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Questions and Answers about Combat Robotics
from Team Run Amok

The Ask Aaron Archives This page is one of several archives of 'Ask Aaron' questions and answers categorized by topic. To see the most recent questions or to ask a new question, go to the Ask Aaron Home Page

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Q: What do combat robots do and what are they good for?

    A: Take a look at the Wikipedia article on Robot Combat for a good summary of the subject.

    Q: Are they dangerous?

    A: Dangerous? They fight in arenas behind inch-thick ballistic plastic. They can throw each other 15 feet in the air and tear titanium sheet in half. Their weapons carry more energy than half a dozen AK-47 bullets. Yes, dangerous.

    Caution
    Even small combat robots can be dangerous! Learn proper construction and safety techniques before attempting to build and operate a combat robot. Do not operate combat robots without proper safeguards.

  2. Q: Can you tell me how to build a combat robot?

    A: There's way too much to cover here! Support your local public library -- there are some great books on building robots. Look on the shelves in section 629.892 for a good selection. You can check our Book Review Page for some specific recommendations.

    • The SPARC Getting Started Guide offers a six-part overview that takes you from planning thru walking into your first competition.
    • There are a great many How-To Videos covering pretty much every aspect of the mechanics.
    • Download a copy of the RioBotz Combat Robot Tutorial. It's 367 pages of solid design and building advice from a very successful team, and it's free.
    • Take a look at the Ask Aaron Toy Hacks & Kits archive to get some more ideas.
    It's a great idea to get to a robot competition to see what they are really like before you try to build your own robot. Check the Builders Database for listings of competitions in the U.S. and Canada.

  3. Q: How much does it cost to build a combat robot?

    A: Whatever money you can afford and then some, all of your spare time plus any extra time you can steal, several personal relationships, and a chunk of your sanity.

    Q: How can I get a sponsor?

    A: If you don't have a rich uncle you're not gonna get a sponsor.

    Q: How did you do all these things?

    A: one thing at a time, with a lot of mistakes along the way.

  4. Q: What design should I use for my weapon/chassis/armor? How long/wide/thick should it be? What materials are best? What type of chassis/weapon/motors will allow my robot to crush the opposition and never be beaten? How do I add a self-righting mechanism?

    A: We're happy to answer specific questions about robot design, construction, and materials, but we're not going to design your robot for you.

    • Answers to a wide range of design questions plus tools to help with other design considerations can be found in the Ask Aaron Archives.
    • Read thru the archives, do your homework, and come back to us with specific questions that haven't already been answered in the archives.
    • When you do come back with a question, please give us enough information about your design and requirements to have a chance at giving you a useful answer.

  5. Q: How do you get started in combat robotics?

    A: Study the rules, learn what you can from the internet, watch a live competition, and ask specific questions of the builders. Check out the library and bookstores for help on building robots, too. Amazon.com has many robot books.

    Q: What is the best weight class for a beginner to start in?

    A: Scout the event you plan to enter and find out what weight classes are popular. It doesn't do any good to build a robot for a class that doesn't have anyone else in it! Start in the lightest weight class that has a good number of competitors. The lighter your weight class, the less your beginner's mistakes will cost you.

  6. Q: Can you point me to some on-line forums for combat robotics?

    A: For European events try the FRA Forum.

    There is a very active 'Combat Robotics' group on Facebook.

    Robowars Australia has an active forum discussing Australian robot combat.

    The SPARC robot combat forum isn't very active, but the SPARC homepage has some resources worth browsing.

  7. Q: How do you draw plans for a 'bot and get every thing in the right place?

    A: Robot builders design and build 'bots all different ways. Some use computer drawing software to design every last detail before they buy parts. Some build exact models from cardboard to see how things fit. Some just buy lots of parts and see if they can fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle. I like to list all the parts I think I'll need, sketch a drawing, and add up the weights of the parts to make sure I'm under the weight limit.

