Record Scratch. Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.
Well, let me tell you...
SPOILERS AHEAD. Only proceed if you've seen Season 6 Episode 11.
Let's rewind a bit, and take a trip back in time to early 2020. Back before the pandemic. A simpler time.
In this fight you can see our featherweight, Knock Off White, take on Botceps, a robot run by the Robogym team which is very, very similar to Riptide. This, and our 2019 fight vs Minotaur, is what we based our Riptide configuration on.
In our Minotaur fight, although we lost, the plastic armor actually performed very well. That configuration had some very small prongs - but they were almost immediately ripped off. It also had some bits of titanium sticking out the sides of the wedge - which is what Minotaur eventually hit to flip us. But, when Minotaur was grinding against the plastic it couldn't get a good bite - just like in the above video vs Botceps. You can read more about that fight vs Minotaur here.
Our intent vs Riptide was to actually run our 2021 anti-horizontal config which was most similar to these two instances - basically it's all plastic everywhere. Our fear was if we tried to run Social Distancing™ prongs, or Biteforce™ wedgelets, that they'd just be torn off - and since they are hard mounted they would transfer more force to the robot. The intent with the plastic was to prevent Riptide from getting a bite on us while being able to take multiple hits, just like vs Botceps and Minotaur. Then, we could get some of our own hits in using our big, heavy, shock-mounted New Rusty hammer (we'll talk more about that hammer in a future post) and maybe get a nice battery puncture.
If you look closely, you can see the right-hand-side axle pivot is not fully covered. It's using a 2020 pivot cover because it weighs less. The sides are also 2020 sides (look closely and you can spot a big gouge from Capt Shed), because they weigh less than the 2021 sides. We're running in 'stealth mode' because Riptide did not approve our request for extra 'decorative weight' - as is their right. Look very closely and you can see our donut-power-switch-sticker, thanks Team Food Fight!
Up at the front is our fairly low, but not completely ground scraping, anti-horizontal wedge configuration - a big chunk of UHMW with titanium behind it. The hammer is the untested New Rusty shock-mounted design.
Unfortunately, with no 3rd regular season fight, we were unable to test the New Rusty hammer prior to the playoffs - which we planned to use in our 3rd regular season fight. We also switched out the speed controllers in this match from XLX, to XLX2 - the newer models. We had been having all sorts of issues in the test box with the XLX2 controllers, but managed to just get them worked out after our second regular season fight (turns out, the sensor cable was screwing everything up - so we just went sensorless). The XLX2s were adding a good deal of power to the swings in the test box, and looked more durable - but were also untested in fight conditions. We figured the hammerhead could take more blows, and the ESCs would be more durable and powerful - but it was a bit of a guess.
I don't have a great image of Riptide pre-fight, but here's a shot of them during the fight. I believe they doubled up their top armor, which was a big change, and they continued running their small wedgelets - which we didn't think they'd have weight for. In addition, this is not visible, but they completely redid their bearing system between their 3rd fight and this fight - and they said it would be much more durable than previously. Those third fights certainly do help!
Prior to the fight a producer came up to ask us if we liked our matchup - they were surprised when we said no. They thought we would love this matchup, since we are usually pretty decent against verts, but we were worried. Riptide had just destroyed DUCK! (a robot with very similar punctuation, and chassis structure to Shatter!), and although we put together a configuration we thought could work based on past fights, it was never really intended for this type of robot. We really didn't have a great configuration for them. It'd either work great... or not.
Well, let's see!
Let's just take a second to appreciate that strafing. I always love a good strafe. Anyway...
The thing about Shatter! is that is has great maneuverability, but it's not particularly fast. What I try to do when driving it is point the front toward the other robot. As I've said in the past, it's a targeted damage robot - and the area we are trying to target is the top. It doesn't really matter if we come at an opponent from the front or side - we just need to hit the right spot on the top. But not trying to get around the side and just making sure we approach front-on, we can limit our mistakes. Sometimes we'll try to fire while strafing, etc - but that's not usually the main strategy.
So you can see as I come out here - I'm just pointing the front at them. This strategy relies on having a good configuration capable of going front-to-front with the opponent. The idea was we would try to engage slowly, as to prevent max engagement. If everything works well, they should just bounce off and be unable to get a good bite. If we could get them slowed down a bit, we'd fire the hammer and see what we could hit, just like in the Botceps fight. At least, that was the idea.
Well... that didn't work. It was at this point we realized we were almost certainly screwed. This first hit didn't really cause any permanent damage - it just ripped off a lot of plastic - but it showed that we wouldn't be able to engage front to front and maintain control. Without being able to engage front on, we would need to rely on perfectly timed hits or getting around the side. not easy, as Riptide is a speedy bot without a lot to aim at from the front that isn't the weapon. With the plastic coming off so quickly, it also means we won't have a lot of chances to make this happen before more permanent damage starts to impact the billet.
The strategy now changed to 'fire it whenever you think you can hit anything'.
Still not working out great for us. We seem to ride up their wedgelet and pop our own magnets before firing, then hop so high we completely miss and allow them to get at our underside. Luckily, they aren't really able to hit the underside but do eventually get us up onto the srews/shelf.
It turns out those little wedgelets they added, which Botceps did not have, make all the difference here. Not only are they helping in this last instance where they pop our magnets before a hammer swing, but mainly they are helping with weapon engagement. Instead of bouncing off the sides of our plastic, they are getting under the plastic and getting HUGE engagement with their weapon.
