better. I got a few good grabs on it, and then….

…whoops. After those good slams, the upper jaw just comes off. Well, this is disappointing, but I can’t say that the dislocated look isn’t neat in its own way. The weak link was the linear actuator’s leadscrew anchor.

I had two 1/4″-20 set screws – the same kind that took out Overhaul – holding onto the leadscrew in a notch, but I guess the force of the lift and clamp crashing down was enough to tear the end of the notch, and off the leadscrew came.

This was resolved by using two oversize drill bits to drill deep dimples into the location where the set screws landed, turning them more into pins. I didn’t have issues with this the rest of the event.

So far: 1/0. Here’s a video of the first match against Melvin!

My next match was none other than Mr. “I’m glad there was still a registration spot open when I got there”, 30lb Sawblaze a.k.a Megatron. This was a spoiler for #season3 excellent driving and maneuvering match that I just barely lost. Having weight on the front of your robot still trumps (We need to find a new word for this activity eventually) any amount of fine compliant wedge tuning, I think. I was hard pressed to attack Megatron head-on, so I concentrated on keeping it rolling over and self-righting, but there were more moments when he had control. Once Clocker was propped on the prongs of Megatron’s plow, it was more difficult to un-prop.

Near the end, Clocker was stuck upside-down momentarily. I thought it was the DeWuts clutching out, but looking at one of the match video angles showed that Megatron had spun off one of the nuts that holds the cross-fork tie rod together, and the tie rod was fallen out and jammed between the forks and pontoon. It took several seconds of forcing it back and forth before it finally bent enough to let me flip back over. However, in that few seconds, I lost significant mojo with the judges.

So far: 1/1. Here’s the exciting maneuvering match!

Some nice sparks coming off Clocker’s pontoons from the sawblade!

After this match, the rear wheels were basically worn flat. This is fairly consistent behavior – a few Motoramas ago, Clocker ran out of wheels. After that, I was replacing the duallie BaneBots 50A durometer wheels once per tournament. This version of Clocker combines smaller wheel contact area with a lot more drive power, so I was expecting to burn them down faster. There’s still a lot of “eraser flakes” going on, so I might want to look into a harder compound or just more durable material. I also openly admit that my casting technique might need some work.

The front wheels suffered less, since they were unloaded somewhat by the pontoons. I’ll add that having the pontoons firmly on the ground was not that helpful – I felt like I had traction issues, but it was really the pontoons and forks making the bot act like it’s front-heavy. It drove much better if I had the forks up a little. This is actually good to know for #season3, and I’ll talk about that later.

Some nice gouge marks in the pontoons from being held under the saw for a few seconds!

This is the cause of the jamming. The threaded rod tying the forks together backed out – most likely due to the saw, given there’s a significant cut mark on the standoff like someone took a poorly sharpened lathe parting tool to it!

Alright, I had maybe 10 minutes until my next match (Franklin runs FAST – you aren’t guaranteed the usual 20 minutes of repair time). Can we change the wheels in time? I brought my pack of spares  that were cast days before. This batch had air bubble problems, clearly visible in the wheel, since I could not locate the makerspace’s vacuum mold degassing chamber. Someone probably ran off with it for New York Comic Con. I was curious now about how the airy wheels will wear down, so I swapped them on anyway.

The next match was against Duck Yeah, a vertical spinning “STD” bot (where STD has now become popular robot slang for Single Tooth Disc). This is architecturally similar to BattleBots like Witch Doctor, Brutus, or Hypershock, so I was excited for this match. I don’t have a good tactic against STDs or other vertical wedged weapons besides “Don’t Fuck Up”.

Well, I did. My penchant for backsliding into head-on assaults did not end well. In fact I fucked up almost immediately, and the pontoons and arms bent up enough for it to be almost impossible to get back under Duck Yeah.

I got tangled in a hit shortly after that which let Duck Yeah go Full Mike Tyson and nip off one of the ears. These ears were definitely more risky than Overhaul’s – I got stuck sideways on them once while the clamp was open and I forgot how to self-right. Overhaul 1 and 2′s self-righting do depend on the clamp being closed past a certain position, which is easy to forget without practice. PRACTICE DRIVING YOUR DAMN ROBOTS!

The bright red glow coming from the middle of Clocker is the clamp motor’s endcap which got blown off in an impact – the brushes are touching and heated to incandescence by the current flowing through them!

Match video here. About midway through, I gave up on lifting since the pontoon edges were mangled and the forks bent, and just drove it around slamming it into walls more.  I won the match on this basis.


So far: 2/1

The ear that got nibbled split pretty cleanly along layers. You can also see that the weapon made contact with my clamp motor at least once!

Alright, not much more time until I have to get back in the box, so I quickly swapped a spare clamp motor in. This actuator, thank goodness, is far easier to service than the previous ones!

One thing I did not have was spare forks. This was a pretty severe oversight, as I had the ability to cut them out the week before and dd not do so. I also didn’t have a big enough press, or enough time, to straighten them out again to a degree that would be useful. As such, out comes the angle grinder. I’d rather fight with 1 fork than two are are kind of at different levels.

After this bold move, I try testing the repaired clamp arm and……. nothing. The motor wiggles a whole lot, but doesn’t really move the leadscrew. Uh oh…. I pull the thing apart and discover that it had a totally different pinion. I grabbed a motor for an incompatible drill out of my bin, went “LOOKS OK FROM HERE”, and threw it in the parts box! The gear was similar in diameter, so it “kind of worked”, but really didn’t. Cue 10 minutes of trying to find either a replacement motor or a pinion puller – someone came through with the latter, and I was able to transfer the pinion off the destroyed motor.

The next match was another cripple fight against a decidedly less mobile Melvin. This time, Melvin busted out a thwackbot assembly since they could only spin in place with 1 functioning motor. This was a match where I drove a little harder and went for broke. I had so little time after discovering the motor mishap that I left the ears off. Nontheless, it was a match full of a few full power, cross-arena drives which I had not attempted up to that point. One of these dislodged the bumper inside the arena!

Here’s that match. Near the end, I stranded Melvin sideways on the bumper. I generally have a policy of freeing opponents if they get stuck once, but if I get them twice, I’m done. 3/1 now, and Clocker moves onto the Loser’s Bracket finals (aka the most winning of the losers!)

And who was my next match? A rather crippled Megatron, who just got recently bounced off the ceiling by Big Ripto, in an event which called into question the integrity of the arena. This match wasn’t long – Jamison didn’t have enough time, nor the means, to reattach the plow in a way beyond large quantities of what he calles “Harambe Tape”. Nor was the saw functional. So the plow fell off early on and he decided to call it. Here’s the match from Fred – this put Clocker in the finals at 4/1….. against Big Ripto.

The finals didn’t happen. You can tell because here’s a photo of Clocker still in one piece. The event organizers decided to ban Ripto from the arena again citing the danger of ejecting parts from the roof. This was made known to us when the organizers pulled Kyle and I aside and had a chat about the arena falling apart. While there was some rock-paper-scissors involved, I handed the victory to Kyle unconditionally. There was no way I would have stood a chance in the shape Clocker was in at this point, and Ripto had taken literally no damage. It’s a rock solid design that’s hard to counter, especially when nothing on the front of your bot lines up any more.

I just made the organizers promise to match Ripto and Clocker up first thing at Motorama 2017 next year. By then, hopefully my strategy against vertical weapons will be more evoled. That ought to be funny.

So that’s the story of how Überclocker 4 / 30-haul took 2nd place at Franklin 2016!

On the way out, we stopped for dinner at a place I was explicitly recommended to go for the best Philly Cheesesteak. While I agree that it was very good, we all fucked up on a very important aspect: Not realizing the place offered toppings. Now, up until this point, I had never ordered a geuine Philadelphia-sourced cheesesteak sandwich, so I thought it was SUPPOSED to be just an amalgamation of meat and cheese. Again, this was a very good amalgamation of meat and chese, but it could have had onions, peppers, bacon, more cheese, more bacon, and all sorts of sauces on it for no additional charge. So I lost this round, and will need to correct this next FI.

In the end, how does this event affect my outlook for #season3?  The “lessons learned” fall primarily into the strategic, but there were also physical results.

  • First off, the molded wheels worked excellently. They did wear quickly, but not unusually so. I would have actually accepted consuming a set of wheels per match. That’s actually why Overhaul ended up having so many spare wheels made. So the task at hand is to investigate more compounds and see if one or the other yields better wear life while not giving up traction. In terms of raw traction, I was satisfied. I’ll probably commission a few pull tests on a steel panel covered in the same “traction paint” as used in the box, on a small scale first with promising candidates moving to Overhaul-sized 5″ wheels.  While there were times I thought I had poor traction, it was largely interweaved with the ground force exerted by the forks and pontoons.
  • Speaking of which, I’m thinking some system of continuously adjustable ground force is needed.  Clocker begin the tournament with pontoons slightly too low, and this obviously impeded maneuverability since it preferentially loaded the rear wheels and left the fronts almost unworn – hence wasted. After some big hits, the pontoon edges became worn back and I actually began driving better as evidenced in my second MegatRON and Melvin matches. In fact, this is something Beta has the ability to do. I can pre-load the shock mounts using different height spacers, but it would be nice to have a set that’s adjustable in height somehow. This is to make sure I can perform fine tuning of the contact while Overhaul is loaded up in the test arena for functional verification before the match. I’ll have to think about if this system is worth pursuing and in what form it will manifest, but I want to MACHINE THE PAINT OFF THE FLOOR (so, you know, I can get better traction).


  • Likewise, I should think harder about an adjustable hard stop for the arm travel. Clocker 3 had one, but Clocker 4 just relies on the frame rail. This is not adjustable and obviously the zero point will change with damage. Same goes for Overhaul.


  • I’ve got a lot to learn about driving strategy now that I’m back in the high energy class. It’s completely acceptable to attack Sportsman’s class bots head-on since the chances of you exploding doing so are minimal, and this has clearly influenced my attack style with Clocker, since the ‘smash and grab’ visual is also an audience pleaser. This is obviously dangerous if you are liable to being fed into a vertical drumlet. I still consider the vertical wedged weapon the most dangerous adversary, given that Overhaul has taken on a high powered horizontal weapon well (okay…. you know what I mean) and Clocker fared so poorly against Duck Yeah. Ripto would have been a disaster for sure.


