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Questions and Answers about Combat Robotics
from Team Run Amok

The 'Ask Aaron' 15th Anniversary 'Mad Lib' Contest
 

Team Run Amok started 'Ask Aaron' in 2003 to answer the occasional robot combat question sent to our team. Fifteen years and 6250 questions later we're still here and still fielding a very broad range of practical, theoretical, arcane, obscure, and sometimes just plain silly questions.

In 2013, Aaron had taken to adding haiku to the end of his answers to questions on his namesake webpage. This lead us to celebrate that year's 10th anniversary of 'Ask Aaron'with a Robot Haiku Contest. For this year's 15th anniversary I've reached a little farther back into the history of 'Ask Aaron' for inspiration.


The Story
Late in 2009, Aaron tired of answering a nearly constant stream of "What ever happened to..." questions about obscure robots that fought once, lost, and were never heard from again. Out of this frustration Aaron developed what would become the most celebrated feature of 'Ask Aaron': The Obscure Robot Mad Lib

FAQ #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 FAQ questions #30 and #31.

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.

We fill in the blanks with appropriate words and phrases, and it comes out like this:

Q: What happend to 'Boy Howdy'?

A: Middleweight 'Boy Howdy' fought one match at the '95 US Robot Wars and lost to 'La Machine'. Depressed, 'Boy Howdy' 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 Myanmar. After hitching a ride into Rangoon, 'Boy Howdy' worked as a juice squeezer at a roadside drink stand for several years and saved every penny until he had enough money to open a small barber shop. He married a lovely girl named Mintaya and had four children: a girl, two boys, and a master cylinder. The family is doing well.

You can read the complete collection of 'Obscure Robot Mad Libs' in Aaron's Greatest Hits.


The Contest
Our readers and staff have enjoyed having The Obscure Robot Mad Lib available for quick and entertaining responses to a common question, even though some readers enjoy it so much that they will submit a 'What ever happened to..." question just to trigger the response. I think it would be great if we had a new 'Mad Lib' to answer other common combat robot questions, so for the 15th anniversary of 'Ask Aaron' we are sponsoring a Mad Lib contest:

The Rules
  1. Read thru the Ask Aaron FAQ for inspiration, then come up with a common combat robot question that could be well answered by a 'Mad Lib' response.
  2. Write up your new 'Mad Lib' template in the same format used in the 'Obscure Robot Mad Lib' FAQ entry above. Keep it short - around 100 words is good - and keep it 'familly friendly' for our readership.
  3. Do not just fill in the existing template; we're looking for new templates to answer other common robot combat questions.
  4. Send in your 'Mad Lib' by pasting it into the form conveniently located immediately below these rules. You may enter as many times as you like.
  5. One winner will be selected based on our entirely subjective evaluation of the ability of the 'Mad Lib' to answer the selected FAQ question with humor and poise. Our decision is final, so no whinging.
  6. One prize of Ten Billion Dollars (10,000,000,000) in the form of a genuine Zimbabwean Banknote in that amount will be delivered to the winner's home address by a uniformed courier. Alternately, the winner may choose the sum of fifty (50) US dollars to be delivered via PayPal. The winner's name will also be added to the 'Combat Robot Hall of Fame' -- in a very small font... in a pale color... and well hidden.
  7. Boring Details All entries that we consider appropriate for our readership will be published and credited on this webpage. By entering your 'Mad Lib' you grant us license to publish your entry and your name, and to use your 'Mad Lib' to answer questions submitted to the 'Ask Aaron' webpages should we choose to do so. We ask for your email only for the purpose of contacting should you win -- we will not contact you for other reasons and we will not share your email with anyone. The contest closes March 31st, 2018 at 11:59 PM, Pacific Standard Time.

