Shatter! vs Beta has got to be the most anticipated Shatter! fight of all time. People have been clamoring for this fight for ages and it just never lined up until now. We've been at 4 competitions with John Reid, although only two where he was running a hammer robot, and this is our first time meeting in the arena. A lot was on the line here and I was both looking forward to, and dreading this fight. It's one of those fights you know people will be talking about for a long time and you sure do hope to be on the right side of it. In addition - it's John Reid! It's surreal to be fighting someone whose robots strongly inspired parts of ours and who we've been watching on TV for over 20 years. Just taking part in this fight is a dream come true. John is a true legend of the sport, and especially of hammer robots.
SPOILERS AHEAD. Only proceed if you've seen Championship VII Episode 8
So, with that out of the way, what was the thought process going into this fight? Well, in retrospect, I think I overthought myself here. The big decision everyone is talking about is we ran our new social distancing forks. These are very similar to, and in fact the same length as, our forks that we ran vs Blacksmith.
The main difference in the forks is that these new ones are wider and mostly plastic. This allows them to flex and also keeps them from falling into the killsaw slots like what happened vs Blacksmith. But the tips are still small for getting under opponents and they keep opponents at a good distance for the hammer tip to hit (the tip of the Mary Special and the lil' Rusty hammer are equidistant). Basically, the same thing but better.
There is of course a big difference between Blacksmith and Beta - we can reach parts of Blacksmith front on, we can only reach the wedge on Beta's front on with such long forks. But... I wanted to keep Beta from hitting our hammer pivot front on. I Figured, if neither of us can do anything straight on - we both need to get around the sides/back, and Beta has a lot more vulnerable bits there than we do. We are well armored almost everywhere - there is only like one tiny sprocket in the middle that's vulnerable. Beta has tons of juicy bits out back, one hit and we could cause significant damage. I thought we could get that one hit before they did.
We also put a lot of thought into our armor - with a layered approach. Shatter! is like a hammer robot's dream opponent - big flat and low. A perfect target. So over the big flat areas we have our standard 1/2" thick UHMW armor as the base layer, this is hard mounted to the frame. Then we have 1" of gym-mat-foam and 1/8" of AR500 on top of that - mounted on shoulder bolts (this allows it to 'float' and compress the foam to absorb impacts). BattleBots bans exposed foam armor, but we got approval to run it in our laminated setup here. We used a very similar setup vs Blacksmith but it was never tested. Here, the main difference is there is more metal - we had more weight available for armor this year after reducing the weight of the frame. So now, the AR cover the wheels - however there is no foam over the wheels, so it doesn't do a lot but it does more than nothing.
The lil' Rusty hammer is a rigid AR500 steel hammer head. It's our hardest hammer head, our lightest hammer head, and is the most likely to pierce an opponent due to the long-narrow shape. We use it against control bots because it's not the best at taking impacts from spinners, but none of the other hammer's we have can match the piercing ability of this one. Due to the lighter weight it's also very fast.
You'll also note we outlined all the pre-existing damage on our UHMW armor in red paint. We had to use older armor which was lighter (due to all the, uh, speed holes...) to hit the 250 lbs weight, but we didn't want it marked off as damage if we had to go to the judges.
Beta went with their up-armored wedge configuration, which adds more metal up above where normally there would just be polycarbonate, and the big heavy blunt mallet.
Our strategy was to rely on a damage win, potentially a KO. We needed to get around back of Beta only once, take out the electronics, and that's it. It didn't matter if we got shoved around and hit a bunch trying to do it - as long as we could just get one series around back we could win it very quickly.
Starting off the fight, we didn't know how well Beta would drive. In their first fight, it really didn't move well and we had no idea why that was or if they'd fixed it. When they drove quickly out to the square it was apparently they had fixed it, darn haha. As soon as the fight started, I began to regret the fork decision a bit. Although our forks were low from the front, they were too easy to get around and Beta repeatedly was able to push us from the side. I still figured we just needed that one hit though, and it wasn't a total loss.
We were doing ok for the first half of this fight. Although we were getting pushed around, I was able to back away from a lot of the early hammer strikes, and we almost got them under the pulverizer - which isn't too powerful but could still potentially damage some of the lightly armored rear of Beta (those pulverizers are really hard to time, they are on a slight delay). Too bad we missed.
After a couple shots where we made some sparks off Beta's wedge, we had a really good opportunity to hit Beta from behind as they tried to retreat from the corner behind the shelf.
I had to watch this replay about 15 times before I realized what was happening, it's so confusing. They are turning slightly, we are turning slightly, everything is lining up for the perfect hit - and then for some reason both bots rapidly realign before our hammer comes down. Huh? Watch closely and you can see our left fork hits something on the rear of Beta and bumps us in the opposite direction right as we are firing. Arg! That was the opportunity we needed and we missed it.
It's at this point we get pushed around a bit more, have a few more near misses with our hammer, and Chris Rose says something about "shooting proton torpedoes into the Death Star" and this is the beginning of our true downfall in this fight, it's also about exactly halfway into the fight. Almost immediately after this, Beta gets a direct hit on a front wheel. Shortly after that we are in the opposite end of the arena, we have another near hit that sends us flying, and Beta manages another hit on our other front wheel.