  • It’s very obvious  that I cannot count on every part of the bot lining up to make the front impregnable. I used to drive pushybots with hinged wedges which were lightly pressed against the ground. This, besides not interfering with traction unlike hard-mounted wedges, also affords a chance to escape if you go up on the opponent. In the first battle of MegatRON, Clocker was constantly getting stuck on the attack phase since I would charge into an equivalent charge by Jamison. It was also well evidenced against Beta that Overhaul was hard pressed to escape getting wedged. How to prevent this without compromising the function of the pontoons I am less sure – it could very likely just come down to more strategic driving.


  • I furthermore have some thoughts about minimizing my defensive cross section against vertical wedged weapons that I will keep offline for the time being. The upcoming MassDestruction event in 3 weeks might be a good chance for me to test some of the ideas on the beetleweight scale, where drums reign supreme. I’m tempted to build a simple beetleweight pushy-wedge (sigh) to exercise my skills and countermeasures against vertical weapons. (It’s important to note, however, that nothing scales directly; concepts can be expanded, but I can’t magnify everything I did on Clocker by 2x and expect it to behave the same way)



Completing Überclocker 4 & The Leadup to Franklin Institute 2016

Oct 15, 2016 in Bots, Events, Überclocker 4


Contrary to most years that I’ve returned from Dragon Con by road, I did not have a job pressing need to return to Boston, so could take a few days to roam around Atlanta. This time, I revisited a couple of old haunting spots from the high school days – namely, junkyards, flea markets, electronics shops (what remained, anyway), aaaaand McMaster-Carr. When it was time to return, I decided to do something which I’d been thinking about for a while, and had been recommended by “car people” friends – hit up the mountain roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many moons ago, my parents took me on a road trip to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in North Carolina via some scenic routes such as U.S. 441, and I’d been reading up on the area as of late. Back then, I certainly didn’t appreciate the scenery or natural surroundings as much as I d…. nah, I still don’t, but those mountain curves I remembered as being awesome.

I solidified the plan as diffusing through North Georgia using U.S. 19/129 through Blairsville into North Carolina, then ascending via U.S. 74 eastwards until the intersection with N.C. 28. From there, I would follow the Tail of the Dragon (returning to U.S. 129) and eventually end up in Knoxville, from which it is easy to return to the Interstates. It was an incredibly scenic adventure – I definitely want to return here next year and perhaps try a different tourist trap on the way down – I’m hankering a little for the Diamondback 226.

The careful reader would notice that yes, this means I took a heavily-loaded Mikuvan filled with an entire Dragon Con of robot gear with Overhaul in the back and everything up and down twisty two-land forested mountain roads.

b o d y   r o l l

And bought the “unflattering water slide photo” at the end!

I must point out – loaded heavy in the back with about 500 pounds (Overhaul, all the robot gear and tools, all of Jamison’s robot gear and tools, and whatnot) made the handling and ride better than empty, I’m pretty sure. I tend to throw MV around like a go-kart, and the back end does get light due to the front mid-engine and front driving position. In winters, I regularly keep tools and heavy objects in the hatch to get more purchase during slushy or snowy weather. So I think riding empty might not have been any better, and it’s not like you can actually go that fast on the road while maintaining your lane. It took a few turns to “get it” (and probably warm the tires up a little) before I began really tossing it into the curves. “Continuous tire squeal” must have been concerning to bystanders…

Here’s the whole run from my high-mounted dashcam. Note that this is a very different and weird position compared to most dashcam videos – it’s mounted high up on the very tall cabin, pointed more down than forward, and Mikuvan has no front. Some people actually have said it made them dizzy due to the different motion experienced.

I think around the 3-minute mark is when I started getting more adventurous. Cynthia can be seen trying to constrain herself, her phone (recording a different perspective), and random objects in the cabin.

Anyways, fun times. But you guys came here to see Über-haul work! Here’s what went on in the few weeks before Franklin 2016. In this timeframe, I also went to New York Maker Faire to marshal the Power Racing Series race there again – Chibi Mikuvan came along as an exhibition item, but I didn’t race. I’ll need to post an update about the Detroit and New York Maker Faires at some point.

I did a fair amount of work in the remaining few days in Atlanta. One of the first things I did when I returned was drop by MITERS and use the large drill press to finish drilling some of the frame holes all the way. I then assembled the bot more completely to test the fit of everything.

Verdict: Yeah, sure, whatever. #zerosigmas

One element that has been missing up to this point which you people keep pointing out is that Clocker 4 is missing the classic Overhaul ears. Yes, yes I know, I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

The purpose of the ears on Overhaul 1 were to permit self-righting – the bot had a stable 45-degree-roll upside-down orientation that in testing, we could not get out of. Overhaul 2 addressed that problem a little with geometry, but it was still there – so the ears appear in a slightly different shape. The shape of the ears is a compromise between eliminating this 45-degree stable spot and extending far enough up to tip the bot over once it was fully on its back, using the action of the forks.  OH2 traded some of this latter ‘stickup’ distance for more sideways extension, which is why its ears appear proportionally smaller and flatter than OH1. The tradeoff is it takes a full power swing of the forks to get back over, something I was not too happy about and which contributed to a fair amount of pre-event paranoia in the team.

For Clocker, I wanted to explore the ‘high stickup’ option. This meant the ears have to be shifted forward some to not interfere with making the upside-down stable spot worse. It also makes the bot look very much like some kind of micro-fox or Gundam headpiece.

The ears are designed to be printed using Onyx with additional carbon fiber perimeter reinforcement, so they ought to be immensely beefy. They have to stand being landed on if this thing gets flipped.

I printed these while in Atlanta, but the installation came afterwards. They push into one of the circular cutouts in the clamp arm, have a flange to maintain the tilt angle, and is sandwiched together with 4 bolts.  This configuration means they don’t wrench on the side plates of the clamp arm, which are aluminum and would likely bend, instead bracing each other using the bolted connection… It also hopefully also makes them replaceable. I may pursue a similar strategy for Overhaul this coming BattleBots season, even if the ears are individual weldments.

The chain path for Clocker 4 was never quite decided, but I figured there would be a third tensioner or chain guide involved to force the chain to contact the motor drive sprocket more. This manifested itself in this slip-on tensioner that I designed after seeing the most perfect location for it also coincided with one of the frame rail trusses, so it was easy to make something that  mounted directly on it. Unlike Überclocker 3, it doesn’t have roller tensioners on eggy cams, so is not adjustable in this manifestation, maybe the next one.

Problem: I got paranoid and piled everything onto my scale, and it came out two pounds overweight. Wait, what? The CAD model says 29.5 pounds!

After significant investigation, it turned out that my beautiful PAXi motors were never assigned a finished weight. They each contributed 2.2 pounds to the bot in real life, but were modeled as only 12 ounces apiece…. basically, the P80 parts that I did assign weights for during the design of Overhaul 2….

However, I might actually swap these out before FI 2016 for modified P60s, since having the armor weight back would be nice.

Well then. Turns out I needed more than armor weight! Even eliminating 1lb each would still put the bot overweight. The remainder, I figured, came from wiring (all the 12 gauge adds up) and additional hardware.

Alright, time to borrow a P60 model and smash the AXi onto it.  At this point, I do not own a P60, so I didn’t know how easy this was to do, but it was still 2 weeks out from FI so there was plenty of time to find out.

Since the frame was designed around and cut out for a P80, I actually had to make a P60 to P80 adapter plate. This attaches to the front of the motor using its existing tie rods in counterbored holes, so the front face is flush. The tapped holes are at the P80 bolt circle locations.

A week later, a pile of BaneBots equipment appears. I took the opportunity to also investigate their new BB series gearboxes – Building Block, so named because they feature stackable designs similar to the Vexboxen. I got a BB150 thinking it was similar to a P60.

I was wrong. It’s like a P70 or something, literally almost the middle in dimensions between the P60 and P80. Their BB220 gearbox is the same square size as the P80, however.  Internally, it’s quite massive and a huge improvement over the P60 architecturally, with widely spaced bearings and a double-thick output carrier plate.  I will keep the BB150 around for other applications – it’s too big for this one. Banebots have come a long way from their early brass gear days, but I feel like people never quite let them live that down. The six P80s in Overhaul 2 speak to that well.


Mabuchi 700 series motor bolt circle: 2x M4 on 29mm

AXi 4120 bolt circle: 4x M4 on….


Look at us, we’re so brushless we need to be just different enough to piss everyone off.

Luckily, “drill out the mounting holes 0.5mm larger each” was enough and the M4 cap screws just barely slipped into the existing counterbores.

To mount the pinion, I borrowed a 0.2357″ (6mm minus 0.0005″, because what are units?) reamer from Jamison and expanded the 5mm bore with it, then pressed the pinion on. This fit is backed up with green Loctite 609 retaining compound. It mildly makes me worry, bu Jamison swears it works… alright, we’ll find out. I’d personally have gone  -0.001″.

Here are the two completed P60 & Axi sandwiches ready to mount in the bot. This setup weighed 19oz each, down from 34oz of the P80 combos, putting the bot at still a half pound overweight.

With the motors now secure, I returned to the parts of the bot I stopped caring about before Dragon Con – namely, the electronics mounting. I first cooked up this DLUX 160 bracket in Atlanta and tried 3D printing a version. It worked fine, except there was not really a way to retain the top one since the gap now crossed by the N shape was open. I closed the gap using the diagonal brace that acts a little bit like a flexure spring.

Now the DLUX controllers take some effort to push in, which is great, since they won’t easily slide around.

The bracket attaches to the bottom of the bot with four #4-40 screws.

Next up? Battery tray. Clocker 3 just cinched the battery to the baseplate but I wanted something more constraining for the full contact 30lb class. Now the battery will sit in a 4-sided tray so it can’t move, and secured using nylon Velcro straps to that. The 4.4ah 7S lithium pack I had been using in Clocker was downsized to a 3.3Ah 6S pack to save more weight.

Clocker is known to work for exactly 1 match on a 2.3Ah battery thanks to FI 2015, and I originally used the 4.4Ah lipo packs because I had them and because Dragon Con matches tended to run back-to-back with minimal repair time.

