The Robot Wars Series 6 event

Qualifiers event on Friday 5th July 2002

The day had arrived when all our hard work would be put to the test. We stayed at my brother's place in Leicester the night before the event, and left in the morning on a dull and drizzly journey to the RAF camp in Bingham, Nottingham where the Robot Wars qualifying event was taking place. First time round we missed the turning into the airfield and had to circle around two roundabouts before finding the entrance again! After that we then did a tour of the audience car park because we couldn't see any signs for the roboteers entry, but eventually we found our way to the entrance to the pits.

We first had to wheel the Hog into the pits and wait to be weighed. I was fairly concerned about getting through the weigh-in because on my "Argos bathroom scales" the robot weighed 102kg (2kg overweight). Luckily on the official scales I came in at 101kg and a few grams, which the official (Kim from the Panic Attack team), let me off with. The first hurdle was over and we had to hand in our radio gear and CO2 bottle to the safety area before being allocated a pit table.

  I needed some help getting the Hog off from the trolley and onto its cradle, but some of the event crew helped me out. They were quite impressed with how my cradle locked onto the underside of the Hog and allowed the robot to be then carried about and onto the pit table. The technical evaluation followed, and this was done by George Francis, the reigning UK champion. He was a really nice guy, and passed the Hog with no problems. The kids and my wife were keen to have a photo with him, so I asked him if he would mind posing with the team next to the Hog, which he very kindly did. George Frances and the Hassocks Hog team

It was then a case of waiting until we were called to do our battle, so in the intervening hours, I wandered around the pits looking at the other robots. It was a bit frightening at how many good robots were out there. There were a lot of "high energy" spinning weaponed robots that looked like they could inflict a sever amount of damage. Many of them had huge, heavy flywheels with teeth, and I wasn't looking forward to meeting any of these in my particular battle. By coincidence "cork screw" shared my pit table, and was a "high energy" spinning robot made out of a lorry wheel hub. The guy showed me some video footage of him testing the destruction capability of Corkscrew against a block of material. The block just disintegrated, and I could see quite a few robots ending up in a similar fashion, so I was immensely relieved to find out that he wasn't going to be in my battle.

We had arrived at the arena at 10.00am, and it was 3.00pm before we were told whom our opponents were and when we might go on. The format was for four robots to go into the arena and battle it out. Points would be awarded for style, control, damage and aggression, and the winner at the end of the five minute round would go through. The others scheduled for our battle were two first timers like myself, and one experienced roboteer, Ming. The first timers were "Immortalis" and "Revolution 2" and it wasn't long before they came round to have a look at the Hog and have a chat. Both teams were very friendly and suggested quietly that because Ming was an experienced roboteer, that maybe we should all work together and all go for Ming at the start of the battle. Once he was immobilised, it would be a free for all, with no holes barred. It seemed like a good plan, but it seemed that Ming had similar ideas as well, because he approached the other teams and suggested that he and they ganged up against the other two robots. I presume this is a fairly common situation in Robot Wars, and I wasn't too surprised.

As the battle time approached, the event crews came round with a pit trolley and we wheeled the Hog off to collect a freshly filled CO2 bottle, and our radio transmitter. Many things were going through my mind at this time, one of which was, is the Hog going to work after having been bounced around in a trailer for 200 miles from Hassocks to Nottingham? Despite the technical checks in the pits, I really hadn't had the chance to check that everything was okay and working. Without the radio transmitter, I couldn't check much was still operational. I loaded the Hog into the bull pit, which is a type of air lock between the arena and the loading bay. There is a split door on the outside very much like a stable door. The bottom section was about 18 inches high and would prevent the robots escaping into the loading bay area should anything go wrong. I climbed into the bull pit and removed the safety restraints and then climbed out again. It was a pleasant relief to then hear the contactor "click in" as I plugged in the safety link and turned the radio transmitter on. I was able to move the hog forward and backwards a few inches before the inside gate was opened and I was allowed to drive the Hog into the arena ready for battle.

We were then given a brief talk by the producer on how the battle was going to be judged (style, control, damage, and aggression), and then told to get up into the competitors booths ready for battle. My sons both came up with me into the cubicle, together with the "Revolution" team. My eldest son Jonathan was operating the buddy box that controlled the flipper and self-righting tail, while my middle son Robert was the enemy look out. As the voice called "three, two, one, activate," everyone went for Ming. We had a few collisions before one of the others managed to whip Ming's safety link out leaving him completely immobilised. The safety link is a statutory requirement, very much like the ignition key in a car, without which the robot is unable to operate.

It was now every man for himself! "Immortalis" quickly became stationary next to Ming, and it was then up to "Revolution" and me to battle it out. My flipper was a bit sluggish by now, possibly because the pneumatics were getting cold with all the flipping we were trying to do. It still operated, but only lifted the others rather than flipping them. It was interesting to then listen to us both talking to each other in the booth as we battled to the end. We would bump into each other and then say "oops, sorry about that", but the battle had to go on. "Revolution" managed to get a few good hits on us, but had severely buckled its spinning blades in the process. We still bashed into each other a bit before after one collision he half climbed on top of me, getting hooked on our tail. We dragged him about a bit, while Jonathan tried to shake him of by operating the tail. I eventually backed into the arena side wall which loosened him enough for the tail to finally push him off and back onto the arena floor. It was this final manoeuvre that gave us some extra "control" points.

When they called "cease" we were the only two robots still mobile, and it wasn't until we descended from the booth did we know we had won. The kids were jubilant, and so was I.

We had suffered a few holes in our cladding, but the chassis had held up well and saved us from any serious damage.

Damage to the Hog's nose Damage to the rear left Damage to the rear right Damage to the front left

The "Revolution" team said afterwards that they thought we would be an easy target, because of the flimsy cladding we had, but after the battle they were impressed with how strong the box section frame really was. Luckily for "Revolution", they were given a discretionary pass through to the next round as well, despite having lost this battle. It is Robot Wars' prerogative to award discretionary places to those robots that they think will be entertaining on the show, despite them not winning the qualifying battle. They could be chosen because they were unlucky to be knocked out, or because they would be good as canon fodder, but in either case you mustn't forget that ultimately the show is to provide entertainment to the audience, not necessarily to show the best robot there.

After all the excitement of the battle, an official took us to one side, gave us the instructions for the next round, and told to return on Tuesday. In the morning we would be interviewed by Philippa Forrester and in the afternoon we would do battle. We would remain in the show during the coming week until we lost a battle, after which we would have to return home.

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Round 1 event on Tuesday 9th July 2002

I was sworn to secrecy about what happened in round one of series 6, but since it was aired on BBC Choice on 25th September, I can now spill the beans. The damage I suffered during this battles is summarised below:

  • Various holes in aluminium cladding
  • Left tusk bent
  • Left motor support mounting plate bent
  • Tail mounting bracket bent
  • Battery and motor power cables burnt
  • Right axle sprocket bent
  • Motor controller power MOSFET wires burnt
  • Pneumatic piping melted
  • Left ear metal work cut through
  • Both fluffy ears burnt

If you have a strong stomach and want to know all the gory details, read on..........

We left for the Series 6 first round event on Tuesday in even worse weather conditions than for the qualifiers. Whereas before it drizzled the whole way there, today it absolutely poured the whole way!

When we arrived, I got the Hog off the trailer and into the dry of the pits as quickly as I could. The weigh-in was next, and the guy was happy that I would be under 100kg without removing all the restraints. I tipped the scales at 102kg with only the front flipper clamp to remove, but he was happy with that. He was probably going to find that all the robots would be under weight today, but he had to go through the motions of checking everyone out.

