Design Tips

What to know if you want to compete

We receive lots of questions about how to build robots for competitions. Allow us to share some of what we’ve learned over time:

  • Almost all teams want to build a robot that’s really “different”. They may want to find a weapon, a shape, a motor, and a controller, that hasn’t been used by anyone else. By all means be new and different, but as far as controllers, motors, batteries, and tires go, choose what has been proven in the arena.
  • Have a large enough battery system to be able to practice driving one half hour at a time. Batteries that last just 3 minutes don’t offer enough time.
  • During the design phase, think from the perspective of spending weight, not spending money. Plan how you will repair, as you WILL sustain damage.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t add cool-looking, irrelevant stuff to the outside. When it gets knocked off, your opponent is awarded points for “damage”.
  • Be realistic about your “dream ‘bot”. For instance; if your robot weapon consists of a formidable spinning blade (heavy), it requires a large motor mounted to a reinforced frame (heavy, heavy), which needs a large battery (heavy).
  • For controllability, keep the speed of your robot between 7 and 15 mph. If you have a powerful weapon, you can be slower. Speed is not power.
  • Keep the number of connectors and plugs to a minimum. Direct wire as much as possible. Secure all connectors in some manner, such as tape or hot glue.
  • Finish the robot in time to have at least 20 hours of driving experience under your belt. You may wear through a set of tires – but it’s part of the price of winning.
  • Your motors should have just enough horsepower to spin the tires while the robot is pushing against a wall. Anything over that is overspending weight.
  • Drop your finished robot on a concrete floor from five feet. Run it into a curb at full speed. If the robot breaks, change the design so it doesn’t.
  • Other than damage caused by your opponent, the act of pushing your robot to its limit will end up breaking something. The least likely to be fatal is traction. If traction doesn’t break, the motor, or controller, or battery, or wiring will. The lesson is, use strong enough motors to spin the tires.
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