The reason the tray looks oversized for that 3.3Ah battery is because it’s actually designed to house a row of A123 cells. The Franklin museum does not permit conventional Lithium batteries in anything above the 3lb class, since it’s entirely indoors in a museum and magic lithium smoke & fire cannot be tolerated. So, A123s it is. This means most bots run on reduced power for FI since you can’t fit as much battery into the same location using round cells as prismatic ones.

Pictured is 8 A123 cells. I plan on fitting as many cells in series as I have weight for at the end.

The final 3d printed bracket of convenience is the receiver and other electronics housing. This is taken care of by using the RageBridge lift & clamp controller as a cap! It’s a hollow case secured to the baseplate with more #4-40 screws, then the Rage comes in upside-down and is retained the same way.

After the New York Makre Faire, it’s time to perform the final fitting-out of the bot. Here’s everything being installed in place…

Another experiment I wanted to try in the interest of #season3 Overhaul was tilting the rubber shock mount wubbies to dig the front of the wedge into the ground. Since these wubbies were in a regular pattern, it was easy to put an equally regularly increasing spacer height under them progressively. For weight and lack of steel fender washer purposes, I made quick 3D-printed (this word….. I swear) spacers to test a few orientations. I think they’ll make it into the final assembly because nylon is still far more rigid than rubber – there’s actually no need for steel washers.

It’s coming down to the last three days before Franklin now, and I’ve started mass producing wheels and…………… set screws. I promised to bring a bag of them to the event to sprinkle into the arena. They’re 1.5″ diameter and 2″ tall, made of genuine organic Miku Blue PLA (get yours today!).

Wiring completion was fast, as more than half of was done in Atlanta. I just had to make a few more extensions and replace the 3mm bullet connectors on the AXi motors with 4mm ones. I decided to not make a switch panel for now, opting to just do it like most of my other smaller bots and just plug & unplug the battery cable.

Checking out the weight I had left over, I decided to run a 7S A123 pack instead. I weighed the bot with the FI-illegal lithium polymer battery to establish an upper limit, and then just added as many A123 cells as I could under that limit.

Now, look at that battery and tell me that you’d rather have that bullshit than a professionally made lithium cobalt battery!

And here it is! The finished Clocker 4, alongside a toy Overhaul for even more scaling fun.

But the story doesn’t stop there. At this point, the bot was still around 6 ounces overweight (with the FI-illegal battery, which is 2 ounces heavier than the 7S A123 pack). So I at minimum still had to cut off 4 ounces, preferably more.

I decided the best way to do this was to trim off the inside corners of the pontoons. They’re actually now shaped more like Overhaul’s. The flange on the interior only reaches back about 3/4″, which should be enough to still hide the edges from intruding weaponry. This actually removed about 3 ounces per side, putting me a healthy amount underweight.

Another funny robot exercise: Trimming the pontoon bottoms to be level and also riding flush with the ground. Just throw the whole thing on a belt grinder and have at it!

Just barely under now, with the 3.3Ah LiPo pack and all remaining hardware I could think of added, so I actually have a healthy margin for FI with the 7S A123 battery.

Here’s a test video of Clocker 4 playing with the (still working, just sans actuator) carcass of Clocker 3.

As I point out in the video, it’s way more stable when lifting than I anticipated. Clocker 3 is huge for a 30lber, and it just gets picked up and whammed around almost effortlessly. I was super happy with the speed of the lifter. While the clamp could be faster, the priority was on holding force for this edition with speed only coming from severely overvolting the clamp motor. Recall that the clamp motor is the same as what 12 O’Clocker used for drive this year – I just made sure to order a bunch of spare motors.

Time to pack it up. To come is the event report!

Baking the Roll Cake, and How I Failed to Save Private Überclocker This Time: The Dragon Con 2016 Adventures

Sep 11, 2016 in Bots, Events, mikuvan, Roll Cake, Überclocker 4

Oh hello everybody! It’s a few days after Dragon Con and I’ve finally woken back up. Where the hell am I?! What is this metallic coating all over my face? Why have I gained 20 delicious pounds?

Here it is, the Post Dragon Con 2016 recap. I didn’t get a change to put out another update before leaving for Atlanta, and then it was a mad pre-convention dash. So this update will cover all of the construction of Roll Cake, as well as get started on the Bot that Charles Forgot – Überclocker 4.0, a.k.a “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Overhaul!”.

Amazingly enough, there were no van shenanigans on the way down. I’m staying in Atlanta a few days later again, so the return trip is still clouded in the ether, but at this time (Boston to Atlanta and now a few hundred miles locally) there are no issues to report.

Alright, I lied a little – at some point a few weeks (months???) ago, the rearmost portion of the exhaust pipe decided to fall off. It had a hanger at the very back of the frame, so did not fall completely off, but just rattled haplessly.

I think it was due to the bend passing over the rear axle being repeatedly struck by said axle when Mikuvan is loaded heavy – such as the trip to Detroit Maker Faire. So anyway, all it manifested in was things being a little louder, but at times due to the exhaust being trapped under the body and in my 3-mile-long wake vorticies, exhaust smell would creep into the cabin. This is not something I wanted to deal with for the long trip down, so I repaired in the best WEEABOO REDNECK way possible:

None of this BEER CAN bullshit… only the best Ramune bottles will be used for MY hoodrat repairs!

This held all the way until South Carolina. When I rolled into town, one of my pre-convention stops was the local Advance Auto Parts to pick up a patch pipe. The whole system is definitely in need of replacement, though. Who wants to hook me up with D U A L   F L O W M A S T E R S?

Anyways, without further ado, here are the sections of this roman noir de robots:

  1. Finishing and testing Roll Cake
  2. Designing and building Überclocker 4
  3. Robot Battles and Dragon Con recap


Icing on the Roll Cake

So this is where we build up to that ‘preview picture’ I posted last time.  One of the first things I did as soon as I put the frame pieces printing on the Mark Two was go and do basically the only machining thing, which was make the drum.

For this, I brought back an old friend. One of my first major tool purchases was this little indexing head, which made its first appearance here in a LOLioKart build report. It became my most prized possession for some time thereafter, but I left it in the shop when I mostly scuttled off to main campus and upstairs into the IDC for graduate school nonsense. With my departure, it began becoming decrepit under usage by random newbies. One of the dividing plates was lost, and one of the tilting locks was also lost after someone cranked the locking bolt too tight and sheared it off.

Every once in a while, someone does find it again and use it, so I knew it was still operational. I gave it a once-over cleanup and adjustment before starting here.

The drum blank was carved out on New MITERlathe before being transferred to the indexing head for feature drilling. I originally specified 6 bolt holes. But as it turns out, 8 holes is easier to use the indexer for, since it didn’t involve going in partial circles using the dividing plates. Just 5 cranks of the handle… So, 8 holes it is.

Next up, putting the big 1/2″-13 threads in for the cap screw “teeth”.

One tricky operation was broaching the 8mm bore for a 2mm keyway. Since Roll Cake is being built from Banebots P80 parts, so it must be compatible with an 8mm keyed shaft. I could not get a 8mm bushing & 2mm broach in time – nor did i want to spent dozens of dollars for the honor. So I did what, I guess, I would do, and carefully hacked at it with a 1/16″ endmill until I got a 2mm slot with a bit of radius at the end.

Precision! Craftsmanship! Finesse! We strive to be the opposite of this at Big Chuck’s Robot Warehouse. Zero sigmas, guaranteed, or I’m keeping your damn money anyway.


The frame parts have finished printing from the new Onyx material!

Well, hold up a little… These are extremely hollow prints that were solely to test for dimensional correctness. Things like “Does the motor fit in this hole?” and similar.

Here is a mock fit with some of the parts. I used a paint marker to pinpoint locations which needed rework – generally increasing slop or tolerances in the CAD model to get a better fit in real life.

Another arrangement of “DO NOT USE THESE FOR REAL” parts, which all had X marked on them so I was not tempted.

The two main frame halves are actually made from regular nylon for the most part, with carbon fiber loops in the center of the bot to strengthen the area. Otherwise, the regular nylon is tough and a bit flexible, which will hopefully help against some impacts.

A little pile of wheels with grommet-tires installed…

I next synthesized these planet gears from spare P80 4:1 and 3:1 planet gears. The 4:1 gears were bored out and cut to half a normal pinion length. Then the 3:1 gears were machined down for half their length, and then promptly shoved into the 4:1 hollow half-gears. The shoving first involved lining one tooth with one valley between teeth on each gear. As mentioned in the design post, these compound gears require the correct phasing of teeth to be assembled succesfully. I was probably off by some fractions of a degree on each gear.


The ring gear itself has also been reprinted in carbon fiber back Onyx (a material we came to call RMCC – Reinforced MarkForged Carbon-Carbon). I made the number of engagement dogs lower to guarantee the servo being able to reach between them.

Assembly for realsies begins with the bolting together of the sides. On each side, three #4-40 cap screws with washers and nuts retain the sides to the center U, and at the very rear, a #4-40 threaded rod with 4 nuts provides last-ditch backup if those front fasteners fail.

The ‘flaps’ are waterjet-cut 6061 aluminum 1/16″ thick sheet, which are bent up at the edges like so:

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I really need to watch some tutorials on how to use a box-and-pan metal brake correctly, because I clearly can’t do so, ever – and it probably doesn’t help that I make sheet metal parts infrequently enough that the shared machinery is never in the same condition twice (or some times working at all), so I have no clue how it’s supposed to behave. Anyways, no two bends on this thing are alike in location and alignment. One side is workable, the other side is very twisted… Oh well, we’ll fix it in post.

Time to solve the never-quite-solved wiring problem. I made access tunnel paths for the hypothetical wiring through the back end of the U-bracket that makes the center of the bot, but physically doing it was another whole issue. “Haphazard” and “ad-hoc” are two words that each don’t quite describe Roll Cake’s wiring on their own.

I basically had to make three long cables, fish them through the two wire tunnels, and then wire everything in-place at the ends and cut them to length. These cables were the main battery, left side drive motor, and firing servo cables. The right side drive motor also passed through the right tunnel, so really it was 4 cables.

For this purpose, I used the thinnest wire I could find for the drive motors, which was some 30 gauge blue wirewrapping wire.

Everything in the bot could run directly off 11.1v – the drive ESCs (VEX controllers), even the Hobbyking TR6Av2 receiver believe it or not – you can run basically every new receiver from battery voltages since they have onboard regulators for the microcontrollers. However, the firing servo still needs 5 volts to not go crazy and burn out.

