Venator Robotics in Lockdown
As the year comes to a close, I'm going to look back on what I've been up to the past couple of months, and what lies ahead for Venator Robotics in these strange times.
Despite the widespread cancellation of combat robotics events nationwide, I did actually manage to give Gladius a run about in some test fights. A few months ago, I met up with a fellow Scottish roboteer from Team Frey, for our own mini, socially-distanced combat robotics event at a park. Nicknamed the "Duel in Dundee", we brought along a pretty wide variety of antweights, beetleweights, and my featherweight Venator V3, for a total of seven machines.
We had a few scraps with our new beetleweights. This was a great chance for some proper battle testing of our designs before a big tournament. This is a luxury I'm not used to - I have a habit of finishing my robots either the night before or morning of an event!
One issue of my robot was immediately highlighted. The entire rear end of Gladius has to be dismantled to remove a battery for charging. I was aware of this during the design process but I didn't realise how finicky it would actually be. It took me about 20 minutes to remove and replace a LiPo which is not ideal, especially when time is tight at competitions. Like a pit-stop crew at a motorsport event, I'll probably have to optimise my battery changing process so I can get it done as fast as possible.
Although in the end we judged that Gladius "lost" it's fight, the robot actually ran really well. It was definitely fast enough to keep up with it's opponents, Sprocket Racoon and Snowdrop. It ran upside down when flipped over and responded to my inputs well. I filmed and edited the Gladius vs SR match for YouTube, which you can watch here:
The fights were a great time, although the robots got absolutely filthy from all the dust kicked up off the floor. I think the cheese grade aluminium wedges were wrecked by the hard concrete and blunted quickly, which may explain the loss. So clearly park fights like this won't replace a match in a proper arena anytime soon.
What really surprised me though, was the sheer amount of attention we got from the public. We drove Venator around for only about 15 minutes, and in that time three different groups of people eagerly approached us, saying how much they enjoyed Robot Wars when it was on the telly. It just further proves the presence of robot combat in pop culture. Just about everyone has at least heard of that show where robots smash each other to bits. It amazes me that broadcasting companies in the UK fail to capitalise on this, especially with Battlebots in the US being renewed for yet another season.
Sadly, the Duel in Dundee meet-up is the only robotics "event" I'll be attending this year. Kind of a bummer, but news of competitions in Autumn/Winter next year are starting to surface.
So what are my plans until those events take place?
I may make a few tweaks to Gladius, as it certainly needs a new set of wedges. However, the next big project is definitely Omikron, my walker beetleweight, which I initially designed 18 months ago. My ideas for this build have only gotten wackier since then, and I'll revive the Omikron blog soon for a full run-down of my ideas.
On the featherweight side of things, there won't be much action. My plan is to keep running Venator V3 until all of my spare parts are consumed. For the next feather I want to move away from budget powertrains and build something with more engineering complexity. I can't really justify that while I still have so many old drills and spare parts lying around.
So that's about it for this update. What a weird year it's been. Here's hoping for some real robotic carnage in 2021!