Tony's Competition Diary - February 19th, 2011
Alright ... so this morning it was actually the alarm clock/wake-up call combo that got me out of bed. Hadn't done anything on either of the beetles last night, so it was an early start to get to the pits and fix up the two 'bots in time for safety.
After foresaking a trip to Dunkin' Donuts (Beth said she'd bring coffee :-)) I rolled into the parking lot and hauled my stuff back into the pits. The first order of business was to switch the ESCs in Didactic Duelist 1.0, but after catching up with Pete Smith again I also bought a couple of his 1000rpm Hobby Motors and to into the 'bot. Pete's motors seemed a lot more torque-y than the ones I had, so hopefully they'll do better at getting this 'bot moving. Click Back after viewing an image.
Here's a shot from the external pit area, from while I was helping a couple of folks get ready for safety, and trying to track down Pete for the motors. The robot pits are inside the yellow caution tape - outside the tape are pits for the dirtbike and quad riders who are competing in the arena further down the complex.
Swinging around a bit, and we have more of the same - pits everywhere!
And a bit further around. Out in the West Hall (through the doors you can see) was the electric R/C car event, on a large dirt track, much like the one at Speedster Hobbies, but on a slightly larger scale I think. Anyhow - loads of people out there! Speaking of people, Scott had arrived! He was accompanied by his wife, Liz, and step-son Kyle, and had driven up from North Carolina to hang out for the event. It was great to catch up with Scott and meet his new family.
In between installing drive motors and ESCs in the beetle, chatting with Scott and family, and check safety on some of the new competitors I had to safety the hobbyweight, which weighed in at exactly 12.0 pounds and had no safety issues. I also installed the battery packs into the featherweight Formidable Fustigator 1.0 and took it to the arena for safety checks after verifying the 29.4lb weight. I wish there had been a camera on the safety check because the flames were quite impressive after I powered up the 'bot!
There was a little concern floating around that perhaps it was the Lithium-Polymer batteries that had gone up in flames, but the smell was more 'electronics-y' than 'lithium-y', so once things quietened down we took the 'bot back to the pit table and took the base off to take a look. Fortunately, if you could use that word, it was the weapon ESC that looked like it had been pinched behind the battery pack and something had shorted. Good, because the weapon motor should still be running, bad because of all the things we had spares for, this wasn't one of them! After asking around, the builders of Higgins Mike and Dan, had a slightly smaller ESC they were willing to lend us, and Dan offered to switch the connectors, being the master solderer that he is. Given our phenominal lack of soldering skills we took him up on that offer! After not too long we were back in business! Ironically, when the brackets were published for the day's matches, we'd be going up against Higgins first, but more on that twist of fate in a few.
Finally we were able to install the new drive motors and ESCs in Didactic Duelist 1.0 and the drive torque was hugely improved! The moral of the story is that even cheap Chinese motors can have cheaper Chinese knock-offs, so caveat emptor. With that beetle through safety and the competition about to start we gave up on reassembling Unlettered Understrapper 2.0, put it away, and elected to have fun with the three working 'bots we had out.
The competiton got underway around 11:30 in the morning, and we were a little ways down the fight roster, but we were all ready to go! First up would be our hobbyweight, then the beetle, then the featherweight. We plugged the first two into the battery chargers, and set about installing the replacement loaner weapon ESC and a smaller battery pack, as it was only rated for six cells, rather than the eight we were using.
It's just gone noon, and time for our first match of the day. Cantankerous Cowpoke 3.0 is a crazy-fast 'bot, and we hadn't gotten around to configuring the dual-rates on the transmitter that would let us control it a bit easier, so we were just going to have to wing it!
Now that was fun! Not only did we score a win, but we actually knocked another 'bot out! Bonus! :-) We were pretty happy with that, and went back to the pit table with smiles all around. The spikes on the front of the 'bot needed tightening, and other than charging the batteries we didn't have any other maintenance necessary. It seemed like no time at all, though, before it was time to head to the arena again, this time with our beetleweight Didactic Duelist 1.0.
Well ... not the most exciting match we've ever had, and the drive train on our beetle is a bit wonky, so driving in a straight line is nigh impossible, but we squeaked out a judges' decision in our favour for the second win in two matches! This is a great start to the day, and we were very happy! Again, not much in the way of maintenance necessary, just a top-up of the batteries, so we checked the brackets, and saw we were about to be in the arena again, this time with our featherweight Formidable Fustigator 1.0.
This time the judges didn't swing for us, and Higgins was declared the winner. We had no idea why the weapon didn't spin up ... although truthfully we didn't test after installing the replacement weapon motor speed controller - that'll teach us! We congratulated the team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and they helped us troubleshoot the ESC, finally determining that it was dead. We couldn't determine when it died, but luckily Pete Smith came through for us again, with a spare 60A controller he could sell us. Dan, once again, kindly agreed to desolder the terminals from the dead ESC and put them on the new one - thanks Dan!
While Dan took care of the ESC for us it was time to run back to the arena again, for another match with our 12-pounder Cantankerous Cowpoke 3.0, this time against the fast-moving wedge Apollyon. We had no doubt that Mike was better at driving his 'bot than we were with ours, but who knows - maybe we'll get lucky :-)
Towards the end of the match I realized I wasn't doing a whole lot of damage, and Mike had controlled his 'bot a fair bit more skillfully than I had, so I tried spinning, hoping the kinetic energy would do some damage when we connected, but alas no. With about thirty seconds to go, one side of the drive gave out, so I tried to do what I could to hide that fact, but the judges' decision was for Apollyon, which was fair. Dumping the hobbyweight back at the pits we made a mental note to check out the drive train, which was proptly forgotten, and started buttoning up the beetle for it's next match against D-12.
