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TLC Robotica Grand Champions Team Run Amok. Our 'mascot' was originally drawn by Hannes Bok for the cover of the May, 1941 issue of 'Cosmic Science-Fiction' magazine.
   
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It greatly saddens me to announce that my son, Aaron Joerger, died very suddenly on the afternoon of October 18th, 2013 of an apparent pulmonary embolism. He was 22 years old. Aaron's obituary.

The 'Ask Aaron' project was important to Aaron, and I have decided to continue the site in his memory. Thank you for the many kind messages of sympathy and support that have found their way to me.

- Mark Joerger, Team Run Amok


ComBots calls it quits -- no more RoboGames

April 22, 2013 -- in a brief post to the Robot Fighting League forum site, David Calkins announced that the just-completed RoboGames 2013 was the last event that ComBots would host. David did not cite specific reasons for his decision, but did offer thanks to the community "... for all your years of support."

ComBots has been hosting robot combat events in the San Francisco Bay area since 2004. Their annual RoboGames (April) and ComBots Cup (October) events were the last surviving competitions for heavyweight robots.


'Ask Aaron' 10th Anniversary Celebration - - Write a Haiku, Win a Robot!

Back in March of 2003, Team Run Amok started 'Ask Aaron' to answer the occasional robot combat question sent to our team. Ten years and more than 4300 questions later we're still here and still fielding a very broad range of practical, theoretical, arcane, obscure, and sometimes just plain silly questions.

To celebrate ten years of Q&A, we held a Combat Robot Haiku contest with an AWESOME robot prize package that included an autonomous waking robot!

Click here to read the entries and see who won.
Ten Years of Ask Aaron


Robot Combat League on SyFy!

This one's no rumor. The SyFy channel very quietly developed and filmed a full season of a new robot competition called 'Robot Combat League'. Veteran special effects guy and BattleBots competitor Mark Setrakian designed the twelve different 1000-pound robot 'boxers' that were each matched with a human operator team to compete for a $100,000 prize.

Did you miss the series? You can watch clips and full episodes on the SyFy website right now!

The robots are humanoid walkers, but rely on a mechanical support pole to keep them upright and stable. That support pole solves a great many problems that have scuttled other bipedal walker competitions. This certainly isn't the style of fighting robots we've seen before, and it isn't the sort of competition that will inspire novice builders to construct their own competitors in their basements and garages. It did, however, provide action, sparks, flying parts, and colorful narration.


'Ask Aaron' Website Answers 4400th Question!

When my son Aaron and I started the Ask Aaron website, I didn't even know there WERE 4300 questions about combat robots. Aaron started the site ten years ago to discuss robots and learn more about robotics by researching answers he didn't already know. I lend a hand with highly technical questions.

Got a question about combat robotics? Why not Ask Aaron?


Twelve Years Ago...

March 4th, 2013 marks the twelveth anniversary of Team Run Amok's victory at Robotica. The final fight took place at about 2:30 AM and it had been a very long day. Since that time, we've won a few more championships and have been on the podium at more than half the events we've entered. We've organized three Antbotica competitions, traveled to compete in England twice, and answered more than 4300 questions about combat robotics at the Ask Aaron page. We're still filled with ideas and enthusiasm for recreational robotics, so check back with us to see what develops!


Tentacle Combat Robotics Torque/AH Calculator (reloaded)

Several years back, Steve Judd of Tentacle Combat Robotics wrote an on-line application to model combat robot drivetrains. The app allows builders to explore the performance of specific robot designs with a wide variety of commonly used electric motors. The tool has proven itself to be an invaluable design aid in matching motors, gearing, wheels, batteries, and speed controllers to provide optimum performance in robots of any weight class.

Steve Judd was a highly respected builder and a selfless supporter of combat robotics. His death in 2010 was a great loss to the community. Following Steve's death, Team Run Amok adopted the task of maintaining and updating the calculator. We have revised the layout and format of the main screen, added support for new motors, and expanded the help file system. Support for the calculator is available thru our Ask Aaron website.

Tentacle Drivetrain Calculator (reloaded)

Richard Stuplich from Team Killerbotics also maintains an updated version of the torque/amp calculator: Killerbotics Torque/Amp-Hour Calculator. The original version of the calculator remains available on the Tentacle Combat Robotics site.


Spinner Spreadsheet

I get a lot of requests from robot builders for help calculating the spin-up time and effectiveness of their spinning weapon design. I've written an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the Moment of Inertia, spin-up time, and total energy for spinning discs, bars, drums, and combinations of these shapes. Let me know if you find it useful.

Spinning Weapon Spreadsheet

If you're interested in the physics of spinning weapons, I recommend reading Paul Hills' Spinner Guide.

Update: we've been getting a lot of questions about electric powered overhead hammer/axe weapons. To analyze their performance I have been using a customized version of the Spinning Weapon Spreadsheet re-focused to look at the first revolution a spinner weapon makes when spinning up to speed. I took some time to make this custom version 'friendlier' and more accurate, and I added a graphic output. I don't generally recommend electric hammer weapons because their energy output is very small compared to a full spinner weapon of the same mass and power source, but if you want to explore their design this spreadsheet can help.

Overhead Hammer Weapon Spreadsheet


Combat Robot Matches: Small Increase in 2011

The annual number of North American robot combat matches has leveled out after a long downward trend. Solid turnouts at Motorama, RoboGames, and The Frankin Institute event lead the way to a 4% increase in combat matches in 2011 over 2010 -- the first increase in BotRank reporting since we started tracking matches in 2003.

Graph showing the number of combat robot matches per year
Note: data includes an estimate for Motorama 2010 as they did not
report to BotRank. The RFL has stopped reporting events.

Results from the 2011 National Robotics League championship are not included in the count as competitions restricted to school teams have not been counted in prior years.

The largest combat events in 2011 as reported to Botrank.com were:

  1. NERC: Motorama Robot Conflict - 168 matches;
  2. RoboGames - 153 matches; and
  3. NERC: The Franklin Cup - 76 matches.
Kudos to the Northeast Robotics Club (NERC) on their continuing success in promoting combat robotics.

Note: as of 2012, Botrank.com can no longer be relied upon as a complete record of robot combat matches. Several tournament organizers have reported problems getting their results posted. Until a reliable source of data surfaces I will not be able to update this graph.


Combat Robot Hall of Fame

Literally thousands of combat robots have fought since the first Robot Wars in 1994. Which do you think were the absolute best? Team Run Amok founded the Combat Robot Hall of Fame in 2003. We polled members of the robot community to select the initial 25 inductees. Robots from both sides of the Atlantic gained membership based on: Detail from the 1996 Robot Wars poster - color modified.

  • Dominating success in combat;
  • Pioneering or perfecting influential designs;
  • Having great fan or entertainment appeal; or
  • Otherwise making a lasting impact on the sport.

The Hall re-opens for nominations in August of odd-mumbered years. The 2011 inductions are now complete, raising the membership count to 36, with 28 robots receiving Honorable Mention. Congratulations to new members 'Professor Chaos' and 'The Master' -- and to 'Anticide', 'Gyrobot', 'Kronic', and 'Warrior SKF' for their honorable mention.

Take a look at The Combat Robot Hall of Fame.


New Robot Combat Tournament Trees

The recent interest in the RoboGames has led me to piece together the tournament trees for their combat tournaments. Trees for 2004 thru 2012 are up. The weight-class winners and links to full match results for RoboGames and other major tournaments can be found at:

Major Combat Robotics Tournament History

The archive contains trees and rules for: U.S. Robot Wars ('94 thru '97), U.K. Robot Wars (all seven wars plus the world championships), Robot Wars Extreme Warriors (2001 and 2002), Robotica (all three seasons), BattleBots ('99 Long Beach thru season 5.0.), the RFL Championship Tournaments (2004 thru 2006), and now the complete set of RoboGames tournaments.

There are also links to archive photos of the 1995 and 1996 Robot Wars robots. Click on any '95 or '96 weightclass 'result' and follow the photo link.


Killer Robots: why did the Science Channel lie to us? -- I was as happy as any robot combat fan to see Science Channel produce and broadcast 'Killer Robots: RoboGames 2011' on Memorial Day. It's a nice production, filled with great robot combat action from the heavyweight combat division at the 2011 RoboGames event. But the tournament tree they repeatedly showed on screen was a complete fabrication.

The narration claimed that they would follow the 16 robots that survived the preliminary round thru the remainder of the tournament. What we actually saw were scattered matches from the preliminary round, the main bracket, and the losers bracket of a double-elimination tournament stitched together into a fictional single-elimination tournament that never actually took place. We never even got to see 'Breaker Box' that fought its way to third place in the tournament -- they led us to believe that 'Breaker Box' lost to 'Last Rites' early in the tournament when the exact opposite is true.

I don't mind a robot show that picks out the best matches and skips over the poor ones, as BattleBots did - but 'Killer Robots' went out of its way to lie to the viewers about what they were seeing. I resent that. If you're interested in how the tournament actually went, I have reconstructed the true RoboGames 2011 heavyweight double-elimination tournament tree.


