Team Toad: RoboGames 2006

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Event Report for RoboGames 2006, San Francisco, California

For our photos, see our RoboGames 2006, Team Toad photo gallery.

We had so much fun at Battle Beach, we decided to take a robot out to Fort Mason to see what kind of a show Judge Dave was putting on. With all the fancy modern uber-spinners, we decided to take our sturdiest, most survivable robot: Ice Cube, and we made it all the way to the Middleweight finals.

Ice Cube 3
Read more about Ice Cube's Upgrades.
RoboGames Trophy
Our cool animated silver MW trophy.

Fight 1: Pernina (Win by KO)

There were 24 middleweights registered. Our first draw was Pernina, a dual-bladed ICE powered spinnner from Brazil built by Team Mechatoons.

Unfortunately for the Brazilians, Pernina fell victim to the ever-present danger of "Lexan shyness" that plagues gasoline-powered engines once they're completely enclosed in a large Lexan box.

Ice Cube spent the entire match pushing the football-shaped robot around the arena until just before the end of the match. Fuzzy called for a count-down and he was counted out (this was one of the things that a referee would have caught).

Fight 2: Piranha 2 (Loss by KO)

Ice Cube's second fight was a pneumatic front-flipper called Piranha 2 from team Piranha. For the first part of the fight, Ice Cube did a good job of pushing the big wedge-shaped robot around the arena. Then about 2 minutes in, Ice Cube got caught in a corner and Piranha flipped Ice Cube up on its nose. Fuzzy tried and failed to rock Ice Cube off its nose, but he failed to realize that the Dual Rate switch was enabled. That meant that only 24 volts was going to the robots instead of the full 36 volts.

Poor Ice Cube rocked weakly back and forth and was stuck. Since he was immobilized, Fuzzy tapped out to give the KO to Piranha 2.

Fight 3: Evil Engine Number 9 (Win by KO)

Now on the loser's side of the brackets, it was a long road to the finals.

Evil Engine Number 9 is low-blade horizontal spinner powered by a twenty horsepower gasoline engine. It was the noisiest robot in the whole event (except maybe the V-8 powered blender).

Ice Cube starting the fight by driving straight into the spinner, took the hit and both robots flew backward. We danced around and traded blows, and after the fourth hit, the engine stalled. Ice Cube drove Evil Engine into the wall, and the match was over. Ice Cube won by knock-out.

Fight 4: Sub Zero (Win 19-14)

Having already lost to one flipper, Fuzzy was very nervous about facing Sub Zero, another Pneumatically powered flipper. Unlike the flipping action of Piranha 2, Sub Zero is a forward "thrower", with more than enough power to launch its opponent into the dead zone.

Ice Cube got in several good hits, and Sub Zero tossed Ice Cube in the air a couple of times, and then it happened again: Ice Cube was standing on its nose.

I started flipping the wheels back and forth, and the darn thing still wouldn't fall over. Finally I remembered that way back in 2002 I had programmed a dual rate switch to be able to drive Ice Cube slowly for demonstrations and school visits. I flicked the switch forward and suddenly the full 36 volts was available. I quickly flipped Ice Cube back in its feet and rushed the white flipper.

Ice Cube hit Sub Zero just as he fired his weapon, and suddenly it was Sub Zero who was upside-down. Sub Zero self-righted immediately and after some more pushing and shoving trapped Ice Cube against the wall in a perfect position for a quick flight into the Dead Zone.

Then nothing.

I later learned that Sub Zero lost a radio switch for the pneumatics when it self-righted.

Once the flipper was dead, Ice Cube shoved Sub Zero around the arena and won the decision 19-14.

Fight 5: (Win 19-14)

I was feeling a little better at this point...all the pneumatic flippers were out of the competition, so it was spinners all the way to the top.

Warpath had lost a tough battle where it got flipped upside down and spun around on its weapon blade. The stress of spinning the robot fried the MagMotor driving his weapon blade, so WarPath had a tough repair job.

But a kindly builder loaned him a new motor, and a quick wrench job got the spinner back to fighting shape in time for the match.

Lucky Ice Cube!

I'd previously fought Hoarf at the 2003 Nationals, so I had some experience with this type of robot, but Warpath was a lot tougher than I expected. Instead of just stopping the blade, every time Ice Cube hit the weapon, the little orange robot got thrown back on its butt.

