Team Toad: Las Vegas 2000

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Our First BBots Competition

15 November 2000

We remove the wheels, batteries, and snow plow blade from FrostBite, and pack it all up for transport.

We loaded everything onto our rented plane (a Hawker 700) and headed west into the night sky. We have a 103 knot headwind the whole way, and wind up landing an hour late.

As we land, the limo from Caesar's pulls up to the plane, and we load all the luggage and robot parts into it.

We pull around to the back of the All American Sportspark, and back the limo into the arena doors. To the left, the Battle Box is under construction; to the right, we see Tentomoushi and other robots.

A chill runs up and down my spine: we are really here.

Finally, we pile into our rooms at Caesar's Palace. We have a great view of the strip.

16 November 2000

It took about 6 hours to unpack and reasseemble the robot, pass through weigh-in and safety inspection, and then the photo session (here's the Team Toad Pit Crew waiting in line behind Mjollnir for our official photo).

Here's a shot of FrostBite reassembled (except for the top). The official BattleBots scale says it weighs 206 pounds, compared to 206.5 from our Pelouze scale back in Pittsburgh.

It's a really awe-inspiring feeling to be surrounded by all these famous and soon-to-be famous machines of destruction. After wandering through the whole pit area and looking at most of the heavyweights, I can say there isn't a single robot here I really want to fight.

Although I'm looking forward to getting FrostBite going in the Box, all these machines look terrifying. Almost every veteran has tweaked their robot to remove those little weaknesses from past events.

Competition begins tomorrow evening.

Once we're through the inspection process, we head to Excalibur for the Tournament of Kings to celebrate Jacey's 12 birthday. We're seated in the Dragon Knight section, which means we're rooting for the bad guy. I do such a good job of cheering the bad guy, that I lose my voice, and have to muddle through the interviews with a hoarse throat.

After the tournament, we put the kids to bed, and head to the tables. I win a couple of thousand at Black Jack in 20 minutes, and then Debbie and I head to Cleopatra's Barge night club, while my mother-in-law heads to the slot machines.

17 November 2000

I head for the Sportspark bright and early, and we all have a safety meeting at 10am. This is probably the largest gathering of combat robot builders ever. The builders are spread throughout 3 large tents.

I spend the morning dabbing traction compound over all 4 of FrostBite's tires. I've previously used an angle grinder with 50 grit sandpaper to flatten down the ridges in the tire treads and roughen up the rubber.

After making sure that the robot is ready to fight, I head back to Caesar's Palace for an afternoon nap.

18 November 2000

Saturday morning we start wiping the traction compound off the tires, and then we adjust the blade height as low as possible for our next opponent.

After that, I hit the tires again with 100 grit sandpaper, and was still sanding the tires while we waited in line for our turn at the box. all gets hazy...memory will return after TV show...

19 November 2000

Sunday morning, I spent an hour replacing the 30 amp fuses with 10 gauge wires. I also remove the damaged front right tire, moving the rear right tire to the front, and putting one of our spare tires on the back right.

Once again, FrostBite was ready to chew some robot butt.

At lunch time, we took FrostBite out into the parking lot, and Jacey and Kelsey each had a few minutes of driving practice. The plan was that they would take turns driving FrostBite in the Heavyweight rumble.

...details will be posted later...

Things were so intense at BBots, I never made it back to the Blackjack table. So for the first time in history, I leave Caesar's a winner. Final score: Fuzzy up $2,145.00.

Lessons Learned

Pit Area Photos

Bigger Brother   Blendo   Deadblow   Mauler 5150  

Mauler topless   No Tolerance III   Panic Attack Punjar  

Rammstein   Snake   Mark Setrakian & Snake  


Battles on November 18, 2000

Saturday our first fight was against Punjar, and won by 10 or 15 points.

This was our most entertaining fight, but we didn't make it to television. First we met head-on, and locked wedge blades. Each time we could only barely move Punjar, but we could move him backwards. Often, Ramiro would back up to try to come at us from a different angle. In the end, I think backing off lost him agression points.

It wasn't one-sided. At one point, Punjar had FrostBite up on end on the spikes strips, but at another, FrostBite pushed Punjar under the dreaded Pulverizers.


Saturday night we faced Overkill, and won by the narrowest margin of 23 points to 22.

