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Combat Robotics’ Lilypad Takes “King of the Ring” Title

combat robotsCombat Robotics club members: (Back row, left to right) Chris Kotcherha, Christine Goins, Jenny Smith, Kim Tran, Isabel Martos-Repath, Josephine Wong, Christina Zhu, Wenkai Qin, Jacob Rosalsky, (Front row, left to right) Adam Shaw, Jane Wu, Alex Goldstein

Lilypad may be the name of a non-menacing aquatic plant, but it is also the title of a pretty neat robot at Mudd.

Since the end of January, members of the Combat Robotics club have been busy building a fifteen lb., RC-controlled combat robot by the name Lilypad. Starting with boxes of aluminum, steel, Kevlar, wires, and other robot parts, club members designed and fabricated Lilypad over the course of three months. Holding weekly design meetings and collectively spending hundreds of hours in the machine shop, FabStudio room or Rocket Development Lab, the mostly-frosh team went from knowing absolutely nothing about combat robots to watching their design come to life, one piece at a time.

Through Lilypad, club members learned firsthand the importance of practical design and fabrication. In order to organize the design process, the club was divided into four sub-teams, each focusing on a particular element of the robot: chassis, drivetrain, armor, and weapon. Teams presented their progress each week, and worked with each other and the other teams to design and optimize every component of Lilypad. For instance, the chassis team needed the dimensions of the drivetrain and weapon to complete the CAD model, and the weapon team needed information about choosing electronics from the drivetrain team.

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The timeline for the build season was short, but the team was able to pull it off in time. Two days before the competition, Lilypad finally came to life—driving and spinning around playfully in the electronics lab. That same day, the weapon was completed, spinning up to several thousand RPM in a second. The completed robot features ten layers of Kevlar armor, an aluminum drum with four tool steel teeth, and a custom chassis and drivetrain.

On April 18th, twelve members attended the NTMA Robotics League Regional Competition. The league was started two years ago by the NTMA Training Center in Santa Fe Springs, CA, and is open to any team local to Southern California. The competition includes double elimination matches, as well as a robot rumble where any functioning robot was allowed to fight in the arena. Lilypad experienced technical difficulties during the first match, but took some noticeable chunks off its opponent in the second match, causing sparks and sounds of grinding metal. However, the team’s golden bot was truly able to shine in the robot rumble. Pinning its opponents into the arena walls and sending parts flying, Lilypad won the rumble by the judges’ and audience’s decision, earning the title “King of the Ring.” The team was also awarded “Best Engineering Documentation” for the submission of the team’s CAD models and overall design process.

It was an emotional day for the entire team, from waking up before sunrise to finish the robot to watching Lilypad come back to life in the second match just before the end of a ten-second countdown. The competition was especially intense for co-president and driver of the robot, Alex Goldstein. “When I’m driving Lilypad, the rest of the world fades away and all I see is the robot as it swerves around under my control, trying to avoid the other robot’s weapon and blindside it with our own,” he recalls. After Lilypad won the rumble, the whole team went in for a group hug, every member knowing that all the long days and nights were worthwhile. As Goldstein says, “I was overcome by excitement, knowing that the robot I’d put dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into was a success.” The club hopes to continue to grow and build even more robots in the coming years, all the while teaching members about the value of effective teamwork and design.

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