KOB Diary – Part 2

Day 8

  • Caught the bus at 10am
  • I waited and watched the selections and fights all day with not much to do.
  • Connie locked up inside the filming pits, but allowed out during the later part of the day. She over heard the celebrities say they are only wanting spinners.
  • All rounds of the selections were done. Connie was not talked to by any of the celebrities until after they had filled their 3 spots. The American and Old Soccer Guy came to talk to ask her about Huntsman and were surprised that she spoke perfect English, answered every question confidently and mentioned that we’ve been competing for 16 years. Once they found out how experienced we were they were disappointed that they didn’t talk to us earlier. Annoying.
  • 12 of the 48 robots didn’t get selected to fight in the first round. Earth Mover was selected to join a team without having to fight, so the remaining 11 become losers without fighting. Doesn’t seem fair. We could have at least had a practice or demonstration fight.
  • Connie kept practicing driving. Got a lot better and drove all around the pits. Started getting in other peoples way, but was doing perfect flick-turns.
  • TV Production crew feeling sorry for us. Might find a way for me to be more involved, including possibly controlling the weapon.

Day 9

  • Finally got the robot back from the holding area after 3 days. Batteries fine. Tightened a weapon chain as it had be worrying me.
  • Finally allowed back to the hotel at 1am.

Day 9 Continued

  • Woke up at 10:30. Told we weren’t needed for the day as the winners and international teams would be fighting.
  • WeChat blew up about a bad judge call between ******* and *******. Seems that the judge is using his own rules and not the standard international set of rules. None of the teams seem to understand how he is coming to come conclusions. I wish I was there to watch.
  • Caught a taxi to a big shopping centre. Brought a red shirt that matched Connie’s just in case I was allowed to help her.
  • While organising dinner got a call that the international fights were finishing and that we were needed for rehearsal. Seems that they can do 12 international fights in the same time it takes to run 5 Chinese fights.
  • Caught taxi at 8:30pm for the venue. Catherine stayed at the hotel with Alice.
  • Found that 4 international teams lost. 8 won. But it seems that everyone wants decision on the ****** fight to be reversed.
  • While Connie had rehearsal Chinese teams started asking a lot of questions. They are getting less afraid of me. Silver Scorpion wants to build a copy of Shunt and is asking how to copy my axe mechanism, but it seems a bit is getting lost in translation.
  • Medusa is made by a team of students and teachers. They  have also entered Thunder. We checked the calculations for the battery capacity of Medusa and found that the batteries are undersize for the weapon, which is why it dies toward the end of its fights. But the rest of the robot looks nice.
  • Connie came back with instructions of the next phase of the competition. Very confusing and involves running to be selected to fight, so they are letting me substitute for Connie as they are afraid of letting a pregnant woman run. They seem to be afraid of letting Connie do anything, which is why she was given fancy dust masks and an extra fancy chair in the pits. So I guess I can be her stunt man during filming.

Rebuilding an Up Plus 2 3D printer

I have had to pause work on my robots as I have not been able to get any reliable prints out of my old Prusa Mendel 3D printer. The frame of the printer had twisted again making auto bed leveling impossible while the extruder drive was failing. After moaning to my brother about the troubles he gave me a “new” printer. The “new” printer being an old Up Plus 2 that had previously been written off and stripped for parts.

The 2nd hand Up Plus 2 with covers removed to assess needed repairs

The first thing I did when it arrived was pull all the covers off to see how bad it was. The mechanical faults seemed to be limited to a broken Y belt clamp and a destroyed hotend. The Y belt clamp had been broken when the printer was pushed against a wall while opperating and there may be an accompanying electrical fault that I can’t assess without first fixing the mechanical issues. So first I designed and printed a new belt clamp using the old printer. Fortunately it worked the first try.

Next I needed to replace the hotend. The only hotend I had available was the E3D V6 on my current printer. So I downloaded some drawings of the E3D V6 and measured the Ups hotend and extruder and made a new mount for the hotend. The trick was to try and get the nozzle of the new hotend to be in the same position as the original nozzle. Since the E3D hotend is much higher than the Up hotend the new mount needed to raise the extruder a fair way. This new mount was the last print ever done on the old Prusa Mendel as I pulled the hotend out after it was finished.

With the mechanicals sorted I could test the electronics. I downloaded the Up software and connected the printer to my laptop. The first problem came when homing the motors. The X and Z axis worked fine but the Y axis whould crash into the front after homing to the rear. It seemed that the Y stepper driver IC was damaged and was stepping a different distance when moving one way than the other. That was very strange but not worth looking into after finding out about the thermistor problem.