Therefore, I made a super small in-line 5V regulator from two Chinese’d  LM1117 parts.

Don’t give me no “that’s racist” bullshit – you and I know this happens on a regular basis.

This 5V line then feeds the receiver, and the servo cable is a 3-pin custom cable which comes from that. Essentially as if I were to plug it in without hacking anything.

After the electronics are installed, I made the orange roundbelts and started closing everything up. The round belts are measured using the hypothetical pitch line in the belt circle drawing in the CAD model, then shortened about 10% to accommodate stretching.

The final act is to install the linkages. This is done using long M3 bolts cut down such that their unthreaded shoulder acted as the joint pin, but I could still put a locknut on the end.

Here is the finished bot from the flappy end.

And a photo from the ‘business end’.

So how does this thing work? Well, it doesn’t really.  The serpentine roundbelt drive has too much friction for the Fingertech motors to overcome. While Stance Stance Revolution used two 22:1 Fingertech motors, they were direct driving small wheels. Each pulley adds some friction, since the belts need to be tight to transmit torque and the pulleys do not have rolling bearings, just nylon on shoulder screws. Roll Cake therefore could not move at all. I’ve built some pretty damn immobile bots, but this is literally the most immobile thing I’ve ever made!

You can hear the motors strain to move, slipping on the belt, and occasionally it scoots forward a fraction of an inch. That’s about it. In doing this, I actually burned out one of my 22:1 motors.

I began making arrangements to get some 33:1 motors from fellow competitors down in Atlanta, which should help the torque problem, and also began the search for small timing belts. MXL and 2mm timing belts come in 1/8″ wide / 3mm wide, so I could redesign the pulleys to that tooth profile. Then, the matter becomes if the Mark Two can hold the kind of tolerances needed for the tooth geometry to work out. I decided to leave that to Atlanta.

While the driving test was a bust, I did get a few flipper tests in with the drum going full speed. I’m glad to say that this part seems to work great. The servo engagement is clean and predictable. Here’s a test against a roughly 3.5 pound empty toolbox. Note that I don’t have anything springy or elastic that’s preferentially loading the linkage closed, so it depends on good firing servo timing to bring it back down.

That was actually the second test. The first test was against a heavier (4.5 pound) aluminum rail – coincidentally, the unmachined blank frame rail for Uberclocker 4. On this test, the deceleration of the drum was severe enough that the bot rotated forward against the linkage… causing the drum to strike the ground and hilarity to ensue.

Well, truth be told, that was the part of the bot I cared about. I packed all of the parts up for Roll Cake anticipating needing to do some re-engineering once I was on site. Just prior to leaving, I ordered two sizes of timing belts from SDP-SI based on the existing pitch length and what was closest to it – two 155 tooth 1/8″ wide MXL belts, and two 160 tooth ones. At least one of these will be close enough after I redesign the pulleys to be timing belt profiles with roughly the same pitch circle.


Überclocker 4.0

No fake-outs with wheels this time! This is the real deal now.

I’d been MEANING to retire Clocker version 3 (Überclocker Advance) since after Motorama 2015. Then came Dragon Con 2015…and then Franklin Institute 2015. After it won handily at FI, I decided to force myself to retire it, leaving the broken actuator unrepaired. Clocker 4.0, which has no witty Engrish name, was meant to be designed much earlier in the summer, post #season2.

Well that clearly didn’t happen… I actually started working on the design on and off in mid-July, but some contract work was keeping me entertained at the time – so designing didn’t start in earnest until August. That’s one side of being “funemployed” is that the work you do pick up is often stuff you like to do, meaning you adopt it as your own, meaning certain death if you have zero time management ability like me.

The first thing I designed up was actually the custom cast wheels that I talked about last time. I decided to use Clocker 4 as a smaller-scale experiment to try out the technique and different materials without wasting a bunch of money. The wheels were made with a 3/4 hex hub, which Clocker 3 uses and which I intend to carry over to the new bot. They were made in two sizes – 3 inch and 2 inch – to reflect the needs of the new bot.

So let’s go through the design of the bot now! Keep in mind through all of this that the principal design constraint was “Is this dimension about 50% of what it would be on Overhaul 2?” and is definitely a departure from my usual tactic of letting the part placement drive the robot. In fact, you could argue that both Roll Cake and Clocker 4 represent me trying to “design to look like something first” – Roll Cake being an old robot vision from years ago, and Clocker 4 being a scale model of Overhaul.

Just like with Overhaul 2, I began with a sanity check sketch to make sure the dimensions aren’t impossible. In this picture, the only things fixed are the wheel sizes and chassis height. Much like OH2′s design phase, I was going to let the length of the frame be malleable in order to fit components. But it should end up somewhere around 30″ in the ideal case.

I focused a little more on the pontoons first. The rectangles shown are a size of wubbie that is the closest to 50% scaled down from the type used in OH2.   While their final shape and dimensions is not settled by this sketch, I just wanted to factor them in to get an idea of the size boundaries.

Bringing in more geometry into the mix now by playing with lifting fork lengths and the height of the arm towers.

Probably the terminal stage of The One Sketch has the 2.5″ square DeWut motor profiles imported, the length of the frame adjusted, and the first pass at the upper clamp arm also drawn. Most dimensions line up with OH2 within 10% or so, which is fine. Nothing truly scales directly in robotworld, and I figure so long as the visual is complete, nobody else but me will notice!

The beginnings of the 3D design went much the same way as with most of my bots,  Overhaul included, with the generation of frame rails. You have to start somewhere, so I usually start with the back or left side, and everything sort of grows off that.

I imported the One Sketch and aligned it with the bot as a reference.

Moving on ahead a little bit, here is a more complete drive side. The front wheel is inset significantly into the plane of the front endcaps which hold the rubber shock mounts. I wanted to do this to maximize the wheelbase. Previous Clockers have had the “reactive outriggers” up front to maintain front traction when an opponent gets picked up. This version is relying solely on the rubber shock mounts deflecting, and it will be riding on the front edge of the pontoons thereafter. To maximize the chances of retaining traction in that scenario, I wanted to push the front wheels as far forward as I could.

This does open up a gap in the otherwise fully constrained tab of the frame rail, so here’s hoping that spamming the region with cap screws will make up for it.

Frame rail service for Clocker will also be a little harder harder than Overhaul. In this design, to pull the left frame rail, the pontoons and three of the six shock mounts have to be removed, and there is now more than 1 bit driver size needed. However, you could argue that OH2 also needed two bit sizes – 7/32 for the pontoon screws and 5/16 for the frame bolts.

Cloning stuff to the other side…

A very difficult step came afterwards. I now had to fit the DeWuts from Clocker 3 into this frame (I SOLEMNLY PROMISE DEWUTS WILL BE BACK IN STOCK SOON) . This presented a very serious problem, which is well summarized by NO.

You see, the average Featherweight, full-contact 30lber is generally much smaller than the Sportsman class bots, since they’re built denser with thicker materials to take KE weapon impacts. Clocker 3 is very large for a 30lb bot to begin with, at 20″ wide and 27″ long end to end, it’s almost the footprint of some of the denser 250lbers like Poison Arrow.

In order to make weight, as well as stay roughly true to Overhaul’s dimensions, Clocker 4 needs to be around 16″ wide. However, this utterly precludes the use of the DeWuts. I would need to make the bot at least 18″ wide to use them. That means proportionally more weight to cover the additional width of the bot, as well as a lot of inside space that’s kind of wasted lengthwise since more components would be able to fit next to the motors. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but two DeWuts back to back kind of forces a different shape robot than what I was pursuing.

So I began working on the inevitable: going brushless with the drivetrain to save volume. I studied a few options which all revolved around a handful of AXi motors I picked up a few months ago (get yours today!). I borrowed a BaneBots P60 model since Jamison had already played with mounting P60s to the AXi motors. I also investigated stuffing the AXi motors into my spare P80s from Overhaul.

In the name of expediency – namely, that I had the spare P80 drive motors on hand, the AXi + P80 combination won. The 4:1 Overhaul P80s combined with the AXi motors at 7S (26v) ought to give a top speed of about 17mph, which is plenty.

The downside is extra weight. While the P80 and AXi combo weighs less than the DeWut, it weighs more than the P60 equivalent which would handle the motor power just fine. For Robot Battles where I won’t need extensive armor, I figured that letting the drive motors have 2 more pounds is fine.

However, I might actually swap these out before FI 2016 for modified P60s, since having the armor weight back would be nice.

Now importing more components – the space inside the bot is filling up fast!

I devised this quickly-3D-printable-from-Onyx mounting bracket for the AXi motor. A new pinion with a 6mm bore will be crafted out of spare 4:1 planet gears, which have 4mm bores I can hollow out.

So the AXi drive will solve the issue of width in the bot. I’m now toying with placement of the internal components. To start with, I’ll be using two of the spare DLUX 160A controllers I took out of Overhaul before the Season 2 tournament began, with a possible upgrade to Brushless Rage later using a 6-FET board (think Brushless HalfRage)

I settled for the two DLUX controllers up front mounted to a (not yet modeled) non-structural interior bulkhead, and the RageBridge in the rear corner to handle lift and clamp, also with a yet-unmodeled bracket.

Let’s begin on the fork tines now. I traced out the basic shape of Overhaul’s fork, but unlike Overhaul which uses a dead (fixed) lift shaft, I’m keeping the live life shaft of Clocker 3 since it’s fairly easy to attach to. The force transmission will be using clamp shaft collars made into hubs. There won’t be a central tube structure in the fork – both will just be held together with standoffs. The forks should, like in Overhaul, never be taking direct impacts unless I messed up horribly.

After I imported the quick fork model, which is still missing specific details like standoff mounting, I also began playing with the clamp actuator. I imported a few older Clocker actuators to check size and placement.

For this edition, I really wanted to move back to a full 550 motor actuator. This should actually give the bot a clamping force of several hundred pounds, which I wanted to have since most Featherweight class bots have negligible top armor.

The issue wasn’t so much weight (it would weigh around 1 cheap drill motor) as space. It had to fit in between the side plates of the clamp arm, first of all, and then anchor itself in a useful location that won’t impede the fork travel much. Overhaul has some issues with this which I would like to remedy for #season3 – so in a way, this is once again using the small bot to pilot something for the big one.