Buffalo Grove High School Combat Robotics Program -- When Team Run Amok received an email from an instructor at Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois we didn't realize just how big a deal combat robots are at this school. They were preparing a team of six(!) robots for a competition at a nearby school: an undercutter, a verical spinner, a full-body spinner, a pneumatic flipper, and two wedges. They needed a little gyro help, which we were happy to provide.

Here are videos from their recent competitions. Go Bison!


Team Store Back Up -- The Team Run Amok Store has been down for some time because of changes at our store server. I wish I had noticed this sooner! It's back up and running again, so drop in for a look. To celebrate, I'll toss in a copy of 'Robot Riots' - a 208 page book full of photos, interviews, and robot combat history - with every order ('til I run out).


Call them 'AmpFlow' now! -- The well-known line of high-output, high-efficiency combat robot motors marketed by Carlo Bertocchini has a new name: 'AmpFlow'. These are the same motors that have powered so many successful robots, so don't be confused by the name change.


BattleBots Telecast Cancelled -- Every year or so BattleBots announces some prospective television deal, usually involving Disney/ABC/ESPN. None of the previous announcements have amounted to anything and I'd stopped paying any attention to them.

The latest series of high-hype low-content announcements originally set May of 2008 as the date for a tournament to be aired on ESPN2. The tournament date slipped to November 2008, was delayed again, then eventually came off in April, 2009 at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.

The tournaments for 120 and 220 pound robots were "taped for television", but the touted broadcast deal with ESPN2 fell thru. Following the tournament, BattleBots announced that the 120-pound college tournament would be seen on the little-known CBS College Sports Network. Four episodes were scheduled to air in August, 2009. This date slipped to December 10, 2009 and has now been cancelled just three days before the scheduled airing.

This is the last BattleBots article I will write for this webpage. I've had enough of their hype, misinformation, and disregard for fans and competitors. BattleBots claims they have another broadcast 'deal' lined up, but you won't read about it here.


New Roaming Robots Website -- The largest robot fighting group in Europe has an exciting new website. In addition to a cool new look, the site feaatures fight videos, robot database, games, puzzles, event schedules, special features and more. Don't miss the 'Battle Zone'.

www.roamingrobots.co.uk


The First Self-Righting Robot? -- Early on in the history of combat robots, builders discovered that an overturned robot was toast. The number of robots designed to overturn their opponent began to increase and countermeasures were needed. Invertible robots, able to continue operating when flipped over, are immune to an overturning attack -- but designing for invertability will either limit or complicate weapon and armor choices. A better solution might result from an active mechanical means of returning an incapacitated overturned 'bot to correct 'wheels down' orientation.

So, who was the first immobilized robot to save itself by self-righting? Several claims have been made for assorted robots under differing conditions, often relying on arena walls or intervention by another robot. Here are the best candidates, in my opinion, for first true self-righting:

  • US Robot Wars 1996: Carlo Bertocchini's 'Biohazard' had just won a match against rival 'Vlad the Impaler' by pinning Vlad against the wall for 30 seconds. The match was called and Biohazard backed away. Vlad, apparently disappointed at the loss, turned and used its pneumatic lifter on Biohazard to flip and immobilize it. Biohazard was able to self-right by use of its electric lifting arm. This is generally believed to be the first display of self-righting at a tournament, but it took place after the conclusion of a match and had no bearing on the outcome.

  • US Robot Wars 1997: Gage Cauchois' 'Vlad the Impaler' had a dedicated pneumatic device that could quickly and repeatedly pop Vlad back upright from an inverted orientation. The device was successfully used to self-right from an immobilized position in an early round match against Biohazard, but Vlad lost the match in a judge's decision.

  • UK Robot Wars 1998: Rex Garrod's 'Cassius' was immobilized when it was turned upside-down by a House Robot during 'The Gauntlet' phase of the competition. Cassius used its pneumatic flipping arm to jump back upright and complete the Gauntlet. Cassius avoided elimination and went on place second overall in the tournament.
There you have it. Biohazard was the first to demonstrate reliable self-righting in a tournament setting, Vlad the Impaler was the first immobilized robot to right without assistance in a tournament match, and Cassius was the first immobilized combat robot to use a self-righting mechanism to save itself and continue in a tournament. Take your pick; they are all great robots and all members of
The Combat Robot Hall of Fame.


