Preparations for Robot Wars 2000

We came out of qualifying with mixed emotions. Our first battle had gone really well, but our second was too close, maybe we'd blown it after all…

SMIDSY sat in the back of the car and plans were made to take it up to Yorkshire if we got through, or in a month or two if we didn't, apparently Andy needed to have a real life too!

We chatted on email and got messages from Wedgehog saying they were in. We'd heard nothing. When we told them they couldn't believe we hadn't got through. In retrospect I should have contacted Mentorn there and then to check, but we were sure we had a couple of weeks before filming, so I left it until the following Monday.

The Friday before I was to phone Mentorn I'd arranged to take SMIDSY up to Yorkshire anyway. The journey isn't minor and we could do with a full weekend in between. Also Wedgehog had been called for filming on the coming Monday, a lot earlier than we'd expected.

We'd decided during the qualifying that SMIDSY had jaw problems. We'd tried to lift a couple of 'bots without much success and the jaws were meant to be stronger than that. New stronger motors were looked into with Ellis. Apart from that we'd been told we needed to spruce up the paintwork and make SMIDSY more visually interesting. Lots of ideas were bandied about on that one. Also we'd had problems with spinning on the spot, one possibility was that the tyres we'd been given were a bit too big and we were balancing SMIDSY wrong. Alternatively we needed to lower the gearing a bit more, unfortunately at 13 tooth fronts and 54(?) tooth rears we were on the limit of common available sprockets. We weren't hitting top speed in the arena, 10 tooth sprockets would probably solve our spinning problems, make us easier to control, and probably make us appear faster as our acceleration increased. Shame nobody sold them really.

Friday was a tiring run up to Yorkshire and SMIDSY was once more settled in Andy's garage.

I didn't open the mail Saturday, forgot to look in the mailbox.

Sunday afternoon I had a brown envelope, inside, confirmation of qualification, we'd made it in for filming! Excellent. They wanted us there… …that Wednesday, we had two and a half days!

I phoned Robin and Andy to pass on the news straight away and then bounced off the walls a bit hoping I could get leave from work at such short notice.

Monday saw plans aplenty. Andy was trying to get some sprockets spark eroded, which would mean stripping SMIDSY down Tuesday night and rebuilding it Wednesday morning. I arranged to drive up to Yorkshire again Tuesday evening and help out where I could before taking the 'bot down to the studio to sign in late Wednesday afternoon. Andy was looking in to what jaw motors were available. I was set to go and buy some new tyres and a spare innertube to sort our balance problem from the local tyre place.

Tuesday, Andy bought the motors, I got the innertube but found that our tyres were weird ones. SMIDSY had been designed around the wheels and tyres Steve P had got for us. None of us karted, how were we supposed to know that not only were they well worn, they had been unusually small diameter tyres to start with. The only options at my local karting place were too big to gamble for the cost, but they gave me the number for a mail order place that should get them to us sometime Wednesday and a suggested type to buy.

Robin ordered the tyres. I went and bought some bright LED's to put in the jaws to improve the visuals. Alison, Andy's sister, was pressganged into painting the design I'd suggested to Andy onto the side panels.

I arrived in Yorkshire by 20:00, having distilled a quick route out of all my previous attempts. Andy was ensconced in the garage with new jaw motors and dinky 10 tooth sprockets. Having them spark eroded meant our twin sprockets for the Bosch motors were now one piece items (the originals had been two separate sprockets welded together). Andy handed me a file and told me to destroy them, well actually to file chamfers on them so they'd hook to the chain better, but knowing the amount of metal work I haven't done, it sounded like a dangerous thing to do to me! Luck must have been on my side though as I managed to do all 40 teeth without damaging our only sprockets!

I faffed around with the jaws, wiring in the LED's so they were mounted shining out of the jaws in a vague winking Smiley pattern while Andy did the important welding, bolting and hitting things with hammers stuff. Alison had finished the painting and SMIDSY with a design almost completely unlike the one I'd described to Andy. That aside it was clever, bright, and kind of groovy in a 70's way, we figured the TV types would like it. Along with the LEDs Smids was starting to look like a bit of a discobot, but hey, there you go.

Bed by 02:00 and then up around 08:00. More bolting together and I took a walk to the local Maplins for extra bits and a spare servo lead, I think Andy just wanted me out of the way as I tend to hover ineffectually :-)

Back at base the tyres still hadn't arrived, so I started making phone calls. Got the courier info from the karting place, then worked through an ever thickening amount of bureaucracy to discover that the Ixie curse had struck and the couriers had mucked up royally. They'd double entered the reference number and our tyres were also a load of plumbing bits going to Nottingham… No, they weren't on the truck that was currently delivering around Sheffield. No, they weren't at the depot local to Sheffield. No, they didn't know which depot they *were* at and couldn't confirm delivery on Thursday morning either when I tried diverting them to the studio. In short, we had no more tyres.

I took the list of local karting places to Andy and discussed where they actually were in relation to Sheffield and St Albans. In the garage SMIDSY was all back together and Andy wasn't looking pleased. He'd tested the new jaw motors. And we had a weak link. Had as in it wasn't a link at all anymore. With the more powerful top jaw motors Andy had run up jaw while sat on it, a fair representation of trying to lift an opponent and there was a bang, kind of like the noise a glass fibre rod would make if it exploded. In fact, as the bottom was removed, exactly like a glass fibre rod would make if it exploded…

It was midday, in 4 hours SMIDSY needed to be at the studio, which was a 3 hour drive away. I had sorted out a fairly unhelpful sounding kart place in Worksop to try for tyres. but we had a broken jaw. A bit of discussion while removing the jaw drives and we had a plan. I would go to the studio via Worksop, the A1M being as good as any for the trip down. Andy would take the drives into work, via B&Q and hopefully find something that would lathe down to fit in place of the fibreglass. This would move the weak link to the universal joints. He would then come down to the studio where we'd have SMIDSY stripped and could fit the new linkages ready to fight. No worries…