One of the changes we made this year was to get our magnets a bit closer to the floor. We spring mounted them, so theoretically if we ran over anything they could just flex-upward instead of high centering us, but the robot was driving pretty poorly due to the atrociously out-of-flat floor, and massive amount of debris, even before these hits. The floor isn't as bad as it was in Season 4 but it's far from level and quite dirty, at this point and our 4wd system with fairly low magnets is not liking it. You may also notice I was oversteering in this fight - not as bad as vs Huge but still very evident - this is due to our increased speed vs previous seasons. I wasn't used to it yet, and I hadn't gotten our drive/controller settings dialed in for the new speed yet.
Anyway, these hammer hits took out a few rollers, which was causing jams as they worked their way out and also causing the magnets to intermittently drag on the floor - basically the robot was even worse to drive after that than it had been.
Without being able to drive as well this allowed Beta to get fully around the side before I could sneak off.
This hit was a direct hit on that one tiny vulnerable part of the bot I mentioned earlier - the exposed sprocket. The hit broke the chain, which allowed us to fire once forward but as soon as we retracted the hammer, the chain came undone - we couldn't lift the hammer and we couldn't fire it again. It was dead. This lead to what might be the most frustrating moment of my entire life.
AL:KHDSF:LKHSD! Not only were we sitting right there, with all the juicy bits directly under our hammer and unable to fire it, but due to the damage we had taken on our wheels we also couldn't move. Even with a dead hammer - it was jammed directly in the juicy bits! If I could have driven around I could have just pushed the hammer into the electronics with the wheels! Bah! Also for some reason the TV edit cut out Beta's first hammer fire which retracted our hammer. Odd.
With us moving very poorly due to wheel damage, and without a hammer, Beta takes advantage and gets a LOT more hits on our side. I'm not gonna gif that. We all remember right? No need really to rewatch that part...
Anyway the armor mostly does its job. We make it to the end of the fight. We're not on fire, but we clearly lost. I always say hammer robots are targeted-damage-robots and Beta hit their target(s) today, while we didn't. I was totally outdriven by John.
In retrospect, I think we should have just run the Biteforce style wedgelets. Final config is my decision and I just made the wrong one. It felt 'safer' to run the forks, but in the end that turned out not to be the case. We had some opportunities that could have swung the fight the other way, but I think if we had run the wedgelets we could have gone all-in on our advantages - firing the weapon non stop. Instead I overthunk it trying to get that 'good hit' and was outplayed by a very aggressive Beta. A bit ironic.
Let's take a look at some damage shots:
There was a decent amount of visible damage on Shatter!, namely the bent top panels, but I wasn't really too worried about those. They were mounted on foam, and being bent just means they were absorbing some of the hits' energy. As long as they didn't come off, they were doing their job. What I didn't realize was that our lower UHMW plastic lids, which looked flat after the fight, had also been bending down on the hits. Our batteries were smooshed. Now a lot of teams might try to mush these back to shape and rerun them... but I'm not so brave. So that was definitely the most expensive part of the fight. We only had one battery that wasn't crushed after this fight, out of a total of 8. Ugh. Other damage included sheared bolts which we had to drill out of the billet, smashed magnets, 2 broken mecanum wheels, a broken hammer spherical roller bearing (we'd been using those for years!), and a broken chain. The bent tops could be bent back if needed.
Beta did have a scratch though... so take that!
You can see more about the post fight breakdown on our youtube channel.
While digging through the arena side bin of parts swept up after fights (I can't even remember what I was looking for - maybe triangles?), I found this fortune buried inside which felt very apt:
The forks were a mistake, but, you live you learn. They weren't the only thing that went wrong this fight either. We still need to get the drive settings working, we need to fix the magnets so we don't keep scraping the floor, and I need to be more accurate with my turning. Also, we'll need a stiffer base-layer to the layered armor setup so we don't crush our batteries, ha.
0-2 is definitely not a good way to start the season. If you look at both our bots combined, we are 0-4, with 2 of the losses being KOs. It's almost the worst possible way to start a season. We were not in the best of moods.
But there's no shame in losing to John Reid. Beta is an amazing robot, they have an amazing team, and it was a dream come true just to be in the same arena as John. Not many people get to live their dreams like this and that's what BattleBots is all about. Thanks John & team for a great fight! We're coming hard in the inevitable rematch though!
If we can turn the season around we can both still make the playoffs - and making the playoffs is all that matters anyway. Seeds don't win championships, but you can't win if you're not in the tournament, so we have to turn this around quick.
Thank you to Shatter!'s sponsors, without whom there would be no Shatter!:
Metal Blade Records
MaxAmps Lithium Batteries
Our next fight with Shatter! is vs the rookie robot Horizon. See you then!
Don't forget to watch BattleBots every Thursday night at 8pm on Discovery Channel (even the ones we aren't on).