View Full Version : New to Mech Warfare? Start reading here first.

04-02-2012, 12:14 PM
So I wanted to put together a general advice/informational thread for new comers to Mech Warfare. I'd like the veterans to also chime in and I'll do my best to highlight and reformat the best/most concise advice in this initial post. I'll start off with a few on my mind and we can build from there, feel free to add onto anything already here too. Think of it as an FAQ. If you don't understand a term here, google it.

Q - Where can I find the ruleset for Mech Warfare?

A -The latest version is generally stickied in this forum. Find the current version here. (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?4131-Mech-Warfare-2011-Draft-Rules) If not much has changed, we re-use the previous year's thread. Ask questions regarding rules in said thread. Please become familiar with the rules.

************************************************** ***********
Q - Where are Mech Warfare events held?

A - The primary venue that hosts Mech Warfare each year is Robogames. (http://robogames.net/) Robogames is generally held in April in San Mateo, California. We also have events hosted at ShepRobo Fest at Shepherdstown University (http://www.shepherd.edu/cmeweb/srf/) in March, as well as the Kansas City Maker Faire (http://www.makerfairekc.com/) in June.

************************************************** ***********

Q - Where can I find information on the Scoring System?

A - Here (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?5295-2012-Mech-Warfare-Scoring-System) is the forum post, and also the main page with all the information consolidated, here. (http://www.upgraydlabs.com/projects/mwscore/)

************************************************** ***********

Q - What cameras are suggested for use? Should I use a Wifi IP camera?

A - Yes. You should use a Wifi IP Camera. DO NOT, use an analog wireless camera. They're crap, and they cause interference. A commonly used IP camera is the Trendnet IP-110W (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?2745-Looking-for-a-good-camera-Trendnet-110-wireless-cam-amp-teardown), and another newer camera being used is the D-Link DCS-930L (http://mydlink.dlink.com/products/DCS-930L) (credit card sized once you remove casing). Both are chosen because they're easy to hack/interface and they're both compact. They also are pretty top notch performers and have been tested at the prior years events.

Also, ad-hoc networking is a failure. We paid very good money to have a top-tier router at our events, please take advantage of this. Know your IP address, Mac address, and SSID. Do not use encryption. Have access to your IP camera's ethernet port if needed.

************************************************** ***********


A - Settle down there cowboy. A lot of newcomers get excited over the premise of this competition. I will say this very clearly and I want you to listen to someone who's been doing this for 4 years.

Building a functional, competitive mech, is VERY HARD.

Especially if it is your first year, do not waste time day dreaming of all the awesome over-the-top gizmos you're going to add. See what other people are doing, learn from this. Build a Mech. Get it walking. Get it remotely piloted via Wifi IP cam. Get it firing. PRACTICE. A LOT. Expect it to break and things to go wrong. Go to an event and compete for a year. Then, by all means come and share your ideas. We just ask that they be grounded in reality. The most common misconception about this competition is that building a fully functional mech is a trivial task.

************************************************** ***********

Q - What's the best route to get started on building a mech? How much do they cost?

A - Hands down, probably the easiest way to get building is to look into an AX-12 Dynamixel based quadruped that uses an Arbotix (https://www.trossenrobotics.com/p/arbotix-robot-controller.aspx) running a NUKE generated IK sketch (http://code.google.com/p/arbotix/wiki/NukeIntro). This is a microcontroller that can communicate with AX-12s, and has an open source IK generator program (Pypose/NUKE) that will create a base sketch for you to get your quad running around. It creates a great head-start for newcomers who don't have a lot of programming experience.There are plenty of various projects in the forums that use this method, and it's been one of the most widely successful platforms. There are no mech kits available, so this is the closest thing we have for now. Look at what other people are doing, how they're building their mechs, and give it a shot yourself.

For example: Check the IssyDunnYet Build Article (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/tutorials/build-articles-130/build-your-own-issydunnyet-3257/). Issy won the first Mech Warfare competition, and is probably one of the cheapest successful bots. Note that some of the details, such as guns are dated.

************************************************** ***********

Q - What do you guys use for weapons? Where can I get them?

