TORNADO - The Team with the Comedy Flying Cow


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1/8/01 - Cut out most of the damaged sections of chassis and rewelded in new steel, and welded up all of the points needing repair. Dave continued work on the battery tester, and noticed a serious problem. At first he was using one of our speed controllers driving a large inductor to load the battery - the controllers can get very hot, reducing their current limit. This could be an important factor in the speed problems we've been noticing recently.

2/8/01 - Bryan has come up with a preliminary design for the anti-crusher weapon disc. Thus we're planning to have two spinning disc weapons that we can choose between - our primary disc as we used at Extreme and we will use for most of Series 5, and our (secondary) anti-crusher disc weapon. Interchangeable weapons ahoy! Continued work on the chassis, grinding down a lot of the new welding.

3/8/01 - Didn't get anything done on Tornado, as I spent the evening preparing Storm's Bosch motors to make them robot proof. It gave us a good opportunity to use the battery tester, and we tested Storms Hawker Odysseys.

The battery tester uses a large FET strapped to an old UPS heatink, switching the battery across a large inductor (again from the old UPS) which is immersed in a bucket of water - and yes, it gets rather warm! A Picolog computer logging system records the data - voltage across the battery terminals and current (from a current sensor around the battery cable).

4/8/01 - Dave continued testing our batteries. There's a lot to test, and we're finding a surprising number are very down on capacity (i.e. they've had it!).

Our information pack arrived for Series 5 - we are seeded 12th, and are to be in Heat G!

5/8/01 - Worked on the chassis in the afternoon, finishing the welding and grinding, annealing all the new welds, rubbing down, and starting to repaint the chassis. Dave has been continuing to test the batteries, and we are starting to form conclusions. Heard from Storm in the afternoon - their audition at the Robot Wars Live Event did not go well, because they did not get to fight!

6/8/01 - Rang Alex@Mentorn to confirm some of the Series 5 details. Found on the web that Tornado is included in the new Robot Wars game for the new GameBoy Advance! Continued painting the chassis.

7/8/01 - Finished painting the chassis.

8/8/01 - Bryan has come up with a design for the anti-crusher weapon disc - now we need to get it made! Started phoning round for battery quotes. Started making new side bars and rebuilding the robot, but gave up with the side bars when it became clear we wouldn't get them finished in time for Friday. Came across a bit of a problem with the chassis, in that the first stage gears bind a little on one side after repairing the damage done by Dantomkia at Danson Park. We'll have to fix it properly before Series 5, but it can remain as is for the moment.

9/8/01 - Bryan made up some more teeth so we can run the weapon tomorrow. Finished rebuilding Tornado, ready for the meeting with Luke Hutson tomorrow. Found a few more little niggles that will need dealing with before Series 5.

10/8/01 - Visit from Luke Hutson from Eaglemoss Publications - Tornado is going to be the subject of an article across 2 issues of the new "Real Robots" magazine!

We spent quite a while at the truck stop testing area, pulling Bryans car, knocking down some tyres, and smashing up a load of junk, including destroying my parents old TV with the spinning disc! We then returned to Daves house for more photos and lots of discussions about Tornado. It was a long afternoon, but I think Luke got everything he needs for a good article...

11/8/01 - Bryan continued machining weapon parts and various inserts.

12/8/01 - Tidied the garage and stripped the chassis down. Bryan dismantled the spare disc, while Andrew repaired the bottom armour from Extreme. Took the intermediate gears to Bryans for them to be repaired, and took the idler bearings back home to clean them.

13/8/01 - Replaced two nuts on the chassis and cut and rewelded the intermediate axle support that was causing the gears to bind. Viewed the footage from the Robots@War Arena event - great fun! Bryan continued the machining work both in the workshop at work and on his lathe.

