Sunday, March 1, 2015

Return the Victorious: Motorama 2015 Event Report

Motorama may very well be the toughest combat robotics competition in the entire Northeast. With that said, it is very difficult to place in any weight class. By chance and skill, I was able to place in two weight classes of three entrants! G3 Robotics was able to end with a respectable 10 wins and 4 losses. See the bot specific breakdown.

Silent Spring
No place (3W - 2L)

Finally here Saturday morning and still no name for the beetleweight DDT clone. Despite the controls oriented suggestions given by other builders, my friends agreed to Silent Spring, the name that Nate Franklin had originally proposed. Once I explain the reference people think its clever >_>

Regardless of the name SS's day started out rougher than most. During safety, the drive motors would not shut off! I traced the issue back to the receiver, which does not appear to support failsafe protocol on the elevator and aileron channels. Broke a few wires swapping back to the reliable OrangeRx 6ch receiver but that was quickly handled by butchering a bind plug. SAFETY ALERT! THE 3CH S.BUS RX DOES NOT PASS FAILSAFE!

Silent Spring v Rmr
Soon we were ready to fight and SS pulled Rmr, a fellow MIT bot from MITERS. This bot featured an overhead spinning bar and an O-ring track system for drive. 

The fight was against his favor since my blade could reach under his blade to land hits on his body without hit myself. However, without ANY driving practice on SS, It would be very easy to over travel after a hit where Rmr could get my sides or even a wheel.

Because of that, I played on the cautious side and took smaller pokes. One of the first few glancing blows actually did result in him landing a body shot, but without critical damage I was able to continue the attack. Still, some nice scars there.

Silent Spring v Time Warp
Now hearing I would be fighting the modified Trilobite kit, I decided to take my time in repairing the drive belts which appeared to be loose in my first match. I would need every ounce of maneuverability to escape this bot. On top of the Trilobite base, Time Warp featured an angular plow from what appeared to be welded and treated steel. There was no way I could bite through that plow but as it would have it, I didn't need to.

I spun up to full and decided to focus on keeping the blade forward. Time Warp came to me with the plow first and after several big hits the pins keeping the shaft on gave up and the plow came off. If it didnt break at the collar, it might have broken at the beak. Small cracks were beginning to form.

However the blade had slowed significantly by the end. I had not received any visible damage but I could not spin up the weapon. This time dependent shortcoming would plague me for the rest of the tournament.

Silent Spring v Devastating Moment
Joey and I had once fought antweights in 2008. His Swamp Woman vs my DDT. DDT managed to get the better of that one but only because SW was an unweaponed bot. Now Joey had a Weta kit with a custom steel eggbeater. It sounded mean!

Unlike In the Margins (Weta Killer), SS has a thick blade which is better for big hits and less effective for chopping or grabbing. I would only be able to get good hits on hard surfaces and so instead of aiming for the feet, I aimed directly for the weapon bar.

I was essentially relying on the robustness of the robot mechanics since at this point I had not sorted out the weapon ESC issue. If I stopped spinning it could be over for me. I got lucky this time when he shut off unexpectedly  after two big hits and couldn't continue.

Speed Wedge 3 v Silent Spring
I met Ian this year when I spoke to him a bit in the pits. It didn't take long for me to realize a quality builder and solid competitor. When I pulled this match up, I predicted a loss immediately. With the spotty ESC and his driving skill, attrition would work against me. Well, I don't need to say much more do I? Loss by judges decision :P

In the Margins v Silent Spring
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHY DID I HAVE TO LOSE. The most horrible match up pits friends against friends in the loser's bracket and its not even the finals! Last time Aaron and I had fought was actually last year where we went 1-1 against each other in the total annihilation of Dominant Mode.

This year we both built bots to last. Plastic construction, horizontal disks. It was shaping up to be a good match... but ended up pretty sad. Two soft hits in, my power switch opened up and SS turned off. Slim got a nibble on my wheels afterwards. Ah well, Aaron will have to carry the flag for the both of us (but ended up losing to Speed Wedge 3 also :/)!

Beetleweight Rumble
Immediately after the In the Margins match, I put SS into the rumble. Literally, re-tightened the fingertech switch and threw it into the box. I used this time to play with the throttle a bit and see if I could discern the cause of the ESC problems. It looks like if I keep the weapon at max the entire time it will power up quite alright.

That was it for Silent Spring. A solid robot with great potential, hampered by some bad electronics. Without another competition in the near future, I'll have plenty of time to figure this issue out. For the time being, Silent Spring has succeeded in its primary goal: Be entertaining and don't get destroyed :)
1st Place (4W - 0L)

Having started so far in advanced, Attrition's check-in was straight forward. For the rest of the competition, all I ever had to do was swap out batteries and decide whether to use the wedgelets or not. All these upgrades paid off and made Attrition a clear winner this time around.

