Ãœberclocker Update 17: This is not funny Edition

Actually it is. From the past several builds, I have come to a conclusion that beginning exactly one week before I am to leave for an event, things will go horribly wrong that will leave whatever I am building crippled and disabled and unable to function up to its full potential. We saw this with TB4.5MCE for Battlebots IQ, where I lost an arm ESC and couldn’t obtain a main battery worth its weight in beans. TB4.5SP1 for Motorama had a whole third of the bot go out two days before I left, and only some last minute hacks allowed it to run at all.

There are plenty of rational explanations, of course, since I usually get to rigorously testing my engineered systems only in that last week or so, and untested systems like to break if they’re not properly designed and built. But the fun explanation is that the robot gods are just out to get me.

Oddly enough, nothing wrong wrong with NK except losing a LiPo cell, which is not a terminal disaster.

Over the past few days, I have been slowly wiring up Uberclocker. Working in an environment where everyone else is also working on something interesting means I get distracted far too easily, so it’s really taken _that long_ to wire the bot up.

Here’s most of the wiring. For a bot with 5 motors, 4 controllers, and 2 batteries, the wire layout is surprisngly clean. In this picture, the master power switch had not been mounted and no cell balancer wiring is installed.

This was the condition of the wiring for the bot’s first remote-controlled powerlift – the previous one was by touching wires to battery leads, which isn’t exactly a legit in-arena tactic. So what weighs more than or equal to a 30lber?

Well, at MITERS, plenty of things, but the only thing compact enough was this…

…45 pound rackmount uninterruptible power supply battery pack.

I approve of this bot. It can raise the 45 pounds pretty briskly and can suspend it in the air with no motor power applied (with the controller in Brake mode), and can bob it up and down. I don’t have an amperage number yet.

As expected, the back end of the bot lurched upwards on beginning the lift, but fell back down due to the support from the rollers in the front. I didn’t practice balancing the bot with a load on the rollers, but that should probably happen some time.

Then stuff broke.

First, while running the clamp arm with no load, the Banebots 12-45 controller popped its reverse direction. It was a very audible (and frightening) pop that made me think one of the FETs on the Victor 883 controlling the fork motors fried.This was strange, since I was using a motor far, far smaller than what the BB controller should be capable of handling, and it was not clamping down on something or hitting a travel limit. Just small reverse throttle.

So I have started the replacement-under-warranty process with Banebots. We’ll see how THAT one goes – chances are they’ll be considerate and ship me a new one in Atlanta.

After the mild scare, I decided to continue testing by dropping in the ANT150 controller from Nuclear Kitten. But again, that didn’t last long, because…

… the actuator motor shaft snapped. The B62 has a reported history of fracturing output shafts, and it looks like the bug hit me. However, it looks like the shaft actually broke in flexure, which tells me that the radial support at the base of the leadscrew is poor.

I’m not surprised. When the clamp arm hits something on its way down, the load on the actuator is essentially pure compression. Any buckling of the part connections at all could lead to catastrophic failure, which seems like what happend in this case.

This is bad. Very, very bad. Considering the whole leadscrew assembly was green Loctite’d together, it’s going to be nearly impossible to extract the broken shaft stub. A replacement motor is a hefty $30, and I’d have to buy and machine a new section of leadscrew.

Bad indeed. Without the upper clamp arm, Uberclocker is a giant spatula of questionable sexiness.

I’m now in the process of specing out parts and designing a new leadscrew machanism. This will be an indirect drive type device that will take the stress off the motor shaft itself. The motor, furthermore, will be mobile along with the upper clamp instead of being pivoted in a fixed location on the forks. Instead, the leadscrew will be fixed with a pin type joint at the base.

Using an indirect drive leadscrew mechanism, similar to the “beak” of my 2005 Science Olympiad robot, should make the whole thing more reliable anyway.

This will have to be fabbed in Atlanta, since I won’t get any parts I order now by Monday and actually get anything done. So with the clamp out of commission, I tied it to the fr0k to secure it and continued finishing and finalizing the wiring. I installed the battery balancer plug, another Convenient DB9 Connector of LiPo Balancingâ„¢ , physically mounted the power switch, and cut holes in the top plate to accomodate them.

Besides the DB9 connector, I also put in a direct connection to the battery using a Deans female side connector mounted to the left Ebay. For this bot, the charging current needed will exceed the limitations of the 24-22 gauge wire that fits in the DB9 connector, so I will use that only for the charger’s balancing function, and the big connector for actual charging current.

After tidying up the interior some, it was time for a beauty shot. Cheesy cell phone camera style.

The bot’s now only missing stickers and blinkenlichten.

And also the signal module. The signal module is my name for the receiver + fork controller combo that will occupy the left side Ebay. The fork controller will take input from the Spektrum Rx and do two things – one is buffer the signals for the Victors, and two is correlate my transmitter’s Throttle stick position with the position of the fork. It will take input from the potentiometer mounted to the fork and drive the ESC accordingly.

I decided to let it process al l the receiver signals (and passing drivetrain commands straight through) instead of making a separate buffer board for the drive only – it keeps the wiring cleaner and allows for future expansion of more advanced control schemes.

There is minimal hardware left to implement, since the microcontroller already comes with its neato support board.

There are exactly three days left. Can I get everything working?!?

Ãœberclocker Update 16, Nuclear Kitten update 3: A picture is worth 9000 words Edition

So I can’t find the sub-micron sized grain of dust or metal shaving that is caught in the lens actuator of my camera. Unfortunately, this means that I will have to start haunting Ebay and local consumer electronics outlets. Until then, I suppose everyone who reads this site (all -0.000001259 of you) will be in suspense, save the occasional grainy cell phone camera picture.

