TORNADO - The Team with the Comedy Flying Cow


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23/10/99 - Built RC Mockup for control systems testing, using modified RC gearboxes. Rigged it up with basic speed controllers and tank lever controls. It is the most uncontrollable RC thing I have ever tried to drive! We will definately have to mix our control signals. Also had lots of productive discussions regarding our effects.

26/10/99 - New Display batteries have only 5-6AH, which is not good. They're advertised as new, so really we expect at least 10AH. We are NOT happy.

27/10/99 - The day has passed, so it looks like we're not going to go to the filming of Series 3 (damn).

28/10/99 - Rung Display regarding the batteries. I got put onto the manager (a Mr Dave Martin), and had what cannot be described as a pleasant conversation. He essentially denied that there was anything wrong with our batteries ("we've sold hundreds of these to people doing Robot Wars without any problems"), and completely ignored the fact that out of the 9 batteries we've bought, we are happy with 7, and I told him 3 times. He would not accept that there was anything wrong with the ones we had been sent. I was talked down to, and it was insinuated that I did not know what I was talking about. He insisted we test the batteries at a discharge rate of 1 amp, rather than the six we had been using. Of course it will make no difference, as 7 of the batteries are OK on 6 amps... And we will be pulling hundreds in the competition, so weak batteries are no use to us. But could I even get him to listen to me saying this? We now recommend you think very carefully about buying these batteries. Our request to have the postage refunded was also completely ignored.
On the same subject, Bull Electrical are doing similar batteries for only 10 each (when bought as a 4 pack). We are buying some and plan to test them. We'll let you know what ones we recommend.

30/10/99 - Bought another radio system from Model World. It will only be a spare; we intend to use only one transmitter at once. Sourced various parts for one of our effects.

1/11/99 - Chatted with Dave regarding our effects, control systems and construction timescales. As expected, the 2 replacement batteries from Display are still not up to the job, even when tested at a 1 amp discharge rate, having 7 and 10AH capacities (when a full 14 would now be expected). We will be getting in touch with Display again. Also opto isolator fitted to the receiver - raw PPM (Pulse-Position Modulation) output obtained.

5/11/99 - Due to the imminent move to a new building at work, the workshop at Scherings emptied all it's metal offcuts into a skip. I backed my car up to said skip, and emptied the entire lot into my car... My car was on it's bump stops, and Dave's garage is now full of bits of metal!

Also spoke to the guys in the workshop (who were naturally curious as to what I wanted all the material for), and we've enlisted their help! Cheers Bryan and Richard! With their help our weapons strategy has now changed completely, in that we now want a large kinetic/pneumatic spike, that if sucessful will be able to puncture armour and mess up the insides of opponents...

6/11/99 - Dave decoded the receiver data to a voltage output, and added a deadzone to the PWM modulator.

7/11/99 - Dave blew the FET driver circuitry up, but the FET's survived OK. The ESC design is getting there!

11/11/99 - Kiel batteries arrived from Bull Electrical - Dave will test them and we will then give our recommendation.

13/11/99 - Sorted Dave's garage out again, so that it is halfway possible to clamber round it now, and the major draughts (such as the missing window) have been plugged. Finding space for the bench that Dave's Dad found was difficult. We plan also to install some decent heating and lighting, as we may have to work through the winter months to get the robot built in time...

14/11/99 - Built another part of our effects units, and proved that I actually can weld with the proper conditions. Decided on what hardware is required for the speed controllers.

15/11/99 - Emailed our complaints about the Hawker batteries to Display. Also emailed Mentorn again, as they requested (as it is now mid-November).

16/11/99 - Paul Bullin at work showed us a Kart parts catalogue (from Stratos Karts) with some cheap wheels, gears and other bits. Dave got some more parts for the ESC's and some hefty cable.

17/11/99 - Discussions and decisions related to the drivetrain. We are going to test some of the parts we have to decide if they are up to the job.

19/11/99 - Dave has tested the Kiel batteries - all four we received are OK. Please have a look at what batteries we recommend. Also got a reply from Mentorn - the Series 4 auditions will be held in May as last year, and to take part we need to re-apply in January. We have loads of time then!... Also made a decision regarding exactly which wheels to get.

