As you may or may not be aware, Dragon Con 2016 went down in Atlanta over the Labor Day weekend, and as usual the folks over at Robot Battles put on a fantastic show with ant and beetleweights on Sunday and the 12 and 30 pounders in sumo competition Monday.
I was there with my dad competing with my antweight Proteus, and I kept a bunch of notes for this running diary, with the idea being to give anyone whose interested an idea of what a weekend at the largest robot combat event in the southeast United States looks like. This was my first Dragon Con, but I’d previously competed in a Robot Battles event once, going 1-2 in my fights and winning the antweight rumble at GMX in Nashville last year.
Competing at GMX was a blast, but Dragon Con was a whole different beast. If anyone is near the Atlanta area I definitely recommend you guys check it out next year. In the meantime, here’s what my weekend at the event looked like:
Day 0 (Saturday)
2:56pm – Double checked everything and loaded the robot and our toolbox with our tools and spare parts in the car and rolled out for Atlanta.
3:38pm – Just bought some Airhead Xtremes Bites at a gas station. The Bites are great, but the regular Airhead Xtremes are the greatest candy ever made, and now I can’t find them anywhere. It seems like the Bites have totally replaced them. It’s disappointing, really.
5:16pm – We’ve been trying to find a bathroom somewhere along this highway for 30 minutes. Alabama is a wasteland.
6:49pm – We found a Chick-Fil-A God bless you Birmingham.
11:03pm (but really 10:03. How do time zones work?) – All set up in the hotel. Absolutely nothing noteworthy happened since the Chick-Fil-A. The event starts at 10am tomorrow with registration starting at 8. It’s almost robot fightin’ time.
6:25am – Oh god it’s so early.
6:50am – Leaving the hotel. Probably too early, but whatever.
7:30am – In line to buy our two-day Dragon Con passes.
8:52am – Setting up in the pits now. We were having some issues with our lifting motor, and our backup was apparently dead, but luckily we got everything sorted out. If the lifter couldn’t go we did have a backup plan in place though. Our whole bot is basically just a wedge already, but if we repurposed one of our old lifters to basically serve as additional front armor on the wedge, with the idea being it would be a good backup plan if the lifter couldn’t go and it could also be effective against horizontal spinners.
9:42am – Just talked to Mike Jeffries from the Bombshell team. Seriously an awesome dude. I think this is now common knowledge from the Reddit AMA the other day, but he mentioned that they would’ve considered going with the vertical disc against Tombstone in the final, but one of the teeth was damaged in the fight with Minotaur.
10:17am – Micro Nightmare fought DDT and it was totally awesome. In disappointingly true Nightmare fashion, it lost in the first round.
10:30am – We still haven’t fought yet. They announced that we’ve got 18 entries in the antweight class and 24 in the beetleweight.
10:46am – Won our first fight against Wizlfuts by ring out. This was a tiny bit of revenge, since Wizlfuts handed us our first loss at GMX last year. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, for us), Ben told me before the fight that he was having all sorts of mechanical problems with the bot, and he had little/no control over it.
I had some control problems of my own, as you can probably tell from my driving in the video. My lite flite wheels were not getting very good traction in the arena at all. I don’t remember this being a problem at GMX, but that was also I think a different arena. It was difficult to line up hits because the wheels would slide quite a bit, but for this fight everything ended up okay and we got the quick knockout.
I don’t think it’s obvious from the video, but our lifter took quite a bit of damage, and we swapped to another one for the next fight. Everything else held up well. Even the wheels, which was a little surprising, since the last time I fought Wizlfuts there was foam all over the arena.
11:01am – Didn’t really take any damage in our first fight except for the lifter. Repairs complete and we’re ready to go for the next round.
