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On April 23rd, I was talking to Sam Hanson (from Red Ant Robotics) When he mentioned that he was going to the Penn Bots competition on May 3rd. He also had an extra bot he was working on but couldn't finish in time for the competition. After a little more talking, I decided I'd finish the bot for him and bring it to Penn Bots. After some quick building, I had an antweight and Sam's beetleweight ready to go (kinda).

Me and my dad set out for Dickinson College at 8:30 on the morning of the competition. Shimmy, my antweight, was ready to fight, but Hooloovoo: The Good Version had major failsafe issues with the 3 channel receiver I was using, and so I was planning on begging a spare receiver off of somebody.

We arrived at the college at around 11:45 and checked both of my bots in. (I noticed that on the Check-in spreadsheet, my beetleweight was listed as "Hooloovoo The Good" instead of "Hooloovoo: The Good Version" Apparently the name didn't fit inside the columns on the spreadsheet. I let it pass.)

Walking into the pit area, I immediately noticed that table space at this event was extremely limited. People had their pits spread out along a corridor adjacent to the main room, and it seemed that there was only one electrical outlet nearby. I set up my stuff on one of the large benches that spanned the length of the hallway, and used an extension cord to plug in my power strip.

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My pit bench

I didn't mind being on the bench too much because I build my bots mostly on the floor of my room, so this made me feel right at home =P. I got all my stuff organized and eventually went to see Sam to check if he had an extra Rx. Luckily he did, but there was just one catch: it didn't have an antenna. Sam was nice enough to clip the antenna off of another of his receivers and gave it to me to attach to the antenna-less one. He also thankfully did the soldering for me (I'm terrible at soldering).

With the new receiver in place, Hooloovoo: TGV failsafed perfectly, so I could sit and relax until the fighting started. At ths point I felt rather odd actually, because it seemed like everyone was either taking the last few ounces off their bots or fixing some extensive electronic problems while I just sat there idly with my bots ready to go. There must be something wrong with me...

Anyway, the fights eventually started around 1:15, and Shimmy was the third or fourth fight. I was up against Crunchy Frog driven by Dan Provanzano. It looked very similar to Kris v2, with two wheels and a spinning blade underneath. Unfortunately his blade fell off right before the match and apparently he couldn't put it back on easily. oh well... I loaded Shimmy into the box and loved the "Ooh's and Aah's" from the audience when I lit the LEDs. :)

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Crunchy Frog on his back with blade detatched

FIGHT!The bell dinged and both our bots set out for eachother. Crunchy Frog didn't get very far out of his corner before Shimmy amazingly pushed him back into it (I wasn't expecting very much pushing power with a bot that weight 7.5oz.). CF didn't seem to have too much traction and I was able to push him out of his corner, over to the opening in the box, and out! Knockout for Shimmy!

After the fight, I got my "Winner" sticker and proudly displayed it on top of Shimmy. I sat down in the audience to watch some fights, but since there were so few bots at the competition, my next fight was announced only a few minutes later. I ran and got Shimmy off of my pit bench and arrived at the box to see my opponent. I was going to be against Corporal Buzz. He looked like a hacked BB toy with tracks and a saw from the Ronin toy. He was also pretty fast. We loaded our bots into their respective corners and waited for the bell...

FIGHT! Once I heard the bell sound, I realized that I hadn't seen Corporal Buzz fight before, so wasn't sure what to expect or how to approach him. His saw didn't look very dangerous, so I wouldn't need to worry about tha-- Actually, I wouldn't need to worry about anything because the fight was already over! Corporal Buzz drove himself straight across the box and right out of the slot within the first 2 seconds. Knockout for Shimmy! (kinda)

Okay, so it wasn't the best way to win, but I was happy nonetheless. Now Shimmy was sporting two stylish Winner stickers. Woohoo! I brought Shimmy back to my pit bench and watched some more fights while eating a quick lunch. One fight I payed close attention to was Dinkey Donkey vs. High Voltage. The reason being that I would be fighting the winner of this match. High Voltage was a large, fast Lexan wedge which I didn't think I could beat, and Dinkey Donkey was a miniature version of Sam Harrington's hobbyweight Deadly Donkey. Both looked like good competition, but I thought I might have more of a chance against DD. Unfortunately High Voltage disposed of Dinkey Donkey, and so my next fight was announced.

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High Voltage & Dinkey Donkey (sans square)

FIGHT! Immediately after the bell, High Voltage zipped over and pinned me into my corner, forcing my front wheels onto his wedge. I tried driving forward to get up and over him, but I must have been high-centered on his wedge. He manuevered me over to the slot, and after a brief 'clinging-on-for-dear-life' struggle, Shimmy toppled backward out of the slot. Knockout for High Voltage.

