BattleBots San Francisco, June 2000

Dominic overlooking the Fort Mason Pavilions, with the Golden Gate bridge in the background.

Another great competition put on by BattleBots, this time in the magnificent setting of the Fort Mason Centre, San Francisco. The Centre is right on the bay, with the Golden gate bridge on the left, the city on the right and Alcatraz in front.
As they had warned us, the arena hazards had been upgraded substantially. There were now now six floor saw units (each with two blades), two sets of powerful spikes that came out of the floor and in two of the corners, large pneumatically powered sledge-hammers!

We had cut KHz in half (video coming soon...) to make her easier to transport. Before, we had to remove the motors, wheels, pneumatics etc to get the chassis within the 32kg limit for checked luggage on transatlantic flights. We got two large bags made up to carry her in. We also upgraded the top armour from 6mm to 9.5mm Lexan.

Competitors ready for Trey's safety talk.

First Round
Having had a bye in the first rounds of the previous two BattleBots, we had a fight this time. We were drawn against Jerome Miles' Knome II, a simple, four motor, all-Lexan machine. Jerome admitted that due to his very limited funds he had built it just to look good - he wasn't expecting to survive any serious fight.
Our first hit with the axe knocked it's 'head' off. We hit it some more but then we got stuck in one of the corners, where Dominic had a go at one of the new sledge hammer arena hazards with the axe. Knome was immobilised by this time, so we got the decision on a Knock Out. Luckily, the only damage the hammer did was to scratch one of our winners badges...
We thought at the time that we had been stuck on one of the spikes that line the edge of the arena, but in retrospect it was probably that the speed controller interface had crashed.

Second round
Our next match was against Monster, a high-speed machine that had punched a few holes in us with its fixed spike in the rumble at Las Vegas in November. We were relieved to see that they no longer had the spike fitted!
We got a lucky hit on them with the axe which broke one of their drive chains. The processor crashed again, but this time got stuck with just a small amount of forward power, so we were able to crawl around the arena trying to hit them again. They then got stuck on one of the side railings and we slowly crawled over to them to deliver the final blow. Another KO, just!

Quarter Finals
It was with some dread that we observed the Nightmare vs Mauler fight on Saturday. The Mauler has been SERIOUSLY upgraded. It now has a pair of low-mounted cold chisels, in addition to the maces and a much more powerful spinning motor.
Whereas before it was a machine to be respected, it was now to be feared. We watched it rip one of the wheels clean off Nightmare, splitting welds and bending shafts. I wonder how many rotary machines there will be at the next BattleBots...
We were to fight them on the Sunday afternoon, so we spent Saturday evening thinking up survival strategies. We fitted a wedge made from 1/2" Lexan, slung out the back of KHz, so that we could back into them with it, and still ram them with the front. We were going to bolt-on other devices, but we ran out of time and we were getting quite close to the weight limit. We also fitted one of Team Delta's little RC switches so that we could reset the processor of the speed controller interface remotely.

Our plan was to try to ram them within about two seconds of the start, before they started spinning too fast. We carefully lined up KHz at an angle in our 'corner', to go straight round the new saws in the centre of the arena. We got a good start out of our corner, but when I turned round the saws, I got a big tail slide on and lost all speed. I rammed them anyway and was surprised to see that we were still running after the huge impact which threw us both back.

We rammed them again and then decided to try the tail wedge, so I reversed into them. The mauler hit it hard and instantly ripped it off - as planned it sheared the self-tappers mounting the bracket to the floor, but it didn't seem to do any damage to them. With the next hit they ripped our axe clean off, so we could now only ram them.

We hit them again and knocked them onto one of the saw blades. We got our axe bump-stop stuck under one of their mace brackets and couldn't move, but it seemed that they were immobilised. The judges called a halt to the match and were thinking about having a restart after separating us, but the Mauler was indeed immobilised and we demonstrated that we still could move fine, so we were declared the winner. It turns out that a wire pulled out of their receiver in the impact, because they hadn't replaced some tape holding the receiver down when changing the crystal for a previous fight. Bad luck. Would have been interesting to see how the fight would have turned out...

KHz a bit bruised and battered after the fight, but still running. We found out that one of the steering servo output horns had sheared, and we were running out of time, so the Suicidal Tendancies Team very kindly dived right in and fixed while we worked on the repairing the chassis and armour. Many thanks guys!

The axe after the fight. We removed the counterweights and the axe head and dumped the shaft in the bin at LA airport...

Semi Finals
We were up against Voltarc, a small very nicely built, well armoured wedge, who had been runner-up in Las Vegas. The other semi-final was made up of Punjar and Vlad the Impaler. This is an old pic of voltarc from Long Beach. He now has a curved ramp on the back too. We attached a broad sheet of lexan to the back of KHz to try and stop him getting underneath us.
Early on in the fight we hit the saws fairly hard which pulled down one of the titanium strips at the front and this meant I couldn't steer to the right. From then on we didn't have much of a chance - we didn't have the manoeuvrability to ram him on the side and we didn't have the axe to attack him so I really just tried (rather unsuccessfully) to avoid him. Just ended up hitting the saws a few more times. Voltarc deservedly got the decision on points at the end and was through to the final again.

What happens when you run into one of the floor saws hard...
This is a view of the underside from the front. One side has been snapped off the front titanium cutting blade. One end of one of the front titanium protection strips has been torn off, tearing the bolts out of the mounting bracket and chassis.
Note the large steel ring on the right that we fitted round the front wheels to protect them from the saws.

The Rumble
The HeavyWeight Rumble at the end of the day looked to be good - they decided to put all 18 heavyweights that had put their names down into the arena at once. We all spaced our machines round the edges of the arena and then tried to find somewhere to control our machines from. Thankfully they had decided not to use the arena hazards - there was quite enough action without them! We were first away when the green light went on, but slammed straight into the front of Punjar. We rode right up his front ramp and he pushed us into one of the walls and flipped us over. As the axe wasn't working, we couldn't self-right. Oh well, gave as a great chance to watch the rumble close up. Carnage!
Another great BattleBots and Comedy Central did a good job of covering it, with plenty of filming in the pits and team interviews.

As usual, we were to last to finish packing up - we didn't get out of the centre till about 1am. We took a couple of days to enjoy the scenery driving down the coast to LA and flew out on Tuesday evening. Didn't even have any problems with the weight of the luggage this time, though they did take exception to the counterweights in my carry-on luggage - they reckoned that they could be used as weapons! And we got upgraded to business class - a great end to a great trip.

Now we have to get ready for UK Robot Wars Series IV which is coming up soon....