22/11/99 - I've met Philippa Forrester already! I was involved in the filming of a short section of Tomorrows World for work (look for the bit about NXT flat panel speakers with Peter Snow on December 1st). Didn't get much of a chance to chat to her though.

26/11/99 - Saw an advert for series 3 on the TV. Starts next Friday (3rd December)! Also mailed Display again regarding the Hawker batteries.

29/11/99 - Dave has tested the chain we have, and is happy that it is strong enough for what we need.

1/12/99 - Looked at various kart parts whilst at karting. Those I saw are very suitable.

4/12/99 - Went round scrapyards, and found some shock absorbers off an old Rover SD1 that might make a good pneumatic ram. Almost took my finger off getting them! Went through the bike gears we have, and decided we cannot get the necessary gear ratio without spending out lots of money - which would be better spent on stronger Kart parts anyway.

6/12/99 - Went to Stratos Karts and bought wheels, bearings, sprockets and chain. Spent lots of money!

8/12/99 - Mailed Display again regarding the problems with the batteries.

9/12/99 - Got a reply from Display! Suddenly now they are happy to refund our postage costs and replace our batteries.

13/12/99 - On a scrapyard trip to Peterborough, I spotted a yard full of rams when climbing on some tyres. The yard belonged to M.T. Loading services, who when asked gave me a brand new dual action 2 foot long hydralic ram! Cheers guys! It's a bit on the heavy side, but it might just do the trick for our weapon...

15/12/99 - There is not enough room in the new workshop at work for all the metal store! Hence they were throwing out all the cheaper stuff, including lots of box section and 8ft by 4ft steel sheet... We filled Daves car as best we could!

20/12/99 - I've been more than a little busy, which explains why only now have I replied to Display. I've accepted their offer of replacement batteries, and asked if we can sort it all out after Christmas... Also borrowed the digital camera from work, and took pictures of lots of our robot things. On top of all that, our wheelchair is now for sale.

21/12/99 - Officially asked Bryan Moss, one of the guys from the workshop at NXT, if he would like to join the team, and he agreed. Bryan brings mechanical (and importantly pneumatic) skills, plus a SIII Land Rover to transport everything! He will replace David Lewis, who has been a less than active contributor...

22/12/99 - Looked at the selection of rams and pneumatic parts we have in our workshop, with the help of Bryan. The hydralic ram has two problems - its weight (approx 8kg) and it has tiny (5mm) inlet holes which will restrict its operation speed. All the proper pneumatic rams we have are quite small, but one holds promise - its bore is sufficient, and it may prove possible to lengthen it's stroke, which will make it very suitable for our purposes. We also have all the fittings and resevoirs we will need - all that remains to do is get the storage tank (and decide on a drive gas).

23/12/99 - Discussed with Dave what gears are required from Davall/HPC. We have mailed Davall for a quote - from HPC we are looking at about 80.

5/1/00 - Mailed Dave Fisher at Display regarding sorting the batteries out. Also emailed Mentorn regarding applying for Series 4.

7/1/00 - Bryan sourced a part for one of our effects, but we decided it wasn't up to the job. Realised we already have a part that is ideal in amoungst the junk I brought back from Kent.

9/1/00 - I managed to kick up a bit of a fuss on the Robot Wars Forum by pointing out how inadequate the failsafe systems most people use are (see 29/9/99 entry). Rex Garrod suggested having an ignition channel as part of the failsafe system - many people agreed it was a good idea and as such we too will be implementing it. We will post what failsafe model we bought when we find it!

10/1/00 - No reply from Dave Fisher at Display, so I phoned up. Nina Flavell said she'd find out about it and email me back.

11/1/00 - Looked at armour options: For equivalent weight we can have 1mm steel (7.8kg/dm3), 3mm aluminium (2.7 kg/dm3), 6mm polycarbonate (1.3kg/dm3), or 10mm MDF (0.77kg/dm3). This kind of favours the polycarbonate! We have arranged to have a team meeting on Thursday, and it looks like we might have sold the wheelchair. We still haven't heard back from Davall, so Dave mailed them again.

