Motorama 05
Motorama 2006
2006 Nationals
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Franklin 07
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2006 Nationals

The 2006 RFL National Championships were held in Minneapolis on the 11th of August and hosted by the Midwest Robotics league and Mechwars.

The Original intention was that there would be a four day event. The first two days were to be a "Last Chance" competition to allow robots who had not qualified earlier in the season to have a chance to compete in the finals. The last two days were to be the finals themselves. The events had to be organised at fairly short notice and as a result the numbers of competitors entered for both competitions were not sufficient so the two competitions were rolled into one and held on Saturday 11th August.

We entered three robots. CheepShot 3.0 and Surgical Strike in the 12lb weight class and Xhilarating impaX in the 30's.

CheepShot was trying out new "Mabuchi" motors fitted to the existing Harbor Freight gearboxes. Whilst fitting these new motors we found out why the bot had always had a bad habit of pulling to the left. It turned out the two 12v HF motors used were not identical and one ran faster than the other.  The new motors are pretty nearly neutrally timed so the bot now drives in a straight line with a lot less effort. The two Victors have been replaced with a Scorpion XL from Robot Power and we upped the voltage to 18v. The Scorpion XL is a lot cheaper than a pair of Victors, weighs less and with its over temp and current limiting, built in battery eliminator circuit and mixer it make wiring the bot a lot simpler and means we can swap out the ESC in seconds rather than the 10- 20 minutes it would taken before. This freed up a spare pair of victors for use in Xhilarating impaX.

CheepShot 3.0 at the Nationals

Our new 12lb bar spinner, Surgical Strike, was modified to correct the few problems we had found at Motorama earlier in the year. The first change was to a new 14.75" Ti weapon Blade with 4140 steel teeth. Billy Moon machined the bar and teeth on his wonderful new CNC milling machine. The new bar increased the KE by about 75% and saved about a pound in weight. We also replaced the cheap 50A relay with a Jeti 70A ESC and replaced one of the Banebots drive ESCs (turns out we were drawing too much current from its BEC to power the relay and toasted it. Luckily for us this happened after we got back from Moto!)

The other big change was the addition of a rollover bar similar to and blatantly copied from "Totally Offensive".  We had some new brackets for mounting this welded to the chassis. The hoop was made from two layers of thin polycarbonate fastened together and a spar at the top stops the bot from balancing on its rear face. It worked well in the workshop but we couldn't try it out much before the Comp.

Other changes were the use of a new 2.4Ghz Spektrum DX6 radio which allowed us to bury the RX up in the nose of the Bot and still get good reception.  This allow the 18v Battlepack to be moved back a bit transferring some more weight to the drive wheels. The Weapon ESC was mounted on top of the bot to keep it cool.

Surgical Strike with its new Blade (note the missing teeth.....) and rollover bar.

Our 30lber Xhilarating impaX 2.0 had suffered some damage at the hands of Totally Offensive at Motorama including badly cracked top and bottom Lexan panels and a mysterious ESC problem.

I replaced the top and bottom panels, this time in 1/4" Aluminium, using the originals as templates and at the same time removed one of the internal bulkheads to give more space inside. The ESC problem turned out to be a failed "booster" cable. I sent all four of my working Victors to Mike Phillips to get the no-booster modification and new cases.

I then assembled two completely identical sets of ESCs complete with colour coded powerpole connectors and mounted them on foam backed pieces of Lexan. At Motorama we had toasted one Victor and ended up out of the competition when we could not properly repair the electronics in the time we had between fights even after a postponement. Now I could swap out both Victors and 75% of the the wiring in about 5 minutes. I also carefully mounted the RX (we used the 75 MHz Futuba TX for both CheepShot and Xi2.0 as we couldn't get extra RX's for the 2.4Ghz DX6 at the time) in special "Temperpedic" shock resistant foam to reduce the likelihood of a failed RX losing us another fight.

Xhilarating impaX 2.0

Journey to Minnesota

Billy Moon kindly let us add CheepShot 3.0 and Xi2.0 plus most of our spares, batteries and tools in spare space in the crates in which he was shipping his much bigger bots to the event. We couldn't add Surgical Strike as its blade wasn't quite finished and the new DX6 Radio and the "wet noodle" wire hadn't arrived yet to allow me to finish it.

