TORNADO - The Team with the Comedy Flying Cow


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2/8/99 - My situation has changed completely! I now have a job working in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, for NXT. Progress now may become slow, as I've only got a one bedroom flat (without a garage), and all the robot stuff is 100 miles away at my parents place down in Kent. At least I'll have some money to pay for it all now!

21/8/99 - My plans to get the building started properly have been scuppered by my car exhaust developing a large hole on the trip back home. I spent much of the day welding it up - but at least I got some much needed practice (proving that I can weld, if untidily). Cheers to Andy @ uni for the tips... keeping it clean helps SO much! Put the big transformer into the charger and charged all the batteries (including those which we intend to use in the robot). The charger gets very hot, but it doesn't blow up! Out of the robot batteries, only one of the 4 had a decent terminal voltage before charging - but all recovered and now show a healthy 12V.

26/8/99 - Several of the guys at work seem very interested in doing Robot Wars, and there certainly is a lot of expertise available amongst them (as well as financing, contacts and facilities).

28/8/99 - Discussed the guys at work thing with Dave L. He's happy to get more help, so I'll speak to everyone and see what happens. This means another weekend with work put on hold though...

30/8/99 - Emailed everybody at work. A couple replied, but David Gamble (our electronics guru) seemed particularly interested. He can offer garage space, 240amp speed controller designs, a starter motor, and is willing to help finance the project. Hence he's now part of the team!

1/9/99 - Spent the evening discussing the robot with Dave G. We now intend to go for something much more similar to the original Plague design, but using four go-kart wheels if we cannot get tracks to work.

2/9/99 - Mailed Mentorn with a few questions that came up after last nights discussion.

5/9/99 - Went home to Kent to collect all the Robot Wars stuff from my parents house, and took it all up to Dave G's. I tried to bring everything I thought might possibly be useful, so he now has a garage full of junk! Started looking at the Lynch motors - these have phenomenal efficiency and power, and would up the level of competition if we could get them (imagine pushing Sir Killalot...). Unfortunately, they cost 780 each!

6/9/99 - Ted (resident petrolhead) at work brought in some of his go kart wheels and tyres for us to look at. The fronts look totally ideal, being 10" diameter by 4.5" wide, and very light. It looks like Ted can get us as many tyres as we need, and hopefully a couple of wheels. Also rung Adam Harper again re C5 motors. He has two in - but he's only willing to sell them with the gearboxes, making them a still painful 173 each.

7/9/99 - Ted at work brought in a go-kart front wet tyre. Very sexy! He reckons they'd be best for us, and I'm inclined to agree. Tried to ring Mentorn during my lunch break (the list of questions is growing and the email hasn't been replied to as yet) but got only an answering machine when put through. Also looked further at Lynch motors. Looks like we could get away with a pretty high ratio gearbox (one motor with a current limit of about 200A will shift a Ford Fiesta to 40mph!). They're a bit heavy though, at 8.5kg each (C5 and Bosch are more like 3kg). Dave G also suggested the (provisional) name Tornado (he's into storm chasing!). These guys already have a robot named Tornado, but 1) it's a lightweight, 2) their site was last updated on the 5th April 1998, and 3) they only give provisional build specs...

9/9/99 - Rung Mentorn, and Derek Foxwell. All our questions gave positive answers. Mentorn said they'd get back to me at work (they didn't) but I did manage to give them my new address and find out that the email hasn't been working for the last few weeks, and filming of Series 3 is on for the end of September (everybody should have got a letter). Dave G has started testing the batteries - the first looks to have at least 12AH.

10/9/99 - The second battery has been tested; it's not as good but it's OK.

14/9/99 - Dave's tested all four of the Hawker batteries, and they seem OK (9.5-12AH on 2 ohm load). We intend therefore to get five more (to give three sets of three).

17/9/99 - The FET's for the speed controllers arrived.

18/9/99 - Visited scrapyards. Found a brilliant one with all sorts of junk - but we got there too late to really explore, and Dave's car isn't big enough to carry much of the junk we had our eyes on! We plan to go back next week. From the various yards we visited, we obtained several different motors. Found a big Bosch motor as the ABS pump in a new Mercedes - but we couldn't take it as the car was an insurance claim. Also had a couple of ideas regarding a spectacular effect in keeping with our name (but that we need to clear with Mentorn first).

20/9/99 - Dave G's tested the motors, and surprisingly the 24V ERF wiper motor is naff! The 12V car radiator fan motors are much better however. Also he's dismantled and tested the wheelchair gearboxes - they have a 32:1 reduction ratio and the wheelchair motors seem pretty good. He's also found a source for decent ready made gearboxes that are 215 each. Also received a reply from Mentorn about Series 4 - obviously they are busy, so they said to get back in contact come mid November. At least they are replying at last!

21/9/99 - Ordered five more Hawker batteries from Display.

22/9/99 - Rung Derek Foxwell regarding effect ideas. They have been approved! We're not going to post them however, as we feel they're so good that we don't want them copied. Our main effect is in keeping with our name, and will look impressive if we can get it to work...

23/9/99 - Hawker batteries arrived at work. Dave G started charging and testing them. Contacted the scrapyard guy - we'll be going this Saturday.

24/9/99 - Rung Derek Foxwell re weaponry - we have found a source of some milling edge cutters that may be suitable, and we are allowed to use them so long as we run them slowly. He also told us that unfortunately there may be another team with claim to the name Tornado, but for now we will stay as such (Mentorn can sort it out if we get on TV). Spoke to Ted at work re kart tyres and wheels - he will start looking from now.

25/9/99 - Visited the scrapyard as planned. Obtained box section and sheet steel, also lots of other little bits that will come in useful, including a milling edge cutter that will make a good weapon. Looked at wheelchair gearboxes (they appear very sturdy) and various motors etc. Also saw Dave G's first speed controller prototype running - very nice!

The scrapyard, the bloke who runs it, and the bits we bought

29/9/99 - Bought a failsafe from the model shop; an orange FS-1. The circuit is unbelieveably simple! Dave said he is surprised it works at all.

30/9/99 - Dave obtained Ellis Components catalogue of the Bosch motors. Also phoned Derek Foxwell regarding the failsafe - we can duplicate the action of the failsafe circuit in our speed controllers, saving buying two more. Dave has been testing the new batteries - we have three good ones and two that are duff.

5/10/99 - Arranged with Display to return and replace the two duff Hawker batteries. They refused, however, to pay for our return postage. Spent the evening discussing motor options - and it is nowhere as clear cut a choice as we thought. Once I get our spreadsheet running properly, we will make our decision.

6/10/99 - Found the Robot Wars technical manual in a local discount bookshop - should make interesting reading! Contacted Display re return postage - they said they will get back to me tomorrow. Also got the motors spreadsheet running properly, giving us a better idea of what motor to go for.

7/10/99 - Mailed Lynch. No call from Display. Had a good idea regarding front spikes to make the robot a little more interesting to look at, and hopefully able to inflict damage by ramming.

8/10/99 - Display called to say they won't refund our postage. I pointed out that in their terms and conditions on their website that it doesn't say anything about it being a return to base warranty, as they claimed over the phone. They said they'd call back...

10/10/99 - Found out that Karting place in Manchester is closing - may be able to get some parts from there.

11/10/99 - Dave G got the car alternator I bought at the scrapyard on Saturday running as a motor!

12/10/99 - Rang Mentorn's tickets hotline, to try and get some tickets to the filming of Series 3. A card came through the door saying tickets are available to club members, and we think going to the filming will give us a better idea of what to expect.

14/10/99 - No call from Display or contact from Lynch. Hence it's time to buy some motors... Also updated the website, uploading a copy of our motors spreadsheet.

15/10/99 - Rung Tickets hotline again. There are lots of days left, so we left another message asking for tickets for Sunday 24th. Also replacement batteries from Display arrived. So far they seem good, but no mention has been made of refunding our postage - they included a copy of the terms and conditions highlighting the "return carriage must be pre-paid" bit, but we already knew that. Our understanding of "pre-paid" is that we pay the outgoing carriage and it will then be refunded. Thus our advice to anyone thinking of buying these batteries is to clarify what will happen if any prove defective and they then have to be returned for replacement. For the record, we had to return two out of the nine that we bought, and the cheapest postage available cost us 7.95. Also rung the Manchester Karting place - no luck unfortunately.

18/10/99 - With the help of our motors spreadsheet, we made the decision to buy the Bosch 750W GPA motor; and ordered two from Ellis Components. The wheelchair motors/gearboxes, although able to match the torque of a Bosch, will not allow such a high top speed. Also, Dave G's Dad has found us a workbench.

19/10/99 - Motors arrived from Ellis. Being able to hold them in my hand gives a better idea of the scale of what we are building... Clockwise from Top Left - pancake fan motor, starter motor, 24V ERF wiper motor, RC 540S, RC Schumacher 27T single, Bosch 750W GPA, 10 wheelchair motor, and large car fan motor.

20/10/99 - Rung Tickets line again - only tickets left that we can make are for Wednesday 27th at 4pm. Left another message.

21/10/99 - Rung Tickets line yet again - Left another message.

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