14/8/01 - Ed from Storm called to say that his sponsor is not willing to do the anti crusher weapon discs for free - so far for Storm they've only been doing small bits, and these are rather large! Bryan repaired the intermediate gears, and we checked the fit of the rewelded intermediate axle support - the gears no longer bind, so the rewelding was a sucess. Started work on the new (quicker to assemble) primary disc mounts, while Bryan sorted our wheels and tyres out. Dave tested the speed controller current limiting - they maintain current easily for nearly a minute, which shows that the problem he thought he had found was not actually there - but he discovered another one, in that his current measurement system will not read above 80 amps... This has obvious implications for the battery testing!

15/8/01 - Bryan got the aluminium for the anti crusher disc hub ordered. In the evening Bryan continued on the disc mounts while I worked on the side bars. Managed to complete a large amount of the side bars welding, and start welding the disc mounts. Dave found the problem with the current sensor and retested the speed controllers - the (limited) current does drop away but only by about 15% over a minute at full load, which is not a problem. It does indeed have implications for the battery testing, however Dave was able to recalculate the curves with knowledge of the resistance of the load. We will restest the batteries at a later date.

16/8/01 - Bryan continued work on the new disc mounts, while I completed the welding on the side bars. Started work on repairing and reworking the removable spikes, at least until we ran out of welding gas. Sorted out the rest of our kart tyres to send some to John McCarthy - we're now "out of stock" and will have to withdraw our free kart tyres offer for the moment. Dave began work on modifying the spare transmitter.

17/8/01 - Went to Team Plant in the afternoon for more welding gas, and to Scottys for some bolts for the weapon motor mount. Posted the last lot of the kart tyres off - we'll let everyone know when we have some more, but for now we cannot offer to give any more away. Continued work on the spikes. Ed from Storm dropped the ACW (anti crusher weapon) discs off - they look excellent. Bryan made some spacers for the weapon mounts in his garage, while Dave completed the backup controller boards, and worked on the modifications to the spare transmitter.

18/8/01 - Went to Mackays - got the aluminium for the ACW (anti crusher weapon) disc hub, and steel for the side bars. Dropped off the aluminium to Bryan, who made the ACW hub and various other parts for the primary disc in his garage, and also the split collet for the ACW motor. Welded up the rest of the removable spikes, and built a set of lighter side bars. Worked on the charity event weapon - ground as much weight out of it as was easy to do, so that when the spike holes were reinforced and dents filled in its weight did not change. Dave rewired the external transmitter controls, set the speed controller current limits up, finished off the modifications to both transmitters and cooked some rechargeable AA batteries....

19/8/01 - Bryan built up the first ACW disc and secured the pinion and collet on the motor. Finished off the new primary disc mounts - they only have bolts from the front, so they're a lot easier and quicker to fit than what we had at Earls Court. Dave worked on the spare speed controller - the photo below shows the three used in the robot attached to their bus bars, and the spare. Andrew ground down the welding on the lighter side bars and a few spikes. Bryan hardened some spikes.

20/8/01 - Got more bolts and grinding discs from Scottys at lunch. No sign of our supporters tickets from Mentorn - tried to contact them but could only get answer machines. Bryan drilled the two remaining primary discs in the workshop in the afternoon, while Andrew cut up the bar for the teeth. Bryan spent the evening tapping the discs and grinding a load of spikes, while Andrew worked on the pulley guard for the disc. Dave finished the spare speed controller and started on the box for the spare controller/decoder.

21/8/01 - Genesis batteries arrived from Dave Knight.

Finally managed to get through to Mentorn to ask about the tickets - there's been a bit of a delay, and they'll be sent out very soon. Bryan continued working on the discs (machining the teeth cutouts) in the workshop after work, until he was thrown out - we'll have to speak to a few people tomorrow, as this could give us some serious problems in being ready for Series 5. Spent the evening making the pulley guard for the primary disc, grinding and finishing the side bars, and grinding the rest of the removable spikes. Dave finished the mechanical work on the spare controller box.