We were traveling on free tickets earned by my frequent flying to China with American Airlines. Free was good but since we hadn't booked until just before the event the routing was a bit strange. Our trip to Minneapolis from North Carolina was via Miami! To add to possible problems some nutters in the UK decided it might be good for their souls to blow up some airliners using liquid explosives. The discovery of this plot caused havoc on some routes and affected some of the other competitors but actually had no discernible impact on our trip other than we couldn't take any drinks on board. We traveled on the Thursday evening arriving just before midnight. We picked up luggage including the well packed "Surgical Strike" and the "Alamo" rental car (we got a Chevy HHR which had more space than the sub compact we ordered but otherwise is one awful car!)  and made our way to the hotel. We stayed at the Days Inn in Plymouth which was about 14 miles from the Venue but was cheap and clean and next door to a Perkins Restaurant. We arrived that first night after midnight (central time) and promptly went to sleep.

Friday 11th August

We had a bit of a lie-in on the Friday morning before getting up and heading over to Perkins for Breakfast. We bumped into "Team Moon" who were staying at the same hotel and Billy let us know our Bots had made it OK in his shipment.

We headed down to the venue about 10.00 AM. I'm glad we had printed out a set of directions from Mapquest as it was quite a puzzle working out all the Interstates, junctions and back streets of Minneapolis. The Arena and the pits were set up in a large workshop area in an Industrial unit. It wasn't luxury but perfectly adequate for the task.

The Venue.   The weather was a little warm and the building had no AC (we are soft here in the south!) but was well provided with fans by the organisers and we also got one from Team Mad Overlord

The arena is the biggest and best one I've ever seen. It is 40ft  x 40ft and has a massive steel bumper rails plus two spaced layers of 1/2" Polycarbonate. In each corner there were large competitor operated hammers  which were used in the heavier weight classes. The floor was reasonably smooth with only a few high seams.

We quickly got set up in the pits next to Team Mad Overlord and across from Team Moon. Surgical Strike was reassembled and the batteries put on to charge. We first got Surgical Strike through safety and then tried it out in the arena. The new blade seemed a big success with fast spin-up and good top speed. However after about 2 or 3 minutes run time it stopped in an ominous puff of white smoke. At first I thought it was the new Jeti ESC but it turned out the motors was burned out. I put this down to having the belt too tight and replaced the HTI motor with the second of the three we had brought with us only for that one to burn out too after a similar time. This left us with only one motor  for the whole event. We tried to get another Speed 700 from a local hobby shop but the biggest thing they had was Speed 550s. We decided to remove the steel teeth from the blade to reduce the load on the motor but were not happy that we were going to have to fight the whole event with only one motor and a less than optimal blade. CheepShot 3.0 and Xhilarating impaX 2.0 both easily passed Safety and Xi2.0 was great fun to drive in the big arena and with its new 18v batteries. Andrew was doing power drifts and doughnuts with ease. The 30lber looked the best it ever has.  The extra weight of the Aluminium top and bottom seemed to have improved grip (still 3lb under the limit!) and the 18v really made the Mini-EVs come to life.

Robert Woodhead of Team Mad Overlord had brought along a clever "show" blade that used "persistence of vision"  to spell out words as it spun.  Its not tough enough for fighting with yet but he hopes that it will be possible to get it to that point one day.

I can't remember where we had Dinner but we had an early night before the competition the next day. 

Saturday 12th August

The fights got started at 11.30AM on the Saturday morning. On the way to the venue we had stopped in at a local ACE Hardware store to get some M6 screws to replace those I had forgotten to bring to mount Xi2.0s Wedge. In the event they were not needed for that but proved very useful later on.....

The 12 and 30lb classes were both big enough to run modified double elimination brackets whilst some of the other classes used a round-robin to increase the number of fights. The 30lb class was especially strong with three out of four of the top ranked bots taking part. Those there were the rightly feared "Relic" (Formerly known as "F Bomb"), "Totally Offensive" (Winner of the last two Nationals and "Killabyte" the #1 ranked Drum Spinner. "Buggy Brick", a Brick with wedgelets and "ELSPFODDOD", Chris Barons Steel bodied Bar spinner made up the rest of the field along with Xi2.0.

Half of the 12lbers were "kitbots" kits or based on one. "Kitt" is a heavil;y modified CS3 kit and runs with a rear spring loaded wedge and now even has a flame thrower!  CheepShot 3.0 is the prototype for the CS3 Kits and Surgical Strike is the prototype for the new bar spinner chassis kit. "Test Bot", a low wedge with a lifting arm, "Jostler", IIRC a two wheel drive Wedge and "Shove it" a Wedge powered by four handiworks. The Current #2 ranked "Wedgio" missed the event when its driver got caught up in the air travel problems and arrived a day late.

Fight 1: Xhilarating impaX v ELSPFODDOD

We were glad to have drawn ELSPFODDOD in the first round as it probably was the least scary of the KE Bots and we didn't want to draw the one other wedgy bot in the competition. ELSPFODDOD (I have no clue what it means!) is a solid steel bodied bot with a low ground hugging blade powered by a single EV Warrior motor.  The blade was not very large or heavy (IIRC about 3lbs).

