20th July 1998:
So much has happened, that I don't know where to start. I will update the pictures section shortly, but here is a quick summary of the work. By the time Chris returned from his hols, I had managed to cut most of the body panels from the polyprop. These were attached to the frame using locking bolts, but the bolts were a bit thin really. I ordered the speed controllers from 4QD (NCC-12-70s) and a joystick interface. I decided that the simple mechanical interface would do for now, so I looked at how to connect servos to switchs and pots.
Next up I tried building some simple proto-type weapons. I bought some more motors and built a twin cutting disc device based around one of these. It was belt driven and was mildly successful. The biggest problem was that I was using gear which only had flanges on one side so the belt kept on slipping off the pulleys. The principle was correct though, so that is something. I also tried a third one, but is wasn't so useful.
When Chris returned from hols he bought with him a selection of spikes, wheels, nuts and bolts which all help the cause. The spikes were particularly fine examples which will fit nicely into the frame at the front of the Panda. We spent sometime finishing the work on the major bodyparts, plus fitting the radio control gear (we opted for 6 channel HiTec gear - cheaper than Futuba).
The last week was frantic. We had several nights which ended up as early mornings and Friday night just seemed to go on and on and on. We didn't actually get any proper running time, so at 10:30 on Friday night we gave it a go. DOH!! It seemed to be very slow and getting slower!! We scratched our heads for a while and then tried replacing the batteries and doubling them up (same voltage, more current available). The result was banzai! Panda went mad and was far too fast for the area we were testing in. We went to bed confident of the main event on Saturday (18th)......
Saturday arrived and we bundled Panda into Chris' car and set off for London. We took a toolbox and spare batteries as well as a box of parts of weapons to be included in the weigh-in. We arrived early and were told to sign in, sign release forms (it was being filmed) and go and set up the gear on table 10. We had our pictures taken and Panda did too - from her best side!! Then we weighed her and they finally let us through to the technical check.

The venue was the place they used for filming in 1997 and the technical check and test area were in the main arena. Mat Irvine took a look over Panda and discussed the merits of failsafes (which we didn't have). He then gave us a slip so we could check out the transmitter. We moved Panda into the test area and started her up. After a few moves, Mat told us to switch off the transmitter. The result was that Panda turned towards the security barrier and charged at full pelt. I couldn't stop her in time and she hit the barrier at full speed. She pushed it about 1.5 feet backwards and stopped. Chris shut the system down, but the chassis and shell had been ripped off. This meant we had to clear the debris and run again without the top.

This time, Chris stayed in with her. He switched on the power and she just shot off!! I didn't even move the stick. This time she out-ran Chris and eventually smashed into the wall on the far side of the arena. DOH! The batteries were torn from their mountings and Chris had to carry the pieces back. We returned to the bench to repair the damage and realised that the receivers battery was flat. We managed to scavenge another from Derek and re-mount the batteries. After this we did several runs, all of which lasted just a few seconds because of our old Achille's Heal - the drive chain. The motor mounts had shifted and try as we might the gears kept slipping. Panda was a right mess by now. The final run we did manage to run for about 1 minute before it failed. Chris got her to do a few spins and circles before the drive gave up again.
By the time we left, we'd been there for about 6 hours and were hungery and exhausted. We were both pretty down, but did take some comfort from Mat and Derek who both tried to encourage us further. We will know by the end of the week if we are in the show, but it is very debateable. We learnt a lot about the robot, but we didn't show her to her best effect and totalled her in trying. We now have replacement designs to improve her, so lets hope we get through.