Attrition v Maul
Maul was another bot that came out of MITERS but one I had not seen before. Partially because I don't frequent MITERS much anymore but also because I was led to believe the robot was still being completed at the event as it was safety checked immediately before the match. - _ -

It appeared to be some sort of thwack bot with cutting tools for wheels. The chassis was made from a rather thick steel pipe and there wasnt any chance of going through it. So, I opted to punt it around until he tapped out.

Attrition v Hyper Drive
When Cataclysm totaled Apollyon in 2013, part of me cheered just because I wouldnt have to face this legendary wedge bot in the future. However, Mike sold the bot to master craftsman Jerome Miles who then put the drive setup from his 60 lber into it and renamed it Hyper Drive. Oh dear.

Hyper Drive is an appropriate name. It has two massive inrunner brushless motors coupled to dewalt gearboxes for drive. It could move and spin fast enough to do reasonable damage in a thwacking mode. If it were more controllable, he could totally dominate this match.

I decided to play it safe. Start with low drum RPMs and gain maneuverability. I also put on the short wedgelets to help with his front wedge. Shortly into the match, HD lost one side of his drive (gearbox slid out) and I was able to flip him over using the wedgelets. How inverted and nearly immobile, I turned up the drum to full to try and lay on the killing blow. That hit took off the wheel on his good gearbox and Jerome tapped out.

Attrition v Isotelus Rex
Here we are! I finally get to fight my pushybot rival! I knew ahead of time that he would be using the snout again, so I best optimize for driving. Therefore I employed the same strategy as I had against Jerome in the match previous.

Things were going according to plan. I was able to dodge out direct attacks from the snout and lay some pecks on the Ti guard. A few flips went in my favor to added aggression points. Occasionally the drum would contact the snout and I actually noticed white plastic flaking off into the arena. At this RPM (and perhaps because my teeth were still sharp) I could bite into this snout instead of being deflected by it. I started going head on into whatever angle I could and was still able to toss him about.

For the last 30 or so seconds, I turned up the drum again like I did against HD. At this point there was enough damage to the plow to render the snout ineffective. Some showers of sparks and a few more tosses for good measure to start strong, end strong, and give Attrition a shot at 1st this year.

Attrition v Isotelus Rex (FINALS)
Isotelus Rex and Ripto fought a close match in the loser's bracket finals. Amazingly, Isotelus Rex came out the winner after 5 mins or so of judges arguing. I figured I would run the same strategy as the first time I fought him but it turns out it was not needed. He suffered damage to his gearmotors in the match previous and was unable to make the repairs in time. This left Isotelus with one drive, which severely handicapped his awesome driving power. After a few hits, he tapped out and Attrition was crowned the 12lb champion!

Motorama couldnt have gone any better for Attrition. Progressing from 3rd, to 2nd, and finally 1st was a hard battle through the years but taught me many things about robust designs. I am happy to say everything I learned about engineering was well worth it and demonstrated in this little robot. Next year I hope to fight against my other rivals in the division such as Ripto and Cataclysm. This will be the true test of this robot. 
2nd Place (3W - 2L)

With a tightened clutch and new dustpan, I had hopes for Ron at least as a pushybot. It has been forever since I had driven a non weaponed robot and in particular my old old design from my childhood. We would see what the future holds this year at Motorama

MegatRON v Candy Paint and Gold Teeth
The first match was ALSO against an MIT folk! I felt like they were trying to phase us out from the start! Even worse, it was against my buddy Charles and his mean overhead bar spinner. He told me he was going to spin slow and have fun. I obliged but encouraged him to make it entertaining as well. I put on the abrasive saw to make sparks but not penetrate his aluminum frame.

He did not disappoint. At the speed he chose to spin, a slight pertubation from Ron's dustpan caused him to flip over. However, he had enough torque to Tornado-mer dance! What followed was nearly 3 minutes of watching CPGT try to self-right with the occasional Ron interjection with the saw blade. Eventually, Charles burnt out his motor and CPGT was counted out.

There was some damage after the match! CPGT was wailing around Ron so hard, that one of the cast aluminum pillow blocks actually shattered and left the arm in danger of a single supported system. I was quickly able to hack a solution together by taking my spare P60 gearbox face and using it as the far end pillow block.

A very expensive pillow block - _ -.

MegatRON v Whammy Bar
Whammy bar looked to be a deadly horizontal bar spinner. What made it scarier, is the fact that nobody has seen it hit anything yet! Alex tapped out early in his fight with WB before they could make contact so I will be the first to feel its teeth.