22/8/01 - The problem in the workshop should have been sorted out thanks to Dave - but the conditions still imposed made it impossible to do anything! Essentially we've been screwed by our machine shop sponsor, and it's going to be very hard indeed to be properly ready for Series 5 now. We called on Ed from Storm to contact his CNC sponsor to see if they can help out in a hurry. Stickers arrived from Applied Lettering - they look excellent as always. Still no sign of our tickets - it's going to be very difficult to get them out to everyone now! Also got wind of a possible sponsorship deal with Knight Batteries - this sounds promising, so watch this space. Bryan spent the evening on his lathe/mill at home trying to produce us at least a couple of weapon teeth, while I worked on the chassis mod for the Genesis batteries, side bars and ACW motor and disc mount. Dave finished wiring up the backup control box.

23/8/01 - Bryan managed to get some essential stuff done in the workshop in the morning before work - this is a big help given how desperate the situation is. Ed called to say that his sponsor is very busy and unfortunately won't be able to help with the weapon teeth that still need making. We called round a few places and managed to get Bowd Engineering in St Ives to help us out - they gave us an excellent quote for the 20 teeth we want made. The tickets finally arrived, well half of the days we had asked for did. In typical Mentorn style they are very late and it's going to be very hard to get what we have been given to all our supporters. What made it even worse was that the parcel was too big to fit through my letterbox, and I had to go to the sorting office to collect it! Bryan finished the side bars and got to work on tapping the two new primary discs in the evening, while Andrew continued work on the anti crusher weapon, starting the motor and disc mounts.

24/8/01 - Bryan managed to get more stuff done in the workshop in the morning, machining the pulley grooves, while Andrew cut up the PTFE bar for the chassis bottoming feet. Continued sorting out the tickets - the rest of what we asked for arrived today, but it's way too late to get them out to those who asked for them. I'm not sure if it's Mentorn or the Post Office who are to blame... Andrew continued work on the anti crusher weapon, building up most of the motor and disc mounts, while Bryan worked on the side bars and spikes. Also drilled the new primary disc axle (to replace the one bent at Extreme) plus a spare, and the axle for the ACW.

25/8/01 - Continued work on the ACW - welded the remainder of the disc and motor mounts, and made the axle fit properly.

Cut, drilled and stickered all the new armour. Bryan hardened all the removable spikes. Started assembly of Tornado as best we could, but gave up at 2am, as we were rather tired...

26/8/01 - Our first day of Series 5 filming at Elstree. We got together at Daves in the morning in order to finish the assembly of the robot and build the battery packing and cables.

Packed the car and set off for the filming at Elstree - registration was smooth and we weighted in bang on 100kg! The tech check went as smoothly as usual, and we began the familiar waiting game. In the afternoon we completed pre battle filming for both the UK and Italian (Chou amichi Italiani!) shows.

(Hires versions of some of these images are available in the Gallery.)
We also heard several other versions of what happened to Storm at Newcastle - the only thing Ed hasn't been making clear is the number of times the tech guys came to see if Storm was ready - it sounds like it was quite a few and maybe you can understand why they lost patience therefore. Already the filming of the first round fights of Heats A-F were underway. We were to be in Heat G, and our first fight was to be against Gravedigger. Also in the heat were newcomers Dome vs Diotoir, newcomers Evolution and Sabretooth, and the 13th seed Spawn Again against newcomers Hydra. We spent the evening in the hotel bar with Gareth Dean from Wolverine and Jon from Toecutter 2 (helping out on Gareth's team as Toecutter hadn't qualified this year).

27/8/01 - Our second day of Series 5 filming. We were up early for breakfast at the studio, and good thing too, as our fight was the first on! We pushed Gravedigger around comfortably, putting some big scrapes in their aluminium armour. They managed to get a couple of axe blows in on us, one of which penetrated in our polycarbonate, but we smashed them against the side of the arena, and they stopped. They later traced the problem to a loss of receiver power. We stayed around all day to watch the rest of the heat first round fights - there were some spectacular and some scrappy battles, while the best comedy concept we have seen caused a large fire in the arena - the wonderful Granny's Revenge! Again we stayed in a hotel overnight, spending the evening in the bar with the guys from 3 Stegs and Jon from Wheely Big Cheese.

