SawBlaze has been Will’s pick to win the nut for a few seasons now, so to say we were nervous is underselling it. We believe we have the hardest schedule of anyone. Not on some technicality, not because of some rock-paper-scissors to one or two matchups, it just is. We’re the highest-ranked robot mostly fighting robots even more highly ranked. This isn’t a complaint, we don’t see it as a problem or an excuse. We sincerely believe it’s the strongest vote of confidence the matchmaking team can deliver. Combining our season 6 performance and our general state upon arrival to season 7 with multiple working robots made them believe they had to throw their best at us. “Oh but what about Claw Viper”?? If there’s one non-spinner we’re going to worry about, it's Claw Viper.
We’d created some extra top armor to run against SawBlaze (or Quantum), but adding 9 lbs to our only set of AR top armor in our first fight was not a spare-part strategy we were particularly keen on. We also weren’t convinced it’d do much. Some segments of AR welded underneath more AR wasn’t going to be the thing that kept us in the fight. If they’re getting to the sides, we’re probably losing anyway since we should be able to drive off their forks most of the time. We still went in with about 1/4” of AR on top of the robot.
We scouted SawBlaze out before the fight, trying to get a better sense of their changes. From what we’d seen, they were focused on never losing a wheel again. They’d switched to those frustratingly indestructible rubber wheels and added chunky UHMW wheel guards. Pictures they’d posted online made the robot look like they’d shrunk it slightly, but that wasn’t the case. I think the slightly smaller wheels being mounted lower created that illusion. We didn’t manage to catch their front-end configuration before the fight, but we assumed we’d see the triple-fork config. Strategically it was irrelevant since we had no intention of spending any time attacking head-on.The strategy going in was simple and predictable: avoid the front, hit the sides. I went into more detail in the Match Schedule blog, but our understanding of how to beat SawBlaze kind of relied on tearing a wheel off. Since that option is beyond fleeting, we’ll still have to get to the sides, but there’s almost no chance of a single strong engagement disabling them. SawBlaze, like Whiplash, will do all sorts of acrobatics to roll out of the way when destabilized. Sure they can be juggled, but their center of gravity flails around, so (safely) catching them on the way down is difficult.
HyperShock has been the famously late team, so consistently late that the countdown to season 6 website had a “Will Bales Mode” which added 4 days (3 days of check-in plus not fighting on day one). SawBlaze on the other hand has been in the opener of the last three seasons since they are always ready before the first fight session. I’m so proud of my team for getting it together and rising to the challenge of being the opening fight of the season. I also have nothing to but apologies for the production team since we only gave them half a fight. The silver lining is BattleBots was allowed to test all their new unstick procedures and rules immediately (and they went great).
During pre-fight check-ins, we finally get to see their front config, and there are little wedgelets between the forks. They don’t want our forks getting under their robot. Otherwise, they had the triple fork set up we anticipated, reinforcing our desire to not interact with the front of their robot. Our config had as much AR on top as we could manage and slightly thinner disks to make up that weight. Thinner disks mean we won’t hit as hard, but most of what we’re going to be hitting are plastic. If we get through enough of that where we’re hitting SawBlaze’s frame, we’re probably dominating the fight anyway, so the slight loss of damage won’t be a problem.
The fight starts without a box rush, so we meander toward SawBlaze and go right up the middle. Jamo doesn’t like to send the arm down into spinners, so maybe its ok. Will realizes our weapon sits low enough to hit their forks when we do that, so he does it again. And again, leading to our first hit on their wheel guard. We miss the follow-up, oversteer, under-correct, and boom we’re upside down. 15 seconds in and it’s not looking good. We get lucky for a bit. New, taller, stiffer horns let us monster truck over SawBlaze. Despite our vulnerable position, we manage to not hand all the control over for a little bit. SawBlaze takes a risky swing the first time they get us to a wall and it pays off, ruining one of our presently-useless front wheels. In the next sloppy engagement, we seem to bend a horn just enough that the weapon starts hitting the floor a bit. That introduces a bunch of instability, but we can’t risk ramping it down for fear it won’t spin up again. Will tries to flip us on the walls, but Jamo is right there ready to slash and burn us back down. The second to last hit of the fight was right in front of our driver’s booth. The side opposite the hit got mashed into the wall hard enough to jam that side of drive. With only one side still working, we’re basically dead in the water. SawBlaze tries to bump us back to life, but our still-spinning weapon scares them off. So like any reasonable driver faced with a seemingly not dead robot, Jamo takes us to his driver’s booth for a front row seat to our execution. We’re still flailing around like a fish on the line, not realizing we’re already in the bucket. That last hit buries the hammersaw in our guts. The weapon was very, very stuck, but with their arm all the way down and us hanging off it, there’s almost zero weight on their wheels, they can’t back up, and the arm lacks the strength to lift us. Just over 90 seconds into this fight, a time out is called so the crewbots can attempt an unstick.
After a few seconds, it becomes apparent that we’re in a Quantum situation. An AR600 disk through AR500 armor just isn’t coming out. Both teams start making jokes about entanglement. Maybe it was stress-coping, but we were all pretty light hearted about the situation. The stuck robots rules were heavily revised after several controversial fights with stuck robots last year. I highly recommend anyone taking the time to read all these blogs use some of that time to do a close reading of the BattleBots rulebook. Since less than two minutes had elapsed, the crewbots tried to separate us. When that valiant effort failed, the robots were wheeled out together and the match went to a JD. We lost the JD unanimously, to no one’s surprise. I followed the robots outside since we couldn’t be sure HyperShock wasn’t about to burst into flames. We were pretty sure the lack of smoke indicated the batteries were fine, but there were a bunch of wires right about where their weapon was lodged. A short in our power loom could lead to a very angry battery fire with minimal warning.
Outside with the safety team, we make another vain attempt to pry the robots apart. They’ve both been turned off successfully, so the risk of a short leading to a fire is smaller, but still not zero. Fortunately, HyperShock’s guts come out with two tools, so we manage to get the batteries out as well as the motor that was blocking our view of the damage from the inside. Our two teams spent 20 minutes in the blazing sun getting SawBlaze’s arm detached. Apparently, that is normally a little difficult, but with most of HyperShock hanging off the disk, relieving enough belt tension was tricky. SawBlaze had to hammer their arm axle out.
After some discussion over custody, we carefully took HyperBlaze back to our pit. We set the new appendage up on a stool like a sidecar and got to work removing the rest of HyperShock’s guts. By some insane stroke of luck, SawBlaze had landed in the one-inch wide channel between our batteries and drive motors. The only casualty was a short length of wire. Sure the chassis had a big hole in it, but that’s what welding is for.
We discussed extraction options with SawBlaze. Their main worry was the process of cutting the disk out would introduce a bunch of heat, ruining the temper on their weapon. We didn’t want to try to cut a box around the disk for fear of cutting too deep and hitting the disk. The consensus was we’d borrow a diamond cutting disk from SawBlaze and make an incision just to the side of where the disk was stuck. This would create some space for the material to flex as we pried the disk out. We got it loose but not free that way. In the end, a little more cutting and a lot of brute force dislodged the disk. Looking back, all this time spent separating the robots was time we spent pulling our teams together. Only at BattleBots could competitors bond over the process of violently extracting an implement of destruction from its victim.
Enjoy the following HyperBlaze damage album: