BattleBots is back in Vegas for the first time in 20 years! This is exciting, but it is a bit ironic to be taking on an ice themed robot as our first fight in the middle of a ridiculously hot and dry desert.
SubZero is a cool bot by a great team. In 2020 they had a great run - making the top 32 and the finals of a bounty tournament. They are aggressive, yet controlled - a very difficult robot to drive against. Luckily we have an extra degree of freedom - hopefully I can keep up.
This fight was deemed TOO HOT FOR TV and is airing exclusively on YouTube. I promise, I'll stop making temperature puns soon. Keep reading for the whole breakdown.
If you haven't watched the fight yet, you're in luck, you can watch it right here! The cool thing about this being a YouTube fight is that it makes it super easy to share. Don't forget to make it go viral! I wanna see this baby hit 50 million views...
What a fight! Let's rewind a bit and talk about each of our setups for the match:
Let's start with SubZero. Sub Zero has taken a somewhat typical approach to fighting us - put a lot of extra armor panels on top. You can see extra top panels on the sides over the air tanks, and over the back where the batteries are. In addition, you'll note they are running short forks and no side armor panels (between the wheels).
I can't be sure here exactly which parts are removed for which reasons - but one of our design advantages as a hammer robot is we force teams to make choices. Top armor is not needed for most fights - so standard robot configurations don't devote a lot of weight to it. When fighting us teams need to compromise on some areas of their configuration to devote more weight for top armor. So even if an opponent can put enough armor to stop the hammer, they've compromised other areas in some way - and that can be an advantage for us. Also usually because these setups are somewhat improvised and there will be some areas that are not protected. 'The Game' isn't just what happens inside the arena - a lot of it is this pre-fight strategy determined by robot configurations.
On our end, we have a few new changes up our sleeves. Let's take a quick step back and look at some updates to our 'default' configuration for this year.
First off you'll note that the we no longer have full reflective 'triangle-top' panels over the majority of the robot - those were decorative anyway. We always had the flat tops underneath (and in fact stopped running the triangle-tops after the Malice fight last season). What we do have is a 'turret' at the hammer pivot point. Last season if you look closely in our fights and recall the post fight reports, you'll remember we did something similar to protect the hammer pivot in 2020.
Last year's hammer pivot armor was made in the pits, originally for fighting against Ghost Raptor. However we really liked them and ended up running them all year. They protected from side blows, as well as keeping the chain off the ground if we got flipped upside down. For 2021 we spent a bit more time designing these, made them a bit nicer looking - and added full chain coverage (look closely at the photo of the new setup and you'll see the chain is completely recessed inside the UHMW 'turret').
We also made our hammer rails (the central frame members that elevate the pivot point above the robot) lighter and cooler looking via the addition of chamfers. It's almost a shame to cover them up at all... they look so cool. Last season we painted these black, but this season we left them bare to show off the machining (thanks Prismier :). The weight savings on these parts is essentially what allowed us to put more weight into the turret.
But what did we do for this fight? In 2019, after fighting Kraken in a grudge match, we realized we needed an 'anti control bot' setup to get under opponents and prevent us getting shoved around so much. Last season we added the ability to run 4 wedgelets and/or prongs - but never got a chance to use it. In fact, we never used our wedgelets at all. This fight was exciting for us as this was our first true 'flipper' fight at BattleBots. We fought Mammoth last season - but they are very weird and our ground-scraping 'anti control bot' setup made no sense to run vs them.
So for this fight, we're breaking out setup, with 2 wedgelets and something else new for 2021, what we're calling our 'social distancing prongs'. We kept these a secret even when everyone was unveiling their ridiculous prongs in the pits. We even put the robot in the test arena with the old prongs during setup days, and only broke these out right before the fight.
2021 Anti Control Bot Setup: Wedgelets and Social Distancing Prongs
The wedgelets are fairly self explanatory, we definitely didn't totally just copy the wedgelets on the front of Bite Force. Definitely not. PS - Thank you Team Bad Kitty for cutting/welding the wedgelets! They came out great.
The big news for 2021 in regards to the ground game - is the social distancing prongs. Last seasons prongs, which we called 'fangs,' were fairly standard. They were long prongs designed to get under and raised people up - and we added 'thumbs' up top to keep people from going too high. The idea, as with most prongs, was we could get under opponents and push them around. The 'thumbs' would hold them in front as we did so.