The Robot That Never Was -- Here's the untold story of a mock-up robot that just may have been the key to Team Run Amok's acceptance into the Robotica competition. The robot never had a name and it never was fully operational, but without it our whole robot combat career may never have made it off the ground.

The Robot That Never Was


Robotica Ring Tone? -- I've had several Robotica sound clips available for a while in .WAV format, but I just recently converted them to .MP3 to make them a better match for portable applications. The "Robots Ready" clip makes a great ring tone.

Visit the Sound Clip Page and turn up your speakers.


Robot Combat on iPod Video -- "It was a hot July afternoon and the finest heavyweight and super-heavyweight combat robots in the NorthWest gathered at an undisclosed location to test their mettle..."

That's the lead in for the Oregon Clandestine Street Fight video CD. This underground video has some of the rawest, unfiltered robot combat action ever recorded. The few copies in circulation have been played again and again on computer screens across the country, but the latest version of the CD also includes MPG4 format files for the video iPod!

Visit the Team Run Amok Store to get your copy.


SlamBot LogoSlamBot at the Arcade -- Wanna bash some real 'bots, but all you have is a pocketfull of quarters? MorrowBotics has developed the new SlamBot arcade game system -- real remote controlled robots in an 8 foot square arena. Beat the other 'bot to the flashing targets, or ignore the targets and just beat up the other 'bot. Watch for SlamBot at an arcade near you!

MorrowBotics Slambot site: www.slambot.com


The Rise and Fall -- Bill Gurstelle, author of magazine articles and multiple books on fringe technology has an entertaining post on his "Notes From The Technology Underground" blog called The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Robotic Combat. It's an interesting perspective, if not entirely accurate.

I have a review of Mr. Gurstelle's book, "Building Bots" on my book review page.


What Weapons Win? -- Do spinning weapons win more robot combat matches than wedges? Are active weapons better than passive rammers? I decided to take a look at the actual records from recent tournaments and find out what the results really say. You might be surprised.

Active vs. Non-active Weapons


Antbotica! -- Growing just a little tired of the usual robot combat scenario? Looking for something a little more challenging? Why just trash a field of robot competitors when you can out-think, out-maneuver, and just plain out run them?
Antbotica logo

The Antbotica competition has four
different challenges for one-pound robots:

  • Dodge and run in the 'Shuttle Race'.
  • Chase strategy and your opponent on the 'Scramble' playground.
  • Show off your power and control in 'Pushover'.
  • Make gravity your friend in the 'Showdown'.

Check the rules and results and start building for the next event.


Gyros! -- Remote control combat robots have stability problems. Two-wheeled 'bots don't want to go straight, and four-wheeled 'bots don't want to turn! We can borrow a little technology from R/C helicopter pilots to make the job of driving them a little easier.

The Beginners Guide to Combat Robot Gyros.


robot warrior You Be The Judge -- Working as a judge at a combat robot tournament is no picnic! Get the match right and everybody nods, but if the crowd doesn't like your call they let you know. Try scoring the five example matches given here and you can see just how tough it can be.

What counts more, a flip or a bash? How many points for smoke? Rip off a wheel - does that win the match for you? Is it better to do damage early or late in the battle? What counts as 'aggression'?

You Be The Judge.


Battbotica Wars -- Think that robot combat is all guts and glory? You may want to think again after you read this list of things that actually happened to Team Run Amok and our friends on journeys to robot combat tournaments in the U.S. and England.

  • Did you know that laundromats are illegal some places?
  • Why do my socks smell like spray lube?
  • How do you feel about french beer?

Battbotica Wars.


Flexy Flier - Robotica season 2Gallery Update -- My collection of pictures and info on the competitors from the inaugural Robotica competition has been a popular part of the website for a while. Lately, I've received requests for pictures and info on the competitors from seasons two and three. I've scrounged info on almost all of the competitors -- take a look, and if you have material for any of the missing competitors, send it my way!

Robotica Gallery


Robotica Journal -- What was it really like to compete at the inaugural Robotica? Right after I got back from Robotica, I wrote down all the behind-the-scenes bits and happenings for my own files. There are a few things in here that have never come to light 'til now. I also put my favorite picture from Robotica in here. Take a look: Robotica Journal


Early Robot Wars PostersPosters? -- I'm searching for posters from the early (' 94 thru ' 97) Robot Wars. Got one rolled up in your closet? Have one taped to the workshop wall? There are hundreds of these posters out there -- why can't I find any??

Write to me!


Team Delta - Robot Parts. Team Run Amok uses a lot of parts from Team Delta. Stop by their website for battle tested parts that work.

www.teamdelta.com