An image of Kitten Mittens and its 3lb counterpart

Why Make A Combat Robot That Walks?

If you watch it on TV or see clips on YouTube, you’ll notice that most combat robots have wheels, which would make sense. They are simple, work well, and if designed right they can take a bit of a beating. So why did [Luke] design his 12-pound bot with no wheels, or any locomotion system for that matter? You can find out more about this peculiar bot in his build report with more than 130 images.

[Luke’s] bot, called Kitten Mittens, is a gyro walker combat robot. This means that instead of traditional tank treads or wheels to move about, [Luke] navigates by angling his bot’s weapon and using the angular momentum to lift up one side of the bot to “walk” forward. Watch the video after the break to see it in action. While this does leave Kitten Mittens much slower and less agile than competitors, it gives one massive leg up; weight. Kitten Mittens fights in the 12-pound combat robotics weight class, but most leagues have weight bonuses for bots that have no wheels or use otherwise nontraditional locomotion. Where [Luke] competes, the Norwalk Havoc Robot League, this means that his bot can be up to 6 pounds heavier than the other competitors!

A 3D-printed prototype of Kitten Mittens' weapon
A printed prototype of the weapon, showing off the integrated hub motor.

So how did [Luke] take advantage of that extra 6 pounds? The biggest thing was the weapon. It is made of 3/4-inch S7 tool steel and has a custom hub motor integrated into the center, bringing its rotating weight to 5.5 pounds. In addition to thickness, the added weight allowance permitted a larger spinning diameter so that Kitten Mittens could hit opponents before they hit him.

[Luke] is not new to the world of combat robotics, and knew it would take more than just a big weapon to win. Part of the extra weight budget was also used to beef up his armor and internal structure of the bot, so that hits from opponents would just bounce him around the cage harmlessly. This even included custom bent titanium guards surrounding the weapon, to help in self-righting.

When it first debuted in February of 2021, Kitten Mittens was a smashing success! It went 4-0 in the 12lb weight class at NHRL, winning the $1,000 prize and earning its spots in the annual finals, where [Luke] will compete against other finalists from the rest of the season for a chance to win the $12,000 first-place prize.

Bots that walk, shuffle, or crawl are becoming more of a trend lately in all weight classes. Even Overhaul, a 250-pound bot, has been given a new set of feet to shuffle around on. You can read more about this interesting concept here.

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Raspberry Pi Zero Takes The Wheel In Miniature Fighting Robot

Looking to capitalize on his familiarity with the Raspberry Pi, [Sebastian Zen Tatum] decided to put the diminutive Pi Zero at the heart of his “antweight” fighting robot, $hmoney. While it sounds like there were a few bumps in the road early on, the tuxedoed bot took home awards from the recent Houston Mayhem 2021 competition, proving the year of Linux on the battle bot is truly upon us.

Compared to using traditional hobby-grade RC hardware, [Sebastian] says using the Pi represented a considerable cost savings. With Python and evdev, he was able to take input from a commercial Bluetooth game controller and translate it into commands for the GPIO-connected motor controllers. For younger competitors especially, this more familiar interface can be seen as an advantage over the classic RC transmitter.

A L298N board handles the two N20 gear motors that provide locomotion, while a Tarot TL300G ESC is responsible for spinning up the brushless motor attached to the “bow tie” spinner in the front. Add in a Turnigy 500mAh 3S battery pack, and you’ve got a compact and straightforward electronics package to nestle into the robot’s 3D printed chassis.

In a Reddit thread about $hmoney, [Sebastian] goes over some of the lessons his team has learned from competing with their one pound Linux bot. An overly ambitious armor design cost them big at an event in Oklahoma, but a tweaked chassis ended up making them much more competitive.

There was also a disappointing loss that the team believes was due to somebody in the audience attempting to pair their phone with the bot’s Pi Zero during the heat of battle, knocking out controls and leaving them dead in the water. Hopefully some improved software can patch that vulnerability before their next bout, especially since everyone that reads Hackaday now knows about it…

While battles between these small-scale bots might not have the same fire and fury of the televised matches, they’re an excellent way to get the next generation of hackers and engineers excited about building their own hardware. We wish [Sebastian] and $hmoney the best of luck, and look forward to hearing more of their war stories in the future.

See The Damage 250-Pound Combat Robots Get

Combat robots have been a thing for a while, but we don’t normally get a close look at the end results of the sort of damage they can both take and deal out. [Raymond Ma] spent time helping out with season four of BattleBots and wrote about the experience, as well as showed several pictures of the kind of damage 250-pound robots can inflict upon each other. We’ve embedded a few of them here, but we encourage you to read [Raymond]’s writeup and see the rest for yourself.

The filming for a season of BattleBots is done in a relatively short amount of time, which means the pacing and repair work tends to be more fast and furious than slow and thoughtful. [Raymond] says that it isn’t uncommon for bots, near the end of filming, to be held together with last-minute welds, wrong-sized parts, and sets of firmly-crossed fingers. This isn’t because the bots themselves are poorly designed or made; it’s because they can get absolutely wrecked by the forces at play.

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Super Easy Small Robot Wheels

Anyone who has delved into DIY wheels knows that they are a trickier than it may seem, especially if the wheels aren’t just for show and need to provide things like decent traction and durability. 3D printers have helped a lot, but they’re not a cure-all.

Check out how [Robert K.] makes wheels from segments of automotive silicone hose, which are constructed with fibers embedded within them for durability and structure. Not only are these hoses easily sourced, but the silicone makes a great wheel surface and the hoses themselves are highly durable. He uses a 3D printed jig to cut a slice of hose that press-fits perfectly onto a 3D printed hub. [Robert] finds that a 28 mm hose pulled over a 35 mm diameter wheel is a perfect fit.

These wheels are for a Beetleweight class combat robot, which are limited to three pounds (1.36 kg) or less. You can see some video of [Robert]’s previous Beetleweight robot named ‘Bourbon’, and we have featured what goes into the even-smaller Antweight class (one pound or less) in the past.