Starting out in Robot Combat

So, you're interested in joining the sport of Robot Combat, and are looking for information to help you start out? Well, you've come to the right place. First, let's look at what you are going to need to compete in Robotic Combat: what's necessary, what's important, and what not to do.

What you need to compete in Robotic Combat

In order to compete in a Robot Combat event, there are several things that you must have. They break down into the following:

A Design

While it is possible to create a robot without a sound design, the possibility of building a working and competitive combat robot is extremely low. It is not necessary to create complete blueprints, an extensive CAD design, or fully-drawn design for a working robot, but a well thought-out, complete design is almost essential.

When designing your robot, you must take into consideration the following elements:


This includes your frame and armor, as well as the robot's appearance.


This includes motors, engines, drivetrains, wheels, legs, skids, tracks, or what ever will be moving the robot. Stand-still designs (those that require the opponent to approach your robot) are instant crowd non-pleasers, and will certainly not be an effective design. Aggression is a Good Thing (TM).


This includes your batteries, fuel, plutonium, or what ever will be powering your drive system and weaponry.

Control Systems

This includes your remote control system, motor controllers, weapon controllers, and safety system.


This is self explanatory.

Make sure that you've included weight and cost estimates in your design, as well as ensuring that your design will be able to withstand the stress of a Robot Combat. Nothing is worse than taking a robot to a competition and having the first blow with another robot break the drive chain, knock the battery connection loose, or otherwise disable your robot.


Once you have your design, you must decide what materials you're going to use. Steel, aluminum, carbon-weave, Lexan (TM), etc., are all materials you can use to design your frame, armor, and weaponry. Here, weight and strength are the considerations you must deal with. This determination often happens during the design phase, although many successful robot builders have designed their robot then determined what material to use as armor, for example.


Without the right tools, building a successful combat robot is extremely difficult. The lower weight classes can be built almost entirely with hand tools and a drill press, but most of the larger robots require welding equipment, band saws, vertical mills, and lathes. Look at your design, then determine what tools will be necessary for each step of manufacture. In some locations, you can rent time on machining tools (mills and lathes, for example) if need be. Otherwise, you either need to redesign, do with what you have (or can get access to), or pay for someone else to make.

Ability and Time

Along with a design, materials, and tools, you need the ability and time to create a robot. A combat robot is very costly time-wise, and if your engineering/machining/crafting ability is not that good, the time necessary will increase almost exponentially. Here is where having multiple people working on a robot can be extremely helpful, especially if each person has a different expertise necessary for Robot Combat events. Make sure your planning stage includes ample time to create your robot; many a competitor has entered a partially-finished robot, only to be completely destroyed at the competition.


Building a combat robot isn't cheap. Although you can build a lighter-weight robot for under $500, it is most likely that the robot will not be of sufficient quality to compete well. Be prepared to spend $1000 to $2500 on your first (lower-weight) robot. If you're starting with a heavy-weight or higher, be prepared to spend over $4000 to build a successful robot.

Dos and Don'ts



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