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31/7/00 - Demoed Tornado to our work colleagues. It was our first run with wet tyres and fully working weapon - however we think there must be a crushed pipe somewhere, as the weapon was less effective than it had been on the bench. We did quite a bit of driving about (clouting a kerb in the process, taking a big chunk out of it and bending a spike) and punting plastic speaker boxes about, and then we had a go at towing my car again (750kg of Fiat Uno). No problems starting, but unfortunately cars don't have regen braking, and robots do... Bryan couldn't stop my car in time and the robot got pulled round the side into the wing - the damage was minor, apart from a completely trashed mudflap, only a bit of bent plastic and metal on the wing which we straighted out there and then. The robot's worth more than my car anyway...
1/8/00 - The day of our audition! We arrived at Park Street Studios a bit early, but already there were lots of robots there and the registration process was in full swing. To be let in we needed to have our robot fully working and ready to go - some teams sat in the car park all day before they were allowed in - and they wanted to check the robot before we took all our tools in (so when you go, take your robot in first!). The technical check came first, Matt Irvine went through looking at Tornado and ticking his checklist - he couldn't find anything wrong! (We later overheard a comment along the lines of "go and look over there to see how it should be done", with 'over there' being us...) We handed our transmitter over to transmitter control, and signed in, getting only a stick on name badge for signing our lives away. Weighing in and a photo came next - we were 78kg - nicely underweight! (Weightwise, an 88kg robot called F-One was allowed to fight - personally we would like to have seen that turned away, but they were beaten anyway. More on tech later.) Next came charging - and our only big hiccup. The connectors Bryan used on the high pressure side are only really low pressure ones, and despite them holding for us at 1000psi, obviously they could not allow us to be fully charged! The only hose connectors that are acceptable for high pressure are the hydralic type sleeved ones, as the hose can't be forced off. CO2 and compressed air was available, so the charging guys agreed to charge us to 250psi with compressed air - better than nothing! We now joined the queue for fights - and started to wait. By this time we were a fair way down the queue, and were up to be first to fight after the interval in the second session, our opponent being "T2 R Special" - a robot entered as Tantrum in series 2 and T2 in series 3; the picture below shows their Series 3 incarnation.
There were about 30 other robots in attendance - we can't remember them all but here goes: Bulldog Breed 2, Knightmare, Alligator 2, Millenium Bug, Little Fly, F-One, Wauxford Destroyer, Eco Warrior, Iron Daisy, Invertibrat, T2 R Special, Wheeliwhacko 2, Aeolus, Twister Metal, Angel of Death (bad luck with the failsafes guys, see you next year hopefully), Purple Avenger?, and lots of others I can't remember. Also in the audience display area were the new toys, plus Chaos 2, Hypnodisc and Hypnodisc 2, Razer, Behemoth, the Plunderstorm team, and Aggrobot. George Francis from Chaos 2 and Ian Lewis from Razer were in attendance building the sacrifical robot Sir Teddybot.
Now for some technical comments. Mentorn have got the organisation sorted, and the audience protection is damn good, but what they allowed to fight and some of the tech checks were at best suspect. For instance, some people were running pneumatic systems that we had been specifically told were not acceptable, yet because they must have brought them along ready charged, they did not get put in front of the charging guys and thus did not get safety checked. The failsafe check involved running the robot on its stand, full fowards/back/left/right and whilst doing so switching off the transmitter. If the wheels stopped, it passed. Yet the wheels of anyone not using servos might stop without a failsafe in place, unless interference was present that could cause the robot to move... what happened to the RF white noise generator that we had been told about? We were told that we shouldn't be using the red keyswitch for our removable link - yet about half of the robots were! Weightwise, the rules AGAIN were not applied strictly - robots that were seriously overweight were allowed to compete. It's part of the engineering challenge to make the robot within the rules, and given how many things that were allowed, it seems almost that the rules do not matter... We sincerely hope it is different at the filming!
When we finally got home that evening, we did a few team photos... and yes we were tired, but Tornado was still fully assembled and we were dressed in team colours...