After the weigh-in, it was photo time. The Hog was photographed on its own on a blue background, and then the kids and I were photographed as a team with all our team outfit on. It was then off to hand in the CO2 bottle and radio gear to the safe area before going back to our pit table. This time we had a table to ourselves, and there was a proper printed nameplate hanging on the fencing next to it. I enlisted the help of some neighbouring roboteers to get the Hog onto the table and then waited for our technical checkup. While we were waiting we had a look and a chat with the other robots, and were a bit surprised to see that Ming was there too. Apparently he had been given a discretionary pass as well after the qualifying battle where his motor controller had burnt out. This meant that three out of the four robots in our qualifying round had got through!

The tech check eventually arrived and was again done by George Francis. Like last time there were no problems and he passed the Hog without a hitch. While he was there I couldn't miss the opportunity to pick his brains about flippers. From my qualifying battle I realised that my flipper was more of a "limp lifter" than a flipper. I wanted to know what parts of the pneumatic system I should change in order to get a much quicker and more powerful flipper. Should I use full pressure (without a regulator), or was there another way to get the power I wanted? He said I could go for a full pressure system, but this would mean using hydraulic strength rams. However, the robot M2 had managed to get a flipper as powerful as Chaos 2's using a 16 bar system! The secret was to get slightly larger diameter rams than I currently had, but then use appropriate components and regulators that allowed a fast flow of gas from the bottle to the rams. This was the secret; ensuring a high flow rate is achieved to maintain the force in the ram. If you can't maintain a fast flow, then the force from the rams drops dramatically as the rams extending. George suggested I log onto the M2 website at technobots where there was a lot of good info. He was very enthusiastic talking about robots and pneumatics, despite being asked many, many times for advice!

Before our battle two camera crews came round to film us. One was to shot us saying our intro's, and describing what features the robot had. I had rehearsed a few words, but they only wanted 10 seconds worth so I had to make it a bit short and snappy. Soon after that, Philippa Forrester came round to ask us a few questions. She first came up to the kids and chatted to them, after that she asked me a few questions. She had obviously done her homework, because she picked up on the comments I had put in the entry form about the robot's weaknesses. I was impressed with how professional she was, how friendly she was, and how she had done her homework on each robot she approached.

Phillippa Foresta with the Hassocks Hog team

There was then quite a wait before finding out whom our opponents were, so I wandered around the pits to kill some time. Along the barriers between the pits and the public thoroughfare, there were people leaning over the barrier asking some of the more famous roboteers for their autograph. I wondered how many times I would need to enter Robot Wars before I became well known enough for people to want my autograph. Apparently you only need to enter once because at that point a dozen or so people beckoned me over to ask me for my autograph. I was so chuffed that I made sure I wrote in my best handwriting. It was a strange feeling to think that people felt I was worth getting an autograph from.

As battle time approached, I was greatly relieved to find that none of my opponents were high-energy spinning weaponed robots. In this round's battle they were

Ming, Spam, and Hot pants
Ming in round 1 of series 6 Span in round 1 of series 6 Hot pant in round 1 of series 6

which was a robot that lived about a mile away from me in Burgess Hill! I reckoned I had a fair chance against these and went into battle with some degree of optimism.

I was wondering who the house robots would be for our battle, but in the back of my mind I though that we would have Sergeant Bash because my fluffy inflammable ears would be an ideal target for his flame thrower. As we entered our robots into the bull pens, we were told to hang on a minute because one of the house robots hadn't arrived yet. Guess which one it was………… yes, that's right, it was Sergeant Bash, what a surprise! I was immensely relieved again to find that the Hog hadn't suffered any faults after being bounced up and down the motorways. The contactor "clicked in" as I plugged in the safety link and turned on the radio transmitter.

I was told to go into the area and position myself under one of the spotlights and wait for further instructions. For some reason Sir Killalot was partly on my spot so as I approached I nudged into him to try and get him to move on. This he did without taking any revenge on me……yet.

