Run Amok Combat Robotics Battbotica Wars: True Stories From the Pits of Robotic Combat Tournaments
Do you think robot combat is all guts and glory? Keep reading...
You obtain and read a copy of the official rules. They change almost daily until 7 weeks before the event, and your design undergoes three major revisions.
You build your robot, crate it up, and are ready ship it and all of your tools three weeks prior to the event. There are last minute changes to the safety requirements which require you to locate and purchase a specialized device at considerable cost. The device will not fit. You wait a full day for the delivery truck to arrive and pick-up your crate.
You get on an airplane and fly non-stop for 12 hours. The plane is crowded and the seats immediately behind you are occupied by pre-school children who never tire of kicking your seat back.
You find your own way from the airport to the hotel, which will be on a busy street in a rowdy section of town. The desk clerk does not speak English, although she will pretend to.
The public transit system takes you to within 100 yards of the venue, but due to inexplicable street closures you have to walk half a mile around three sides of the huge building to the entrance. When you get there, the door is locked.
When you eventually get into the venue, your robot is not there. No one can tell you where it is. Perhaps it will arrive on the next shipment from the warehouse. Three randomly selected robots have been lost forever. Six more have significant shipping damage.
There is a very good public address system. It cannot be heard from the pit area. You can, however, hear every beat of the ear-splitting music system. The lights flick on and off randomly, and the air conditioning system blasts alternating hot and cold air without any relation to the comfort of the arena occupants.
The power plugs in the pits are the wrong voltage, the wrong cycles, and have incompatible plugs. The promised converters are nowhere to be found. When the converters do arrive, they have insufficient capacity to operate your battery charger. You attempt to charge the robot’s main batteries by forcing electrons into them by hand.
Another late safety requirement renders every team’s pneumatic pressure tanks illegal. A number of legal tanks are available, in extremely non-standard sizes and with non-standard threads. You will be able to cobble together a system by use of five to seven non-pressure-rated brass adapter pieces. You pressurize the system for the first time in the test area with your left hand while hiding behind a post. It holds, but your CO2 capacity has been cut by about half. The expensive and hard-to-locate part you acquired before you left is not needed.
You line up for lunch and are handed a white cardboard box. After examining the contents of the box, you decide to eat the box and use the contents for packing material.
There is one bathroom for men and one for women. The one you need to use is locked. There is a line for the other with about a 40-minute wait. When you get in, there is no toilet paper.
Your robot was located and delivered to your pit while you were in the bathroom line. The odd-frequency R/C crystals needed for the country you are in have also been delivered. You pop them in and discover that they are useless – they sent you single conversion crystals instead of double conversion you need. You will spend the rest of the day wandering from pit table to pit table scrounging a pair of useable crystals.
Due to a miscommunication with security, none of the robot teams are allowed into the audience area to view the matches. You discover that you can just get a glimpse of one half of the arena by standing on an equipment crate at one end of the pits. After two matches, someone comes and removes the crate. The miscommunication takes two days to resolve.
Everyone you talk to denies that there is any schedule for upcoming matches. You are advised to sit by your robot at your pit table and be ready to go. Nothing else happens the first day.
You return exhausted to your hotel room, and are kept up for hours by the team next door who are having a loud and physically violent argument about who’s fault it is that their ‘bot completely sucked. The police arrive and quiet them down at 3:30 AM.
The next day, you arrive early at the venue and find several discarded copies of remarkably accurate match schedules – for the previous day. You send your youngest team member (age 10) into the production tent to spy. He snags a copy of today's schedule information, but takes three hours to return because he stops by everyone else’s table on the way back to share the info.
You’re set for your first match. A TV executive has decided that stretching the main tournament over more than one hour-long show would be ‘boring’, so the first round is changed to a 6-robot melee. Half of the ‘bots are completely destroyed in the first round of this format. Your ‘bot survives only because one of the Mobile Arena Hazards falls over onto it, providing protection and crushing it only a little.
You stay up all night repairing the crushed robot. You finish just in time to participate in the ‘special event’. About a minute into the event, the same Mobile Arena Hazard that fell on you the day before rushes up behind your ‘bot, picks it up without provocation, and throws it out of the arena. It makes for an exciting three seconds of television in the version of the match that eventually airs.
You crate up your robot to ship it home. Laundromats seem to be illegal in this part of the world, so you pack up all your dirty clothes in the shipping crate to avoid stinking up your luggage. When the crate arrives back at your house (some weeks later), your robot smells like dirty underwear – and your underwear smells like robot.
There is a 'wrap party' thrown by the production company. You're looking forward to it, because you're very fond of the beer from this country. At the party, you discover to your horror that they have imported French beer.
...and the newest wrinkle in combat robotics:
You build a new 'bot, crate it up, and send it and all your tools off. Twenty-four hours before you're set to board your international flight (non-refundable ticket) you get a call telling you that the event has been cancelled because they didn't sell enough tickets. You miss the next two regional events waiting for your 'bot to be shipped back.