abandon all hope ye robots who enter



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  • Designed & built Summer 1999
  • Taken to BattleBots Long Beach for display
  • Featured 4 whirling discs with 8 metal hooks
  • Demoed on KCAL 9 News, Hollywood
  • 3rd place in open demos at BotBash 2000
  • Exhibited at LEGO booth at E3 trade show 2001
  • Status: disassembled after a photo shoot for IEEE Spectrum magazine

STORY: Tesseract was designed and constructed in Summer 1999 for a potential LEGO demonstration comic relief sideshow at BattleBots Long Beach in August 1999.

I built Tesseract after comparing and evaluating all of the entries (including mine, 2A) at the LEGO Mindstorms RoboGladiators promotion, organized by Switzer Communications, for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 1999. After watching the other robots, I decided that my next one needed to have some serious kinetic energy and carnage potential. I just hate it when robot fights degrade into shoving matches, so I vowed that Tesseract would either tear parts off of its opponents or get shattered trying to do so. Either way, it guarantees a fun match for everybody.

I went through a few iterations of the design, trying different motor combinations, different programming schemes, and different reinforcement techniques. A scuffle with Peter Abrahamson's Mifune, the reigning LEGO Mindstorms RoboGladiators champ, helped me find Tesseract's weaknesses, which were later addressed.

KCAL 9 in Hollywood ran a story on combat robots and their builders. I demoed Tesseract in a pre-recorded segment.

Tesseract was entered in BotBash 2000's open demo category, where it pulled in 3rd place.

Since LEGO chose to do a non-violent (well, less violent) Mindstorms exhibit at their booth at the 2001 E3, I didn't get to drive Tesseract on the small course, so I constructed Itchy & Scratchy to compete & set up Tesseract for a static display. I used the same Tesseract joystick (with an additional button) to control both of the new bots.

SPECS: 13 pounds of LEGO parts and batteries. Robot ran on 54 AA batteries, transmitter needs only 12. 16 9V gearhead motors drove the 4 spinning discs (4 motors per disc) at 18V. 8 9V motors ran the 2 drivetrain wheels (4 motors per side). 3 9V motors turned polarity switches for speed control. 4 9V battery packs (6 AAs each) ran the weapons; 4 more ran the drivetrain (2 per side). Fully wireless IR remote control: 2 RCXs mounted to 4-way joystick (4 push switches) and thumb trigger button (1 more push switch) decoded switch positions and send IR codes to 1 RCX on robot which ran 2 drivetrain speed controllers and 1 weapon speed controller accordingly.

TECH DETAILS : I originally had the weapons set to turn on and just stay on. This proved problematic, since battery packs wired to run at 18V that are running heavily-loaded or stalled motors draw too much current and trip their circuit breakers. The battery packs won't reset until the electrical load is removed and the packs cool. So, I added a remote control on/off switch for the spinners. I also had trouble with the tires slipping off the rims and jamming into the drivetrain gears, bringing Tesseract to a grinding halt. I solved this by wrapping a 2nd tire tread around the 1st one, so they both stuck on quite snugly. 4 caster wheels (1 beneath each spinner) kept the robot level and reduced dragging friction.

SPONSORS : Sponsored mostly by Switzer Communications and LEGO Mindstorms.

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