13/1/00 - Dave looked through Bryan's Reliance Gears catalogue - but they only do big stuff to special order, which would be too expensive. In the evening we held our first full team meeting: brought Bryan up to speed on our current ideas and theories. Went through the options with our internal layout, agreeing on a design which will produce a compact and well proportioned robot. But when we came to weigh all our parts, we couldn't find our scales!

Regarding the failsafe, we bought an FS-2, which George from Chaos 2 agrees is absolutely useless. All it does is look for a constant input state, which very few receivers will generate anyway in failed mode. If you buy one of the orange ones, make sure you get an FS-1, which George says does the job.

14/1/00 - Isn't it just so niggling when you loose something? I've found the box for the scales in my flat, but not the scales themselves! Hence I bought more scales, and went to Daves to weigh up in the evening. With all the weights I wrote a spreadsheet to look at our weight budget - we are a massive 13.8kg overweight!

16/1/00 - Got our weight problem down to 2kg over, but we have ramp angle problems, and also possible undergearing... Also contacted by wheelchair purchasers - we have now sold it.

17/1/00 - Told Bryan and Dave that weight is a major problem. Discussed ideas. Rung Display AGAIN. They took a message and my email addresses. Rung Mary Jane@Mentorn - they have over 1000 applications!!! - and were putting them into envelopes as we spoke!

18/1/00 - Dave can't fit the ESC into the space given, and we are still overweight. Decided to meet again tomorrow. Bryan has found us a resevoir cylinder which will take 175 bar. Rang up EDP for a quote on the polycarbonate armour - looks like nearly 150! Put new accurate densities into the spreadsheet - and we are now only 1.8kg overweight... Also Dave tested one of our fuses - by shorting it across a battery! He said the fuse blew exremely quickly, there was a lot of sparks - and the screwdriver he was using to bridge the gap got hot!

19/1/00 - Team meeting. Decided we will be OK regarding weight, as there are a few areas we know we can reduce, and quite a few over estimations. We've managed to reduce the size of the robot yet again - we're going to be very small!

20/1/00 - Still nothing from Display! Rang them again. Spoke directly to Dave Fisher - he said that he knew about the batteries, would "check it out" and email us about it. However, I'm certain this was the same guy (very distinctive voice), who I'm 90% sure called himself Dave Martin, when I spoke before (28/10/99) - is something funny going on?

21/1/00 - Gears arrived from HPC. They are huge! They also weigh a lot more than expected, so we shall have to machine them down. Also got back to Display - we're totally fed up with their lack of action, so we told them that if we don't hear anything by midnight Monday (24th) we will be contacting Trading Standards. Well, that got a reply back the very day unsurprisingly, but still with no returns number. We were asked to give full details of our claim (again), but we get the impression that we are being stalled. I extended the deadline until Tuesday 25/1/00 24.00 midnight, as it took a while to compose the reply.

22/1/00 - Took the wheelchair to it's purchasers in Bradford. Struck down by the flu that evening - no contacting Trading Standards for me!

27/1/00 - I emailed Dave at work, and he confirmed that we have had no reply from Display there. We were also planning to go to the scrapyard on Saturday, but Dave's having a patio door fitted, as well as me being I'll, so we're not going.

29/1/00 - Checked our current design - and we now have no ramp angle problems.

31/1/00 - Back to work, and still nothing from Display. Arranged to have a team meeting tomorrow. Found Trading Standards contact details that evening. We advise that you do not deal with Display Electronics.

1/2/00 - Emailed Trading Standards, and got called back by them that day, wanting to know more about Display. Also held another team meeting - managed to get a few things sorted out, including the location of the ESCs.

4/2/00 - Emailed Trading Standards again, as we haven't heard anything from them.

5/2/00 - Took a visit to Stratos and Hanningfield Metals. We exchanged our sprockets at Stratos, so our gearing will now be as we want it... Hanningfield was not at good as we hoped, but we still picked up a pressure gauge and a couple of connectors for our pneumatics.

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