More details have been modeled into the fork plates now. The cross holes will have standoffs like good ol’ Clocker, not just to hold the fork sides together, but keep them level between arms. Overhaul has no such crossing feature near the tip of the arms, only the base. This was the cause of the forks becoming cockeyed during the Beta match when it got a good boop in on one of them, and I’d definitely like to solve this problem.

I decided to pursue the full 550 motor actuator at all costs, so I made one similar in construction to Clocker 3′s final actuator. The motor and gearbox? Just a 12 O’Clocker spare motor! The gears will be purchased from Vex, then modified – one to a 12mm bore, the other bored out to shove an Acme nut into.

Not shown in the above image is an “anti-buckle” MarkTwo printed piece that bridges the two thin plates and cradles the leadscrew for more of its travel. The actuator sides are in tension when clamping, but will be subject to sudden compression shock if the bot lands upside-down or I try reversing out of a grab, so I didn’t want to count on JUST 1/8″ aluminum plates.

Here it is loaded in place and showing placement. The upper anchor point was open to negotiation because the clamp arm sides hadn’t been designed yet. The lower anchor point for the leadscrew will just be a pin that is shoved through the first hole in the fork side plates, closest to the pivot point. The neat thing is this is somewhat adjustable for leverage ratios if I choose to use another hole instead.

I generated the fork side plates based on the dimensions of the One Sketch. It, too, will be held together by a bunch of standoffs – no welding here. This drawing shows some possible standoff positions. I was going to alternate inside and outside circles as I moved from left to right, like so:

The standoffs used are just some big McMaster-Carr 5/8″ hex aluminum standoffs, which for some reason are almost half the price of the neighboring sizes.

Actuator placement was a compromise between “How far does the motor stick out the top?” vs. “How far does the motor stick into the grabbing region?” since I could make the leadscrew as long or short as I pleased.

About this time, I threw Clocker 3 into the CAD model. The size different is almost comical, and at this point I wondered if Clocker 4 could pick up anything at all without falling on its face. Definitely will have trouble with the average 30SC sized bot, but again, 30lb Featherweights are smaller in general.

Anyways, moving on.

One of the next mods I want to make to Overhaul is what I call the “Anti-Cobalt System” – in other words, putting something between the frame rails so this doesn’t happen again. For Overhaul, I’ve been mentally designing it as a top and bottom plate fastened together in the middle, to close off the box and transfer sideway forces more rearward in the bot.

Since Clocker will now be competing in a high-energy class, I decided to implement the ACS for the most part on the bottom of the bot. This also acts to keep the drive chains above the plate, so they’ll be less vulnerable. I could still see this having a failure mode where in a very energetic sideways hit, the frame rails will deform in a parallelogram between the ACS plate on the bottom and the angled endcap on the top.

I’m now in the stage of generating top and bottom plates as well as random spacers. MarkForged spacers for everybody!

The single tooth will be made from some left over 1/2″ AR500 steel – good enough for the task.

I began the process of making the armor pontoons using the same method as on Overhaul. I made a master 2D sketch that represents the front face, and then a series of 3D Sketches thereafter, then defined surfaces using the sketch lines as their bounds.

The geometry for Clocker 4 is a lot simpler. There are no vertical forward-facing or side-facing wubbies, just the six widely spaced ones on the angled face. In a future revision I may consider adding forward-facing ones like Overhaul, if this decision comes back to bite me.

One major difference with these? They ride a lot closer to the ground than Overhaul’s. In fact, I will most definitely have to finish-grind the bottom edge to get enough clearance to not get hung up on them.

This is a good thing, because it resolves the other weakness of Overhaul that was clear during the beta match – the pontoons were simply up too high to be helpful, being designed to take a whomping instead of be good foot-in-the-door implements.

An overhead view of the bot basically done – you can see the standoffs between each pair of fork plates, the tie bar between the forks, and the tube which acts as the anchor for the leadscrew.

I added tabs and slots the same way as on Overhaul to prepare the pontoons for cutting and welding.

Here’s the finished bot minus cat ears!

The ears don’t seem to be necessary on Clocker 4, but it just doesn’t look right, man. I will probably design a pair up to be printed in RMCC which will bolt to the topmost hole in the clamp arm.

I left design of the internal brackets as an exercise to be done in Atlanta, since by this point I was running up on the last week available for fabrication. Hot off the CAD presses and into real life we go!

Man, it’s been a LONG TIME since I’ve done a one-shot epic waterjetting session to pop out a robot. Pictured above is the “Clocker kit”… or some 10 gauge mild steel, 1/4″ 1/2″ and 3/4″ aluminum, and some 1/16″ FR-4 laminate.

Sadly, in my cruftiness, waterjetting is no longer free – this is probably around $400 of machine time.

To prevent the FR-4 from delaminating, I brought back one of my tricks of cutting the outer profile only, and using another material as a template. So here’s how this part went – I routed the parts manually to ensure it does all the interior holes first, then the outer profile.

I laid a piece of plywood in the machine first and had it cut only the holes. Then I clamped the FR-4 on top of the plywood and continued the toolpath to cut only the profile. The 1/2″ plywood pieces then become drilling templates for conventional drilling of the holes later, which otherwise might (WILL) delaminate since they’re piercing close to the edges.

While the design was slow-cooking to completion, I continued casting wheels, making 4 of each total. I’ve basically gotten this process down, so the next step is to try out different materials.

Here, I’m readying the frame rails for countersinking and counterboring. It’s built in the same style as Overhaul, and also many 30lbers and 12lbers. The frame rails will need machining to key into each other slightly too.

One of the last operations I was able to pull off before having to depart for Atlanta was the coring of the large lift gear. This was done using MITERlathe and like 5 different tools. MITERS didn’t have a spoon-type boring bar to make a plunging face cut easy, so I had to make do using a few different types of insert cutters, switching left-hand and right-hand tools to clean out the blind pocket.

Sadly, Monday the 28th of August was upon me. I actually spent more time in the week preceding finishing Roll Cake, since I cared a lot more about perfecting that mechanism, so Clocker 4 fell by the wayside. Clocker traveled to Atlanta in kit form, shown above. I needed to do some (lol) work on it in Atlanta, such as milling the frame slots, before it could be assembled.

And that’s the bot half of the story. Next, what about the convention!? I came this far for something, I think. Whatever is causing all that noise next to the robot events, dammit!

Robot Battles & Dragon Con 2016

So before we get to the convention proper, let me interject with a proud announcement that…

…I finally got pulled over for speeding.

You didn’t think it was physically possible, right?

I’d like to thank my parents, uhh… Boston area highways…. and, of course and Smooth Automotive for the Accidental Engine Rebuild of 2015 which has restored Mikuvan’s former power so much that I legitimately now can speed. I mean, it takes a little while to get there, and no hills please, but otherwise, I can cruise at 75mph all day – just enough to get in trouble in Virginia when the speed limit drops to 60mph for an upcoming work zone and I ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY MUST PASS THIS ONE LAST MOTHERFUCKER ON THE RIGHT HERE and… Dammit.

He got me fair and square. In fact, he didn’t even mention how I Boston’d someone immediately before the orange construction barrel forest began. So thank you in that way, Virginia State Trooper. I’m not even going to look at this ticket until I’m back in town now, because Virginia sucks.

Alright, enough of that. As I mentioned at the beginning, there were no van shenanigans to be had. I got into town around 4:30PM Wednesday, and immediately began plotting robot finishing tactics. The first order of business was getting Roll Cake its timing belt setup, which I designed quickly once I settled in and put on print. What?

Yes, I dragged the Mark Two provided by my lovely sponsor MarkForged along. Hey guys, how’s about some hot and humid weather testing?!

The SDP-SI timing belt order arrived on Thursday afternoon, so I could test the fit immediately. More importantly, though, on Thursday…

I busted into Dale‘s shop like the good ol’ days and basically took over his entire workbench. On deck were finishing some milling and turning parts for Clocker 4. I machined the axles, finished off the wheel hubs, and made the motor pinions, among other unfinished business.

The big rear chamfer for the frame rails was also cut by tilting the head of his CNC mill 30 degrees.

Friday bot work was mostly done at the GT Invention Studio. I primarily worked on Roll Cake, doing the final installation and tuning of the timing belt drive:

The pulleys were sized by how close they were to the pitch line defined in my belt loop sketch. The difference was then made up by changing the motor pulley tooth count until the tension was reasonable (just going from 21 tooth to 18 tooth in one try was enough).

This worked….. a little. Roll Cake’s movement was still extremely strained. There was no binding of the drivetrain anywhere I could see, just that there’s too many moving things for the 22:1 Fingertech motors. It moved slowly and quite arduously, and still could not turn.

Well, there wasn’t much else I could do to alleviate this problem except swap to the 33:1 gearmotors which I was able to pick up day-of MicroBattles from Mike Jeffries. Before the event started, I went ahead and did the motor transplant.

Operating sheets and all! This was so I didn’t get any abrasive/metallic grunge into the bot while cutting down the motor shafts.

The end result? I got Roll Cake to move somewhat reliably on the floor, so I went ahead and decided to put it in its first match anyway…. against Kurtis’ Black Adder.

Dammit, Kurtis.

Unfortunately, in the arena, it moved all of 18 inches or so before farting out again. It at least managed to flip Black Adder over with a chance collision. At this point, I stopped caring, since watching the mechanism test fire was more important to me than the rest of the bot, so I just kept flapping until the end.

Poor Roll Cake. It had such a bright future.


Okay, not really.

So the flipper mechanism kept working up until the end, even though I technically never got a direct shot at Black Adder.

That’s okay – I’m already out to rebuild this thing correctly such that it’s mobile. Roll Cake 2 will just have two brushless gimbal motors for drive, as hub motors, with the same Afro30 SimonK-enabled controllers driving them. It will have 2 larger wheels up front like a classic drumbot, not this 6WD business. Since Stance Stance Revolution could basically drive upside-down on its two discs, I’m much more confident in this setup working.

So that’s it for Roll Cake. Now back to your regularly scheduled Überclocker:

In the same work session as finishing out Roll Cake, I assembled all of the modules within Überclocker – the actuator, both drive motors, wheels, and the DeWut for the liftgear.