I went out to box rush him but missed! Argh! He was able to get up to near full speed when we made contact. The Ron took the hits like a champ but WB could not. Somewhere inside his robot, a component popped loose and WB stopped moving. Ron, and his ineffective saw, moves on :P

Damage pics! That penetration!

Whammy bar adds a nice dent on the inner of one pontoon

MegatRON v The Magnificient Poncho
I've always been impressed by Poncho. It is such a simple robot but with power and good driving it can conquer the toughest opponents. Earlier in the competition, Poncho defeated last year's champ Triggo. I will have to break out my best driving to stop him.

I used a lot of spin tactics to deflect his charges since I knew a head on collision would most likely be against my favor. I had a wide wedge and sloped sides that could be used to scoop around his pushing angle. This was effective for getting under him.

In the second half of the match, I was noticing a lot of over steering in my driving. I could see from my driver's stand that my one side of wheels were free spinning! Ah! the banebots keyway had stipped out! Luckily I could still drive a bit but I was definitely trying to just outlast poncho at the end. We got stuck together twice which helped in stalling for time. (normally I would able to spin him out of the tray if I had both drive sides...) The judges voted in my favor and MegatRON goes to the finals!

Some pictures of the wheel casualties.

4 old megatRON wheels. Since last year.

Banebots keyed wheel sheared section.

Thankfully, Jerome was nice to give me two replacement wheels. they didnt match the 40A's that I had as spares, but they would work for now. Thanks Jerome!

MegatRON v Triggo (FINALS 1)
Oh man, it is finally time. Many people would fear fighting Triggo but to be honest I wanted this fight to happen. As soon as Triggo was announced over Whammo, Charles and I had actually cheered.

I knew this fight would be among the hardest I've had in awhile. And to not drive a weaponed bot make it all the more exciting. There is some thrill in depending on skill. Being the robot that could be destroyed, trying to outlast the stronger robot. That is what I was looking forward to and that is what I got.

Starting out a bit tentative, I let him spin up a bit because I thought the dustpan was steep enough to deflect him. While that worked for a bit, he caught the right corner of the dustpan and spun the bot around catching another edge and flipping Ron. I had the clutch relatively loose to prevent stalling the motor but in this case it proved harmful as Ron could not invert. I had to tap out  to save the robot before Triggo's next attack.

MegatRON v Triggo (FINALS 2)
This time, I went as hard as I could. A solid box rush from the start slowed him but not enough to stop him. From there I had to stay on him as much as possible and keep him off his toes. A careful balance of poking with the wedge would tilt him and force him to spin down or lose control.

However, the two hits from the previous match took its toll on the dustpan; it was slightly tweaked on the right side and could actually go over the shell as he teetered out of control. During these times I was unable to control Triggo and wasted a lot of critical moments.

Finally I was able to herd him into a corner but... Ron stopped moving! ARGH!  He crapped out in front of my drivers corner so I could see that the powerlink (an XT60) was much much higher than it was supposed to be. Meanwhile Triggo was slamming himself into the pan and into the walls to push himself free. When he finally escaped, I tapped out to prevent a juicy juicy free hit on the arm.

People tell me I was winning that match but I didnt really care. it FELT EPIC! And that feeling alone was satisfaction enough. MegatRON would take 2md place to the 2014 champ Triggo. No shame in losing in the finals to a spectacular robot.

Triggo, the 2014 and 2015 Motorama 30lber champion

MegatRON after the 2nd triggo fight

Triggo nibbled at the wheels.

.. and did damage to the dustpan

The right side corner which was already raised was further chewed by Triggo. The left side is still pristine!

To conclude this post, I'd like to shout out to the many many people who made this event a great success, a great time, and overall made the experience of robot combat a wonderful idea. First is my bud Charles Guan, who I give credit to for the numerous resources and help used in building my bots. He also drove the group of us through the snow to get to Moto. None of this would be possible without you man! Then I'd like to mention the MIT and GT crew for a friendly competitive atmosphere and help in repair time. I find that things are most fun when you have your friends and robot fighting is no exception. Not to mention their unyielding support. Xo, Aaron, Gabe, Chad, Adam, Dane, Charles, Paige, Cynthia, Rebecca, Ciaran, Ian, and James here is to you! And I really really hope I didnt miss anyone. I would also like to note exceptional builders who made it a really great time. Zac, Mike, Alex, Kyle, and Jerome were kind enough to offer me parts and help in times of repair. And most important are the folks at NERC who kept the show running. That's Ed, Beth, Jon, James, Kyle, Rob, and Mike and many many more Im sure. Thanks for making Moto one heck of an event!.

Attrition, 12lber champion of Motorama 2015
MegatRON, 30lber runner-up of Motorama 2015