Designing your Combat Robot

This week in the Product Design Show we look at the key design elements for an effective combat robot. From the center of gravity to chassis strength to the weapons, this short video describes how it's all done. And of course, there are robot jokes.

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Designing a combat robot

This week, we'll talk about robotics competitions and how to design a combat robot. The FIRST Robotics Competition is for a great way for high school students to learn from professional engineers and compete against other students from around the world. Each team of students has six weeks to build a robot to enter into the competition, where the robots compete in games like scoring goals with a ball, climbing towers, and lifting other robots off the ground. Over 50,000 students are participating in the competition this year. Last year's winner was from Wissahickon High School in Pennsylvania . The team designed their winning robot, Miss Daisy IX, with a low centre of gravity and eight-wheel drive for optimal stability. Miss Daisy could launch a ball from anywhere on the field, which proved to be a key to success in the competition.

Another robotics competition is Robogames in California -- the largest robotics competition in the world.. The most popular event, of course, is the robot combat event. In each three minute match, two robots duke it out in attempt to destroy each other. In the super-heavyweight division, 340 pounds an up, some robots can launch each other up to ten feet with a weapon called a flipper. The arena is surrounded by bullet proof glass, which keeps the spectators safe from dangerous weapons and flying shrapnel. Building a combat robot, whether it's a tiny 75 gram robot or a 300 pound heavyweight, requires 6 key items: a chassis, a motor, a transmitter, a receiver, a speed controller, and batteries. The chassis must be built to withstand hard hits from opponents. A well-built chassis is sturdy, and minimizes weak points. Engineers at Pitzer Consulting demonstrate how to use software to identify these potential weak points. The red areas here clearly show the weak spots on this chassis part and indicate what should be redesigned.

Other than maneuvering and running into things, good combat robots have weapons to take down their robotic opponents. Typical weapons include spikes, chainsaws, rotating blades, and motorized axes. Most, but not all, competitions ban fire weapons, which rules out the use of flamethrowers. : Check out The Kraken, one of the robots competing in last year's RoboGames, built by students at UC San Diego. These students used a wedge, one of the most common combat robot weapons. In these images you see inside the Kraken where the students positioned their power, shield actuators and batteries. When combined, these integrated technologies gave the Kraken something their competition (flipped÷ over.