The E3D V6 comes with a very common 100k ohm thermistor. A 100k thermistor is used on just about all 3D printers everywhere, except for the Up. The Up uses a much more uncommon 100 ohm thermistor. The different thermistors require different pull up resistors on the control electronics for them to work. Because of this the Up software would report a hotend temperature of over 300 degrees and refuse to run. To fix this I would need to replace the pull up resistor and then work on the Y stepper driver fault. Or replace the control board with my own. So I pulled the RAMPS 1.4 board out of my old printer to replace the Ups damaged controller.

The next step was to completly re-wire the printer and setup the firmware from scratch.

KOB2 Diary – Part 1

Day 1

  • Left home a 6:00 am for Brisbane Airport
  • Delayed at check-in by Connie’s passports. Chinese airline doesn’t understand Hong Kong passports.
  • Delayed at security by batteries. Got through without losing anything. Removed the labels from the weapon batteries to help convince the security that the batteries were undersized. It worked.
  • Flight at 10:10 am on China Southern from Brisbane to Guangzhou
  • Flight not too bad. Food was decent. Alice watched Spider-man 3 times.
  • Landed on time in Guangzhou
  • Flight to Shanghai delayed 40 mins, so extra transit time. Delayed by Connie’s passports again.
  • Lost weapon batteries at Guangzhou security. Taken because they had no labels. Plan to fool security in Brisbane back-fired. $400 worth of batteries gone.
  • 2 hour flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai.
  • Met our assistants at the airport. Leslie and Catherine. They are interns for the Production Company and stay in the same hotel as us.
  • Got to the hotel at 10pm local time. 18 hours travel time.
  • Hotel wanted passports. Couldn’t understand Connie’s Hong Kong passport, again.

Day 2

  • Went down to breakfast. No other western teams had arrived. Just a few Chinese teams that I remember seeing from the previous season.
  • Told the bus to leave for the venue left at 11:20, so we went for a walk around the local area while we waited. Was able to buy power-boards as even though China uses the same wall sockets as Australia, Australian plugs don’t have earth pins, the wall sockets locks them out.
  • Leslie took me on the bus to the venue. Connie stayed in the hotel with Alice and Catherine to try and organise phones and internet.
  • Bus ride was about 15 minutes. Venue looks like a disused stainless steel processing plant. Bloody huge. At least 1km long.
  • Arena and pits are in the corner of the factory. Disused conveyors and equipment outside the area.
  • Didn’t see the arena or filming area, could still hear construction.
  • The pits were still being set up. Only half the tables put out. Crates were scattered around the tables, making it hard to walk around.
  • Team Orby seem to have been there earlier as they already found their crate and claimed a table.
  • We were told to claim a table and that we couldn’t change once we selected it. I quickly found the crate and claimed the table next to it.
  • Robot and stuff was easy to get on the table. But wire mesh was welded across the table legs, so can’t store stuff under the table. Annoying.
  • Had lunch supplied by the event. I was the only westerner, so I was given a different meal. Three chicken wings and some green leaves. Everyone else had pork knuckles and other things. Their food looked nicer. This happened for the rest of the competition. I ate a lot of fried chicken.
  • Found that my spare drive batteries didn’t fit in the weapon battery bay. (I already knew and dreaded this). Leslie spent a few hours trying to buy new batteries online for me. Prince, the international team director, tried to ask the other teams if they could lend some batteries to me. Team Orby was the only team to respond, but they use longer batteries. Nice guy. Hobbyking won’t ship batteries to China from the Hong Kong warehouse. Aliexpress was useless. Leslie found a few batteries on Taobao, took a while to find ones that fit, were in stock, and were cheap. Then needed to figure out how to pay for them. Took about three hours to organise. Leslie was very helpful. Cost $200.
  • I walked around and looked at the other teams that were setting up. Orby is way too nice to go into combat. Only recognised one other robot, Mr Hippo. Next to my pit table is a robot that seems to be trying to copy Dead Metal, but also seems to be a first time builder, so really dodgy. Also next to us is a pneumatic flipper that looks like a block. Also 4 full body spinners, an ICEwave clone, 4 other flippers, 3 or 4 horizontal spinners and some drum and vertical spinners. Nothing really outstanding, but only half the robots had turned up so far.
  • Talked to Prince. Asked if I could take photos and got a big NO!! Also asked who the celebrities were, and he said it was still a secret, even to the builders. But he did say one was American. No idea why it was a secret.
  • We were asked if we wanted to test the robot as we were the only team not painting or building. But without batteries it was useless.
  • So caught the next bus back to the hotel. This time was a minibus with a lunatic for a driver. So only a 10 minute trip this time.
  • Connie was bored at the hotel, so we went for another walk. Found Maccas and a convenience store.
  • Organisers supply dinner, so we went back to the hotel to wait. Was another takeaway box. They must order a couple of hundred for each meal. We got the western menu again and Connie complained. So we got extra Chinese boxes too.
  • Americans started arriving during the night.