The Entries

Sean McCartin - FAQ #4

I am the mystic genie of combat robot fortune! I can predict what will be the most powerful and unbeatable design for you! I recommend you make your robot [unusual shape]-shaped and use [unusual material] to armor it. It should be [excessively large or small dimensions], and be armed with [a/an] [unusual and/or illegal weapon]. You should use [unusual drive motors] for your drive motors and [unusual weapon motor or actuator, relevant to weapon type] to power your weapon. Your srimech should be [a/an] [unusual mechanical device]. Follow my advice and you will win many battles and reach the top rank of your robot's weight class!


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 'Pork Chop Jr.' to crush the opposition and never be beaten? How do I add a self-righting mechanism?

A: I am the mystic genie of combat robot fortune! I can predict what will be the most powerful and unbeatable design for you! I recommend you make your robot diamond-shaped and use rawhide to armor it. It should be two kilometers wide by half an angstom long, and be armed with a hand grenade. You should use hamster wheels for your drive motors and a slingshot to throw the grenade. Your SRiMech should be the hamsters that jump out of the wheels. Follow my advice and you will win many battles and reach the top rank of your robot's weight class!

Adrien Susino - Robot Update

[Robot Name] is looking forward to quit its job as a [random job] and spend more time with the family. If you are talking about the next [robot competition], [Robot Name] plans to have a better [type of robot weapon] and maybe a minibot named [random name].


Q: What will 'Pork Chop Jr.' change for the next Rocket City Robot Assault?

A: 'Pork Chop Jr.' is looking forward to quit its job as a Starbucks barrista to spend more time with the family. If you are talking about the next Rocket City Robot Assault, 'Pork Chop Jr.' plans to have a better lawn rake and maybe a minibot named 'Festus'.

West Coast Spinner - FAQ #16

Do what all the 'cool' builders do...

[Use all of the following that apply to the required component]

  1. Go to [Chinese hobby supply website] and search for [critical robot component].
  2. Sniff suspiciously at the specifications, then order the cheapest one they have.
  3. Wait [random number] weeks for it to arrive, or longer if it's [Chinese holiday].
  4. Open the box to see if what they shipped looks anything like what you ordered.
  5. Download a new user manual for [critical robot component] because it was revised [random numer] times before it shipped.
  6. Throw the manual away because it's an indecipherable collection of [mild expletive] that makes your head hurt.
  7. Flash the latest firmware onto [critical robot component] 'cause old firmware sucks.
  8. If flashing fails and bricks the [critical robot component], go back to step two and order a couple more.
  9. Flash the original firmware back onto the [critical robot component] because the new firmware turns it into a [similar component] for a [non-robot hobby device].
  10. Post to [on-line robot forum] to see if anyone knows how to get [critical robot component] to stop [something annoying] and [critical function].
Write back and let me know how this works out for you.
Q: I need a brushless speed controller for my hobbyweight robot 'Pork Chop Jr.' but I only have $300 to spend on the whole robot and can't waste it all on the electronics. What do you recommend?

A: Do what all the 'cool' builders do...

  1. Go to Hobby King and search for brushless speed controllers.
  2. Sniff suspiciously at the specifications, then order the cheapest one they have.
  3. Wait three weeks for it to arrive, or longer if it's the Lunar New Year.
  4. Open the box to see if what they shipped looks anything like what you ordered.
  5. Download a new user manual for this ESC because it was revised three times before it shipped.
  6. Throw the manual away because it's an indecipherable collection of poo that makes your head hurt.
  7. Flash the latest firmware onto the speed controller 'cause old firmware sucks.
  8. If flashing fails and bricks the controller, go back to step two and order a couple more.
  9. Flash the original firmware back onto the ESC because the new firmware turns it into a peizo gyro for a quadcopter.
  10. Post to reddit/battlebots to see if anyone knows how to get the bloody thing to stop beeping and calibrate.
Write back and let me know how this works out for you.