The basic rundown is that Ãœberclocker is ready to be wired and NK is also approaching mechanical completion.


I drew up the “EBay” assemblies and prepared flat patterns to make them out of sheet metal. Unlike TB4.5SP1 which had all its electronics in a bunch, Ãœberclocker features “distributed electronics”. There’s not really an advantage to either method, just that I couldn’t find space in this bot to slam all the electronics in one place.

Each is a work of 1/16″ aluminum origami (read: smashing in a vise and banging on it while wielding a torch) that bolts to a close frame member. There is nothing secured to the baseplate, unlike TB (and all my previous bots). Furthermore, all of the Ebays are dismountable from the outside.

This is the left side Ebay, which houses the main switch and Convenient DB9 Connector of LiPo Balancingâ„¢. The big switch came off a 1980s era PC power supply which, despite being a 7 inch cube, could manage maybe 200 watts. It is mounted such that the top bezel is flush with the top cover plate of the bot. A little rectangle will be cut out of the top plate to pass it.

Since Ãœberclocker isn’t a severe duty bot, I decided to forego making a normally closed switch like I did for TB. The detent is strong enough for me to not worry about it randomly clicking off.

The rear Ebay clamps the batteries between itself and the rear of the bot. It also carries the Victor 883 controllers for the drive motors. The right side Ebay houses a third Victor and a small Banebots ESC to control the clamp motor.

fr0kp0t mounted. This was an afterthought, and I really didn’t want to take the entire thing apart again, so it was just clamped and hand drilled. The potentiometer is rather exposed for something which will be telling the fr0k everything about where it is in life, so it might get a larger metal cage. The pot is coupled to the fr0k through the shaft set screw.

There is currently no bottom hard mechanical stop for the fr0k, and so it can swing all the way around the bottom of the bot (no doubt ripping off the entire bottom plate in the process). To prevent this, I’ll add some things that stick out of the fr0k towers. While I could easily limit the travel in software, a hardware backup is good for preventing self-eating disasters.

So Ãœberclocker is ready to be wired up and programmed. The fr0k, with the chain tightened (by removing one pitch with an offset link), successfully powerlifted 30 pounds, so I know torque isn’t a problem. Maybe there will be a drive test soon…

Nuclear Kitten 5

NK went from 0 to about 50% done in a day due to the “snap-together” chassis. The only thing I needed to build for that were some nutstrips ( 1/4″ aluminum squares with regularly spaced tapped holes), which was tedious but trivial. Past that, I had to machine up the weapon motor and drive wheels.

I specifically bought a 4-40 spiral-tipped tap so I could powertap all the holes, 7 each in 12 nutstrips. Sadly enough, I’m short about 4 inches worth of 1/4″ square aluminum stock to make the last of the nutstrips. This is within range of just biting the proverbial bullet and machining down some bigger stock.

Blurry ass-picture showing some frame bits and the nutstrips. Ignore the obvious non-trusses that populate the inner rails. My excuse is that it was 5AM Joltgineering – I’m not sure why I didn’t just link the corners with triangles instead of making an ugly V shape.

I like this “Chinese Puzzle” frame – I think I’ll keep the tricks in mind for future projects.

While the waterjet pump was still primed, I tossed on a plate of 1/4″ 4140 and cut out the blades.

Because the blades are now steel, they are thinner in profile. This should be more than enough for 3lber duty, especially after heat-treating (famous last words).

After discovering that the grungy MITERS horizontal bandsaw cut much faster when I dropped a weight on the end of it, I started on the disc motor. The motor itself is almost identical in structure to my wheelmotor and much simpler in construction. I also didn’t have a stiff and consistent tool holding device when I built the wheelmotor. Overall, this resulted in a very fast build of the disc motor structure.

I made two side plates out of 3″ aluminum round and the center axle out of 1″. A steel pipe was turned into the magnet ring. This steel pipe appeared fine on inspection, but upon contact with a cutting tool, turned to powder on the inside. Fortunately, the rust wasn’t deep enough to affect the final ring dimensions.

I also made all four drive wheels. Each wheel consists of a stock SDP (redundancy?) pulley, an aluminum “rim”, and an O-ring “tire. The process was fast, since each rim only had radial features that could all be made by selective parting tool use. The drive motors themselves are in transit and should arrive Monday. Previously, I ordered a few Speed 300 size RC motors off Ebay to retain the absurd speed and maneuverability of NK4, which featured those motors spliced into the aforementioned gearboxen.

Upgrading the wheel size the morning before I ordered all my parts (more 5AM  Joltgineering), I failed to account for the fact that one of the frame connector pieces now interfered with the front wheels. Something will probably be sanded down.

After taking a Taco Bell break, I put the disc motor together for a test fit. This motor has a very tight airgap to maximize torque, and I was worried about the tolerances adding up and causing the stator to grind against the magnets. To my surprise, it ran concentric and true – with no rubbing. Cheers for the robot gods. I then went back and preliminarily installed all 28 magnets (in groups of 2) with ultra-thin CA glue. The empty spaces will be filled in with epoxy.

So, here’s a picture of NK in that “well, it LOOKS done” pose.

Old NK is undergoing the scrapping process to extract the goodies (there’s not much left).

Only a few spacers here and there remain to be done on NK.

So the summary of things to do is:


  1. Wire up!
  2. ???
  3. Profit!
    1. Make bot carrier


  1. Weapon pivot axle and spacers
  2. Wind motor
  3. Tune drivetrain for belt tension
  4. Wire up


  1. Wait for giant plate of titanium (est. Tuesday)
  2. Cut blades out of Ti
  3. Machine a blade retaining collar
  4. Integrate receiver and mixer into a single module
  5. Think of how to get reception

A week remains…