On Sunday afternoon, I returned to Dale’s shop to make a mess one more time. This time, to carve out the giant pocket that is in the back frame rail, formerly solid 6061 aluminum. Final weight estimates showed that I did need around 1.2 pounds out of the frame rail, so I calculated the pocket size needed, gave it some more oversize for weight tolerances, and went to town.

The next operation in Dale’s shop was putting some pilot holes into the end-tapped frame rails. I figured I could run with 1 bolt in each frame rail for now, and then drill them later once I had access again to a large drill press back at Artisan’s Asylum or MIT.  This let me put most of the frame together on Sunday evening.

After I went back home, I did what I could using the remains of my high school workbench, which contained a small 10″ drill press, hand drill, and jigsaw, plus the hand tools and cordless tools I brought down, and a few kibbles of tooling that I didn’t take up to Boston with me originally.

The above was…. basically all that I could do. Mount the shaft collar to the big lift gear using a counterbore I brought. I didn’t even have any clamps left, and by the time I got back home, all of the hardware stores and home improvement stores were closed for Sunday night. I tried drilling and tapping a few of the frame screws by hand, which was an arduous procedure. I basically called it quits around 6AM Monday after trying to work on putting it together all night, and not getting much further than 10 or so drilled holes.

Basically the most important part of having tools is having consistent tools. Maybe these tools were enough for me during high school, but I also built bots in completely different ways to accommodate them (e.g. making things from UHMW plastic). Designing for tools that are not consistently available, or totally unavailable, will just end in disappointment. I realized no matter what, I could only hack Clocker so far in the remnants of my parents’ garage if it depended on a full service shop to be put together.

So here is the assembled husk of Clocker 4 next Overhaul at Robot Battles on Monday, showing what could have been if I didn’t kick my own ass… or as Will Bales puts it, Will Balesing.

By the way, shoutouts to Matt and Dan of Chaos Corps for taking the pieces of the pontoons from me on Friday and returning them completely welded on Saturday. Not just welded, but all ground and wire brushed. I owe you guys a small water balloon filled with argon!

But wait! The story doesn’t end there!

I also brought 12 O’Clocker along, figuring that I’d be able to run something in the Monday event at least. 12 O’Clocker was working fine after Momocon, so I basically packed it right back up with some spare motors. The clamp motor on it was a little baked, so I reached out to the group for spare Kitbots/1000rpm-style motors.

It actually got a few matches in and entertained the audience immensely.

In the rumble, the lift sprocket got bent hard enough to pop the lift chain off. Otherwise, 12 O’Clocker takes no damage once again! Gosh, maybe I should just scale this thing UP instead of Overhaul DOWN, right?

So no prizes this year, and not a very good Dragon Con for robots. I’m going to continue finishing Clocker 4 in the interest of Franklin Institute Robot Conflict 2016, where I hopefully will get to play with some of the big energy bots. I never had a strategy for Overhaul against vertical weapons like drums and discs (e.g. Hypershock, Witch Doctor) – besides Don’t Get Owned, I mean. I hope the Featherweight class, which is full of vertical spinners, will let me fine tune how to approach bots like that better for #season3.

By the way, there was a trip to the new Atlanta McMaster-Carr warehouse to pick up last-minute hardware. This place is

…kinda big.

Okay, REALLY REALLY BIG. Douglasville and the surrounding west Atlanta area is kind of a new target for development, and besides industrial plazas and The McMastergon, there were plenty of housing developments. What could be better than stumbling out of bed and over to Will-Call to pick up your last night’s blurrily-assembled orders? Or hell, just wheel the robot over and work on it in the Will Call parking lot. It’s like working on your shitty car in an Advance Auto Parts parking lot! Who the hell’s ever done that… not me! Nope, never.

So wait… wasn’t there an ENTIRE CONVENTION going on besides just me working on robots? Absolutely… so let’s see how that went.

As usual, I’m too lazy to put together a worthwhile costume, so I went lazily all days as “me”. Just the Overhaul team shirt, and also wearing the Axent Wear headphones around.

I got stopped way more times than I expected.

Shown above is the crew of Jamison, Cynthia, Hannalin, and Lucy, formerly all of JACD last season. This year’s group is Overwatch. Overwatch is a video game. I haven’t played a video game with any degree of seriousness since Descent II Vertigo. I assume this is all legit. Wait until you see the construction Cynthia put into the giant bow…

There was a massive Overwatch photo gathering which took us an hour or more to get out of. Pictured above in the group are Pizoobie and Bonnie.

I generally haunt costumes which have had a lot of work put into them, especially very large and unwieldy ones. I swear at some point I will make an overly complex and elaborate costume. You could argue that Overhaul is in fact such a prop.

This was cool, too. These guys were cruisingly slowly around the convention. P I P E S

Okay, I don’t even know what’s going on any more. Overwatch players, I assume this is something you’d understand.

Alright, I usually don’t give a spare minute for Kantai Collection because it’s utterly destroyed my favorite genre. But I will make exceptions for well done ones. Behold, the U.S.S. Iowa.  I watched her being “assembled” on the spot, and before that, I followed the ant trail of battleship parts being carried high overhead down the packed street by her pit crew. Her drydock workers?

Good ol’ Kancolle, ruining “girls & machinery” since 2013.

If you know who this U.S.S Iowa is, let me know and I will gladly add links and creedits.

Now here’s how to properly do it. Besides Overwatch, Cynthia, Lucy and Hanna also teamed up for something else. Shamelessly stolen from the BattleBots Instagram, it’s….

BattleBots cosplay at @dragoncon with Lucy, Hanna and Cynthia. Zachary Ernst

A photo posted by BattleBots (@battlebots) on

I’m telling you all, #season3 will be one big weeb convention. Everything is falling into place, exactly according to keikaku. Cynthia is the designer of Haru-Chan, so it was only natural that she also sketched up plans for Sawblaze and Road Rash.

Now for the event recap!

MicroBattles this year was bigger than ever. With the insect classes (1s and 3s) being the easiest and cheapest to start in, the newbie and first timer proportion this year was immense. We ended up getting over 40 robots!

Sadly I actually missed a lot of the action getting Roll Cake prepared, but here are some of my favorites.

Here we have the wild Killer Colsonbot, which is believed to have evolved from escaped Domestic Colsonbots.

That’s Pvt. Slicer, or what happens when Mike gets ahold of the Colsonbot CAD. The cage is made of layers of waterjet-cut 4130 steel carefully welded together. It had friction drive reliability issues, but it somehow won 2 matches as round pushybot. When the cage met a vertical spinner, it died.

Representing the “meh” department of Dale’s Homemade Robots, this is Noodles, a 4wd pushybot. Besides all brushless drive, steering gyro, and a crafty urethane-sheet-mounted steel plow, it has pool noodle wheels which caused a bit of controversy because in the final a piece of them came off and jammed Black Adder’s drum.

Now, unintentional entanglement is allowed in the rules for the precise reason of a part inadvertantly coming off and getting stuck in something (as opposed to intentionally throwing things into a weapon to jam it), but there was still a fair bit of “Who do you think won this match?” talk.  I actually think repeatedly hitting the ceiling against Black Adder and coming back each time is a mark against the effectiveness of Black Adder’s weapon in this match.

It’s big bot time! After being forced to run 12 O’Clocker only, I had more time to go around and appreciate the 12s and 30s. The newbie count was great at this event also – I think probably 25% first or second events.

Pictured above, The Magical Lipo-Fire or…. something or other. The build looked great! Sadly only one match however, and fortunately did not live up to its name.

First time 30lb entry “STICK A FORK IN IT!” which was having some DeWut clutch issues this event. Hey, people, read the manual! Tighten down your DeWut clutches before using!

Team JACD Season 1  principal cheerleader Andrew brings Pusheen-Bot, a pushy-bot. It’s laser-cut out of wood, so naturally it faced a chainsaw first match.  This thing actually has two 50mm outrunners in it. It’s basically BurnoutChibi in a 30lb bot, so-illustrated by Andrew riding the bot around the room before (and during…) the event.

Another new 30lber with some heavy inspiration from Clocker and megaRon (under whichever moniker Jamison decides to run it at Robot Battles…)

There were obviously a lot of bots that I skipped, and you kind of get the idea. With the return of BattleBots to a mass audience, so the hobby grows! Robot Battles, fortunately, is one of the lowest barriers-to-entry competitions there is.

12 O’Clocker all set up and with spare clamp motor installed, ready for its first match. I had immense fun in its match with Dingleframus – it was the hardest physical driving match I’ve had in a little while, and in the end, a missed charge basically caused it to hover off the stage.

Here’s “Metric Brushless Hipster 12 O’Clocker” LiftLord, a Xo creation but shown with optional interchangeable Aaron module.

12 O’Clocker ready for its first match against Abrasive Personality, a design I really want to see more of – it has a belt sander running the length of the bot, with a backstop and all. I think this kind of design needs exploring. Putting more horsepower behind it and using a super gritty belt might actually result in some serious unconventional damage.

So what the hell are those blue things on the stage that have been appearing in every video so far?

They’re my secret weapon: 3D printed model set screws. I printed about a dozen, then another dozen or so followed me to Atlanta courtesy of RocketProps. Some local folks contributed a few more…. and suddenly, a stage full of giant set screws. Robot Battles: serious business since 1967 or whatever.

Not sure what I was doing here – probably double checking the chain drive after the rumble where it was derailed due to the main sprocket being physically bent. 12 o’clocker went 1/1 plus hanging around during the rumble, which was hugely entertaining.

Well look who’s on display!  I’m told that Witch Doctor & Hypershock were also going to be present. Lies! I didn’t see any of y’all this whole weekend, so Overhaul had to have all the fans to itself. Such a sad day.

That’s a wrap for Dragon Con 2016. Once again, I’m staying a few days extra in Atlanta, and will diffuse back up north some time this week. On deck for robot work is finishing Clocker and a quick revamp of Roll Cake before FI in about 1 month. Otherwise, I’ll be hopefully creating more problems for myself with van work soon, since I want to re-winterize a few spots before things get cold (e.g. in 2 months or so). Some of my earliest rust repair is starting to come apart finally, and I have better weaponry against it now. Further down the line is word about # s e a s o n 3 and starting Overhaul….overhaul…. work in earnest. This will ideally occur over the coming winter.