So that was a little humiliating! Out-driven and out-pushed by an old BattleBots™ toy! Still ... it could have been worse - at least nothing broke! We hooked our beetle up to the battery charger and sat down to work on replacing the weapon motor ESC in the featherweight again.
We'd checked out the brackets, and there was going to be a lunch break before any of our 'bots came up again, so with at least an hour spare we set about installing the weapon ESC. With safety guards in place, we kept trying to get things to beep the way they should, but to no avail. Either the ESC would beep that it wasn't getting a signal from the receiver, or the receiver would light up and the ESC would do nothing. Plus, throw into the mix that the drive ESCs would randomly have and lose signal, and we were scratching our heads as to what the heck was going on!
The two hours since our last match flew by, and suddenly we were up again with the 12lb'er: Cantankerous Cowpoke 3.0 versus Max Planck. Remember that mental note we made earlier to fix the drive train? We didn't ...
Darn ... in all the excitement and frustration of trying to get the replacement ESC working in the featherweight we'd forgotten all about the fact that the hobbyweight had lost half the drive train, and hadn't fixed it for this match. Lesson learned - pay attention to the whole fleet! Cantankerous Cowpoke 3.0 was out of the competition with a 1-2 record, and most likely a couple of blown Victor speed controllers. Note to self - put the Victors in Coast Mode for this 'bot, not brake mode - the load is too much!
No time to worry about it though, as we need to hurry and bolt up Didactic Duelist 1.0 because it's up against Mulcher right now!
Yay! An honest-to-goodness win! And we're slowly getting the hang of making Didactic Duelist 1.0 run in a straight line ... bonus! The win came at a price though - in one of the earlier hits the weapon shaft snapped where one of the teeth was pinned, and the tooth had fallen out - oops! Still ... Unidactic Duelist 1.0 had advanced another round in the competition, and that was great. We dumped the 'bot on the pit table and went straight back to working on the weapon controller for the 30lb'er. At this point we'd tried re-binding the receiver, but it was still acting funky, so we started working our way through our spare receivers, hoping one of them would work, and hoping we weren't frying each one in turn as we went!
Here's a quick shot we took from the pit table while working on the 30lb'er - as you can see the event drew quite a good-sized crowd through the day, and the audience certainly seemed to be enjoying the show! Meanwhile we'd decided we were going to try and eliminate the power/radio/gremlin issue from Formidable Fustigator 1.0 by going systematically through the components one by one: taking them out, trying them separately, and ensuring we didn't have any shorts, etc. The only issue is that this was going to be a loooooong process, and we knew it would be coming up for it's second match soon. We got to work, hoping to have enough time to get through the tear-down before having to fight.
Beth came over and told us that the matches would be stopping about 7pm, and it was currently 6:10pm, so the 30lb'er's next match would actually be tomorrow morning. That was very good news! We'd have enough time to work out this problem - hurray! Except the beetleweight was due to fight again in five minutes, and we'd been so wrapped up in the featherweight we hadn't even put the beetle on to recharge! We quickly hooked it up, despite knowing we were only going to be able to pump a few minutes of charge into it. We waited for the call to the arena before yanking it off the charger and screwing down the top and front, and legging it to the arena.
Standing outside the arena, we were waiting on Didactic Duelist 1.0's opponent, Misdirected Aggression who hadn't shown up yet, and we were wishing we could have used this extra time hooked up to the battery charger. After a couple of minutes of standing arena-side the judges gave Misdirected Aggression a two-minute warning to appear, and we nervously began hoping it wouldn't as we were pretty sure we wouldn't have enough battery life to fight the match. 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... and the match was declared a Win by Forfeit for Didactic Duelist 1.0. Not a particularly glamourous win, but a welcome relief given the lack of charging time.
Back at the pit table, I took the top off Didactic Duelist 1.0 intending to put it back on the charger, and broke out laughing: I hadn't connected the battery pack before the match! If Misdirected Aggression had shown up for the match we'd have had to forfeit, as the 'bot would have sat there in the arena doing nothing! Talk about playing a bluff with no cards - we won just by standing next to the arena! Well ... sometimes luck has everything to do with it.
After another half an hour working through the drive train components on Formidable Fustigator 1.0 we were sure there were no problems with the DeWalts or Victor speed controllers, so we decided to call it a day there, and go get some food, then come back early tomorrow morning to finish reassembling the 'bot and checking the wiring out.
Scott, Liz, Kyle, and I headed out to the good ol' Texas Road House just around the corner from the hotel, and spent a few hours chatting, laughing, telling stories, and generally having a good time. It was great to catch up with Scott again after four-ish years, and fun to get to know Liz and Kyle. Around 10:30 we called it a night, and it was time to head to the hotel. Tomorrow would start early, and hopefully give us a chance to put the featherweight into the arena with all guns blazing!
What we accomplished:
- Hooked up with Scott and family!
- Won our first two matches of the day :-)
- Caught up with a load of old friends, and made some new ones, too.
- Managed to put three 'bots into the arena for matches.
- Blew two Victors on the twelve-pounder.
- Had a whole heap of fun!
What we learned:
- The Victors in Cantankerous Cowpoke 3.0 need to be set to Coast mode, not Break.
- Our 30lb'er can hold it's own against champion 30lb'ers, even without the weapon running.
- Scott's sense of humour hasn't changed one bit ;-)
- Luck is an important element of how you fare on competition day.
- Ressurrecting an old 'bot in the pits the morning of the competition isn't a viable use of time.
Where we go from here:
- Reassembling the 30lb'er, minus gremlins.
- Seeing how far we can get our Beetleweight through the brackets.
- Seeing the 30lb'er in the arena with the weapon running.