The Hog in the arena, just before battle
The Hassocks Hog team in with the Spam team

I then went up into the booth with my sons Jonathan and Robert. In the booth with us was the Spam team. As we were waiting to start the battle I said to them, how about we go for the others before we go for each other. He agreed, so I said I would go for Ming while he went for Hot Pants.

The voice said "three, two, one, activate" and we were off. I went straight for Ming and we had a few nudged and collisions. He tried to skewer me with his Razor like pincer, but didn't do much damage before releasing me again. Things were going okay until Spam suddenly rammed me from the side. After that I noticed that I could only go in circles. I tried to move forward and backwards, but couldn't control the left hand wheel that seemed to be freewheeling. Unknown to me at the time was that Spam's ramming had hit me right on the end of the motor support plate, and had bent it enough for the chain to be out of line and eventually jump of the sprocket. A couple of inched either side, and the impact would not have caused the drive chain to come off, but that's the luck of the game I suppose.

The Hog getting blasted with CO2

I now inexorably swiveled closer and closer to Sir Killalot's corner patrol zone. He came out a few times as I was frantically spinning the Hog one way then the other, but it wasn't long before he realised that I was technically immobilised. He picked me up by the ear, and then by the rear end causing a certain amount of damage. He them pushed me over the flame pit that obligingly for him flared up and started to melt and burn various wires, tubes, and the fluffy ears. Surprisingly enough it was the wires at the top of the robot that burnt the most. The ones near the bottom were almost unmarked, however, this had sealed my fate as I went out with Hot Pants who had also been immobilised.

As well as the roboteers in the booth were a camera crew. As the battle was in full swing, I was occasionally aware that the camera was right up next to me; sometimes only a few inches away from my face or hands. Luckily it wasn't much of a distraction because I was concentrating too hard on the battle. After the battle was eventually won by Ming and Spam, I was unceremoniously shoved out of the arena by Refbot into the bull pen. This took about five minutes, but even after this time, the Hog's framework was still hot from the flame pit. It wasn't surprising that so many wires had "sagged" with the heat that the flame pit produces. Despite going out of the competition, I was happy with our performance.

Philippa Forrester came up to us as we pushed the Hog back to our pit table and said the burning ears looked quite impressive. She was tipped off about the Hog's polka dot underpants that hadn't been seen in the arena, so she shoved her hand-held video camera under the Hog as I lifted it up, and the pants were there for all to see.

Phillipa spots the polka dot pants after the battle

My sons were a bit disappointed to have lost, but overall they had a good time. There was not much else to do after that, apart from grab a few seats in the audience and watch a few battles taking place. After that we packed up the Hog into the Trailer and made our way back home.

Below are a few pictures of the Hog; one before the battle, and the others once we had got it back home and surveyed the damage.

Painting of the qualifying round's damage
Final paint work touch ups before the main battle
This is were the Hog was rammed and the motor support bracket bent
The deceptively small dent on the outside....
Bent motor support bracket
...that bent the 6mm motor support bracket on the inside
The damaged nose
The damaged nose
Tail support damage
Bent tail bracket
Damage on the right front
More ramming damage
Cut and burnt ear
Severely damage ear
The bent tusk in meant to be under the guard!
The tusk should be under the guard!
The aerial wires and micro switch wires are chared
Some burnt wiring
The battery and motor wires are melted and stuck together
Melted motor and battery wiring
Burnt MOSFETwiring
Burnt motor controller wiring
The pneumatic pipe has melted and burst open
Melted pneumatic tubing

If you want to see the video edited highlights of the battle courtesy of BBC choice, click here. For those with ADSL or a fast connection, you should be able to view the video real time. For the rest of us, I recommend you used a smart download utility such as Real's Netzip downloader to download the whole clip first before playing it. The clip is about 3.6 Mbytes long so please be patient while it downloads.

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Last updated 28th September 2002