Ten Questions Answered
interested in Robotic Combat, but don't know where to start. Any
The best place to find information regarding robotic
combat is on the Internet. Within the last several years, numerous
competitors have set up web sites describing their experiences.
We recommend that all beginners take a few days and read these
pages. One of the best lists of robotic combat links available
has been compiled by Adam Clark in England.
is required in terms of experience and equipment to participate?
Anyone can build a robot. Each year there are numerous first-time
competitors who range from students, to computer programers,
to mechanical engineers, to lawyers . . . there is no typical
robot warrior. Indeed, many of these first-timers wind up winning
the whole competition. As long as you have basic tools and a
working knowledge of electric or fuel powered machines/vehicles,
you can build a robot!
much does it cost?
We won't apologize for telling you this: building robots costs
money. Sometimes, a lot of money. For example, the best 25 pound
robots (some of the lightest robots in competition) can cost
as much as $2000, and most of the robots in heavier weight classes
cost dramatically more.
While it is possible to build a robot on a budget, such building
takes lots of thought, time, and effort. Many builders wind
up spending at least twice what they had originally planned
on spending as a result of failures and mistakes during the
build process. However, if you think something is overpriced
then we recommend you try to build it yourself. More often than
not, you'll start to appreciate the subtle design in all the
things we use, and realize that there is a real reason for the
Don't think you can do this robot stuff for free.
I want to compete. Do you have any general tips or suggestions?
No. The entire process of competing in robotic
combat events involves reading, researching, reading, asking
pointed questions, reading and generally turning into a sponge
of everything technical. We are aware that you can feel overwhelmed
by the varied disciplines that merge in robotics. You may even
want to throw up your hands and yell "I don't know what to do."
If so, take a few days off, pick a specific goal to achieve,
buy some materials and give it a run. Even if you're unsure
of the outcome, you'll likely learn enough from the exercise
to make your second pass successful.
We have also provided the following links which provide general
suggestions regarding robotic combat and building combat robots:
you and the other competitors willing to help me. . . . please?
Yes. Your best source for robot building information
is the other competitors. But, remember, before asking a competitor
a question, try finding it yourself by searching the Internet
through a search engine such as Alta
Vista or by searching newsgroups through DejaNews.
Often, the same question has already been asked and answered.
If, after looking at all these sources, your question has not
been answered you should definitely ask a builder either via
Email, newsgroup or discussion board. Most builders will be
willing to answer. However, please be specific. It is very difficult
to answer questions like, "Hey dude! How should I build my robot?"
dude! How should I build my robot?
but can't you just give me an overview of how the building process
O.K. First, decide what type of robot you want to build (e.g.,
bot with weapons, lifter, wedge, cartoon figure, etc.) and formulate
a building plan. With respect to the building plan, some people
just start building and others lay out the entire robot on a
computer before buying one component. This process is ultimately
a matter of style -- so do what best fits you best.
Also, determine how much money you want to spend. Generally,
the radio control, speed controller(s), battery(s), battery
charger(s), and drive motor(s) are the most expensive components
of a robot (unless you have an incredibly cool weapon).
After deciding what type of robot you want to build and formulating
a building plan, you should determine how you will acquire the
robot's components. Once again, read other competitors' web
pages for suggestions and search the Internet. Also, check out
books on mechanics at your local bookstore or library. But,
whatever you do, start building as soon as possible.
You will learn a lot as you go and will hopefully finish your
robot in time for the competition. It is always amazing how
many contestants wind up putting the final touches on their
robots the day before the competition. By completing your robot
early, you will have time to practice driving and time to work
out the numerous glitches and bugs that your robot is sure to
have. Good luck and have fun!
do I get sponsors to help pay for my robot?
Many competitors believe that there is a line of corporations
just waiting to shower money on them if they declare they are
building a robot and looking for sponsorship. It just ain't
Most of the sponsored competitors have relationships with
their sponsors that were formed over time, and usually the result
of a business transaction. For example Dan's sponsorship by
Nuts & Volts magazine arose after he had written an
article for them on a robot he had already built and competed.
But the single most importat requirement for obtaining sponsorship
is... having a robot to show off your ability to deliver. Few
people are willing to sponsor intent. So don't rule out that
in your first year, you alone will have to pay all of the bills
in order to have something to take around and show off for the
Other things to consider when looking for sponsorship are
your team's reputation, whether you have a website and if so
how it can enhance the image of the sponsor, and finally your
performance at the event. As this new sport gains visibility
the top sponsors are going to have their pick of teams, so you
want to work on something that makes yourself stand out.
kind of radio/speed controller should I use?
There are as many combinations in use as there are competitors.
In the simplest sense your setup will look something like:
RX ---> ESC ---> Motor
RX is the radio control receiver
ESC is the electronic speed controller
Motor is the part that makes your wheels spin
use standard hobby radios used to control miniature helicopters
and airplanes. This is not intended to be an exhaustive resource
on radios but here are the basics. They are available in three
flavors ranging from least to most reliable: AM, FM and PCM.
PCM is a digital version of FM and although the reception isn't
guaranteed, the receiver can detect and reject a garbled packet.
Many competitors recommend PCM radios if you can afford it.
Some manufacturers are Futaba, Hitec/RCD and Airtronics. Large
hobby distributors like Hobby Shack and Tower usually have the
best prices. But it appears that Hobby Horse has the best deal
on Hitec brand radios. (Links to these manufacturers are here.)
The electronic speed control convers the digital control signals
from the radio receiver to high current signals capable of spinning
an electric motor. There are hobby-grade controllers and professional.
Both are expensive. Don't believe the "500 amps!"-type rating
on the hobby-grade controllers; the reversing models can only
handle 40 amps continuously or 80 for a few seconds. And they
only work at 12 volts, too. You will need to know the current
rating of your motor before you shop for an ESC. Popular manufacturers
are Tekin, Vantec and 4QD. (Links to these manufacturers are
This should be plenty to push you on your way - now get to