Combat Robots: A Third of my Life

Here, I take you to the archives, where I pay homage to the hobby that got me into design.
Duration

2010 - 2018 / A third of my life

Role / Skills

Mechanical Design, CAD, Fabrication, Experimentation

Tools

Rhino 3D, Sketchup, Lasercutting, 3D Printing, Circuitry

What Started it All

For a third of my life, I built fighting robots in my garage and competed in local competitions. Over the years I was quite successful, taking home a total of 13 medals at the international Robogames competition, and medaling numerous times at smaller events.

Before anything else, combat robots piqued my interest in design. I learned the importance of iteration toward a more perfect design, of materiality, of distinctive systems coming together to form a symbiotic whole. In the summer of 2017, four years removed from competition, I made a short video about growing up with combat robots as an important facet of my life:

Below are a handful of my final designs. All of these robots have fought in multiple competitions; some show their battle damage more than others.

Warpig 1lb weight limitservo actuated lifter4 time champion, 4 time medalist

My first, and winningest robot. Over its four year career, Warpig went through numerous iterations to the titanium version you see here. The lifter arm and my driving skills usually disrupted the offensive potential of my opponents.

Menehune 1lb weight limitpneumatic flipper1 time champion

One of my favorites. Menehune uses a rare pneumatic system to literally launch its opponents into the air. Pneumatic components at this scale are hard to find— I use a bicycle hand pump to fill the onboard air tanks to 150psi. Check out the v2 of Menehune here.

Attitude 3lb weight limit8" hardened steel disc2 time champion, 5 time medalist

Attitude is all about kinetic energy. This three pounder spins an abnormally large disc at 3200 rpm, intending to transfer as much of that energy as possible into its opponents. The unintended consequence of such a large weapon is the gyroscopic forces created when the weapon is spinning— Attitude becomes quite difficult to maneuver.

Endgame v1 1lb weight limit6" titanium bar1 time champion

The original version of Endgame. While the titanium bar was entertaining, the bar geometry did not carry as much energy as an equivalent disc, and with a high center of gravity, this robot was not the most stable.

Endgame v2 1lb weight limit4" asymmetric disc1 time champion, 2 time medalist

My latest robot. The focus is on the asymmetric, hardened steel disc with a single tooth that “bites” into its opponents and sends them flying. A wide stance and proportional weapon increases robot’s drivability, and use of light materials such as titanium and UHMW allow for a durable weapon system.

Tiny Terror 150 gram weight limittitanium wedge4 time champion

Keep it simple, stupid. Tiny Terror doesn’t have a flashy weapon because it doesn’t need one. For this robot, it is all about driving skill— out maneuver the opponent and dominate purely through aggression and tactical driving. Although not technically challenging to design or construct, Tiny Terror is one of my most successful robots.