SMIDSY general FAQ

Where are you based and how did you meet?

Back in 1999 we were all members of a social mailing list for bikers called Ixion - most of us still are. Many Ixies maintain their own bikes or have other mechanical hobbies. For example, there was already a Team Ixion formed for bike racing and another for moped racing.

There was a discussion about Robot Wars which was just in its second series and starting to take off. Enough interest was roused to form a Team Ixion for RobotWars. So we started another list and got on with discussing it at length. Because of this unusual start, most of us didn't meet the others until we needed to start doing something tangible. We call our meets 'Buildfests', for obvious reasons, and there is a great feeling at the start of one when a new face turns up on a new bike, and introduces themselves as someone you have been chatting to for months.

What does the name SMIDSY mean?

Sorry Mate I Didn't See You!

Team Ixion is composed of motorcyclists, and SMIDSY is an acronym familiar to most motorcyclists.

I saw you at Robot Wars Live in Sheffield and you looked different

So you saw us beating up everything in sight, eh? That's good ;-) The team that day was different because we have lots of team members, so we don't always field the same team for the actual events.

What influenced the original design?

A lengthy discussion by email, with all ideas thrown into the pot until we came down in favour of the 'bot approximately as you see it today. The final decision was pretty much made by Andy posting complete blueprints for his design, which was further than anyone else's ideas had got by far.

Many elements of SMIDSY were chosen with the Gauntlet in mind, but that aspect of the game was dropped before we ever fought. Luckily, being low-slung, stable and manoeuverable is good in a fight too!

See here for more.

What changes have been made since then?

In terms of our basic principles (very tough, invertible, hammer-like, jaws), nothing at all. Internally, lots of changes. We have rebuilt the entire robot for the 2001 War, because the weight limit was increased by 20kg, which was enough to fit in a whole new weapon - a 200mph, 15kg disk which damages walls, other robots, bits of wood, my thumb, whatever comes near it!

At the same time, we built a new chassis, better jaw actuators, re-organised the insides to give more room. Pretty much everything was rebuilt, better than before, and in only about twice as many weekends as we estimated. Once again, our thanks to the Pugh family for playing host to lots of bikers who turn up, make a lot of noise with machine tools, sleep all over the house and then vanish into the night.

What happened in your first war (War 3) when you got splatted?

Well, this is something that everyone learns the hard way. Radio 'noise' in the arena is terrible, and our radio receiver setup had some pretty basic errors. There were so many radios around, and so many unsuppressed motors (including our own - d'oh!) that the radio receiver couldn't pick our transmissions up and we were left a sitting duck. That got fixed pretty soon, once we realised how important it is, and now we check our radio status and range very carefully before each fight.

I want to build a robot, where do I start?

Well, you start with an idea for the best robot around, but you've probably already been daydreaming about that for ages ;-) Next you will need some degree of workshop facility, more cash than you expect (we've spent about three grand so far), and access to some fairly serious skills. We have a couple of people who can weld, an electronics guru, a lot of hands and a Doctor of Engineering. You can get on with less, of course, but think about each part of your robot design and work out what will be needed to make it work. For example, a welded chassis is a lot stronger than the same metal bolted together, so try to get someone on the team who can weld.

I don't have that sort of money but I still want to build a robot

Last year's war had a team who claimed to have spent five pounds on their robot and blagged everything else. That said, we have no idea how they managed it - we think a more reasonable minimum is about five hundred quid.

If you want to keep it cheap, then the first thing we suggest is prototyping everything very carefully. Don't laugh - the first ever SMIDSY prototypes were made from Technical Lego and cardboard!

I'm serious about building a robot, where do I start?

The very first thing, if you are building for Robot Wars, is to contact them for their rules and guidelines. After that, you need to work out a lot of things. How is it going to drive? Four wheels or three, or a walker? Where is the aerial going to go - if it's too near any metal it won't work. What motors will you use? What is their power rating and what batteries will you need to support it? How will everything 'talk' to the other bits?

For more info, see our Technical FAQ.

I'm actually building a robot, what advice do you have?

You really don't want to 'do a Razor' and have your whole effort fail because a 20p bit of kit broke on the day of the fight. Check out good quality electrical connectors so that you don't break down by losing power. Make sure you use the manufacturers' recommended tools for making your connections.

If you have a chassis and you are bolting armour to it, rivnuts are excellent; much easier than nuts and bolts. You will be taking your robot to pieces many more times than you expect.

Mentioning the chassis; if possible, have a strong, welded, chassis. This means that you need to find someone who can weld, but it adds a lot of strength to your machine. Remember, if the frame bends, it won't work as designed, you won't be in control and you won't win.

Think carefully about the layout of the parts of your robot. Make it as modular as possible, and make sure that you can remove any module without having to remove much else first. We found out the hard way that you will lose a lot of time if you have to take bits out just to get to the bit you want. Equally, if and when you make something permanent, make sure you've thought about how not being able to remove it will affect everything else. You should be worried about connectors vibrating loose, but also about having to remove an entire wiring loom to change the pinout on one board...

Finally, be very careful about weight. A hundred kilos sounds like a lot, but it adds up pretty quickly, and trying to pare down your robot is a nightmare. Don't get in the situation where you have to do it.

What's it like in the pits?

Captain Mik's ramblings are the best answer to that ;-)

"Hectic and dull all at the same time. You spend a lot of time sat around trying to stop Andy from stripping the robot to bits because he's bored. Robin sneaks off and steals doughnuts all the time and you just chat with other roboteers and wait for something to happen. Then you find you've got 15 minutes before your fight and everyone is charging around and while you've been sat around for ages suddenly everything has to be done NOW and the next thing you know you're lined up with the other robots in your bout doing exactly what the stage hands say to keep everyone safe.

"You put the 'bot into its pen and make sure it works, drive it out on to the arena and walk up a set of metal stairs, emerging into a small box in the hot bright glare of the lights with a huge hyped crowd in front of you and all the time hoping it's going to work and you haven't forgotten anything and it's all charged up. Questioning each other in case you've forgotten anything. The countdown comes over the speakers and you're fighting for all your worth, trying to spot what's happening all over the arena, trying to do damage, keep from being damaged, compensate for any problems, win the bout.

"Finally it's over, you feel like you've just finished a running race, you float through the interview (or glower and worry about all the damage) then it's down the stairs to your robot, on the trolley and out of the stage hands' way. Wondering what needs attention. If you got badly damaged, like we have in the past, you're worrying about how long it will take to fix, just how much damage is under the axe holes in the armour and if you will have enough kit and time to get it working again. It's then hectic right through until you've repaired the damage and you are sat ready to fight. Then it slows down to dull again, until you're called to go once more. Andy looks suspiciously at the robot. Robin disappears when you're not looking and comes back grinning and chewing...

What's Robot Wars Extreme?

We can't say too much about RWE because it hasn't been shown yet. Suffice to say we fought a couple of times, but SMIDSY Version Two was still very new and lots of bits needed to bed in properly. Don't worry though, you'll see plenty of carnage.