When a disc gets under our plastic - it just tears through it because it's so narrow. This means the resulting hits aren't so big and the plastic isn't usually torn entirely off. But with so much engagement from such a wide weapon on Riptide, the plastic doesn't slice and tear away - instead the weapon is able to transfer all the force to the plastic, and then to the bolts, and it pretty much instantly shears them.
Once the plastic is off the front Riptide are able to get at the titanium behind it and really start launching us:
The plastic wasn't working out great - but you can really see the difference in impact absorbance once it isn't there anymore and they get a bite on the metal. Now we're really flying!
The interesting thing here is that in terms of damaged caused - we actually think it's that last small hit while we were upside down that did the most damage. We'll get to that later.
We do end up getting one hammer hit in:
It lands exactly where we want, but it's not enough. They keep moving, and back off to let us be.
We end up smoking, and can barely move. The front left wheel isn't spinning - probably because of that smoke - but the other three are. Still, we're not going anywhere and eventually get stuck up inside the wall.
I'll be honest - I still have no idea what the unstick rules are. I thought if you got stuck on the walls they'd pause the fight to unstick you? Anyway - we didn't get one. We tried to unstick ourselves with the pulverizer (yes, we controlled that one) but it seemed to just be jamming us further and further in.
So that was the end of our tournament. I think I actually blocked the end of this fight out of my mind - I completely forgot we got stuck in the wall until rewatching this one on tv. Ooof. Not how we wanted to end our season, but congrats to Riptide on the dominant win, and good luck in the rest of the tournament! Thanks for saving me time GIFing this one by making the fight so short, ha...
I think the big lesson here is that setting up the robot pre fight is extremely important. We always knew that, but it was particularly apparent this season. There are 3 main aspects to a fight, all decided over different timescales - design/engineering/manufacturing (pre event), setup/configuration (pre fight), and driving/strategy (during the fight). Any of our three fights could have gone different ways based on configurations alone. Everyone's designs were pretty solid, everyone's driving was pretty solid - but the configurations were the difference makers.
Anyway, let's take a look at the damage. Riptide first:
We did manage to put a nice gouge/dent in their lid with our one hammer hit - which also managed to sever a sensor wire inside their robot. The sad part is we were about 1 inch away from hitting their antenna bundle which would have stopped their robot dead in its tracks. Bah! So close! It's pretty wild how even in a dominant win like this, there are still close calls that could have entirely turned the fight.
Now let's look at Shatter!'s damage. Weird, there's a lot more photos of this for some reason:
The front actually held up decently. Sure, the front plastic piece was ripped in half but otherwise probably reusable. The titanium behind it was pretty bent but not the end of the world. The front isn't really intended to get torn to shreds so quickly, but it was working in terms of protecting the main chassis.
The hammer tip had some interesting mushrooming to it, but it'll sharpen back up fine.
I don't have a photo of this - but one of our two weapon motors was also busted. The motor can basically exploded - probably on that big hit they landed against the metal front wedge but we aren't sure. What that means is that last hammer blow which almost got their receivers (and did get that one sensor wire) was actually only at half power. The fact that we had a damaged motor there may also be why we didn't hop quite as high on that shot as on our first attempt, and may be why we were actually able to connect. When we were at full power the robot was hopping a lot in this fight (probably due to the extra power from the ESCs, extra weight in the hammer head, and lack of forks). Interesting that the hammer was still working at all with only one motor, good to know I suppose - it still looked pretty powerful!
The major issues started with our front-left drive ESC smoking - which killed our front left wheel. This alone isn't a big issue, but it compounded things because if you look closely you'll see the billet is also quite bent. What happens when the billet bends like that - even though it's only about 1/4" out of flat - is that the magnets hit the ground. This was the back of the billet that bent, which meant our rear magnets hit and lifted our rear wheels mostly off the ground. No only do our rear wheels no longer provide much traction when they aren't touching the ground, the magnets themselves effectively become brakes. With one of our front two wheels dead and both our rear wheels off the ground - that was why we were having major control issues.
We think the hit that caused this bend was after the big hit that sent us flying into the rear wall, when we were upside down and they hit us from behind (where there is barely any armor). It wasn't a big hit, but was in exactly the worst spot. The robot started driving noticeably worse at this point and then became undrivable after the smoked ESC killed the front left drive. The ESC probably failed due to one of the impacts, because it's quite old - and those original XLX controllers are somewhat fragile. We'll be replacing all ESCs with XLX2s next season to hopefully prevent any more shock failures.
As for the frame, we're working on a redesign. The billet was originally designed to be solid 1" sides/rear - but due to weight concerns we added pockets into various areas of the outer perimeter. It worked fine in 2020 so we did the same thing again for 2021. However this fight has pointed out a major flaw - those lightening holes allowed the whole rear to buckle and bend with only a small hit. Our redesigned billet is looking to be several pounds lighter, and twice as strong as the 2021 version without localized failure points. Maybe we'll finally have weight for back armor too. Oh... and the magnet design and positioning will be tweaked so even if the newer & stronger frame still bends, hopefully it won't be so catastrophic for our mobility.
With that said, this isn't the last of us. You'll see us again later this season in Bounty Hunters.
Thank you to Riptide for helping us find and (hopefully) eliminate more design flaws in Shatter!, and thank you all for reading this far!
Thank you to my teammates Eric Wrigley, Paul Gancitano, and Mary Chimenti for another memorable tournament!
Keep watching on Thursdays on Discovery Channel (or Discovery+ ) to see the thrilling tournament conclusion!
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