Franklin Institute 2017 with Überclocker!

Monday, December 4th, 2017 @ 22:06 | Bots, Events

At the end of October, I took Clocker to its now annual fall robot party, the Franklin Institute “Battle on the Parkway” event. Last year, it was horrifically oversubscribed due to the surge in popularity after BattleBots Season 2 aired. This time, more restricted registration was enacted such that we had a chance of finishing in the allotted time, so I actually had to fight a little to get in.

This event would basically be the final test of Brushless Rage pre-production units. I had begin sending out PCB assembly orders the week before, so any last-minute messups were going to have to be revealed now. They did spectacularly at Dragon Con, so I wasn’t expecting any bugs, just the ability to abuse them in an arena environment where careful driving kind of goes out the window.


Clocker didn’t need any kind of prep for FI except to change the conventional lithium brick pack for a lithium iron phosphate (LiFe) pack at the behest of the museum which only wanted us to run not very flammable battery chemistries. I whipped out the same 7S dynamite bundle I used last year, topped it off, and off we went! Other changes were minor and were more or less maintenance from Dragon Con, such as putting in newly reprinted chain tensioners.

And here we are at the event! The FI arena is getting pretty long in the tooth. This year, a change was made where there were no longer any full-contact 30lbers due to the condition of the arena Lexan and its generally mid-2000s construction. So there were only 30lb Sportsman class bots besides 12s, 3s, and 1s. It also coincided with the conclusion of changes to the 30lb Sportsman class rules.

In short, wedges in limited form are now allowed, and all spinning objects are subject to a chart-based weight and RPM restriction. The restriction heavily favors light and high-speed saw blades, as there was some controversy last year about some robots using coarse-toothed sawblades in an impact (usual spinner weapon) fashion.

The neat thing? Clocker 4.0 is now Sportsmans-legal! Being arena-optimized and Overhaul-shaped meant it began being Sportsmans-illegal last year and this past Motorama.

While I ran it in 30SC this time, I think for Motorama I will still go for the 30lb Featherweight class to ensure I stay practice for KE weapon tactics, as there’s a few modifications I want to make now after this event as well as leftover plans from Motorama 2017.

Roll Cake came along for the ride! Not to compete, but just as a display item for builders curious about the whacky  clockwork that powers the flipper. Zac (of flywheel whipper Magneato) and I had some mutual neckbearding moments over flywheel flipper design, and Clocker would eventually face Magneato.

Clocker’s first match was against Congo… a robot made with a folding chair as a hammer/lifter. The face of 30lb Sportsman’s Class, everyone.

This match was extra hilarious in many ways. First, Clocker got stuck on the wrong side of the chair near the beginning – it was fully hooked over the fork and clamp so neither of us could get anything done. At some point during the wrestling to remedy this, the drive chain on the …. chair shaft? fell apart and proceeded to drop right into Clocker’s left drive side, high-centering it as I tried to push it around.

The match was stopped to detangle Congo, but at that point I hadn’t yet noticed the #40 chain slurping under the bot. As a result, I spent most of the match hobbling around. By the way, Congo at full chair spin packs a nontrivial amount of energy. With neither of us being able to do all that much, we just spend the last part of the match dancing, upon which I promptly overdrove the clamp actuator and the leadscrew rod fell out.

Abject failure. I lost a narrow judge’s descision to a robot with a folding chair as its only weapon!


Clocker’s second match (first in the loser’s bracket) was against BEEESS?!, a round tube bot with lifting tines. It was where we discovered that BEEESS?! fits perfectly inside the curved claw of Clocker, and so this match was mostly spent driving for dominance and me getting a couple of good grabs on it. I have yet to discover video of this match

Next up was the ultimate challenge of ultimate destiny against the feared new underdog….


Be Kind, Rewind.

we’re so postmodern This thing was built from a VCR – one hell of a VCR. In fact, after fighting it, I wanted to go out and try to find and purchase a model, because it survived an absolute pounding in the arena and actually won two matches unexpectedly prior to facing me.  Realistically, though, it wasn’t that much of a threat, so I threw it around a few times, did some wall runs, and the match went the distance.

This then put me up against Magneato.


Clocker and Magneato (along with its previous version, Jack Reacher) have a history. Now, Magneato  has 4 wheel drive and Zac has tuned out the mechanism to have variable firing power for self-righting versus various strength flips.

This was really the first match I was scared for, and I mounted the Clocker Unicorn in at attempt to either try and jam it into the flipper linkage or bluff a flip from afar. I did manage to bluff a few flips, but Clocker did go end over end several times. Magneato had a few issues self-righting, so I was able to dominate just enough to win the decision, including one or two cross-box runs with it in the air.

Next match was against Heracross, a pretty classic lifter bot.

I don’t have video from this one either, and from my memory only, it was an equally classic driving match where I had him in the air and ran across the box a few times, but Clocker also was rolled over and his driving kept me from righting immediately.

Clocker did land on its head at least once, causing the ears to shear out of their alignment lands and give it an adorable droopy effect. The problem was actually not the Onyx-Kevlar print breaking, but the 1/8″ aluminum section in the region bending inwards! The print was cracked, but the fibers held it together.

At this point I was in the loser’s bracket final, where I met…

CLOMP!!! (the exclamation marks are to be included) is a conceptual takeoff of Tentomushi/Mega Tento built by a group of high schoolers.  It’s deceptive effective – those little tines which stick out the front can easily high center you, which is generally how it won its matches. I was in general able to get a good hold of it and put in a few body slams and wall rushes, but Clocker also happened to fit precisely into the laundry basket, leading to some moments of dubious traction.

And finally, with that match done, Clocker had climbed back into the finals, where it had to face the smol-Yeti that was True Grit. Alex had also taken advantage of the new Sportsmans’ rule changes and upgraded the bot significantly.

This was an intense driving match. I like to think that Overhaul vs. Yeti would have gone down about the same way! Around 45 seconds left, I lost the lifter and so could only harrass True Grit around using the clamping arm and keeping it on the forks.

The problem!? After a year of slamming bots up and down, the two #10-32 bolts holding the lift gear to its hub finally sheared off. This joint, I realized, really could be a pin joint as the gear is sandwiched and can’t move. Putting screws in shear is always bad news – even if the joint was originally tight, enough smashing around and material is going to deform and cause the joint to loosen anyway.  Well, luckily I had already made a pinned hub since I was doing some Markforged lift gear experiments a few months ago. So this gear is likely going to get recut or machined out to accept that bore.

Other than that, I didn’t open the bot up once. The Brushless Rages took all of the event abuse without any issues, even with Clocker’s fairly OP drivetrain (42-50 brushless and only 6:1 on each side). It’s a good thing Brushless Rage preorders are shipping day by day now! If you missed the bus, their general availability will be in mid January.



  • Dragon Con 2018: Postmodern Robotics Comes Home With a Vengeance
  • All-Vans Quality of Life Rollup – Mid 2018 to Now
  • Roll Cake 3: The Build!
  • The Roll Cake that Won’t Die: Roll Cake 3.0
  • Operation Bad Timing II: The Epilogue
  • Operation Bad Timing II: Chinesium Rising; The Zero-Delta-Entropy Point
  • Operation Bad Timing II: The Soundtrack – Pistons and Valves and Seals, Oh My (God Everything Sucks)
  • Operation Bad Timing II: The Soundtrack; or Zen and the Art of Van Maintenance
  • What’s Inside that Surplus Center Bomb Hoist Motor? A Quick Break from BattleBots with Beyond Unboxing
  • The Overhaul Design and Build Series, Part 5: “Don’t you have to ship this on Wednesday, dude?”

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