But Ice Cube kept moving,too, taking hit after hit, until it got WarPath from the side and shoved the spinner into the corner. From there Ice Cube was able to keep the blade slowed down and keep WarPath against the wall until the end of the match.

Not a knock out, but a 19-14 decision. My view is that any fight against WarPath that you can drive away from is a good fight.

Fight 6: Pernina (Win 19-14)

The Brazilian team Mechatoons had solved their gasoline engine issues, and won some fights to stay in the event.

Pernina has one cleve feature: it has a blade on both the front and the back, so if you're pushing from the side, it can pivot and bring a blade to bear on you at any time.

This was where Ice Cube's tough AR400 steel plow blade saved the day. Ice Cube could drive right up to Pernina and push it, blade or no. After a minute and a half of keeping the spinner on the wall, the engine finally stopped.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and backed off a little to spare the batteries. To my great surprise, the gasoline engine started back up and Pernina came back to life.

"This isn't a horror movie...dead engines are supposed to stay dead", I thought.

With the blades spinning again, I had to use up a lot of battery power keeping Pernina against the wall, but in the end, Ice Cube convinced the judges 19-14 that it had won.

Fight 7: Touro (Win 17-16)

Up to this point, Ice Cube was undefeated against spinners, but they had all been horizontal spinners, which Ice Cube was specifically designed to fight.

Now I was getting nervous...Touro was a drum spinner. Ice Cube's only other fight against a drum spinner was against Little Drummer Boy in BattleBots Season 3.0, and even though we broke his drum we lost (Little Drummer Boy went on to take second place that season).

Touro was the other Brazilian Middleweight, and it was every bit as tough as Little Drummer Boy, except for one thing: its drum kept on working.

The other problem was that Touro was fast enough that it could get away from Ice Cube when Ice Cube was pushing from the side. Ice Cube kept driving into Touro, and Touro kept knocking Ice Cube around. Ice Cube got knocked upside down several times, but it just turned around and drove back into Touro.

After one minute, Ice Cube got Touro from the side and drove him onto the I-Beams. Touro still worked, but it couldn't drive because its wheels were off the ground, the body being stuck on the bolts that hold the I-Beams. Touro got his one free unstick.

Then around the two-minute mark, Touro managed to knock Ice Cube up on its nose, and the Brazilian's cheered. But Ice Cube rocked back and forth, and after a few seconds flipped back on its feet. That drew an even larger cheer from the crowd (they love it when the little orange bot frees itself).

Having rocked back onto its wheels, Ice Cube drove Touro into the wall one last time. Touro was moving very slowly at this point, but the three minute clock ran down before it was clear whether Touro could still move.

You can see the video on the Riobotz Web Site

Both robots were aggressive, and neither was knocked out, so it was a close call for the judges, but in a split decision, Ice Cube edged out Touro by 1 point to advance to the final round.

Fight 8: Stewie (Loss by KO)

Stewie had fought four fights in the winner's bracket, but had lost a tooth on his drum blade, so he had to head out to the shop for repairs. Too bad for Ice Cube that he made it back with time to spare.

Stewie was yet another drum bot even tougher than Touro.

Ice Cube took hit after hit, but never really got any positional advantage over Stewie. Then one hit put Ice Cube back up on its nose against the wall. Even with all 36 volts, Ice Cube couldn't rock back and forth, and Stewie wisely held off even as the announcer taunted him to "take a taste of the Ice Cube".

Ice Cube was counted out and lost by a knock out.

Stewie was just too tough. At no point was Ice Cube ahead in the fight, and barring some random failure in Stewie there was no way for Ice Cube to win.

In the end Ice Cube took the Silver and Stewie took the Gold.


All in all we had a great time, and we did show that with a little updating a five year old design could still hold its own against the modern uber-spinners.

We also took TadPole to compete in the antweight division, but technology in the small bots has marched on. TadPole went 1-2, with losses to MC Fry Pants and Sidekick. TadPole did win by KO over Dark Talon in a 2 second match. The robots met and Dark Talon bounced off of TadPole's TI blade, then ate itself.

Really though I wish I'd left the antweight at home. Not only did it wind up losing a wheel and a blade, it meant that I rarely got to see the non-combat robots, because I was always fighting in either the large or the small arena.

For our photos, see our RoboGames 2006, Team Toad photo gallery.

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