When we were doing the redesign we realized... we don't really want people riding up the prongs at all. It's actually a bit of a detriment - especially vs vertical spinners. What we were doing was basically letting spinners ride up the prongs and hit us with their discs - even if we got under them they could still reach bits of our robot. Hence, the social distancing prongs. By moving the 'thumbs' more toward the front of the prongs it keeps the opponent at prime hammer-impact distance. It also keeps their weapon from reaching us. We can use our 'reach' advantage a lot more easily like this, and if we get around the side we can use the prong-length as a guide to place their juicy bits at exactly the right distance as well. . SubZero isn't a spinner - but if their flipper arm can't reach us the effect is the same.
For most teams, going head to head and getting prongs entangled with an opponent is bad. For us? It's actually good. If a vert or a flipper gets their forks/prongs/wedgelets stuck their weapon can't reach and is useless - but for a hammer not only can our weapon still reach, when everything is entangled it actually helps keep us stuck to the ground during a hammer swing and increases the hammer impact force. They can't reach, we can reach, and we get more power too boot. Win-win-win.
Lastly, we're running last year's hammer with our lightest hammer head (lil' Rusty) so we can get the fastest swings possible and the most penetration with the long point. You'll have to wait for later in this season to see our new sword attachment The Mary Special or the new spinner-absorbing New Rusty (sorry!).
Internally, we're mostly the same. A fresh frame, fresh batteries (thanks maxamps), fresh wheels (they're pink now!). Biggest change is that we've upgraded to XLX2 controllers on the hammer (still XLX1 on drive - we want to use the hammer as a test first). I think it looked more powerful in the test box, but we'll see how the fight goes.
So, did the setup work?
Right off the bat you can see they can't get under us from the front, and there are a few of these encounters where we get the social distancing prongs in place like this. Unfortunately to start they are fleeting and we can't time the hit quite right. But the prongs are doing what they are designed to do - keep them away if we keep the front pointed toward them.
And then I sort of screw up and let them get to the side... maybe I should add prongs on the sides next year? ha. But something weird happens... they don't flip us. There may not be arena outs but the screws are still a good place for a flip. Maybe we were able to hop off in time or they didn't like the angle?
After some actually good driving for a moment, I managed to get them to the corner, and Mary get's a good hold on them with the pulverizer. As this happens, they hop up onto our Social Distancing Prongs™. This lets Eric get some great hits with the hammer - puncturing the armor panels on the front of the arm and even going through the armor into the internals of the arm system. Looks like lil' Rusty is working like we intended.
You'll see we're also staying very grounded here - a lot of that is the prongs gripping on SubZero and holding the front down.
SubZero does manage to get around our side several more times though - but they continue to not flip us. We find this odd. Maybe they just aren't getting it lined up exactly right?
We eventually remove the front panels off their flipper with some nicely placed hits. Watch closely, and you'll see a bit of sparks shoot up off the top of SubZero's flipper arm nowhere near our hammer head - we believe this is a bolt shearing.
You can see here as well our prong is grabbing their flipper arm, allowing us to basically 'clamp' it as we fire the hammer - a benefit of the prong design. After we remove the panel, we end up getting our hammer jammed into the flipper assembly, and do a little dancing together.
I'm just unable to get them over to the screws though. One day!
We are firing the hammer like mad in this fight, and have a few more misses than usual. This does make for one of my favorite images of the season though, check this shot out from Dan Longmire:
Whenever we're able to shoot sparks with our hammer, I'm happy, and this shot is just cool overall. Maybe it will make the 2023 calendar?
Back to the fight though, SubZero is getting some good shoves and wall rams in, and still not firing the weapon. We figure it must be broken at this point, and we eventually get a really great hammer shot.
And smoke starts pouring out of SubZero! At this point I thought we hit the air tanks (turns out, it was the batteries) but either way, this is the shot we've been waiting for.
What's interesting here is we snuck into a tiny hole between armor panels. There was UHMW/AR500 all over the battery box - but there was a small hole near the flipper hinge that couldn't be covered. It was barely bigger than the hammerhead itself, but we managed to bullseye this spot and pierce the battery box below. This is where strategy pays off. This s a very difficult shot to hit - but if you take enough shots you're more likely to hit it. And choosing the right hammer head helps too. The sword wouldn't have reached the batteries here.
