RobotWars101 Teaching Information
This document simply lists the organisation for the day we held for the West Kent Branch of the National Association For Gifted Children (NAGC). Our remit for the day was to involve the (10 year old and above) children as much as possible in robot building.
We charged the parents a fixed fee (I believe it was about £25 in the end but will depend on what you supply). We bought each child a 1/20th-scale radio controlled car. These can be bought from Toy’s-R-US, Beatties and other good toyshops. Companies such as Nikko manufacture the cars. They need to have left-right and forward-reverse controls (not the cheaper forward/reverse-turn type). We managed to get some very cheap (about £13) but usually they are about £20. Ours came with batteries, but if not, these must be budgeted for as well. Half of the cars should be 40Mhz and half 27Mhz. This is because the cars use a wide frequency band and the only way you can ‘fight’ two cars is if one is 40 and one 27.
The parents were asked in advance to bring materials along. From our experience, we found that luminous plastic containers, expanded polystyrene foam and silver/gold art card were the most popular and best looking materials. You will also need glue, sticky tape (double sided can help too), pens and pencils and cutting equipment (knives and scissors).
For weapons, pencils, blunted nails (file them to take the sharpness off) and cheap chain from Wilkinson’s were all popular and effective. The children’s imagination will come up with half a dozen things you can’t think of as well.
Ideally, find a local competitor who builds heavyweight robots and ask them to bring one along to do a show-and-tell demo. Contact information can be found from http://www.dangerousmachines.com/ or RobotWars101 can probably help make contacts.
The format of the day was as follows:
10.00 am – Arrive and set-up.
10.30 am – Give a presentation and talk about Robot Wars, my heavyweight robot. Encourage lots of questions.
11.00 am – Give demo of heavyweight. MUST follow strict safety guidelines and requires a fairly good size area outside.
11.15 am – Children begin building. They have until 1.30pm to complete their robots. Each child is supervised by an adult. Care must be taken to prevent children testing the robots at will. If two robots of the same frequency of car are running, they will interfere which can result in loss of control and accidents.
12.30 pm – Break for lunch
1.30 pm – Start of battles (see below).
4.00 pm – Clear up and finish.
The battles were done in two rounds, using draws from two pots (one 40Mhz, one 27Mhz). The children were asked to give the robots names to make the draw easy.
An arena was mapped out on the floor using coloured insulating tape. (tip: if any kids finish their robots early, get them to build obstacles to go in the arena. Ramps, see-saws and balls are all good.)
Rounds were 3 mins. The first robot to be immobilsed or to leave the arena is the loser, but we let the round go the full three minutes as it can take a while to master driving techniques and it is easy for children to drive out by accident. If the cars became locked together (which happened six or seven times) then ‘The Boot’ was used by the referee to separate them. This was normally just a gentle kick, but the idea of ‘The Boot’ gives the kids something to get involved in – they can shout when they think ‘The Boot’ is needed!
While fighting is going on, no one except the two competitors was allowed to be holding a controller for the reasons mentioned before. The audience was used at the end of rounds to shout for who they thought was the winner. During the rounds, audience participation is to be encouraged to (a) prevent kids getting bored (b) to take ‘performance pressure’ away from the two competitors who may feel self conscious. If any kids feel cheated by the result, simply call a re-match.
If you have any further questions, please firstname.lastname@example.org for help and advice. If you have any doubts about whether kids will enjoy it, one mother was heard to say that in 7 years at Explorer’s she had never known the children be so engrossed that they forgot both their morning and afternoon drinks break!…and the dad’s seemed to have a pretty good time too J