Footnote to all the red blooded males: I don't know what it is about TV, but it seems to attract all the really gorgeous women. At the Tomorrows World filming, I was accompanied by a group of lovely young ladies whilst I fought with a crashing CD player, and at the auditions, there was a very, very fit blonde woman weighing the robots and taking photos...
2/8/00 - Bryan investigated the hosing required to uprate the high pressure side of our pneumatics to the full 1000psi pressure. It will cost well over £100, so given the time we have left, we're going to leave it as is.
3/8/00 - Ordered T-Shirts from Bourne Embroidery. Brought Tornado into work again to show those who didn't see it the first time. Despite the wet weather (and resultant lack of grip), we pulled Bryans Land Rover up the car park and back, and then proceeded to destroy a pallet and a speaker box. We now have some cleaning to do though... Got a call from Mentorn - we have been selected for the filming and are needed on the 8th from 8am....
4/8/00 - Refitted the pneumatics tanks, cleaned the armour, repaired the fixed spike I dented on the kerb at work, and rehardened the pneumatic ram spikes. Dave built a killswitch into the transmitter, so that we can turn the transmitter on first and Tornado will not lurch on power up.
6/8/00 - Found out today that Dantomkia did not make it through its audition, despite winning both its battles. We feel that this is not on; the audition places were supposed to be qualifying places, but it looks like most were discretionary and chosen by the producer. Given the number of technical infringements we saw at our audition, we feel that much stricter technical checks would allow Mentorn to reduce the number of entrants, and in a fairer way.
7/8/00 - T-Shirts arrived from Bourne Embroidery - they are excellent. Prepared all our junk ready for the filming in the evening, and built up the spare wheels with wet tyres.
8/8/00 - The day our heat was filmed!. (See Tornado on TV.) The arrangements were much the same as before, although we were required to turn up at 8am rather than 9 this time. We weighed in at 78.2kg (we forgot to weight the link at the auditions!). Our heat (programme) was with Gemini (seeded 8th), Katerkiller, Invertibrat, Beserk 2 (seeded 26th) and Beast. Gemini is the first UK Robot Wars cluster bot (of hopefully many in the future) - they were brilliant, with flippers on both almost as good as Chaos 2's! The format has changed from last year, with the heats starting with a 3 team Melee. Our first fight was against Gemini and Katerkiller - Katerkiller provided us with the least threat, so we went straight for them, pushing them into the CPZ's, into the arena side, and into Refbot (who wobbled precariously). Gemini spotted this and helped us flip them, and so we both left Katerkiller to Killalot (who bent both their rams) and Dead Metal (who put a big sawcut in their rear). Meanwhile, Gemini and us proceeded to have some fun - with the house robots! Shunt we managed to push sideways quite easily (but not when we tried in his normal direction of travel). He got rather cheesed at us and put a big hole in our top armour... Gemini proceeded to flip us, and then Shunt put another hole in our underside... I then drove into the pit, which was just decending - they raised it again and we got out (Gemini tried to flip us out), Gemini flipped us again, and we started to have radio problems due to a rather knackkered aerial! They dropped the pit fully, and just as cease was called, I drove down it again... But Katerkiller was very much immobilised beforehand, so both Gemini and us were through... Our second fight was against Beserk 2, who were much slower than us, and had GRP bodywork and thin aluminium rear armour... They managed to get their axe working once or twice, but didn't hit us, and they caught us once with their flipper, but we broke free. Otherwise we just got onto their sides and pushed... Lots of squealing tyres gave them a puncture, and we just pushed them to the arena wall and rammed them, er, repeatedly... Killalot came in and finshed them off, dropping them in the pit. We did a quick victory spin - and dropped a chain! Fortunately we could still keep moving enough to show the judges we were not immobilised. We put lots of holes in their GRP bodywork and aluminium rear armour - they'll be back next year with more power! Fixing the chain itself was not too much of a problem - but we found a big one - part of our drivetrain uses a bearing to keep the chain tensioned, and it was bent about 20 degrees, allowing the chain to go slack and hence jump off. This is a big problem and will need a permanent solution - fortunately we have the weight left to do it. Beast was spectacularly disposed of by Gemini - firstly their shell (and removable link) were flipped off, then they were completely somersaulted, and then they were thrown out of the ring! Our last battle was to be against Gemini - Invertibrat had a malfunction in the Melee and were knocked out. Given their performance against Beast we were rather worried... However, we knew the rules as well as they did, and as such we knew we had to knock only one of them out to win. We could push them around easily, but they could flip us without too much effort, and they had two robots... It was difficult, but we were incredibly lucky to force one of them onto an arena spike and knock the power leads off their batteries. We had won - but the other Gemini was not finished! We kept getting flipped, then we dropped a chain, and we got flipped even more, and finally we lost all power. No failsafe light, no power supply lights, but also no smoke or blown fuses. But we had won our heat/programme, and we were through to the semis!