11:46am – Lost our quarterfinal fight against Green Reaper. To put it bluntly, we got our ass kicked. That bot is so much more terrifying than when I fought it a year ago. With pretty much every hit we took notable damage. After the first hit our lifter was hanging on by one screw, and then after another our soldering on our right side motor came undone leaving us without power on one side. Despite all this I did manage to get Green Reaper on top of our bot and I got one good flip in. The impact sent them flying all over the arena, but it hit us so hard that our lifter motor got separated from our base, detaching one of our battery cables in the process, leaving us powerless. We got counted out and lost by knockout.
I’m still amazed that the motor became disconnected, because we keep that held down with two-sided tape. Whenever we have to remove it we have to pry it loose with a knife.
12:14pm – Finally got everything repaired. We’re good to go for the rumble.
1:14pm – Finished the antweight rumble. Jim knocked me out of the arena while I was trying to push a disabled bot into the pit for fun. By this point I was dragging my lifter (and motor) behind my bot, which is becoming a disturbingly common theme.
3:54pm – Eating lunch at Gus’s after leaving the BattleBots Season 2 panel. Panelists included Charles Guan (Overhaul), Jim Smentowski (Nightmare), Mike Jeffries (Bombshell), Will Bales (Hypershock), Jamison Go (SawBlaze), three-fourths of the Witch Doctor team, Fon Davis (judge), and Trey Roski and Greg Munson (BattleBots co-founders)
6:31pm – Waiting to get into the history of robot combat panel. I just blew $65 on two Hatsune Miku shirts, a Miku lanyard, an Attack on Titan lanyard, and a K-On lanyard. I am embracing the weeb here at Dragon Con.
8:13pm – Left history of robot combat panel. This one was just Trey Roski, Greg Munson, and Kelly Lockhart (Robot Battles founder), although most of the teams from the previous panel (as well as Marc DeVidts from IceWave) were in the audience.
This one was really interesting. They talked about the history of the sport, and told some interesting stories I didn’t know, such as Greg and Trey competing in one of the first Robot Wars events (before it was on British television) and sweeping the competition with a wedge.
9:39pm – Back to the car and headed to the hotel. Went to a talk on the space track about the search for the ninth planet. It was interesting, but they packed about 200-300 people in a tiny room and it was hot as hell, so I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if not for that. I wish that we would’ve had more time to check out some of the other talks and panels at the con, but we were just there the Sunday and Monday, and most of those were dedicated to the robot events for us.
9:25am – Just woke up. Alright, now that’s more like it. None of this 6am nonsense.
10:37am – Arrived at the Regency ballroom to spectate the 12 and 30 pound weight classes. Walked around through the pits to take a look at the bots. Charles brought Overhaul again to put on display too.
11:45am – First match of the day. Charles is up with 12 O’ Clocker. Won 2-0 pretty easily. Awesome bot.
12:21pm – T-Boner 2.0 is awesome. It’s a 12 pound bot that apparently uses autonomous tracking in order to steer. It’s super high tech, and it actually works.
Jim totally drove straight off the stage in that second round. Welp.
12:34pm – We have our first bot on fire of the weekend.
12:53pm – Oh my god, Nyx (driven by Mike Jeffries) with a full suplex of Dandelion’s Revenge.
2:16pm – Nyx just lifted a bot up, held it there for about three seconds, and then launched it over its head and out of the arena. Crowd went absolutely nuts. Standing ovation.
The flip starts at 2:15, but really you should watch the whole thing. Nyx is incredible.
3:16pm – Back to the car and ready to head back home. Forgot to make a note of this, but the 30 pound bracket resulted in an all Near Chaos Robotics final of Nyx vs. Styx, with Nyx winning. It looked totally unbeatable all day.
8:25pm – Just made it home. Now to brainstorm how to improve my bot before GMX in Nashville in late October. The biggest thing I know that needs improved is we need a redesign of our lifting mechanism. Our wedge gives us great defense against spinners, but with our lifter being mounted at a different angle it sort negates that defense, with our lifter being an easy target for those weapons. But still, Proteus now has a 2-3 record, which I’d say isn’t bad for our first robot.