Robot Wars engineering talk

Today, Wednesday 24 January, Craig Colliass (whose son Toby is a student at the UTC) gave a talk to some of our Year 12 engineering students about his family’s involvement in Robot Wars over several years. This group of students is currently taking part in our CCFE Employer-led Project using Vex Robots so a talk of this kind was extremely relevant.

Craig brought with him Gabriel, the robot that was used in Series 8 of the show, and gave a presentation describing the various robots that the family have made and used; from the original Saint, through to Cherub used in Series 9. The Colliass family usually create combat robots that fit into the Featherweight or Heavyweight classes, where robots mostly sit very low to the ground and fight at ground level.  Gabriel, as a much larger robot, was one of the first to fight in a different way and has therefore changed the way that other teams are designing their own machines.

Craig enjoys creating a variety of animatronics, including the Kettlebot, simply a kettle with wheels and a giro, which wows the crowds at shows.  He reminded the students that aesthetics is key to creating a product which the public find pleasing. Craig also talked about Walkers, robots which move on legs, although these can be extremely costly in terms of time, money and ingenuity – he showed a photo of one where one leg has 850+ parts, 500 of which are custom-made!  He is currently experimenting with a prototype for one with six legs which will work off a crankshaft or cam.

After showing a clip of Gabriel 2 destroying Carbide in Series 10. Craig spent some time detailing the kind of materials which robots can be made from: shafts from high density polyethylene, parts from polycarbonate (which the arena walls are lined with) or titanium, an axe made from case-hardened steel and gearboxes which need no lubrication due only being used for 180 second runs.  He also talked through the various types of batteries that have been used over the years, from lead acid through cells that were soldered together, through to the more recent lithium ion (also used in Tesla cars) and lithium polymer.

Finally, Craig talked about Ant-weights which are tiny robots that weigh less than 150g.  These are comparatively cheap to make, simple to build and easy to compete with – Craig recommended these to stud ents who might want to start making their own combat robots.

After the talk, students talked about how enjoyable they had found it – very stimulating and full of interest.  We are very grateful for Craig’s time and wish him and Toby all the best as they jet off to China very soon to take part in a Chinese version of Robot Wars!

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