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Top Ten Questions Answered


I'm interested in Robotic Combat, but don't know where to start. Any suggestions?

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.
Check it out!

2. What 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!

3. How 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 cost.

Don't think you can do this robot stuff for free.

4. Cool, 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:

5. Are 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?"

6. Hey dude! How should I build my robot?


7. Sorry, but can't you just give me an overview of how the building process occurs?

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!

8. How 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 so.

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 next year.

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.

What 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

Most competitors 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 here.)

10. Now what?

This should be plenty to push you on your way - now get to work!



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