The three pictures below show our robot ( Knuckles ) as it was when we took part in BBC auditions at Asylum studios London ( 1999 the third wars ) and Park St studios Hertfordshire ( 2000 the fourth wars live event ).
For these two events our team was made up as myself David Smith my son Oliver and our good friend Peter Watt who had volunteered to be the spokesman if we ever did get on TV, something I did not fancy at all. For our first audition at the aptly named Asylum Studios in London things did not go to well. The robot was finished about two days before our appointment at the auditions and at that time was untested, I just wanted to get there and have a go in the Arena. The two Vauxhall starter motors ( everybody said do not use starter motors ) were controlled by two car starter solenoids, this is known as the bang bang method because the motors are either on or off, there is no control of the speed or direction. This made Knuckles just about impossible to control. It was fast and very powerful, a bit like using a formula one car to deliver milk, but did not impress the judges by just spinning around and smashing in to everything. At these auditions quite a lot of teams were arriving with robots that were all in pieces and far from finished. By the end of the day we all had a really good day out well worth all the work.
View from above shows large battery and spinning weapon spikes all bent from hitting the side of the arena. When the speed controllers worked this robot was a beast. The slick tyred go cart wheels, Starter motors and massive battery made it really powerfull and fast, but a nightmare to steer.
For our second trip to the auditions we were invited to take part in a live event in front of a large paying audience at the Park Street studios in Hertfordshire. The robot was pretty much the same except that know I had developed our own water cooled motors and speed controllers. The motors were still the Vauxhall 2000 starter motors. These motors were of a permanent magnet design that I had modified internally so that they could be reversed. The speed controllers that I was really proud of were of my own design. Each one had no less than 20 100 amp Mosfets soldered directly on to copper tubes in what's called an H bridge configuration. These Mosfet transistors were switched on and off at about 20,000 times a second by four micro controllers for speed and direction control. The whole thing was supposed to be kept cool by a windscreen washer motor that pumped water through the copper tubes and around the motors via a small radiator. This gave quite good speed control forward and reverse.
Water cooled H bridge speed controller
After passing the technical checks we were assigned our thirst real opponent ( Fat boy Tin ). This was perfect for us as FBT was a slow moving large robot covered in thin aluminum, Perfect for our sharp spinning weapon. On the way in to the arena I hit the door post at about 20 mph " Struth said the BBC guy " my lack of driving practice was showing already. Just before both speed controllers completely blew up we managed to put quite a few holes in FBT . Needless to say we lost this first battle and fat boy tin went on to appear on Robot wars series four. This was the last time I used the starter motors. I think if I had used Mosfets with a lower current rating and a higher breakdown voltage things may have worked out better. But they are expensive and the robot used 40. Another great day out though and well worth all the work. We were really hooked on the whole thing by now.
For the 2001 ( Fifth wars ) I decided to give up with the starter motors and use a 24v two speed motor from a disability trike that someone had given me. I could control this motor easily by just using heavy duty relays and a single micro controller.
This robot was a three wheeler. The single rear wheel was used for steering and propulsion. This robot would run even when flipped over and was much easier to steer and control although the weapon was ineffective against the Titanium and Polycarbonate Armour being used on many robots by now.
We had a great time with this robot taking part in auditions at Elstree 2001 and Nottingham 2002. We also took part in the annual Robot Rumble at Debenham in Suffolk three years running. During this time we went into the arena five times with robots Vader ( twice) , The Chuck Wagon, Toecutter, Another Bubble, Xterminator, Broadsword, and Judge Shred. We drove in and we drove out on every occasion except the time we met Judge Shred when Knuckles came out of the arena in pieces.We were finally invited to take part in the TV show ( New Blood filmed at Nottingham ). By this time our friend Peter had been replaced by my daughter Katy and I started to have serious worries about appearing on TV. Also the New Blood series were to be filmed during school term time so I declined the offer.
Rubber wheels are now replaced by much tougher roller blade wheels.