The Lehigh Alliance of BattleBots (LABB) club competed in the annual Motorama Robot Conflict competition in Hanover, Pennsylvania, over the weekend of Feb. 18-20.
Motorama is an event where teams build remote controlled robots to fight opponent robots.
The 17-member team entered two 3-pound robots and one 30-pound robot to compete in the combat category.
Club co-founder and vice president Ryan Ferdinand, ‘22, said the goal of combat robotics is to disable or destroy the opponent with control and aggression. The competition is formatted in a double elimination style, guaranteeing that each team gets to compete twice, assuming a robot is functional enough to continue competing.
This year, the team’s 30-pound robot named “Asa Whacker” features a vertical spinner, which is a type of heavy rotating weapon used in competition. Asa Wacker costs about $3,500.
LABB President Nathan Bowler, ‘22, said in one of their weekend competitions their electronics suddenly caught on fire sending Asa Wacker up in smoke. They had to replace almost the entire electrical system. After three and a half hours the robot was partially operational again, but lost driving ability on one side. Bowler said they lost their final match.
He said one of their 3-pound robots was able to win one match, though the robot faced substantial damage.
Bowler said the manufacturing of Asa Wacker officially began in mid-November but was preceded by months of planning.
“This design…Ryan started in CAD (Computer-Aided Design) at the beginning of the pandemic, and he’s been refining it ever since,” Bowler said. “When we got back in person last fall, we sat down, went over it, had critiques on it and once he resolved those critiques, we made it in foam.”
While the team wasn’t able to compete throughout the pandemic, Elizabeth Cao, ‘23, engineering team leader, competed with a robot of her own in the Norwalk Havoc Robot League and placed third in the 30-pound bracket.
The 3-pound robot Cao drove for this year’s Motorama is a redesign of the previous robot that was damaged in the Norwalk Havoc Robot League competition and also featured a vertical spinner.
“The beauty about combat robots is that while other people may think, ‘Oh you’re just making something that gets destroyed,’ that’s not really the premise,” Cao said. “The premise is about building and engineering, learning from your mistakes, and considering all the scenarios and failures that might happen.”
Captain of the 3-pound class robot subdivision and newcomer Blake Dewberry, ‘24, said he was looking forward to problem-solving at the competition.
Dewberry said it was interesting to see what problems occurred and how the team solved them during the limited time between matches.
LABB is a relatively new addition at Lehigh. The club was founded during the 2018-2019 academic year.
Andrew MacCausland, ‘22, business team leader, said the club was formed when a group of Lehigh’s Cheese Club members took interest in combat robotics. After observing the Cheese Club’s success in garnering funds, the idea to officially fund a robotics club came into fruition.
The team officially began competing in the fall of 2019 at the Battle on the Parkway at Lehigh’s Ben Franklin Institute. LABB tries to compete at least once per semester.
The team was unable to place at Battle on the Parkway competition but returned knowing more about the intricacies of the competition.
“The nice thing about these competitions is that…ironically, it doesn’t feel as competitive. Everyone’s always happy to help you out, someone’s always happy to give you tips,” MacCausland said. “Our own team learned a lot after our very first competition from other teams pointing out what our flaws probably were, handing us some duct tape, handing us a wrench and helping us fix it up.”