Day 3

  • The batteries don’t arrive today, so we got told to stay in the hotel. Boring day.
  • Met the Cat King guy during breakfast. Nice guy too.
  • Went for a walk again. Bought Chinese snacks and tried Starbucks. Tried fish cheese.
  • Connie and Alice had long naps. I was bored and started writing this.
  • Bored.
  • Went out to find dinner rather than eat the takeaway boxes. AU$3.5 noodles.
  • When we came back a bus full of English builders was arriving.

Day 4

  • Had breakfast and went to find stuff to wash clothes.
  • Batteries arrive before we left for the venue at 11:30.
  • Was told that we would be taking green screen photos of the robot at 12:40.
  • Connie had to get photos taken, but they decided that her makeup was not good enough, so they had to give her new makeup and take the photos again.
  • Finally got to take the green screen photos of the robot at 4:00. Process took 30 minutes. Had a good chat with Warrior and Steel Barbie. I doubt Steel Barbie guys built their robot.
  • Tested the robot. The axe got stuck in the wall in the arena corner. Suffered radio problems on the drive side. Power switch for weapon VESC fell out.
  • Fixed radio by moving the receiver. Removed VESC switch.
  • Weigh in. 97kg
  • Went back to the hotel at 8:30pm
  • Received late night message saying that I was not allowed in the filming area and that Connie had to drive the robot. WTF.

Day 5

  • Told that the buses leave at 9:30am
  • Arrived at venue with not much to do.
  • Tested the robot with Connie driving. Didn’t go well. She had never driven any robots before and kept getting stuck against the walls and over correcting the steering. Typical first time driver.
  • Sat around doing nothing.
  • Argued with directors about me not being allowed to drive. Found another Chinese team that had an American guy and Chinese girl. The American guy was allowed to drive and be filmed. Was told that he was allowed different rules because they had planned a back story. We were told to stop complaining and go away.
  • Sat around sulking and doing nothing. 8 years of designing, 6 months of building and 3 unpaid weeks off work only to be told I would be disqualified if I went near the arena. Not happy.
  • At 7:30pm rehearsals started. I was told that only Connie was allowed to be involved and I couldn’t watch.
  • Alice needed to pee. Couldn’t find a toilet with a light fast enough, she wet her pants. I cleaned her up. 15 minutes later she wanted more pee. Still couldn’t find a toilet, Alice wet herself and me. Had to catch a taxi back to the hotel to have a shower.
  • Connie still at rehearsals.
  • Not a good day.

Day 6

  • Bus left at 9am. Filming starts today.
  • Directors mentioned that there was a special children’s toilet at the other end of the building. Would have been nice if they told me yesterday.
  • Bolted up the robot and had it ready for a fight and moved it to the filming pits.
  • Connie got makeup and told that she needed black jeans, as that was what was in her photo. I was sent back to the hotel to collect black pants for Connie.
  • Lots of waiting until 5pm when filming finally started.
  • Began with an exhibition fight between Shredderator and Xiake, to show the celebrities what fighting robots is. Shredderator won easily.
  • Team selection process for the Chinese robots. All 48 robots placed on display and each celebrity had to pick one. The selected robot would then fight each other in 1 vs 1 fights. The winner would gain a place on the celebrities team, the loser would move to the “pending group”. Each celebrity had a maximum of 3 places on their teams. Connie missed out on the first round, no celebrities wanted to talk to her.
  • Next two fights between the chosen robots took an hour each. Lots of repeated walk in’s and poses.
  • Third fight was to contain 2BBQ and Xiake, but the driver wanted more time to prepare his second robot after the damage sustained in the demo fight.
  • Second round of selections took a long time to start. Connie still not selected and no conversations. No time for any more fights.
  • Back to hotel at 12am.

Day 7

  • Told to catch the bus at 8am. Connie got the bus, I waited with Alice and caught a taxi with Leslie.
  • Got some breakfast on the way.
  • Connie and other team captains had to do a little bit of filming for the show intro. They were locked up most of the day.
  • I did nothing but wait all day.
  • Tried to find a practice robot to buy on the internet. Nothing suitable.
  • The fights from the previous night’s selections were run first. Started about 1pm, once the celebrities arrived.
  • Found a beetle-weight robot from the white tiger team for Connie to practice with. Had to make some modifications to get it to work as one wheel was broken and the speedos had no BEC. Set up the weight distribution so that it drove like Huntsman.
  • Third round of selections. No-one talked to Connie. Started to realise that there were too many robot and not enough slots on the teams.
  • Watched the footy scores on Connie’s phone. Suns lost by 1.
  • Connie started practicing with the beetle.
  • Final fights run and the missing fight from the previous day.
  • Getting worried that the robot has been sitting in the set, loaded with batteries and ready to fight, for 36 hours, but I’m not allowed to check that it is fine.
  • The day finished at 9pm.
  • Connie drove the beetle in the hotel. Starting to get the hang of driving. Feel like I might be fine with letting her drive if we get selected.