The fight went very well. Andrew repeatedly went after his opponent getting good hits on both the blade and body.  ELSPFODDOD then got stuck on the Floor and we pushed him free. Next big hit left him balanced on his rear panel. We pushed him over onto his back and his blade was now too high to hit us. A few more hits and ELSPFODDOD stop moving entirely and was counted out.  A knock out in our first fight!

3.2MB Quicktime 7 of the fight Video: Team Mad Overlord)

Fight 2: Surgical Strike v Shove it

Surgical Strikes first fight was against "Shove it" after a bye in the first round.

Andrew quickly removed one whole side armour of "Shove it" and later in the fight the front wedge as well. The hit that removed the wedge also rolled Surgical Strike over but fortunately the roll-over bar worked perfectly and we rolled immediately back on our wheels to continue the fight. It was obvious we had won the fight on damage alone so we throttled down the blade to about 1/2 power in order to save straining the one motor we had left. The fight went the distance and we won on a Judges decision.

4MB Quicktime 7 of the fight Video: Team Mad Overlord

Fight 3: CheepShot 3.0 v Kitt

This would be the first fight where two Kitbots kits met eachother face to face. Kitt had been heavily modified and had the addition of a small flamethrower. This obviously still needed some bugs worked out in it as everytime it was used the bot caught on fire! They used a "napalm" like substance on the wedge as the ignition source and that caused more problems for CheepShot than the Flanmethrower itself (Billy says once they get the leaks fixed and it running on MAPP it will something to worry about....). An added obstacle in the fight was a flaming teddy bear! Kitt added the burning remains of the bear onto their wedge but generally CheepShot got the better of the fight. We would have got more box slams but the floor esams kept catching our sprung wedge letting Kitt excape. The judges awarded the fight to CheepShot. Three fights and three wins!

Fight 4: Xhilarating impaX 2.0 v Totally Offensive

Totally Offensive had destroyed "Buggy Brick" in his first fight (putting him out of the competition) so we had to fight him next.  Xhilarating impaX dominated the fight with T.O. barely moving at the end and being counted out. The teeth on T.O. blades had shattered hitting Xi2.0s armour and he also melted his battery pack with all the stopping and starting of the Blade. T.O. had destroyed the original Xhilarating impaX at the Battle of the Beach about a year before and the new version had lost to him at Motorama so it was nice to get revenge!

5.5MB Quicktime 7 of the fight Video: Team Mad Overlord

Fight 5: CheepShot 3.0 v Test Bot

Test Bot has a motor driven lifting arm and we were worried that he might be able to flip us over or jam us against the wall. The the fight it was pretty even until his lifter mechanism chewed some of his own wires and left him immobile.  A knockout for CheepShot.

3MB Quicktime 7 of the fight Video: Team Mad Overlord

Fight 6: CheepShot 3.0 v Surgical Strike,  12lb Semis

We decided not to actually fight this match as there seemed little to gain and a lot to lose. We felt that CheepShot would probably win and we might damage the only weapon motor we had left on Surgical strike. The question then was which bot to forfeit. We decided that CheepShot probably had the better chance against Kitt in the losers bracket so CheepShot forfeited.  Surgical strike was in the Finals while CheepShot was in the losers bracket Semi.

Fight 7: Xhilarating impaX v Killabyte, 30lb Semis

We had never fought Killabyte before but his #1 ranking made it clear this was going to be a tough one. We used a 16.8V pack for this fight as Andrew felt it made Xi2.0 a little easier to control and it seemed unlikely we would need the extra speed or power. This was not going to be a pushy match!

Andrew went after Killabyte right from the start send both bots ricocheting around the arena with Killabyte probably getting the worst of it until one hit damaged one front corner of Xi2.0. This looked bad so we went after him with the still undamaged rear. The second last hit sent Killabyte bouncing of the wall again and killed his electric's (watch the video carefully and you can see his power on light go out!). One last hit and he was counted out. Apparently the current draw on his Magmotor was enough to melt or at least soften the solder on the wire joints and one big hit pulled all the wires off his ESC!

We had won but at a considerable price. The 3/16" S7 had shattered on one front corner and side and the rear armour had a large crack in one corner. A lot of the M6 screws that secured the armour had sheared off and an internal side rail had split. It is a tribute to the slot and tab construction that we could keep fighting despite that damage.

2MB Quicktime 7 of the fight  Video: Team Mad overlord

Fight 8: CheepShot 3.0 v Kitt   12lb Losers brackets Semis.