  8. Q: What's your best tip for robot building?

    A: My best robot tip is to make sure the basics of the chassis and drivetrain are really well built. I see lots of 'bots lose matches because something really simple wasn't designed well: wheels fall off, battery packs break free, unsecured wires come loose. The most insane weapon is no use at all if the chassis or drive fails.

    Q: I'm building my first robot and I'm going to make it just like insert name of successful robot so that I can win every match. Great idea, right?

    A: New builders often assume that a given combat robot performs well entirely because of its design. The robot you mention is successful for many reasons:

      • It was built by an experienced and skilled team;
      • It is driven well with a carefully set-up R/C system;
      • It is made from properly selected materials and components;
      • It is given meticulous preparation for each match; and
      • Barely noticeable details of its design have been improved over time based on combat experience.

    It takes the 'whole package' to do as well as insert name of successful robot. An average builder copying its design will have average results and a new builder will have serious trouble. You may be surprised to learn what robot designs are most successful for typical teams.

  9. Q: How do I search this page? The search box got me this far.

    A: Use the search function in your browser to search a specific page: hit CTRL-F to bring up a page search box.

  10. Q: The last question I asked was a follow-on to my earlier question. Don't you remember me?

    A: Questions submitted to 'Ask Aaron' all come in from the same webmail address. We can trace them to their source if we have a reason, but if you don't identify yourself as 'the guy who asked the titanium question' we may not figure out that your question was a follow-on. Our psychic abilities are weak.

  11. Q: I have an idea for a robot, but I don't want to talk about it here. Is there some way I can ask you a question about it besides here where others can see it?

    A: Send it in thru the website, include your email address, and mark it 'CONFIDENTIAL'. I'll keep it between us.

  12. Q: Are there any combat robot tournaments near where I live?

    A: Check the Builders Database for events in the US and Canada. For British events, try The Fighting Robot Association. There are also robot combat tournaments in Australia, and Brazil. Just because they aren't on TV doesn't mean they don't exist -- get out and participate!

  13. Q: Hey, why don't you put all your recordings of Robotica or BattleBots or Robot Wars on You Tube?

    A: The Team Run Amok video library contains complete recordings of every nationally televised combat robot event. We respect and honor the rights of the copyright holder for these programs. We will not place copyrighted video on the internet without permission and we do not support the efforts of those that do.

  14. Q: What exactly happened at the fight between insert name of old robot #1 and insert name of old robot #2? I know who won, but I want you to go dig the tape of the fight out of your video library, watch it, and then write up a detailed summary because I'm a HUGE FANBOY.

    A: We get variations on this question a lot. 'Ask Aaron' is not a fanboy site -- see our mission statement at the bottom of this page.

    We do not provide detailed commentary for random fights not involving our own team.
     
    We will make exceptions only for particularly controversial or educational matches.

  15. Q: I heard that BattleBots was cancelled in 2002 because Budweiser threatened to pull all their advertising from the Comedy Central network if that didn't happen. Is this true?

    A: No, but the rumor will not die. Here's what happened: during the 2002 Superbowl the Anhauser-Busch company aired a humorous Bud Light commercial that featured fictional combat robots. The robot combat community thought it was great. BattleBots, however, thought it infringed on their copyrights and filed a lawsuit. The court ruled in July of 2004 that the commerical was a fair-use parody of robot combat and dismissed the suit.

    BattleBot's action in filing the lawsuit may have damaged their reputation and injured combat robotics in a way that contributed to the show's demise, but there is nothing to suggest that Anhauser-Busch extorted Comedy Central into cancelling the TV show.

  16. Q: Where can I get really cheap combat robot parts?

    A: You're going to spend a lot of time and effort building your 'bot and going to a tournament. When some component fails in combat and puts you out of the competition, you're gonna wish you hadn't gone cheap. In particular, don't scrimp on electronics! With experience you'll learn where you can save money, but it's not gonna be on key components like speed controllers and wheel hubs.

    'Cheap' and 'Combat Robot' don't go together!

    That said, some teams are willing to use the really cheap off-brand electronics, motors, and batteries available from HobbyKing. I don't recommend their products: documentation is awful, customer service non-existant, quality control unheard of, and delivery uncertain -- use them at your own risk.