9/8/00 - Bought some more paint for the repair work after our heat. As we stripped the robot, Dave tested the electronics - the reason we lost power at the end of our fight with Gemini, was that we broke a battery! When we were axed by Shunt in the first round, one of our Hawkers gained a slight dent, which we thought nothing of, but upon closer inspection now it was crucial... With all the flipping Gemini did, our batteries moved around a bit, and one of the solid connection bars levered the battery terminal that Shunts axe had previously hit and broke it! We are replacing the bars with cable now... You can see the tiny dent in our battery protection plate, the dent in the top of the hawker, and you can just make out a dark line in the black resin where it is cracked.
10/8/00 - Got a call from Mary Jane - they want us to appear in the Daily Mail Weekend magazine! Cut the damaged bearing mounts out of the chassis and replaced them with much thicker and stronger box section. Also reinforced and rehardened the rear spikes, and repaired the ding in the underside of the chassis caused by Shunts axe. Dave repaired the broken jack connector screw and checked the electronics - everything is OK.
11/8/00 - Ground down the welding done yesterday and repainted the chassis.
12/8/00 - Rebuilt the robot and packed our things for the semis tomorrow...
13/8/00 - Semi-Finals and Finals Day! We were starting to get used to the arrangements by now... Our first battle was to be against the 15th seed Wheely Big Cheese. Pretty much all of the crew were on our side, given how contentious the decision in their last fight against Suicidal Tendencies was - but we won the battle fair and square. We spotted very quickly that their weakness was in their wheels, so we kept going for them, damaging one enough that when they reversed into the arena side, it broke convincingly... we dropped a chain however (yet again), jamming one side of our drivetrain and stalling a motor... which we burnt out very thoroughly!
Above two pictures courtesy of Jason Launchbury/Mousetrap
During the day I had a good chat with Derek Foxwell - mainly because the Kiel batteries are now approved for Robot Wars use! Team Killer Carrot brought one in (thanks guys!), and Derek gave it hell... they only leak if boiled, the same as any other sealed lead acid gel battery. It's also comforting to know that the tech guys do read the forum, and take our comments seriously.
We were also able to have a good look at Shunt just before we left. The house roboteers asked us if we were inspecting "the holes we had made" - too right! He has 3 nice square holes in his flat shovel, one in his side bars and one in his pointed shovel, all caused by us! There's only one other hole in his armour that wasn't us....! Look out for them on the TV, as they weren't repaired!
Thanks also to Team Mace (Gemini) for looking after the folder and inner tubes we left behind at our heat - we didn't see you to thank you, but cheers guys! We must also thank our support crew (here goes): Dave and Rick, Adrian, Nita, Matt and co, Bryans Mum, Dad and sister, Barry, my Mum and Dad (Gill and Doug), my Aunt/Uncle/Cousin + her boyfriend (Val, John, Lindsey and Rob), Iona from the Lunch Box and co, plus Barbara G and co. Sorry if I've forgotten anybody, but your support was much appreciated - thank you for being there! The banners were excellent!