A - The easiest route is pretty simple- we recommend picking up a 'defender' style airsoft gun from your local WalMart or other sports store and modding it to suit your needs. These usually run about $15-25 and are fairly simple inside. Add a relay or motor controller to it and you've got it working. More advanced builders are using what are known as "AEG Airsoft Gearboxes" and building their own custom guns around them. This requires the builder to come up with their own Barrel solution, hopper, hop up/ammo feed and mounting solution, but these are very powerful guns. Do not use 'tank guns', while they were okay for the first/second year (due to us not having many options), compared to what we use now they suck something fierce.

************************************************** ***********

04-02-2012, 01:59 PM
Wanted to add a link to the IssyDunnYet Build Article (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/tutorials/build-articles-130/build-your-own-issydunnyet-3257/) (Issy won the first Mech Warfare competition, and is probably one of the cheapest successful bots). Note that some of the details (such as guns) are dated.


09-25-2012, 11:59 PM
I am also new, I have read this carefully.. It is detailed information about Mech Warfare.. Thanks for the information.

04-04-2013, 03:41 AM
Is this still the best way to start if you don't have any programming skills? I have the electronics skill, the mechanical skills, can fabricate almost any thing in my shop and I actually scored a an IP110W for 5$ the other day! Yes it works. Would I be better off starting with a Bioloid kit and modding from there? Looking forward to Robo games this year!

04-04-2013, 12:55 PM
My advice:
Start with a quad, rather than a biped, if possible. Use an existing frame set that's proven to work with your servos. Use an existing arm or pan/tilt design to carry camera and guns.
Use bog standard components. Arbotix Commander, Arbotix Controller, Nuke or PyPose or whatever existing software. The recommended TrendNet camera.
Use an existing motor driver for driving the gun.
Use a reasonable capacity LiPo battery -- 2400 mAh 11.1V would be simplest.
Invent nothing new, because you only have three weeks to get ready. (In fact, if you can compete in three weeks, you are freakin' amazing and I'll bow down in awe and respect :-)

"But, Jon," I hear you say, "I notice from your posts that you're not following your own advice at all!"
There are three reasons for this:
1) I do this for the challenge of building stuff I've never done before. Learning is the most fun activity I know!
2) I started six months ago, not three weeks before the competition.
3) If I had known then what I know now, I may very well have taken my own advice anyway, despite point 1! At this point, it's too late to switch.

04-05-2013, 01:00 AM
I'm there with ya on the learning part! I learn by doing and I need an application or it doesn't go well. If I was going to compete this time I would just start with what works. And I still might anyway. If I already had all the parts I'm pretty sure I could pull off a recreation in 3 weeks. That's not going to happen this time. I'm heavily involved in the combat arena ( safety, judging and arena construction ) and I can't do both :/. Andrew was actually my roommate a couple years ago he got me thinking about it. This time I intend to watch and take a lot of notes. I'd like to start an Event in Seattle. I already E.O. the local combat comps and I think our arena would be very well suited for it. 12 x 16 with 4' walls. The floor is elevated 2' off the ground. I know of 2 other guys, Possibly 3 in the region that already have Mechs and will come if I put on an event and 2-4 others that would build for it. Dunno if any one else would travel in but I'm looking to move into some thing new. Not like there's a concentration of Geeks in this neighborhood! For now I'd like to build a pair as demos. We have a lot of time between matches later in the event. It would be a good way to get into it. I have more or less a full machine shop in my garage. Lathe, Mill, CNC mill sheet metal benders etc... As well as electronics. I like to be able to build as I think. So I've collected a few toys that allow me to do that. So the building part isn't intimidating, just the programming. Closest I've been was using some AVR basic for a mini sumo 15 years ago that I copied and pasted from the web. I was thinking the bioloid stuff might be a better first step in that direction.

04-07-2013, 07:15 PM
Use an Arbotix with NUKE/PyPose on a quad. It's your best bet. PyPose makes it nearly plug and play when it comes to programming.

04-08-2013, 01:55 AM
Is NUKE/PYpose designed for standard servos or the bioloid serial servos?

04-08-2013, 01:17 PM
Hi Gausswave,
NUKE/Pypose is designed for the bioloid (dynamixel) servos. You can control regular servos with the Arbotix as well, but all the gait generation stuff NUKE does is for dynamixels.

I'm kindof a kindred newbie. I got a Bioloid kit about a year ago, and have converted it to a quad which I'd like to *eventually* compete in mech warfare. Since I have very little programming experience I considered doing everything with Roboplus (the "drag n drop" programming for Bioloid), but decided to upgrade to Arbotix/NUKE/Pypose.