    Q: OK, where can I buy good parts to build a combat robot?

    A: A good place to start is robotmarketplace.com. If you can't find it there, you probably don't need it. Other sources:

    BaneBots
    Equals Zero Designs
    FingerTech Robotics
    Kitbots
    Robot Power
    Servo City
    Team Tiki Webstore
    Trossen Robotics

    Don't forget to support your local hobby shop!

  17. Q: What material should I use on my 'bot? How thick should it be? How can I tell if it's strong enough? Ask Aaron is not a free engineering service!

    A: 'Ask Aaron' is not a free engineering service. Even if we were, no competent engineer would spec material or thickness before knowing a great deal more about the design than you have told us. We do provide some advice and guidance on materials in our Armor Guide. Look to see what other builders with similar designs are using and learn from their experience. If it breaks, make it stronger.

    Q: What is a 'scale factor' and how does if effect combat robot design?

    A: The 'scale factor' refers to the disproportionate changes to material thickness required when a design component significantly increases or decreases in size. It is related to the Square-Cube Law.

    Consider what happens when you double the dimensions of an object:

    The volume and weight of the object increase by a factor of: height x width x depth = 2 x 2 x 2 = 23 = 8.

    The cross-sectional area and strength of structural components only increase by a factor of: height x width = 2 x 2 = 22 = 4.

    If you took the design for a successful one-pound 'antweight' combat robot and scaled up all the dimensions by a factor of six it would become a (6 x 6 x 6 =) 216-pound heavyweight -- but the strength of the shafts, armor, and fasteners would be only (6 x 6 =) 36 times as great and it would not survive in combat.

    Conversely, if you took the design for a successful 220-pound 'heavyweight' combat robot and scaled down all the dimensions by a factor of six it would become a (220 * 1/6 * 1/6 * 1/6 =) just over 1-pound antweight -- but the strength of the shafts, armor, and fasteners would be much greater than needed. Those components should be resized so that their unnecessary mass may be allocated to weapon and drive systems to make the robot more effective in combat.

  18. Q: What are the minimum radio system requirements for my robot?

    A: Radio System Requirements from the RFL Rules are widely accepted. Check with the event organizer for any variation from these requirements.

    Robots with
    passive weapons
    Minimum Radio Requirement Fail-Safe Required
    Drivetrain Weapon
    1 pound & under AM or Toy OK NO ---
    3 and 6 pound AM or Toy OK NO ---
    Hobbyweight AM or Toy OK NO ---
    30 pound & up Coded FM or Digital 900 MHz/2.4 GHz Required YES---

    Robots with
    active weapons
    Minimum Radio Requirement Fail-Safe Required
    Drivetrain Weapon
    1 pound & under FM Required NO YES
    3 and 6 pound FM Required YES YES
    Hobbyweight Coded FM or Digital 900 MHz/2.4 GHz Required YES YES
    30 pound & up Coded FM or Digital 900 MHz/2.4 GHz Required YES YES

    Spread spctrum 2.4 gHz radios have almost entirely taken over the hobby R/C market and are accepted at all combat robot tournaments -- if they failsafe correctly. When the receiver signal is lost, a correct failsafe response will shut down all robot motion -- drive motors, weapon motors, actuators, everything! There are three common responses by R/C receivers when they loose the transmitter signal:

    Unacceptable Continue to send the last position signal received before signal loss to each device -- also known as 'hold position'.

    Acceptable Stop sending any signal to the connected devices. This relies on the individual devices to correctly interpret 'no signal' as 'off'.

    Preferred Send an output signal to all connected devices that will return them to a user-set stick position (off).

    Make sure the radio and equipment you select is able to give an acceptable or preferred failsafe response!

  19. Q: I bought all the parts I need to build my robot (battery, drive motors, Electronic Speed Controller (ESC), weapon motor, weapon ESC, transmitter, receiver) but just realized I don't know how to assemble everything! Can you briefly describe how everything connects?