Huge Fanboy - FAQ #14

Whoa, what an awesome fight! [old robot #1], obviously much larger and more powerful, got in the first hit and knocked [old robot #2] across the arena. Then [old robot #1] stood on [old robot #2]'s foot and used him as a punching bag. It was looking bad for [old robot #2], when suddenly a can of [something that comes in a can] popped out of [old robot #2]'s [part of a robot] and rolled over to the [an arena hazard] that ripped open the can and sent a spout of [the stuff that comes in a can] arcing across the arena and straight into [old robot #2]'s charging port.

A trumpet fanfare rang out and [old robot #2]'s [weapon on old robot #2] grew really huge and started spinning mega fast. [old robot #2] went airborne and flew faster and faster around the arena, then the whole robot turned into a blockbuster bomb with a fist on the end and dove down onto [old robot #1]. There was a huge [loud sound effect] and a thick cloud of smoke. When the smoke cleared, [old robot #2] and his skinny girlfriend were standing over the crumpled chassis of [old robot #1]. [old robot #2] sang a little sea chanty, tooted on his pipe, and his girlfriend kissed him.

To tell the truth I didn't actually find a video of that fight, but I did find an old Popeye cartoon on VHS. What I remember of the robot fight you wanted went pretty much the same way.


Q: What exactly happened at the fight between 'Squeeky McGee' and 'Pork Chop Jr.'? 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: Whoa, what an awesome fight! 'Squeeky McGee', obviously much larger and more powerful, got in the first hit and knocked 'Pork Chop Jr.' across the arena. Then Squeeky stood on Pork Chop Jr's foot and used him as a punching bag. It was looking bad for little Pork Chop, when suddenly a can of spinach popped out of PCJ's battery compartment and rolled over to an arena buzzsaw that ripped open the can and sent a spout of spinach arcing across the arena and straight into Pork Chop Jr's charging port.

A trumpet fanfare rang out and Pork Chop Jr's single toothed disk grew really huge and started spinning mega fast. PC Jr. went airborne and flew faster and faster around the arena, then the whole robot turned into a blockbuster bomb with a fist on the end and dove down onto Squeeky McGee. There was a huge 'KABOOM' and a thick cloud of smoke. When the smoke cleared, Pork Chop Jr. and his skinny girlfriend were standing over the crumpled chassis of Squeeky McGee. Pork Chop Jr. sang a little sea chanty, tooted on his pipe, and his girlfriend kissed him.

To tell the truth I didn't actually find a video of that fight, but I did find an old Popeye cartoon on VHS. What I remember of the robot fight you wanted went pretty much the same way.


And the winner is...

Ian McMahon - Asian Robot Combat

After losing all of its matches at [Name of Event], [Name of Robot] fled to India where it competed in cage matches for thousands of Rupees. After crippling a [Job at a University] at IIT [Indian City], it got a job on a Chinese TV show where [Chinese Actor/Actress] drove it into the hazards. Depressed and now missing [Robot Part(s)], it went drinking at a KTV where it met a girl from [Chinese Province]. Returning home with her, [Name of Robot] settled down to life as a [Job in China].


Q: How did 'Pork Chop Jr.' end up fighting in China? What happened to it there?

A: After losing all of its matches at Rocket City Robot Assault, 'Pork Chop Jr.' fled to India where it competed in cage matches for thousands of Rupees. After crippling a Professor at IIT Goa, it got a job on a Chinese TV show where Zhang Yimou drove it into the hazards. Depressed and now missing a wheel, it went drinking at a KTV where it met a girl from Xinjiang. Returning home with her, 'Pork Chop Jr.' settled down to life as a Goat Herder.

Editor's note a 'KTV' is a Chinese karaoke, but they ain't like a stateside karaoke bar.
Ian anticipated a new category of question, matched the style of our existing Mad Lib, popped in plenty of variability to keep it fresh, and slid in a reference to a KTV. I couldn't ask for much more.

Ian's prize is on its way. He didn't want to speculate on Zimbabwean currency, so he picked good ol' US dollars. I've already hidden his name in the 'Combat Robot Hall of Fame' -- let's see how long it takes him to find it.




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Copyright 2018 by Mark Joerger -- all rights reserved.