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A victorious High Voltage and driver
(Photo courtesy of Sam Hanson)

Now, there must have been something in the turkey sandwich I had eaten, because most of the stuff that happened after that fight I remember as just a blur, so you'll have to excuse the lack of details :). My next fight was against Micro Maligno (Whose name I wouldn't have remembered if it weren't for Sam)

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Micro Maligno

FIGHT! The details of this fight escape me... but I remember it was pretty much the same as the last one... only in slow motion. I do remember that as I was loading Shimmy into the box, the rear right wheel came unglued from the servo horn (It was the only wheel that wasn't held in with pins). Ah well.. I hadn't brought any extra wheels or pins, so I just fought with it that way. Eventually I was tipped out of the box like before. Knockout for Micro Maligno.

Well, now Shimmy was out of the tournament, so I set my mind to getting HTGV ready. I hooked him up to the charger while I transplanted Shimmy's LEDs into HTGV. I started walking back to watch some fights when I heard that they were going to have an antweight rumble! oh no! I rushed back and quickly shoved the LEDs back into Shimmy, and threw him (Still missing a wheel) into the box right before they closed the doors.

FIGHT! The rumble was a lot of fun, and I'm really surprised that I didn't have a frequency conflict with anyone. I remember wandering randomly around the box looking for a fight. I tried my luck with Dinkey Donkey a few times, and he ended up getting a good hit on my rear right 'leg' which jarred that servo open, spilling its gears and leaving it hanging from the PWM wire. That wasn't enough to stop the immortal Shimmy, though. For the rest of the rumble, I went around knocking into other bots, and by the end of the fight my hastily reinstalled LEDs were hanging off the bot along with the servo. I was glad to be one of the few bots still moving, though. When it came time for the audience's vote for 'Best Bot', Shimmy got moderate applause, but Dinkey Donkey was the clear winner. Best Bot Award for Dinkey Donkey!

After the rumble, there was a pause in the action while everyone got ready for the beetleweight fights. After bringing Shimmy back to my bench, I returned to the arena and collected the gears from my servo that were spread across the floor. After putting them back in place and snapping the case back together, I was amazed to see the servo still worked fine. Yay! Now I re-uninstalled the LEDs from Shimmy and reinstalled them into HTGV (It's all about the looks :) ).

Continuing with the 'not-remembering-anything' theme; I forgot the name of HTGV's first opponent =P (Later I found out it was Robby The Automatum) But just to even things out, it seemed that the PennBots guys couldn't remember Hooloovoo: The Good Version's name either. When I looked at the brackets hanging up on the wall, I was listed as "Hooloovoo The Good"... Okay, close enough =P But they were apparently having an even harder time prouncing it. When the fight was announced, I was in the pits and heard the announcer say "The next fight is 'Robby The Automatum' vs. 'Hooluhv Good'" That made me laugh...

Anyway, Robby The Automatum was a cool-shaped wedge made out of thin metal. I wasn't sure what to expect from him, or from HTGV for that matter because I still hadn't tested the weapon yet with the blade on, but I thought I might be able to put a few holes in the opposition :)

FIGHT! The bell dinged, and both bots started toward eachother. I immediately spun up HTGV's blade and heard "Ooh's" and "Aah's" from the crowd. The blade looked really scary. We moved toward eachother and made contact. My blade hit him with a big slam, and the fight was instantly over. Only for me, though. The hit had flipped me completely over with no way of self righting. Robby had suffered two large gashes, but was still functional. Knockout for Robby The Automatum.

After this fight it was clear that I needed to do something to prevent HTGV from flipping over, but with so few beetles competing, I didn't have much time before my next fight. I hastily cut out a little stabilizer from 1/16" polycarbonate and attached it to the front of the bot before my next match.

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HTGV with stabilizer attached

Soon my next fight was announced: 'Hoolvuh' (sigh..) vs. Flea Market Special. FMS was what looked like an RC truck that had been hacked and had a little spinner attached to the front. I was pretty sure I could beat it, because the spinner in front looked harmless, and the plastic of the RC truck looked nice and chewy. I just needed to keep from flipping over...

We brought our bots over to the box, and, like in the previous fight, I waited for the opponent to have his bot turned on and in the box before I switched HTGV on because I was still afraid of the failsafe going haywire causing the blade to take off someone's finger. So while I was sitting with my hand on the switch, waiting for my opponent to power up FMS, it became apparent that something was wrong. FMS wasn't responding, so the builder asked for a postponement which I of course allowed him to have. He said he should be able to fix it, and sure enough, a few minutes later he was back, convicting a loose battery connection of causing the problem. We loaded our bots into the box and waited for the bell...

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Flea Market Special on the left and Spare Parts on the right.