    A: Basic combat robot wiring. Very briefly, with a number of assumptions:

    • The power input pads for drive ESC, weapon ESC, and power indicator light connect in parallel to the battery via a plug so you can disconnect the battery to charge it. Get the polarity correct! If you want to add a charging plug, see the charging jack post.
    • Drive motors connect to the motor output tabs on the drive ESC -- weapon motor to the power output tabs on the weapon ESC.
    • Two three-wire R/C input cables attach to the drive ESC signal inputs, and one R/C cable for the weapon ESC. They may already be attached. If not, double check the correct connection of the three wires (power+, power-, and signal) -- if you get it wrong you'll fry something.
    • Drive ESC R/C cables plug into whichever channel ports you'll be using on the receiver: typically 1 and 2 if you're mixing, 2 and 3 if you're not. The weapon ESC R/C cable plugs into a spare channel of your choice.
    The receiver gets its power from the drive ESC via the R/C cable - no need for other power. Check the manual for your weapon ESC to make sure it isn't providing power to the receiver as well: if it is, you'll need to clip the power+ lead (red) on its R/C cable. If everything works, but the controls aren't correct, check the Common Robot Control Problems and Solutions section of our Radio Programming Guide.

    Q: I put the robot together but it's acting weird. It starts and stops, and control is jerky. When I turn on the weapon everything stops and twitches. What's wrong?

    A: LiPoly batteries are stored and shipped with only a partial charge. The load from your drive and weapon motors are pulling the battery voltage low and your electronics are suffering a 'brown out'. Put a full charge on your battery and try again.

  20. Q: Where do I go to learn about radio control for combat robots?

    A. You're already there:

    Q: What is an R/C Peizo Gyro and what does it do?

    A. See our Beginners Guide to Combat Robot Gyros.

  21. Q: What motors should I use for the drive on my insert weight class here robot?

    A: The motors you will need depend on the style of 'bot you're planning to build and your expectations. A 'bot with a massive weapon that just needs to push itself around the arena will need a lot less drive power than a ramming brick or wedge. It comes down to matching the power-to-weight ratio of your 'bot to the type of attack strategy you're planning.

    Some maniac builders pack way more than 100 watts of power per pound into their ram 'bots, but there really are limits to how much power can be used in a small arena. Current 'bots average around 40 to 50 watts per pound, and I've built three champion robots with less than 5 watts of power per pound, so there is a wide range of power that can be used with success.

    You'll find the Team Tentacle Torque & Amp-Hour Calculator very useful in selecting motors for your robot. It has data on most popular motors and will quickly calculate the performance of your robot with any motors, gearing, and wheel size you choose. See also our guide to Optimum Gearing for Combat Robots for help in picking the best gear ratio and wheel size to optimize the performance of your motor.

    If all else fails, find a successful robot in your weight class with a design similar to your own and blatantly copy the drive train.

    Q: How much battery capacity do I need for the drive motors in my insert weight class here robot?

    A: Current use by the drive motors depends on how heavily they are loaded. The Team Tentacle Torque & Amp-Hour Calculator will estimate the battery capacity need from the drive train specifications (type and number of motors, voltage, gearing, wheel diameter, and robot weight) for 3 and 5 minute match lengths. Give yourself a little extra capacity (~20%) to allow for unexpected conditions.

    Q: What Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) should I use?

    A: The speed controller amperage capacity requirement for your motors will depend on design factors such as:

    • robot weight;
    • wheel diameter;
    • drivetrain gear reduction;
    • battery voltage and current capacity; and
    • percentage of total weight supported by the drive axle(s).

    Once you have settled on motors and drivetrain details, the Team Tentacle Torque & Amp-Hour Calculator will calculate the peak amperage the drive motors can consume with the robot pushing at full throttle against an immoveable object [Amps (per motor) to spin wheels]. Use that number to select an ESC with suitable capacity. Give yourself a little extra capacity (~20%) to allow for unexpected conditions. The merits and deficiencies of specific ESCs are discussed in the Motors and Controllers Archive

    Q: Electronic Speed Controllers are expensive. Can I use relays or solenoid switches to control my robot?