28/8/01 - Our third day of Series 5 filming. Diotoir, Spawn Again and Evolution had all won their fights yesterday, and we were put against Diotoir for the second round fight of the heat. Our battle happened slightly earlier than scheduled - everything was running very well indeed and the filming was actually ahead of schedule by the end of the day! We spent a lot of time queueing and waiting, while Zulu scrawled grafitti over Firestorm, who were waiting to fight Sir Chromalot. The "Girly Boys" bit is obvious, but look for "Hi Mum" on their rams! We watched the rather short lived fight from the house roboteers control booth - whether it was our presence or not that caused it we cannot say, but we were witness to some of the most iffy house robot driving ever - even Derek commented after the fight about how bad it had been! Dead Metal in the pit? Hmmn... Our fight against (the Bean-Eating champions) Diotoir was up next. It started well, we broke their weapon very quickly, and were taking big chunks out of their aluminium with our disc, although we kept having to reverse it as it kept getting clogged with fur! They proved to be one of the hardest to push 2WD robots we have ever fought, and when we were on their front, their ramped chassis lifted our front wheels off the ground and gave them the pushing advantage. This proved conclusive after they opened the pit just before we lost drive on one side. There was nothing we could do - straight down the pit we went. Out to Diotoir - Noooooo! How embarrasing. Not quite as embarrasing as Sump Thing, who lost to the Robot Widows. Losing to a bunch of girls? Well, at least the Sump guys found it funny too!
Inspection of Tornado revealed a snapped chain, caused by the catastrophic failure of one of the go-kart clutch plates we use on the intermediate drive - it was missing half its teeth! Given we were still needed from Friday for the filming of the Extreme fights missed at Earls Court, we packed quickly and tried to get to Dartford Karting, but heavy traffic meant we did not have enough time. Thus we took Tornado back to Huntingdon to strip down and fix - we found three pieces of red and black spotty fur inside!

29/8/01 - A day off from the filming for everyone, while the Dutch robots were brought in and prepared. Spent the morning driving round picking up parts - drove to Dartford Karting to get some replacement clutches and to Bowd Engineering in St Ives to pick up the disc teeth - many thanks to them for getting the teeth done so quickly! Spent the afternoon replacing both clutches (the other one has a chipped tooth and is obviously on the way out, but we'll keep it as a spare) while Bryan toughened the new teeth.

30/8/01 - Fourth Day of filming for Series 5. For us, a nice relaxed day off for a change!

31/8/01 - Fifth and final Day of filming for Series 5 and also more filming for Extreme 1. We arrived mid moring ready to film another fight for Extreme - our Melee against Steel Avenger and King Buxton Powerworks. It was a bit of a scrappy fight, we hit Steel Avenger hard a few times until our link came out and we stopped. King B's wheel fell off, while we got thrown by the arena flipper and bashed by Matilda, when we weren't even in a CPZ. Steel Avenger took some big hits from Matilda too, despite the fact they won the fight! We had words with Bill, Derek and Sean about the damage Matilda was doing - because Mentorn wanted us to be back in on Monday! We were fortunate enough to see the semi final between Hypnodisc and Bigger Brother as it happened - what an amazing fight! We left as early as we could to get back to Daves and start repairs - we weren't needed for Saturday and Sunday but we were going to be back on Monday to film some more battles. Once we got back, we dismantled as much as we could that evening.

The hits from Matilda's disc had damaged the chassis to the left of the disc, and completely removed a piece of the top bar to the right. The supporting vertical was totalled, and the top rail was twisted making the spike hard to remove. It all needed replacing! We also found a few holes from King B's spikes, and that the link had a broken connection making it not clip in properly.

1/9/01 - Finished stripping Tornado down in order to fix the damage done by Matilda yesterday. Also replaced all the damaged armour bolt nuts, added a little cutout for the battery cable, and moved the idler bearing position to tighten the chain. Repainted the chassis in the evening. It was a lot of work!

