Midwest Regional Critter Crunch!

The Midwest Regional Critter Crunch was held at Capricon, in Arlington Heights, IL, using the Critter Crunch rules from MileHiCon, a science fiction convention held in Denver. Luckily, this regional event was right near where I worked, so I could quickly get there. I took 180M to compete in the 2 lb class.

Below is my impression of the event:

The Event

Once there, my first impression was: Boy, Sci-fi cons [conventions] are quite a bit different from gaming [role playing game] conventions! Costumes abound here, and after I bought my day pass, I headed to the event room. I left my robot, controller, and other equipment in my Explorer, which wasn't too far away from the enterance to the convention area.

I got there early, enough to help set up the "arena": two sheets of 8' by 4' plywood, held together by two-by-fours, and rough as hell! Talk about a non-smooth surface. To make things worse, there was a "gap" between the boards, about 1/2 inch wide. I was worried that my robot would not be able to skid well along the boards, let alone keep from getting hung up on the gap!

As the contest time approached, the spectators began to pour in. Not a bad crowd for the first time the event was held here. About forty to fifty people, about ten of which came specifically for the Critter Crunch. There was one thing I noticed...

No critters!

Dave Bakula stepped up to the arena, dressed in his snazzy scientist's lab coat. He talked about the history, the rules, and previous matches. At one point, he mentioned that since no one brought a critter, he'd just talk about it. At this time, a young teenager stepped up, pulling a critter from a gym bag. Dave smiled, and asked if anyone else had one. I raised my hand, and told him I'd be back.

I quickly went to my Explorer and took out the bot. Realizing I hadn't attached the knob or the plexiglass to attach the battery and reciever to, I quickly drilled a hole, rivetted a piece of already-cut plexiglass to the frame, and ran inside with the robot, RC controller, and my "tool kit". Once there, I excused myself, drilled a hole for the knob, and screwed it on. It was then my turn to describe my robot, give it's name, and demonstrate it.

Once that was done, it was time for the event: "180M" versus Dan Ushman's "Special K".

The Fight!

180M vs. Special K We placed our robots on the platform, as close to an edge as possible. When I turned on my transmitter, a problem I had surfaced quickly: the modifications to the servos weren't exactly the same (I didn't use precision resistors, silly me!) and it started to back off the platform! I quickly caught it, and jammed the sticks to the position that was "park". Mike gave the word, and we were off!

As I went straight for Special K, I noticed it was larger, faster, with no visible offensive system. This was going to be a battle of pusher versus pusher, which I knew I should have the advantage. My modified servo drive train gave me torque, but at a loss of speed. Luckily for me, though, torque was what was needed, not speed. Our first clash ended quickly, as Special K manuvered to attack my side. My agility proved useful, though, as I spun around and attacked him from the corner.

The model aircraft landing gear tires seemed to have quite a grip on the plywood surface, as I managed to push him back. About two feet from the edge, Special K backed up, and manuvered to attack my side. I spun around again, backed up, and attacked at his wheel.

Dan Ushman holding Special K The act of my pushing directly on his wheel, and his quickly backing up, caused 180M to flip upside down, the servo torque and the placement of the batteries acting like a catapult. The crowd went crazy! What they didn't know, however, was that it wasn't until that morning that I decided which way would be considered "up", as I designed it to run on both sides. So at the flip, I backed up, mentally reversed the controls, and attacked him again! The crowd went wild again!

Now with a lower center of gravity, I was able to successfully push him to an edge, and off the platform. 180M won the match!

As we were the only critters there, a grudge match was quickly called. We went to the sides again, and restarted. I started "upright" again, in hopes that the higher edge would provide a better surface to push with, as when upside down, 180M could only push against the tires and the free wheel in the front. Once again, the torque of the servos prevailed.

A third match was called, and 180M used its superior torque to push Special K off the platform. 180M went three for three!

Dan and I shook hands, pictures were taken, and then we both found ourselves answering questions from the spectators. With the enthusiasm shown, I know that I'll get a good challenge next year, as I expect to see many "critters" entered!

Now, on to Denver to defend my title!

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