    A: You can, but the results will be poor and you won't save much money. See the Solenoid control FAQ

  22. Q: I don't know how much power a insert motor name here has. How do I find out?

    A: If a motor supplier does not provide output power specifications for their motors, you can get an approximation of output power with the following formula:

    Peak Output (approximate watts) = Voltage * Stall Amperage * 0.25

    Brushless motors do not generally provide stall amperage figures. You can calculate stall amperage with the following formula:

    Stall Amperage = Voltage / Terminal Resistance

  23. Q: What is the difference between a brushed and a brushless motor?

    A: A brushed permanent magnet direct current (PMDC) motor has a rotating 'armature' of wire coils, typically wound around iron pole cores. The armature is positioned in a field generated by stationary permanent magnets. Electrical power applied to the wire coils by conductive 'brushes' sliding across contacts on the armature causes the coils to be repelled from one side of the permanent magnetic field and drawn toward the other, creating rotation. As the coils reach the side of the magnetic field to which they are attracted, the polarity of the applied electrical power is reversed as the rotation of the electrical contacts places them in contact with a different set of the sliding brushes. The brushes sliding across the electrical contacts create friction, wear, and inefficiency.There is a good diagram and an animation at Wikipedia: Brushed DC Electric Motor.

    A brushless PMDC motor has stationary wire coils and rotating permanent magnets. Since the coils are stationary, sliding brushes and commutator are not required -- however, the switching of electrical power to the correct coil windings must be handled by an external 'intelligent' motor controller that senses the position of the rotating permanent magnet field and adjusts the electrical polarity as needed.

    Brushless motor animation See also: Wikipedia: Brushless vs. brushed motors.

    Q: What is the difference between an 'inrunner' and an 'outrunner' brushless motor?

    A: If the rotating magnets are outside the wire coils, the motor is an 'outrunner' or 'rotating can' design. If the rotating magnets are surrounded by the wire coils, it is called an 'inrunner'. An inrunner motor generally spins faster and produces less torque than a comparable outrunner.

    Q: Should I use a brushed or brushless motor for my robot?

    A: Hobby brushless motors are generally designed for model aircraft or R/C racecars. They pack a great deal of power into a package smaller and lighter than comparably powerful brushed motors. They are able to do this only by operating high up in their RPM range in their peak efficiency zone.

    Combat Robots typically spend a good portion of their matches pushing hard with their tires spinning and the motors bogged down well into the mid to low RPM range. Under these conditions brushless motors will rapidly overheat and 'melt down' due to their low mass and the small cooling surface area provided by their diminutive size. It is also a challenge to find brushless ESCs that can provide smooth low-speed operation. In general, we consider brushless motors to be 'experimental' for combat robot drivetrains.

    There is an area, however, where brushless motors can and are used in combat robots; they are commonly used to power 'spinner' weapons. In these applications the motor spends relatively little time accelerating the weapon up to speed and most of the time under low load at high RPM simply maintaining the weapon's rotation. If the weapon motor is quickly shut down when the weapon is stalled, a brushless motor can be a good choice for a rotary weapon.

  24. Q: Can brushless Electronic Speed Controllers for brushless motors be used with brushed motors and vice versa?

    A: Short answer - no. Speed controllers for brushed and brushless motors are very different in design and cannot be interchanged.

    It is possible to laboriously decode and rewrite the software controlling a brushless ESC to enable use with brushed motors, and there are a very few 'dual purpose' ESCs that can be switched between brushed and brushless operation. These are exceptions.

    Q: How do I reprogram brushless motor controllers to add reverse and make them useable for brushless drive motors? Is it easy?

    A: Builder Robert Cowan has a nice video that covers the entire process of 'flashing' the reversing SimonK firmware onto brushless ESCs. I wouldn't call it either simple or easy: SimonK Firmware Flashing Tutorial.

