NOTE: This page will soon be retired in favour of a new PDF that is being written that will cover this in more detail.
So you've built your robot and are itching to go and show off your creation in the arena and other roboteers? Excellent, let's go through how you should do this and what pitfalls there might be.
- How to compete at a event
- Finding an event
- Preparing for the event
- Turning up at the event
- At the event itself
- Before your first fight
- During the fight
- After the first fight
- After the show has finished
How to compete at a event
Competing at a event, such as Robots Live! or Extreme Robots can be a little daunting. That is OK, we all started somewhere. So... first things first...
Finding an event
The easiest way to find out if there is an event on is to simply look at The Fighting Robots Association forum
where event organisers (sometimes abbreviated to EO) will often post their events here. At the time of writing (October 2017), most of the events are in the south of England, which can be a pain to get to and could be costly, so always check that you can make it down there on the day or the night before. Make sure that your robot can actually participate in the event (no point taking a Featherweight to a Beetleweight competition).
Most event organisers will have a signup page linked to the forum post, make sure you fill this out. Some events may allow walk in entries but it is best to assume they won't.
Preparing for the event
Now you are signed up, get your kit in order. As a minimum, I would recommend bringing any spare batteries you need, spare components such as motors/speed controllers and spare wiring with a soldering iron and solder. I would also bring only the essential tools to unscrew/screw up your robot. Space at these events are limited so if you can get it into a single toolbox, that would be ideal.
You definitely need to follow the rules laid out by the FRA, so things like:
- A robot cradle for each robot
- Spare money for food/parking etc
- Your entered robot(s)
Turning up at the event
Events Team Kaizen have been to have been in theatres and sport centres. You have to bear in mind that there is likely to be no free parking so budget for that though they sometimes allow you to drive up to a loading dock to unload your kit. Once at the event, if you can't find a way into the pits directly, simply ask at the reception as to where to go, they'll know where to point you to.
Once in the pits, see if you can track down one of the event organisers and ask where you can set up. Typically, robots in the pits are often divided by weight classes, so in Robots Live! or Extreme Robots, the similar weighed robots are often grouped together. If you bring several weight classes of robot (so a Heavyweight and a Featherweight for example), you tend to be grouped by your heaviest class in our experience. Heavyweights tend to get a table to themselves due to the size. Featherweights tend to be 2 to a table.
At the event itself
Once set up, make sure your robot is ready to go through the "tech check". This checks the robot to make sure it is safe to compete and that safety guards are in place etc etc. As described to us once, if you put your foot on a Featherweight, it is likely to stop. If you put your foot on a Heavyweight, it is not going to stop. We have been to events where Featherweights are self regulating but DO NOT assume this. ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR ROBOT IS GOING TO BE CHECKED.
After the checks are done to all the competing teams, there will be a briefing. This generally boils down to what happens in the event of a fire (of which tends to happen to at least one robot every session) and what the format of the event is going to be. After that, go over your robot to make sure all is well and get your batteries charged. Assuming your robots passed the checks, you are going in! There will be a whiteboard around detailing what sort of fights there will be at the event. Extreme Robots and Robots Live! tend to run 2 or 3 way Heavyweight fights and at least one Featherweight Melee match per session.
Since you now know which robots are fighting when, why not take a moment to watch a fight or two? This is easily the best way to watch fighting robotic competition, when you are watching them live and about 8 feet away! :D
Before your first fight
So, with your robots now checked and ready to fight, take a note as to which fights you are in and make sure your robot is ready before then. Try to know who you are fighting against so a walk around the pits and generally chatting with other competitors is a good thing to help - we are all in this together remember? Once the fight before your fight is running, depending on the event, you'll want to do the following (obviously, this isn't definite):
- Extreme Robots: Someone will ask for the next competitors and then you'll put your robot in the activation pen. Stay by your robot until ready to activate.
- Robots Live!: Wait until the end of the fight and the other competitors are out of the arena. You can then put your robot into the arena.
In all events, remember this - DO NOT ARM/ACTIVATE/REMOVE ANY SAFETY PINS UNTIL TOLD TO. Ignoring the event organisers is a sure fire way to be disqualified from the event altogether. Once activated, drive your robot carefully into position and get into the drivers position. Sometimes the announcers will announce your robot (for Heavyweights, this is normally when going into the arena, for Featherweights, this is normally after the robot is in the arena). In that case and if able to, go into the centre of the arena and give a little spin and then go back to your starting position. This tends to be at Robot Live! events but can happen at any event. The Honey Badger has been called out before at Robots Live! Stevenage 2017 but the dodgy motor mounts meant that I couldn't get to the light. :(
During the fight
If you've watched Robot Wars, you know the score. You'll hear "Roboteers, stand by! 3... 2... 1... Activate!". What you do during the fight and how you fight is up to you fight the other robots but how you do this is entirely up to you and in what type of fight it is. If this is your fight fight, remember to breathe and keep calm. It is very exciting but with every fight, you'll get the hang of how you keep calm during a fight, it is individual to everyone. Of course, keep the fighting in the arena. Drivers having a scrap is going to lead to a ban.
If your robot gets trashed (The Honey Badger 1.0 suffered this fate in Team Kaizen's first ever proper fight), take it with heart. It is not personal to you, it just happened to be the way it happened.
After the first fight
Wooo!!! Exciting, yes? Now you need to fix your robot. If it is just cosmetic stuff, try to focus on get the batteries charged up first. If it is more serious, prioritise your work to get the robot moving rather than it looking good. A robot that can't move isn't a competitor. Try to remain calm and focus, getting stressed is not going to help. Note that during any intervals, audience members might be in the pits so if they do talk to you, do answer any questions/comments they might have but be polite, they paid to be back there after all. ;)
After the show has finished
Congratulations, you now have some experience of fighting in a proper fighting robots event! Take on board any lessons learnt from this and adapt your technique/robot to address these and then go to another one.
We hope this helps you to understand what happens at live events. If you are at a event where Team Kaizen is around, drop by and say hello.
Written by Ocracoke - 11