While we have the hammer stuck in there, we're actually able to push them around a bit. This really shows off the power of the magnets and their ability to increase our drive force even with mecanum wheels (well known to have terrible pushing power). Maybe we're a control bot after all? This time I manage to get SubZero over the killsaws.
However they get away just before we can get them onto the screws. Bah!
Some people ask us every so often: why don't you leave the hammer in the opponent? Well, usually we do (if it actually gets good puncture). We tend to try to leave the hammer inside for a few reasons. First, by leaving it in and twisting around it can cause more internal damage. Second, it allows us to get some 'control' points in by doing a little pushing and shoving. Lastly... it's usually actually stuck and twisting it helps us release (and the refs are always yelling to release almost immediately). A detriment (or benefit, depending on how you look at it) of the Mary Special sword, is it is much less likely to get stuck in opponents.
Some fans may remember our featherweight robot 'Knock Off White' which won the 'Sick Cloud Bruh' award at Motorama 2019 for causing the most lipo fires in opponents that season. This is our second lipo fire at BattleBots (first was KingPin) - maybe we will be able to rack up some more? In addition to battery fires, at BattleBots we've caused two short circuits (LockJaw and WanHoo), pierced the air bag in Kraken, broke the chain on Mammoth, the belt on Malice, and the bearing on Ghost Raptor. It's always nice to get some good piercing blows in - maybe one day people will stop calling them 'lucky' shots :)
Back to the fight, even with punctured batteries smoking in the arena SubZero is still moving, and at the very end you actually see SubZero get a bit of a flip in. Was the flipper working the whole time?!
As we found out after the fight - this was not a case of 'Wait for a Good Hit™' that went too far. Apparently SubZero had set the pressure in their main tanks higher in this fight than their earlier testing - this may have caused some faults in their regulator system leading to no pressure downstream. They believed the system had a small leak - allowing it to bleed off pressure during the fight and eventually reaching a low enough level that the flipper was able to work at the end. This is a real shame, as it would have been a much more enjoyable fight if SubZero was able to flip. We always like to get a win, but we also like to do it with our opponents at 100%. At the end of the day, it's all part of the game and a win is a win, but still sad nonetheless.
On to post fight damage! Let's do Shatter! first.
Overall not bad! We lost a hinge attachment - but that's ok. Those are actually designed to break - on large impacts they have a lower breaking force than the bolts holding them on. This keeps the billet in good shape, prevents annoying sheared bolts or stripped threads. Replacing some hinges is much cheaper than replacing an entire billet, and much easier than dealing with sheared bolts stuck inside the billet. Other than that and some lost decorative-triangles, pretty much tip top shape.
Now let's take a look at SubZero:
Immediately after the fight, it didn't seem too bad. A couple batteries had smoked but the majority of the battery box was seemingly unharmed. The frame looked ok, and although the robot lost a few armor panels the flipper system seemed to be in decent shape.
Sometimes though, true damage is not immediately obvious. It turned out some of the frame was bent, and the battery box was impossible to remove because it had become warped. In the process of removing the battery box, it relit (this is why we remove batteries outside, away from the buildings). When the batteries relit they caused a massive fire. I do feel bad about how much money these battery fires end up costing teams - the batteries are some of the most expensive electronic components, but that's how it goes sometimes.
In the end, an exciting fight where we have added some evidence against the 'hammers don't cause damage' myth. With the fight being on YouTube, hopefully we can make it go viral and rack up some views. SubZero is a good team, and it's unfortunate the bot wasn't at 100%, but we had a good time fighting them regardless. They have a powerful robot, and are very well driven. Even without the flipper they got some nice wall rams in. It's funny, but if you go back and look at the original run of Battlebots - these wall rams and such in this fight were throwing us higher in the air than most spinners/flippers/lifters of the classic series. Times really have changed.
Thank you to SubZero for a great fight, and thank you all for reading this far!
Thank you to my teammates Eric Wrigley, Paul Gancitano, and Mary Chimenti!
It's always great to start the season off 1-0, and now we're on to our second fight. Who will it be? Tune in Thursdays on Discovery Channel (or Discovery+ ) to find out!
Don't forget to check out more pre-fight, post-fight, and pit content on our YouTube channel:
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We'd like to thank our sponsors, without whom this wouldn't be possible:
Prismier - Manufacturing Simplified
TMS Titanium - Buy Titanium Online
MaxAmps - Award Winning Batteries
Qooos Watches - Maybe I'll eventually put these watches up for sale?