  25. Q: How much can I overvolt a insert motor name here?

    A: It is common practice in combat robotics to run weapon and drive motors at higher voltages than they are rated in order to obtain greater power. How far a motor can be overvolted depends in part on how much load is placed on it. If allowed to bog down close to stall, an overvolted motor will not survive long. Better results will be obtained by setting up gearing and wheel diameter so the motor can provide enough torque to spin the wheels before it slows below about half the free RPM of the motor. The Team Tentacle Torque & Amp-Hour Calculator can help you select wheel sizes that will keep the amp load reasonable at elevated voltages.

    Also, be aware that while motors from industrial equipment will usually take a large voltage increase in stride, high performance hobby motors are already being stretched about as far as they can go on voltage and will have a very short life if pressed higher.

  26. Q: What type of combat robot weapon is best?

    A: If there was one type of weapon that was 'best', everyone would be using it. Although the highest ranked combat robots generally use high-powered spinning weapons, those teams are very experienced and well financed builders. Overall, you might be surprised by what weapons win the most matches.

    Q: I want to build a robot that combines a insert weapon type 1 and insert weapon type 2. Is that a good idea?

    A: If you split your weight allowance between two weapons, neither will be strong enough to be effective. It has been tried many times. Commit to a single weapon type.

  27. Q: Is insert weapon type here a legal combat robot weapon?

    A: Check the current Robot Fighting League rules for details on allowable weapons.

  28. Q: Would it be a good idea to make a insert weight class here with a flame weapon that would fry the competition?

    How does insert flamebot name here's flame weapon work?

    A: You can search the Robot Weapons archive for 'flame' to find our many previous posts on flame weapons. Briefly:

    • Flame weapons are ineffective in any weight class.
    • Flame weapons are built by very experienced builders who just want to show off.
    • We will not discuss flame weapon construction here because we don't want novice builders hurting themselves.
    • By the time you are experienced enough to safely build a flame weapon you won't need to ask us how to do it.
    • That flamebot that you're about to tell me is successful was built by a very experienced and well financed team and would be just as successful without the flame weapon.

  29. Q: I'm building a spinner weapon that weighs insert weight here and spins at insert RPM here.

    • What motor should I use?
    • How much battery capacity will it need for a match?
    • Will the weapon be effective in insert weight class here competition?

    A: 'Ask Aaron' gets a lot of questions about designing spinning weapons for combat robots. I've gone thru the archives and pulled together a selection of Q&A that should answer the most common spinner questions. See: the Team Run Amok Spinner FAQ.

  30. Q: Does insert robot combat team name here still or ever have a website?

    A: Pretty much everybody has or had websites. Here's my trick:

    Some pictures may be missing from any given 'snapshot', so sort thru a few to find the best. Most links in the archived site will still work, so click away!

  31. Q: Where can I find the combat record for insert combat robot name here?

    A. Complete combat records for north american robots can be found at BotRank. Enter the robot's name, then click on its 'history' link.

    Full tournament trees for the major robot competitions can be found at the Team Run Amok tournament results webpage.

  32. Q: What ever happened to insert name of obscure old robot that fought only once and lost?

    A: More than 4000 robots have fought in organized combat events in North America alone. Most of these robots have uninteresting stories -- they were built, they fought, they lost, and their builders moved on. We have very little interest in most of these obscure robots, but if you are interested and willing to dig thru old website archives and combat records, see the two questions immediately above.

    We get so many variations on this question that I've started entertaining myself by playing 'Mad Libs' with the answer:

    '[obscure old robot]' fought a single match at the [name and date of event] and lost. Depressed, '[obscure old robot]' made its way to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and leapt off - only to land on the deck of a freighter bound for [a third-world country]. After hitching a ride into [capitol city], '[obscure old robot]' worked as a [low-level job title] in a [type of business] for several years and saved every penny until it had enough money to open a small [type of proprietor-owned business]. It married a lovely girl named [female name] and had four children: a girl, two boys, and a [type of small metallic object]. The family is doing well.

    You can read the complete collection of 'Obscure Robot Mad Libs' about half-way down in Aaron's Greatest Hits.

