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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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Fighting Robots Book Cover

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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


Twenty Years of Robot Combat: 1994 to 2014

The first Robot Wars competition took place at the Herbst Pavillion at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco on August 20th and 21st, 1994. Here's a first person account of that first event by one of the competitors: Team Minus Zero.

The first seven years of robot combat were frantic and exciting, with huge media exposure and hundreds of active competitors in Europe and North America. Then came a long downhill slide in popularity and participation. Yet there still remain a few devoted teams working late into the night to build machines designed to pulverize the creations of other fanatical builders. Now a new surge of enthusiasm for combat robotics spreads across South America and the Indian subcontinent, and fresh leadership has appeared in the United States. Fight on, roboteers!


Robot Combat on Television is Alive and Well -- in Korea?

It seems that Korean television has been hiding a robot combat competition called 'Robot Power' for about the last 5 years. Best I can tell the show started in 2009, and there are quite a few episodes available for viewing on YouTube: here's the first episode (I think).

The show is rich in computer graphics depicting fanciful robots on other-worldly arenas, but the competition itself is mostly wedge robots wandering around an arena and sometimes bumping into each other. There are races, arena combat, and even some small humanoid walkers in later episodes.


A Tribute Video from a Fan - Run Amok at Robotica!

Wow, I've never had a tribute video before. It took thirteen years, but I'm terribly grateful. Music by Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa.


'Ask Aaron' Website Answers 4700th Question!

When my son Aaron and I started the Ask Aaron website, I didn't even know there WERE 4700 questions about combat robots. Aaron started the site eleven 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?


Thirteen Years Ago...

March 4th, 2014 marked the thirteenth 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 4600 questions about combat robotics at the Ask Aaron page. Check back with us to see what new challenges develop!


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.


'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


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 2013 inductions are now complete, raising the membership count to 37, with 31 robots receiving Honorable Mention. Congratulations to new Hall of Fame member 'Explosion' and to 'Eruption', 'Upheval', and 'Ziggy' for their honorable mention.

Take a look at The Combat Robot Hall of Fame.


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


Updated Robot Combat Tournament Trees

Interest in the RoboGames tournaments has led me to piece together their tournament trees. Complete trees for 2004 thru 2013 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.


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.


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!