After driving around each other at the start, avoiding the hell raisers, we finally smacked front to front, and I drove FrostBite up onto Overkill's wedge. With just the back two wheels on the ground, I couldn't outpush Overkill, and he pushed us back into the wall.

We danced around each other quite a bit, and I tried several times to get him from the side. About 1 minute into the match, the left edge of the plow blade caught one of the new red kill saw blades, and we went for a nice 540 degree helicopter spin before settling down.

You can see the cuts in the bottom of the plow blade in the photo on the left.

After that, the saws threw Overkill on top of FrostBite for a little piggy-back ride. At first, I tried to shake him loose, and wound up backing into another saw blade, the combined weight of the two robots allowing the kill saws to make a nice deep gash on FrostBite's back (see the photo to the right).

But with Overkill on top, I decided to drive him under a hammer (you can see from the picture on the top-left that Overkill left quite a few tire marks on FrostBite's back). Rather than wait for the hammer, Overkill bailed out, and I was then able to ram him sideways up on the wall spike strip, pinning him there twice.

After getting loose, Overkill drove away and hit the kill saws himself, rolling 360 degrees but landing "upright" (yes, Overkill does have a right side up and an upside down). From that point on, FrostBite "methodically" chased the faster Overkill around the ring. The rest of the match FrostBite was "behind" Overkill, so its wedge was on the wrong side, and I was able to push Overkill much more easily. Overkill tried landing blows with the back of its blade, but they were stopped by the top of the snowplow, and Overkill couldn't hit FrostBite's body. The shield we designed to protect us from Mauler was also very effective against Overkill's knife-blade.

About halfway through the fight, the 30 amp fuse protecting the front right motor blew, so I fought half of the match on 3 wheels. You can tell by watching the tape that FrostBite was turning much more rapidly in the beginning than at the end. But since it is a 4 wheel drive (or 3 in this case), once I was lined up on target, I could drive forward with almost as much power as with 4 wheels.

I spoke with Andrew L. after the match, and he said that in the end, the judges decided that Overkill had no way to damage FrostBite (the blade was ineffective), and we got points for ramming Overkill into the arena walls more than once.

I spent the next morning replacing the 4 30 amp fuse holders with 10 gauge wire.

Battles on 19 November 2000

Sunday afternoon we faced Voltronic, a finalist from the previous BattleBots in San Francisco.

The first minute of the fight was in our favor. FrostBite's blade is wider than Voltronic's front, so instead of getting under us with that extremey low wedge, we locked in a straight-forward pushing battle. Instead of backing off like Punjar, though, Voltronic never backed off, so we spent almost the whole first minute with all our wheels stalled.

Then at 1:12 into the fight, our front wheels stopped moving. From that point on, Voltronic was able to come in behind us and get his claw under our body behind the snowplow blade. He dragged us to the saw and the hammer a couple of times.

Then at 2:01 into the fight, Voltronic backed up onto the ramp behind the hammer in the corner, and for a few seconds was stuck. I thought I had him, but he worked himself free. From that point on he kept ramming FrostBite into the spike strips.

Our back wheels still had power, so we lasted the whole fight, but the match was Voltronic's by a score of 27 to 18, ending our first campaign for the big nut.

Calculations show that we only had enough battery capacity for 33 seconds at full stall, and we think we just ran out of batteries. We won't make that mistake again.

Status as of 25 November 2000

At one point against Voltronic, our front wheels stopped moving 72 seconds into the battle (thank heavens for separately powered rear wheels, or we'd have been incapacitated).

When we got back to the pits, both pairs of wheels worked fine.

There was a lot of speculation from visitors to our pit area that a thermal fuse in the battery packs temporarily cut out, resulting in a loss of power.

To find out, Fuzzy decided to do some destructive testing in the media room with a Dremel, a pair of pliers, and some wire cutters (not having the Torx screwdriver needed to disassemble the battery pack in a less destructive manner).

The result: no fuses, just 15 NiCad cells wired together with steel ribbon (there are 14 cells in the base, and one cell on top in the connecting tower).

Our new theory is that since we were in such a pushing match against Voltronic, we simply ran the batteries out. Once the voltage drops below a certain threshhold, the Vantec stops working. When we got back to the pits 10 minutes later, the cells had recovered enough voltage to run the Vantec, again.

New lesson: need more battery capacity.


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Last updated 8-Feb-2001 Lazy Toad Ranch   Web Site contents Copyright © 2000,2001 Michael L. Mauldin