    If you are interested in stories from early robot combat, drop whatever you're doing and go find a copy of 'Gearheads: the turbulent rise of robotic sports' by Brad Stone. Great reading!

  33. Q: Who do you think would win if insert robot name #1 ever fought insert robot name #2?

    A: We don't predict fantasy matches not involving our own robots. In fantasy matches involving our robots, we always win

  34. Aaron Joerger holding trophy at TLC Discovery Robotica, 2001 Q: Your photo at the top of the Ask Aaron home page is really old! When are you going to replace it?

    A: I'll replace it when I win a bigger trophy.

    Q: If Robotica ever gets rebooted, would you create a new version of Run Amok and compete in honor of Aaron?

    A: Mark J. here: much though Aaron enjoyed competing, he had a greater love of helping people and sharing his knowledge. I believe that Team Run Amok has had a beneficial impact on combat robotics through our efforts to support combat robot builders, and I believe that continuing with those efforts is the best public way for us to honor Aaron.

    I would be pleased to support the production of a Robotica reboot, but our team lost its competitive heart. We will not return to competition.

  35. Q: Our Robocup robot can see in all directions and it is attracted to a red ball i.e. it drives to it. At the same time it is repelled from blue walls, i.e. when it comes too close to it, it moves backwards. Now assume the red ball lies in front of the blue wall. Describe the resulting behavior! Can you enhance on it? How?

    A: We get this same question, word for word, several times a year. Could you slackers at least re-word your class assignment before you send it in to us?

    The behavior is classic approach / avoidance -- the robot will effectively 'lock up' and do nothing. The common solution adopted in sumo robots is to lock out the edge detection routines whenever the object detectors report you're heading toward your opponent.

    Your Robocup robot can use a similar strategy: if the red ball is in your path, override the blue wall avoidance routine AND move toward the ball. A more sophisticated approach would utilize an elevated video camera looking down on the field to verify the relative positions of the wall and ball and determine action accordingly.

  36. Q: Does insert name love me?

    A: Beats me, but we love people who ask questions about combat robots.

  37. Q: Why are you no longer accepting questions about UK Robot Wars events or competitors?

    A: Mark J. here: for many years Aaron and I did our best to answer any and all questions on the broad topic of robot combat. A few years ago we were flooded with a large volume of trivial UK Robot Wars questions that were well outside the mission and focus of this website. 'Ask Aaron' is not a 'fanboy' site and we are not interested in investing our time in this area. We regret having to cut off all UK Robot Wars questions, but the fanboys proved themselves to be both persistent and quite rude.

  38. Q: How do you build a safe robot combat arena?

    A: I know of two resources:

    • The Robot Fighting League (US) provides an RFL 'Resources' page (archived) with drawings and a materials list for an arena designed for 60 pound robots. The page also provides guidance on robot safety inspection and match judging.
    • The Fighting Robot Association (UK) has a comprehensive FRA Guide to Event Safety (PDF) that includes arena specifications and procedures for events of differing weight classes and weapon types.


Mission Statement

  • The Ask Aaron site exists to support builders of combat robots with information, design tools, and advice based on our robot competition experience. We are not a free engineering service, and we won't do your homework for you.

  • As a secondary service we are pleased to share our knowledge about what goes on 'behind the scenes' and 'in the pits' at competitions, our views on issues important to the sport, and information we have uncovered while researching the history of robot combat.

  • Questions on robot topics outside these areas will be answered on a lower priority basis.

Design Philosophy

A combat robot is a tool for defeating other robots. The best tools are simple, reliable, and easy to use.

Team Motto

Complex design is easy - simple takes work.

It greatly saddens me to announce that my son, Aaron Joerger, died very suddenly on the afternoon of October 18th, 2013 of an apparent pulmonary embolism. He was 22 years old. Aaron's obituary.

The 'Ask Aaron' project was important to Aaron, and I have decided to continue the site in his memory. Thank you for the many kind messages of sympathy and support that have found their way to me.

- Mark Joerger, Team Run Amok


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