Overhaul vs. beta: The Post-Match

Jul 29, 2016 in BattleBots 2016, Bots, Overhaul 2


A little early, no? I’m going to be at the Detroit Maker Faire this weekend with all of Friday the 29th being a travel day so it’s either now or next week. If you’re in the area, stop on by the Power Racing Series track where I’ll be acting as technical inspector, Grim (penalty disher-outer), flag bro, or really whatever needs doing. Chibi-Mikuvan isn’t in a battle-ready state, so I’m foregoing bringing it.

For this match, there’s not an extensive backstory and tale of preparing, so I’m going to just jump right into the analysis! So be warned, don’t hit the “Read More” line unless you actually do want to Read More!


Overhaul 2 vs. Cobalt: The Post-Match; Plus the Lead-up to the BattleBox

Jul 02, 2016 in BattleBots 2016, Bots, Events, Overhaul 2


Okay, you get the idea. That’s what I’m going to say about every episode of BattleBots. I was there, man.

This post will dive into the details of the Overhaul vs. Cobalt match that was aired on 6/30, so what I’ll do as a favor for those who haven’t seen it – as people who haven’t gotten to see it live will probably see it with a DVR or via streaming over the next few days – is begin by talking about the event itself. Basically, there was a few days before the first matches even began where a lot of preparation was being done, and robots being, umm, finished. That way, we have a sizeable spoiler gap before getting to the match itself, and lastly what I’ll do is discuss the lead-up to the Cobalt fight, what happened during, and the results & work after. So don’t scroll too far down if you don’t want spoilers!

Here we go! After landing in Los Angeles around 2PM on the 14th of April, it took over an hour to get a rental car at LAX… because apparently everyone was also in town for Coachella. I heard from builders who arrived later that the situation only got more desperate, with some waiting over 3 hours for their allegedly guaranteed reservations. No free upgrades for you.

Now, given that it was getting close to 4PM by the time we finally high-tailed it from the airport, it was only natural that we…

…sit in traffic. The distance from the airport to the venue was about 45 minutes during a good time, and now was not a good time. Let me make it very clear that I’ve basically forgotten how to drive a normal, modern car. If you saw me make my way over from airport, you would have sworn I got my license yesterday. Mikuvan: Elevated view, infinite visibility, super short turn radius, and middle wheels only, bitch. That often means an extra 2 to 3 feet of maneuvering space since I can overhang the curb and eat a sidewalk momentarily. Modern car: I can’t see shit, I can’t turn worth shit, I have no clue where the rest of the car is but boy can I go fast. A I R B A G S.

Having to remind myself that I have an extra 5 feet ahead of me that can’t touch anything is a very demanding task, and it keeps me paranoid. Hey, that’s defensive driving right!? Plus, the first time I missed a turn going to dinner and had to swing a U-turn, I didn’t even think twice before almost plowing the fuck perpendicularly into the opposite sidewalk….. because Mikuvan would have made that turn fine, but apparently that’s too much to ask of a 2015 Nissan Maxima. Kids these days.

We actually didn’t end up going to the venue at all on Thursday, as they were still setting up everything, and apparently word on the street was that only international teams were permitted on site during this time. So we hit up the event hotel, another 15 minutes east, and decided to settle in for now and formulate a, umm, battle plan for the weekend. There was a trip to Home Depot to pick up spraypaint so we could finish off the bot, which was unpainted when shipped.

Fresh and early Friday morning!

The venue was a series of rounded warehouses in an industrial corner of east L.A., which calls itself the cutesy name of L.A. Hangar. No, none of those buildings are hangars, they’re round warehouses. You’re no where near the airport. I promise, because I just came from the goddamned airport.

The neighborhood was “interesting” to say the least – primarily Hispanic and touted as “that part of town” to me, but hanging around made me wonder if this was actually the case, or *side-eyes* watch out for those Mexicans, man. Okay, fine, there was that whole manhunt which had the whole venue on lockdown and a police perimeter around the neighborhood and all…  but the weekend corner taco stand beat out any of the food trucks there by kilómetros.
This isn’t a photo of the venue, by the way, but of the artists nest in the building right next to it. This building will come into play later.

Hello neighbor.

Our bot crates were lined up neatly in front of our pit tables already, so the only thing to do now is unpack everything!

Ah, we meet again. That’s right, I did build one of these… I thought the last 3 months might have been a hallucination, that or someone drugged me and stole $17,000 while telling me I built a robot and that everything is okay and I was still a grown-up.

That number is not even close to being a lie, by the way, and I was by far not the most machining-heavy bot there. Oh shit, this is real.

Step 1: Pile everything on the pit table first, think about your life decisions later. After we were done unpacking, two dudes with pallet jacks double-teamed my giant 8 x 4 foot crate into the storage area. Everyone else took just one! I took two guys! AT THE SAME TIME! Wait, what were we talking about again?

Step 2: Take the whole bot apart, and have Paige and Cynthia do the very important task of painting it while I set up the battlestation.

No, this is not “have the girls do the art” – after Overhaul 1 showed up naked to BattleBots last year, and with us having built the robot brand already around the Miku-blue, there was no way they would let me fuck it up. Because don’t you all know that adding paint also adds about 27 to 33 points to your Tail of the Tapeworm score? Overhaul 2′s getting AT LEAST 65 in the DASHING GOOD LOOKS category here, guys!

After putting together the toolbox and lining up my EE tools, I went outside to check out how they were doing.

There was a van!

Outside the Artsy Building was a blue 1985 Toyota 4×4 Van. I didn’t know who it belonged to, but it was someone who worked in that building. Van bros!

I was totally scouting Craigslist the whole week trying to see if there was a cheap van I could buy on-the-spot in SoCal and then drive back across country. Based on the Mikuvan Extraction Mission, there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that could have gone wrong with that plan. Nothing.

Late in the day on Friday, and the primer & paint’s dried enough for us to bring everything back in. We would let everything fully dry overnight before putting the bot back together. Not shown here are the pontoons, which were still drying at the time – they’re painted flat black.

SATURDAY!!!!! It’s the day after Friday.


A view of the pits from our station facing the entrance of the venue (beyond the wall is the Artsy Building). Mutant Robots and Don Hutson to the left, and in center stage is Blacksmith. The New and Improved bunnyforce Bite Force is in the distant center.

180 degrees from that shot, and Hypershock is under a blanket, lying in wait. Behind that row is a contingent of British bots, with Cobalt on the left and the Crunchy Candies Creepie Crawlies across the aisle.. There were more pits to the left and right of this, obviously, but I’m gonna skip that for now because Hey, a robot! Look, another robot! This is a robot too! We’re all robots! YAAAAAY!


Saturday is “pretty pictures” day. So we assembled Overhaul in full, with the painted parts.

Obligatory sponsor shot!

Hobbyking, our future overlords, provided the majority of the important parts for OH2 that were not machining. Like we’re talking motors, controllers, my radio, batteries, chargers, and support equipment for all of that. They legitimately handed me around $7K of parts. Do you know how much $7,000 of Hobbyking is? For those of you who might not have purchased things from Hobbyking, that is a lot of Hobbyking.

MarkForged dropped me off a Mark Two printer specifically for this event, which I put to work immediately – you’ll see what it’s printing soon. Beyond that, if you ever don’t feel like machining something, we’ve got your back. You’ve seen MarkForged parts in action here on Chibi-Mikuvan primarily in the steering assembly. You’ll notice that many parts were printed in a black material – this was Onyx, a carbon fiber filled nylon, which was still secretly in beta testing at the time of the tournament. Check it out! This stuff is actually ridiculous.

PRETTY PICTURE TIME! We begin with the 360 degree bot shot, which is where the hovering robot icons in the background of the hosts come from. This is shot in front of a greenscreen that is actually gray. We’ve somehow gotten to the point where computers can automagically tell between a gray piece of cloth and a gray robot. May Robot Jesus save us all.

These are edited pretty much on the spot and the result piped right to the production floor. They need to assemble all of this by the start of matches, after all.

A visit to the arena, still having final light, camera, and action rigging done.  This is in a separate roundbuilding which you actually have to move your bots a fair distance – probably around 500 to 1000 feet – beyond the Artsy Building to get to.

Once again, this is real. It didn’t feel real last time, at least not RIGHT UP UNTIL the worbly light and sound mindfuck they do right at the beginning of the match when the countdown starts. That, last season, for me, was when it finally hit me that I was actually at BattleBots and holy crap Donald Hutson is coming at me. I had a miniature internal panic at that point.

For those of you who might be coming to #season3: Prepare for the Worbly Light & Sound Mindfuck. Fear it.

After this arena visit, I ran back to the pits and….

There are two vans.

Hold… Hold on just a second here… earlier, there was just one van. A second identical 4×4 Toyota Van showed up, and along side it a lowered classic pickup truck.

I actually ran inside and hunted down the owners this time, like some van-themed serial killer. It was a married couple, and these were fucking HIS AND HERS MATCHING 4X4 TOYOTA VANS. Okay, some times people call Cynthia and I nerd-cute for having matching hair and the like, but I’ll never convince her to have matching vans.  This is… I dunno, grease-cute. Gear-cute. Faruq, King of Dubious Robot Puns, I call upon thee to help me the fuck out.

Alright, universe, you win. I’m going back to work on robots. Like a nerd.

Recall that before we shipped, I had prepared all the remaining DLUX 250A controllers I had to be installed when we got on site. This is now the time.

The plan was to run the 250s on the drivetrain only, since they were known to be reliable, and leave the DLUX 160 controllers on the lifting forks. That way, I maximize reliability for the highly pivotal first match – either you win, or you have to vie for the wildcards, which could mean it’s your one and only match.

In the background behind the extracted ESC box is one of the parts I set printing “live” on the Mark Two – it’s a “four 250A and two 160A” mount. Another one is attached to the lid already in the foreground.

An ESC swap sounds simple, but in reality, it was a lot of time-consuming rewiring. All of the 250A output wires had to be remade, as did the extensions to exit the box, since the spacings were different. This took the better part of Saturday evening and into Sunday afternoon…


Work continued into Sunday on the wiring job, which is shown here basically finished but not yet well packed. Up until this point, we haven’t even gotten a chance to drive the thing in the test arena yet, and we were all getting a bit nervous.

