EVENT REPORT: CIRC (Central Illinois Robotics Club)
BotBrawl November 6th, 2005

This event report will be rather short as I spent the majority of the time mingling with builders and such rather then paying much attention to the competition itself. I am convinced that the most fun you can have at a robotic combat event all takes place in the pits without a doubt. This is something I wanted to do differently this year as last year it was very crowded and I was very busy thus unable to mingle like I hoped. This year the event was much smaller and we had some breathing room. It felt much more laid back and was lots of fun. Even though I had significant bot problems, It was still an awesome day.

Just like the year before when I came to this same event with tOBOR, I spent the previous night at a hotel so as to avoid the long drive that early in the morning. I am now currently a freshmen at Valparaiso University so my parents picked me up after classes on Friday and we spent the night in Peoria. Before heading down I used my dorm's "gym" as a testing arena for Phalanx destroying some random stuff. (Side note: Working on a bot in a small cramped dorm before an event is not recommended) I was feeling good about its performance but was concerned about the heat produced by the weapon motor and ESC. This had been a problem for quite some time and I took a few precautions to help but they accomplished little. I was a little uneasy about how Phalanx would perform at the event with this problem. Unlike at last year's event, my bot did not become severely damaged the night before at the hotel room while testing. I did however forgot to pack my spare weapon motors. I was freaked out about this as I was probably going to need them. Turns out I didn't but that doesn't mean things went well.

I arrived at the competition early so as to get a good pit spot. Last year I ended up working on a piano in the corner but that was not a problem this year. There was practically no one there at all. Despite the registration being filled to the maximum 25 bots allowed, only about 16 showed up. It was still fun though, some mean spinners and interesting bots were there along with the modified BB toys and such. Unfortunately Arsenic didn't make it and for the most part there were no especially deadly looking ants which I would have to face. Things were looking good. That is until my first fight. I won't give a very specific explanation of who I fought and how it played out seeing as I really don't remember. Below you will find random shots my parents took during the competition usually of nothing in particular.

I'm called to the box for my first fight and I was very excited. This was gonna be my first match with an active weapon and I was very excited about using my blade on another bot rather then just random garbage. My opponent was a thwack bot built off the BB custom series frame. It was a very quick robot which worried me. I needed some time to spin up my weapon and he may not let me have it. The match started and I spun up. I hit him again, and again, and again, and again. I seemed to tweak his wedge pretty good but for the most part I was unable to inflict any significant damage. I wanted so bad to take a nice big bite out of those huge foam wheels of his but my blade just wouldn't bite into them. He was still mobile but clearly having some issues. I was in control for the most part although not doing a whole lot of damage.

Then it happened. My weapon shut off. I figured the weapon motor was dead or maybe even the weapon ESC. I continued to attack him figuring I could just push him into the pit instead but when I pushed the stick forward nothing happened. My whole bot was dead. Uh-oh! Then I heard someone in the audience yell "smoke!" and sure enough smoke began seeping out of Phalanx. I tapped out and quickly opened the door to recover my bot. As I did so, a wave of stench hit me. I recognized the smell; melting plastic. I knew right then that my lithium pack was very sick. Fearing the worse I grabbed my bot which was still belching smoke and hissing. I went to turn it off but the switch wouldn't move. I had no choice but to run outside, quickly unscrew the top and yank out the bloated hissing pack which had melted its connectors together. That pack sat outside on the concrete for the rest of the competition. I was convinced it was going to flame up. Luckily it never did. I went back inside to inspect the damage. The weapon motor and ESC were very hot and the frame was melted at several spots. Luckily the drive ESC and motors were fine but the weapon motor and ESC were questionable. I looked it over and was shocked to see multiple wires that had melted through their insulation and shorted with their adjacent leads. It was not a pretty sight. Luckily I had another battery and got ready for my next fight without an active weapon.

I fashioned some very pathetic wedges and zip tied the blade in place. I was determined to keep going as long as I could. Turns out my drive system was perfectly fine still and I was able to push my next two opponents into the pit for two wins. I may not have had a weapon but my drive was still competitive and the frame survived multiple hits from one of my opponent's spinning blade. I then faced Evil Doorstop who knocked me out of the comp last year with tOBOR and sure enough he knocked me out this year too. That concludes this competition. Phalanx went 2-2 which I was very happy with especially considering that Phalanx was forced to continue as a measly pushy bot for most of the competition. I learned a lot from Phalanx and have already begun designing my next bot. I can't wait to have another go.

After looking over Phalanx post-competition I'm confident that the gearing on my weapon was indeed too weak. The weapon motor was simply drawing too much current and the battery could not take it. In future designs I will be sure to protect the motor better from these types of stresses and also look into batteries rated for higher discharge rates.

Pictures from the competition: