The Student News Site of De La Salle Institute

The Dark Side of Robotics: Combat Robotics

The doors close, the countdown begins, and sparks fly. For three minutes, the two machines will clash until one of them is disabled or destroyed. This is the world of robotic combat, the part of robotics they don’t often tell you about. Instead of building machines to move ping-pong balls or climb stairs, we build machines meant to turn aluminum, steel, and titanium into piles of scrap metal.

There are quite a few ways to disable your opponent whether it is flipping them over or tearing chunks out of their body until there is nothing left. If neither robot is destroyed or disabled in the three minutes, the match goes to a panel of judges who decide the winner based on aggression, strategy, control, and damage.

Rules: The rules are dependent on the competition, but here are some of the common ones:

  • No liquid weapons such as liquid nitrogen and napalm or anything that could leave a hard-to-clean-up mess in the arena
  • No EMP generators or anything designed to short another robot with an electric current
  • No devices designed to blind the other driver such as lasers or strobe lights
  • No nets, fishing line, ball bearings, or fishing line, or similar devices

Weight Classes: Robots have a weight limit they must meet before the competition. Some of the common classes are listed below:

  • 1 pound: Antweight
  • 3 pounds: Beetleweight
  • 6 pounds: Mantis
  • 12 pounds: Hobbyweight
  • 30 pounds: Featherweight
  • 60 pounds: Lightweight
  • 120 pounds: Middleweight
  • 220 pounds: Heavyweight
  • 250 pounds: Heavyweight (ABC Reboot of BattleBots)
  • 340 pounds: Superheavyweight

A robot can weigh more than the weight limit if it uses some form of walking for locomotion or shuffling cams. However, this is competition dependent.

Types of Robots: As mentioned above, there are many ways to disable or destroy your opponent. Some of the common types are listed below:

Wedge(s): These are the simplest bots. They are equipped with a wedge deigned to get robots on top of them and drive them into arena walls. They don’t usually get knockouts but can win a judge’s decision quite easily through control of the match.

Lifter: These bots consist of an arm or some other mechanism designed to lift an opponent off its wheels and tilt it over. If the opponent is not invertible, lifters can score some quick knockouts.

Flippers/Launchers: These are lifters on steroids. They usually use compressed air to store energy before using that energy to launch robots into the air. They usually are powerful enough to twist the frame of an opponent depending on where they hit.

Horizontal Spinner: They are the most destructive robots you will see. They spin a bar, ring, flywheel, or shell at high speed before unloading the kinetic energy on the target. However, they can suffer from reliability issues and usually cannot self-right if flipped over (usually flipped by a wedge deflecting the force of impact back into it).

Vertical Spinner: Similar to horizontal spinners, they spin a drum (hallow metal cylinder), bar, or flywheel at high speed to damage its opponent. As the name implies, the weapon spins upwards or downwards rather than sideways. While it can be flipped by wedges, the issue isn’t nearly as extreme as with horizontal spinners. However, it does produce gyroscopic forces when it spins up which can make it difficult to drive.

Grapplers: Grapplers use a combination of a lifter and a clamp to grab opponents and flip them over or drive them into arena hazards more reliably than a wedge. They work extremely well against opponents without an active weapon but often lose to horizontal spinners.

Hammers/Axes: These bots swing an overhead hammer or axe at high speeds to slam into an opponent before resetting. Hammers can dispose of any opponent that lacks decent top armor, but they can also be defeated by any of the other types of robots seen in this article. They are usually powered by compressed air or a quick electric discharge.

Crushers: These bots apply large amounts of force to a very small point to break through the armour and crush internal components. The parts to make them are often heavy and aren’t seen in weight classes lower than heavyweight.

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