Robot rumble rolls into Cardiff

This year’s Cardiff Robotics Competition challenged designers and engineers to build robots that could destroy each other.

“We weren’t expecting to come second. We weren’t expecting to survive it to be honest.” Mateen, Jesus, Giles, and Ian of Team Skrappi made their robot out of scrap materials. 

Young designers assembled, ready to wreck each other’s robots at the Cardiff Electronics and Technology Society’s second annual robotics competition. 

The society hoped that competitors could show off their engineering skills and the robots were judged on their novelty and level of autonomy, as well as how much damage they could take. 

The audience was asked to move back, then further back as the robots, which were all built from scratch by aspiring engineers, were placed into the ring, ready for battle.

Timos Savva, a member of Team Robotnik, which won the competition, said, “We are learning a lot of things in uni and what a better way to apply what we’re doing than in a competition. We don’t get to do this a lot, so it was really fun to just assemble everything and use our knowledge.”  

The competition started off with a ‘Sumo Round’ where the teams earned points by knocking enemy robots out of a designated zone.  

Following this, the robots were fitted with weapons for the ‘Combat Round’ where they tried to destroy each other.  

This round saw Fred, a robot with a long whirring attachment, self-destruct when facing Broken, a robot so named because it was broken for most of the day.  

Fred the robot self destructed in the Combat Round. It took the teams between two hours and four weeks to design and build their robots.

Ironically, Broken, which took the least amount of time to build (two hours) managed to come out of the competition the most intact.  

Sam, the sole member of Team Broken said, “I intended it to get broken. I saw some of the robots with the big spinners and I had a couple hours so I decided to throw together an easy robot that hopefully could get blown up. I kind of wanted to see it explode.” 

With the competition over and won by Robotnik, a two-motor robot equipped with a four-wheel drive and weaponised with a rotating device, all the robots (or what was left of them) were placed into the ring for a final free for all. 

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While the crowd was small, their enthusiasm could be felt as each team’s supporters yelled out their preference for their favourite robot. 

George Puthenvila, one of the spectators said: “The competitors did put on a decent show. I felt they could have planned more in advance. All in all, I can say that this competition does have great potential and with better advertising and more planning, this competition will be a great scene to watch.” 

The society hopes that in the future this could be an inter-university competition, which could bring in bigger crowds. 

Although the society invited all the universities in South Wales this year, interest appeared to be lacking. Only one university replied but didn’t send in any competitors. 

Joseph Morris, the president of the society said, “Based on a rough count of the people that turned up and from our social media analytics, and the people who have said they are interested, generally, a tenth of the people who are interested will actually turn up.

“There’s always the barrier between thinking, ‘oh yeah that’s kind of cool’ and actually going and doing it.” 

Despite the relatively low turnout, both the competitors and spectators left feeling entertained. As long as the society exists, its members hope that they can hold a robot rumble every year to come to provide young engineers with a place to show off their skills . 

Team Robotnik were the overall winners of the 2020 competition. Although they started later than some of the other teams, they still put in a week of hard work.