I moved onto closing up some unfinished business, which was the P90X. I designed and had printed earlier a servo mount that you see attached to the right side of the actuator. This holds a standard-size helicopter servo from Hobbyking.

Unfortunately, this was as far as the P90X implementation got. After some rumination, I decided not to chance this part in battle if I haven’t already tested it and found that it works reliably. The P90X work fell by the wayside as the robot build moved on, and I never really came back to it.

This will be a science experiment for another day. For now, I locked the ring gear into high (even though it spring-defaults to high, having something hold it there is better) so I prioritize grabbing speed over holding force.

Here is the aftermath of our first test drive in the box. This was when I realized that the front wheels were likely going to cause a lot of trouble, and that I have no clue how to glue things together. The “urethane adhesive” from McMaster did not adhere all that well. Lacking bail options on this part, I just swapped a front wheel (6 were made, so there were plenty of spares) for now and decided to see what happens.

I also discovered at this point that Overhaul took a bit more effort to self-right than I anticipated. It took me a few tries, first of all, to actually gather enough bravery to run the forks hard backwards such that the clamp hit the top plate. It clutched itself as designed, of course, but there’s that nervousness that comes with an untrusted and untested power system. Once I just beasted it into itself, Overhaul could self-right fine, but as known from OH1 and the new CAD model, could only do this if the clamp arm were somewhat open – above about halfway open. I had to practice going “up and to the left” on the radio stick, which from OH1 as well as Uberclocker was “Lift up forks and open clamp”. This was going to be an artform if I were in a self-righting critical match, such as Bronco or a vertical spinning weapon that caught a good bite on the frame’s underside.

With the wheel replaced and self-righting mostly conclusive, it was time to call it a night.


This was it.

We get to find out who we fight first! Monday was “practice day” by the tournament schedule – the “Alternate” entries get to run around in the box with full introductions and ceremonies, so everyone has a chance to run through their lines and get in position, and the camera crew learns how to not zoom in too hard on your robot’s acne.

Producer-bro gives everyone the “don’t impale yourself” speech before everyone moves over to the bleachers, where Aaron, one of the executive producers, primes new builders on how things went last season and how they were expecting to do things this time.

I didn’t get any pictures of this process, but as they dramatically announced each robot, the team would stand up…..then they announced the opponent, and the other team stands up. There was then several seconds of awkward searching for each other before locking eyes and usually doing something intimidating as best as robot builders could possibly, which is to say….. not very. I really, really hope a “BattleBots Outtakes” package becomes available somewhere on the black market, because this was quite priceless. Hell, I even forgot what we did once Cobalt was announced, but it was probably something cringeworthy as par for the course.

Alright. Strategy time! First, we went back to the pits and

There are three vans.

THREE! THREE VANS! IT WAS THREE!! AND COCO WAS ITS NAME! I ain’t goin to heaven no more… I already sold my soul to Trey Roski.

I quit life.

note: I did not know if the 3rd van was actually named Coco, but if you get this reference, congratulations.


We switched Overhaul to its short arms. Wait, what?!

These didn’t make an appearance during the design and build, because they were a bit of an afterthought. They are essentially the arms but cut off about 5″ shorter and at a 45 degree slope, leaving the bot a little stubby looking. They are specifically designed to rest behind the armored pontoons. This is my “spinner configuration”, especially for horizontal weapon.

My basic plan? Use the pontoons exactly as designed – fend off the blade, use Cobalt’s energy against itself, and go in for the grab once it’s disoriented or neutralized. The specific goal was to get the blade to ride up on the pontoons and then hit the second angle level, which will ideally destabilize an already rotating bot. Keep the front pointed the right way at all times, and let the rubberwubbies do their job.

Did I succeed? Spoilers lie ahead.

Overhaul vs. Cobalt



This is fun!

Everything worked quite according to plan. If you tuned in and watched the (sadly, just in highlights – damn you, ABC!) match, you saw Cobalt sail end over end repeatedly, bouncing off the pontoons. Geometry! I didn’t approach as squarely as I wanted to on a few occasions, which results in damage that will be analyzed shortly, but for the most part, this match was highly entertaining.

After 3 or 4 rocket-jumps, Cobalt began smoking significantly and losing power. The impact forces caused the weapon motor, an original ETek* motor, to begin self-destructing internally. There were several more smaller-magnitude impacts after this, and we were only 30 seconds into the match. I kept the forks down and clamp all the way open as long as it kept spinning.

*Robot nerds will point out that Cobalt used a Manta motor, which is a reconstituted freeze-dried ETek. This company bought Briggs and Stratton out of remaining ETek parts after production ended and assembled a short run of their own, advertised as wind generators, but they work okay as motors too.

Unfortunately, you probably also saw the end result: Overhaul loses a drive side, then kind of sits there and flails while Cobalt contemplates existence in a more mobile, hence less county-outy fashion. Overhaul was declared knocked out around 1:30, but really I had mobility problems starting around 2:30 remaining (Note: These times are rough mental estimates, and I will not remember more until the full match gets uploaded).

EDIT: BattleBots has uploaded the full match video! My memory wasn’t that horrible after all. Around 1:31 in the video (30 seconds into the match) was the last time the left side drive was working.

Well, that part didn’t quite go according to plan… Let’s see what went down!

First of all, damn. DAYUM. Cobalt packs quite a punch – enough to straight up pierce the AR400 5mm plate weldments, in several spots.

One of the first connects actually machined off a sliver of the left-side pontoon. The big smear to the right of that is “everything working exactly as intended” – the blade hits the pontoon, glides up, and exits stage right. That hit I’m pretty sure actually sent Cobalt somersaulting over ….haul. I will need to slo-mo the fight to be sure.

Overhaul didn’t look too bad exiting the arena. Nothing was missing, or cleverly collapsed into itself, Ghost Raptor style, but the extent of the damage was discovered as soon as the pontoons came off.


Oh boy. Those are two 1.5″ section frame rails that now look like a real-life FEA simulation result. That’s a whole lot of energy, people.

Surprisingly, this side never bound up, and was working up until the end of the match. Hurray chain slop!

I surmise that the hard side-blows that Cobalt dealt pushed the pontoons sideways until the shock mounts bottomed out, at which point steel met aluminum. The linear gouge to the left is the side of the pontoon hitting the frame rail. However, the actual cause of the bending is probably the two hits (which line up with the two holes in the right pontoon) which seems to have connected AR400 straight to aluminum, with the energy of the blade behind it. I will need to review the match to see exactly which hit this was.

Cobatl definitely hit me going across the front at least once, with this nice dig out of the metal here.

So. We lost our first elimination match, but there is still a shot at the Wildcard picks. Wildcards are usually picked by a combination of factors, one of which is how ready you are when they come around to stare at your robots. Therefore, this thing is getting fixed up, and now is where my investment in two full frames’ worth of spare parts pays off.

We begin ripping the sides of the bot off – some screws had to be coerced back out, because duh.  The right side was the most damaged, but the front left tire fell off during the match, so it has to be removed. That means the left side had to come off also, and that’s when we found it.


Can you see the FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK in this picture?

When Overhaul’s left side stopped moving, it wasn’t totally dead, but was capable of moving back and forth maybe 2 inches before stopping again. I was pretty sure one of the P80 drive gearboxes was stripped as a result. But something didn’t quite make sense when I was moving the drivetrain back and forth by hand in the pits. Those motors could spin more than a full revolution. Those gearboxes are fine…

Can you see it yet?


Oh dear. There’s a set screw caught in my drivetrain.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. A single 1/4″-20, cup-point set screw fell into the intermediate chain and locked both drive motors up. But where did it come from? There was only 1 place nearby that I use 1/4″-20 set screws – the motor’s double sprockets. But I used custom flat-point set screws, and all of mine were still there.

That means Overhaul picked up and ate a set screw, which fell off someone else’s robot in a previous match, which landed in exactly the correct location to cause total drivetrain failure. My guess is the front wheel kicked it up and over the middle wheel, it landed in the intermediate chain and sprocket area, and a chance impact jostled it into the motors. This screw was forged into the chain and needed prying to remove. It also took out the sprocket teeth that made contact with it, as seen in the example above.

So in the pits, they have mini production teams running around filming interesting things. You could also flag one of the production staff down if you were doing something interesting, and they made an effort to divert camera and sound crew over to what you were doing. They really did go out of their way to try and capture the frantic robot work in the pits, make no mistake. I exercised this privilege and actually got a team over to film a very quick but very angry rant about how you can be utterly … screwed… by something totally out of your control and up to chance, no matter how much you prepared for it. I was pissed. In an alternate universe where BattleBots is filmed and produced my way, my angry rant against the robot gods would have taken up the entire minute long highlight.

By the way, we think we know which robot it was – and its builders are also fairly sure of it. But we’re not going to spoil it quiet yet!


Overhaul here seen at its Point of Maximum Entropy on the repair path. I eventually put back together the damaged side on its own, and if you visited any of the places I brought the bot, or the Artisan’s Asylum, this is the Science’d frame rail I displayed. Now you know what happened.

I posted a Facebook photo not long after this match with the caption “The front fell off”. It attracted a lot of speculation and attention, but was completely innocent. We in fact just slid the whole fork and clamp assembly off to open up more space to work on the frame rails.

Within about 2 hours, the frame rails had been replaced with spares. In total, it took about 4 hours of work to get everything back together, and we finished Wednesday evening. The only thing to do was to wait for the Wildcard Ceremony the next day (Thursday).

Thursday was designated as a “Repair day”, which means McMaster-Carr made bank off all of us. There seemed to be a continuous ant trail of builders going to the L.A. McMaster warehouse, and… oh, I’M SO HAPPY THERE’S A L.A. McMASTER WAREHOUSE.  Now, the plot twist here is that we had nothing left to repair after the frame pull, so we spent much of Thursday hanging out with the other builders and relaxing.

If you watched BattleBots S2E3 until the very end, you’d have seen the (much more hurried) Wildcard selection, which concluded with……………………….us. This happened in real life, too, and I think it alone contributed 50 years of aging to my cardiac health state.

Now we’re up against BETA, which is…. another British bot with a friggin ETek driving its weapon. I can NOT catch a break this event, eh? What’s going to happen? Well, I don’t know which episode it will be on yet, but for sure there will be another post-fight analysis! So stay tuned to BattleBots on Thursday nights at 8/7c, because we need those sweet, sweet ratings.