2/9/01 - Spent the morning reassembling Tornado. Made new armour, sorted all the spinning disc weapons out, and prepared all our spares for the last day of Extreme 1 filming tomorrow.

(Hires versions of some of these images are available in the Gallery.)
Also found time to test the ACW - we are very pleased with the results, also it comes in nicely underweight at 99kg!

Repacked the cars in the afternoon and headed back to Elstree. We met Dave Knight from Knight Batteries for the first time - we had managed to get some audience tickets to him - and showed him and his companions Tornado. Spent the evening in the hotel bar, chatting to Roger Plant, Myra Wilson, George Francis, and Tim Mann from Stinger.

3/9/01 - Last day of filming for Robot Wars Extreme 1 at Elstree. We were back to take part in the Challenge Belt competition, and were to be fighting Behemoth. They had been awarded the belt at the start of the series, and had already fought and beaten Stinger and Steel Avenger to retain it. If they won it a third time in a row they would get to keep it... It turned out to be a hard and violent fight, our disc causing lots of sparks from Behemoth's titanium scoup and sides, and their gas system losing pressure. Behemoth managed to prop us against the side wall on our back spikes in a CPZ, but Matilda came in, catching Behemoth first with her disc and helping to free us. Not fair on Behemoth maybe, but earlier in the fight we had proped Behemoth against the side wall on their side so they could not self right and Refbot came in and righted them! It went to the judges, we were given the fight and thus awarded the belt!
Our next fight was against Comengetorix. They managed to catch us a few times with their axe, but they were experiencing radio interference and didn't present much opposition therefore. We pushed them about all over the place... Craig Charles took a liking to their squirrel mascot during the interview at the end of the fight - and threw it into the arena! We ended up pushing it back into our bullpen to retrieve it for them.
We were up against Wild Thing next. This was a very tough fight that we were lucky to win - we only won it on aggression. Both robots were limping towards the end, and it was the first time we found the Genesis batteries dying on us - but we know why, we had not had enough time to charge them properly! But we had won our first Challenge Belt - it was ours to keep for good!!! On top of that, we lent our old SBS15 batteries to Slicer - who won the first Dutch series Grand Final while using them!
Our next fight was our fourth of the days filming - and it was against Chaos 2! It was a very fast and violent fight, and having beaten George in the All Stars at Earls Court we wanted to prove it wasn't a fluke... Unfortunately Chaos lost a motor towards the end and got stuck in a CPZ, but George still managed to flip Shunt three times. We wanted to open the pit to end the fight quickly, but no matter how often we hit the pit release tyre, they wouldn't open it!
Chaos came out of the fight a real mess, both ourselves and George still had one fight to film, and it was getting late. So I helped Alan Gribble from Pussycat sort Chaos' damaged motor, while Dave and Bryan fixed Tornado for our fifth and final fight of the day - against Pussycat! We had beaten them before at Earls Court, but Alan had improved Pussycat's wheels and handling so it was going to be a harder task. They gave us a big scare during the fight - Pussycat's blade took off one of our spikes which hit our control booth at great speed - thank goodness for the polycarb screens - but we still jumped a mile! We managed to push them into Matilda, who damaged their wheels again and made it possible for us to push them into the pit - but not before I nearly drove down it myself - Tornado was over the edge, but I pulled it back... This made us the holders of the second belt - there were no more challengers!
The day was a big achievement for us and it's even more surprising that Tornado kept going all day for what were five hard fights - without a doubt it's our greatest sucess so far.
We left at the very end of the filming (even getting a beer from the crew) - and we must say well done to Mentorn as it was blooming excellent this time! We didn't get any hassle from anyone, there was a wonderful spirit in the pits (as competing teams helped fix each other ready for their next fight), which made it by far the best event we have been to yet. We unloaded everything when we finally got back home, in preparation to return to the ordinary monotony of work tomorrow...

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