Kitt had beaten "Shove it" to reach the 12 losers bracket Semifinal.  Kitt overdid the "napalm" at the start and the flame thrower never appeared to work during this fight. Kitt got one good pin on CheepShot and then we got one back so the toastings were about equal. One side of Kitt drive then stopped and he resorted to thwack bot mode for the remainder of the fight. Not very exciting but another win for CheepShot 3.0 and an all Team Rolling Thunder Final!

5.2MB Quicktime 7 of the fight  Video: Team Mad Overlord

Fight 9: CheepShot 3.0 v Surgical Strike  12lb Finals

Andrew chose to drive surgical strike while I drove CheepShot. This was a Father v Son match, Wedge v Spinner.  It was a blast.

Andrew came after me right from the start but CheepShot kept taking the hits. Surgical Strike kept bouncing high when the blade stuck the angled front armour on CheepShot, once landing upside down. The roll-over bar worked perfectly again and he landed neatly back on his wheels. A few hits later however one side of the bars mountings broke rendering it useless.  Andrew throttled down the blade to reduce the likelihood of he being flipped over, which worked, but it meant he couldn't get a knock-out hit.  We kept at each other until the end and CheepShot 3.0 was National Champion by a judges decision.

The bracket had broken right where some bubbles had formed in the Lexan when I was forming it.  CheepShot had some damage with a small section of the side armour at the front broken off.  I think that if we had had the teeth on the blade and a tougher roll-over bar then Surgical Strike would have won. These two weaknesses will be corrected by the next event.  

5.1MB Quicktime7 of the fight  Video: Team Mad Overlord

10th and last Fight, Xi2.0 v Killabyte, 30lb Finals

Killabyte had met and beaten Relic in the losers brackets semifinals but had suffered a huge gash in his shell and a damaged drive motor in the process. This was a blessing for us as it gave us a least another half an hour to get Xhilatating impaX back in one piece. The M6 screws we had bought earlier in the day proved priceless to replace the many broken ones and once we had got everything back in place we used lots of glass fiber reinforced strapping tape in an effort to keep the bot more or less in one piece.

Andrew box rushed Killabyte but missed and then the fight went much like the first with Andrew attacking and Killabyte doing a good hockey puck simulation. A few hits into the fight,  the front of Xi2.0 came loose again  but remained well enough attached for one last big hit that broke something in Killabytes drive and Xi2.0 had won by a knockout. We were also 30lb National Champions!

The gash in Killabyte shell caused by the last hit in his fight with "Relic"

Xhilarating impax 2.0 before the final fight. You can see the damage to the front corner. 3/16" S7 isn't enough!

Xi2.0 after the fight. Damage was pretty much a repeat of the first fight. I don't know if the tape helped but it didn't hurt!

Sparks fly as Xi2.0 goes in for another pass.

1.7MB Quicktime 7 of the Fight  Video: Team Mad Overlord

The 2006 finals had turned out to be our best ever event. We took two first and a second place, we could not possibly have done better. The event had been great fun and everything just seemed to go our way. Judges decisions which could have gone either way went in our favour, the bots all performed well and in the big matches we were the ones left moving after those final last big hits.  The 12lber Finals were great fun and the old man proved he can still whup the young-un! Andrew drove well all day and his skill definitely won many of the fights for us.

While the 12lber comp. was not as tough as it might have been, the 30's were indisputably a top class field and Xhilarating impaX finally proved as good as I thought it could be.

Well its not everyday you get to be a National Champion!

Andrew receiving the check for his 30lb National Chanpionship.

Some other pictures of the event.......

"Almost Headless Ted" was almost decapitated by "Starhawk" IIRC.

"Death by Monkeys"


"Eugene" suffers at the hands of the ever impressive "Shrederator"

The sparks fly as "Eugene" and "Shrederator" Clash

An interesting if not OSHA approved power supply to power one teams battery charger.

More Teddy abuse!

"Lunatic" looking like a giant Mantis

"Psychotic Reaction" the super heavyweight winner.

A big turn out by Team Moon. They brought five bots with them including two super heavyweights!

Many teams suffered from over hardened S7 Teeth and Blades. This one was from "Eugene".

Three Gold plated wrenchs (spanners) were our prizes.

Thanks to Sam Kronick and Michael "Fuzzy" Maudlin for most of the pictures in this report.

We packed up the Bots on the Sunday morning and after a big lunch at Perkins we went to see the Pixar movie "Cars" in the afternoon (Excellent!).  We settled for just dessert for dinner and had an early night as we had a very early flight home.

Trip home was uneventful.