By Artash (11 years), Black Hole BattleBot Driver
On 8 – 9 July 2017, I participated in the Bot Brawl – a battle bot competition organised as a part of the Maker Festival held in Toronto. I, my sister and my dad love making robots and have watched several battle bot videos over the internet. Inspired by these videos and the upcoming Bot Brawl competition, we registered ourselves as a team for the 30 pounds battle bot competition.
In a battle bot competition, two bots enter an arena and each tries to push the other one outside arena to win the game. The bots can use all possible means to win the competition, including hammering the other bot, lifting them up, or simply pushing them out.
How we made our Battle Bot?
Our robot weighed 25 pounds and it took us two weeks to build it using motors, chains, batteries, sprockets and the armor. The robot had two drive wheels in the back connected by chains to the motors, and an Omni wheel in the front. As this was our first battle bot, we had to learn a lot of new things and made several mistakes too. We did not realise how difficult it was to cut the chains with the limited tools we had for making the motor drives. Even drilling holes through the thick armor was a tough process.
The relatively easier part was wiring the motors, the motor driver, batteries, switches and the radio receiver – as we had previous experiences of wiring arduino-based projects. We named our battle bot- the Black Hole as we hoped it would suck all our competitors, and also because it did not have much of a weapon. Being a polite, Canadian bot we relied on our robot to gently push the other bot outside the arena.
Competition Day and Safety Checks
On arriving at the Bot Brawl venue, we registered ourselves with the organisers and were introduced to other teams. We immediately felt a part of a very friendly battle bot community. We learnt that our bot had to pass a safety check. The safety check included 3 things:
- Weighing the bot to check it comes under the 30 pounds category.
- Testing the “kill switch” attached outside the bot to immediately and completely switch it off.
- Testing the robot to see if it could go forward, backward and turn left and right.
The Black Hole passed the safety check in the first instance, and we were ready to battle!
The Competition and Learnings!
In all there were six robots in the 30 pounds category and we had to individually fight all of them. There were 3 rounds which each of the robot. I did most of the driving and my sister was the driver for some of the rounds.
During the competition, I learned a lot including driving tactics from my fellow drivers. I
learnt not to present the side of my robot to the other bots as robots can easily be pushed out of the arena from their sides. I also learnt the importance of gaining speed before ramming the other robot. We had built Black Hole for higher torque or the ability to push the other bots. This meant it was not as fast as the other robots.
In some of the matches, I managed to push the other robots outside the arena. But it was not easy to do so as there was a pole in the middle of the arena and our robot could not pick up speed while turning. I invariably ended up presenting the side of Black Hole to the other robot. I had one very close match where I had cornered the other robot and was hoping to push it outside. However the driver of that robot was very experienced. At the last moment, he turned his robot around very rapidly, and then came from behind and pushed our robot outside the arena.
I lost most of the rounds. However I had the most fun too – doing demos of our robot, talking to other drivers, checking their robots and driving them too. There was a very appreciative audience at Maker Festival who were cheering the Bot Brawl teams all throughout the competition.
I truly enjoyed the experience of shaking hands with other drivers after the matches. We may have been competitors in the arena but there could not have been more friendly
battle bot community. Each of the teams encouraged me, gave me tips and tools, and let me drive their robots. Garret gave me a wedge to push other robots, Mike lent me a metal hook to entangle the other robot, Kevin gave me a tool kit, and Andrea gave me many tips on driving the robots and improving them.
I thank everyone who made this event possible, especially Ravi, the organizer of the event who worked very hard to make Bot Brawl a very successful event. At the end of the event, I helped the organisers in taking down the arena.
I am now looking forward to my second Battle Bot competition!
ps: We need more adults and kids building robots so that we can have even bigger Battle Bot competitions in Toronto.
Also read, co-driver Arushi’s experiences: My First Battle Bot Competition