FIGHT! The bell rang, and I immediately started up the blade. I also immediately noticed that something was wrong with the blade. It wasn't spinning as smoothly as it usually did; or as fast. Flea Market Special shot off quickly into the corner to his right. I followed suit, and we met in the corner with a strange impact. It seemed that FMS had run straight into the wall at top speed at the same moment that my blade had knocked him sideways. The resulting forces caused him to flip completely onto his back with no way to self right. I backed up to try and spin up the blade to hit him a few times, but all I got was the painful sound of misaligned gears. Uh oh. Knockout for Hooloovoo: The Good Version!

I was very excited to have won a match with HTGV, but was very worried about the look and sound of the blade at the end of the fight. I quickly ran back to my pit bench to assess the damage. At first I suspected that the pinion gear was stripped or that something had broken in the weapon support. Thankfully, I was wrong, but that doesn't mean I was in the clear. After a quick inspection, it was obvious that the pinion gear had slipped laterally on the motor shaft, and was no longer in contact with the big-whatever-you-call-it gear.

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The problem...

At first I was relieved to find out that it was repairable... but then I realized that I'd have to remove the whole weapon system in order to get at the shaft. This was quite an extensive task to accomplish before my next fight, so I frantically set to work removing the front armor, the weapon shaft, the motor mount, and the motor (doesn't sound like a lot, but it is). Several times during this, I heard the announcer's voice drifting into my head, announcing a fight between some bot named "Hoovul" and Mangle-Gore. I also noticed Sam laboring away on Mangle-Gore who appeared to have suffered damage at the hands of 3PD. Well, at least we were in the same boat. When I finally got the motor free, I used a screw driver to persuade the pinion out back to where it belonged. Then I did my best reassembling all the little fiddly bits into what looked like the original weapon system. (It's a lot easier to do this if you've actually built the weapon yourself...). Everything was looking good with the whole bot back together when I noticed something.... THE SCREW! There was an extra screw there on my bench which hadn't been there before. I looked around for an empty screw hole in the bot, and there it was, in the motor mount. I had forgotten to put one of the screws back in the motor mount! This meant that the motor was only being held to the mount by one screw... and it looked like the screw that was in there wasn't all that tight either. I must have gotten distracted while reattaching the motor and forgotten to finish attaching it! THe repair so far had taken around fifteen minutes, with the actual pinion-moving only taking a few seconds. This meant there was nowhere near enough time to do all the necessary tearing-down of the weapon system in order to put that screw in. Oh well, the gears were meshing happily anyway, so I stuck a bunch of shims and double-sided tape onto the bot to try and keep the motor in place.

After that I went to check on Sam and Mangle-Gore. It looked like his ESC was damaged and he was hastily soldering in a replacement. Eventually he just gave up on that and decided to enter his antweight, Dinkey Donkey as an agent for Mangle-Gore. I grabbed HTGV, and as we were bringing our bots over to the box, they announced the fight. But this time it wasn't "Hoovul" vs. Mangle-Gore. It was Mangle-Gore vs. someone else. That's odd, I thought, and brought HTGV back to my bench. I then returned to the box to watch the fight. As fate would have it, I chose a seat next to one of the PennBots guys. After some conversation, I found out that they had counted HTGV out as a forfeit without even telling me, because they had heard that I wouldn't be able to finish fixing HTGV in time. I said that that was insane because I had had my bot ready for a while, even before Sam. So, just before the Mangle-Gore vs. someone else fight started, they pulled 'someone else' out of the box and I threw HTGV in, ready to rock.

FIGHT! For this match, Sam H. #1 had recruited Sam H. #2 to add his antweight (Echo) to the fight, forming a multibot as a replacement for the real Mangle-Gore. When the fight started, I started up the blade to full speed (Yay! It's working!) and started across the box. Echo went around me to come up from behind while Dinkey Donkey went straight for me. Sam had removed DD's blade from it's shaft for this fight and had duct-taped it to the front as a wedge. This was a very good idea, because all he had to do was keep the wedge pointed directly at me so that when the blade hit, it just scraped against the Titanium, unable to get a solid hit. I'm not sure what happened next, but somehow I ended up on my side, and eventually completely upside down. I tried spinning the blade back up while upside down, but thanks to the microphone directly underneath the arena, all I got was the sound of the gears grinding against eachother, amplified very loudly. Knockout for Mangle-Gore.

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"The Mangle-Gores" in their starting position.
(Photo courtesy of Sam Hanson)

Well, now I was out of the competition, so I sat down to watch the finals before packing up my stuff. Overall, I thought it was a great event and ended much too soon. The Pennbots guys did a really nice job putting on the event and I can't wait for their next one. There are a few areas of improvement they still need to work on though, mainly the name pronunciation thing... that worried me a little...

Here are some random pictures I took at the event...

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3PD and Red Heat.

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Burninator...or something
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Black Death
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Croc Bot

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A view of the arena.
(Also visible is the hallway where the pits were located)

Team Tier