I still think it would be possible to create a "100% Robotis" mech using just the CM530, RC100-zigbee, Roboplus software, etc. Roboplus's main draw is that it's simple and user-friendly for newbies. However, NUKE lets you easily (relatively) implement reverse kinematics rather than just playing back recorded motion files. That plus all the community support was too good to pass up :) I've recently been getting some great advice over in this thread (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?6038-Up-and-walking-with-NUKE-next-steps). Bloftin kindly posted links to code for a NUKE/Arbotix-based mech.

04-08-2013, 04:52 PM
Good. I am going the hobby servo routewith M-O, who is currently a 3 servo biped. (I had too few servos for anything else)

04-09-2013, 01:25 AM
So given that this was written in 2007 and it is now 2013. What parts do I get? How do I best spend my money? Start with a quad bioloid kit and also get a arcbotix controller? The camera I already have.

04-09-2013, 02:43 PM
Bioloid is the way to go if you can afford it. Get an Arbotix for sure with Bioloid. Then you can use NUKE/PyPose.

04-09-2013, 03:38 PM
A lot depends on ones outlook too. I'm probably one of the few holdouts using hobby servos. I had a bunch already and a friend gave me some better ones, so I couldn't see much point in switching to Bioloids. I use a Lynxmotion SSC-32 and sequences for control.

But were I starting from scratch, I'd probably go the Bioloid/Arbotix route because it works so well.

Get the troops in Seattle going on this stuff.. It's great.. combat without the destruction.


04-09-2013, 06:58 PM
I use hobby servos because they're so cheap. $8 a servo is a very low price. And for HS-311s for that matter.

04-09-2013, 09:46 PM
Can you really build a walking robot with HS-311s? They're pretty slow and pretty weak AFAICT.

04-10-2013, 12:37 AM
I'm working on it! I've found a lot of interest. I'd really like to have at least a couple units for Demo's next event. I can afford a bioloid for my self but if you don't use the CM5 controller it seems kind of a waste. OTOH it may be a good stepping stone but it seems the software in that kit is some what superfluous. I see Miguel has one for sale on the forum. Any one know this guy? $650 is a ton of savings. Even the 19 servos @ 30$ seems worthy of consideration.

04-10-2013, 01:51 PM
I can afford a bioloid for my self but if you don't use the CM5 controller it seems kind of a waste.

From my point of view, the servos and the mechanical frames are the interesting parts. Making some microcontroller send packets to servos is not in and of itself particularly hard; CM5 versus other controllers is not a big difference IMO. (Unless you want to use the canned software that comes from Robotis.)

If you can build a walker that can carry a gun and a camera, based on HS-311, you're doing pretty well, and could conceivably be selling the kits as starters :-)

04-11-2013, 12:23 AM
I prefer the mechanical side as well. I'm much more kinetic the cerebral. The feed back I'm getting is you want to start with at least a quad. The arbotix controller and the bioloid servo's. Seems to me getting the quad with the arbotix makes more sense than the regular Bioloid kit. The waste part I was referring to is getting a kit with parts I may not need or prefer. As I don't totally understand the intricacies of the different pieces.

04-11-2013, 01:05 AM
I prefer the mechanical side as well. I'm much more kinetic the cerebral. The feed back I'm getting is you want to start with at least a quad. The arbotix controller and the bioloid servo's. Seems to me getting the quad with the arbotix makes more sense than the regular Bioloid kit. The waste part I was referring to is getting a kit with parts I may not need or prefer. As I don't totally understand the intricacies of the different pieces.

That's pretty much correct. Worth noting is that the Bioloid bracket kit gives you a variety of bolt and wire lengths, and almost all of the different brackets that exist. These are great for prototyping. At $100, definitely worth getting in addition to the servos and Arbotix.

04-12-2013, 12:16 PM
I second that. I purchased the $100 bracket/hardware kit and it is most definitely worth having all the extras to play with.

04-12-2013, 09:26 PM
I have had good experience with HS-311s. If I had had a more precise way to make parts, M-O would still be a quad. And walking with full load. As it is, M-O is a three servo biped. The only thing I'm lacking to get him going in about 5 minutes is feet that won't come loose.

04-18-2013, 11:07 AM
Do you wire the gun to the robot or does it have its own system to which it receives its information.

04-18-2013, 08:37 PM
You can do it either way -- your choice.

04-19-2013, 07:40 AM
Thank you!

07-17-2013, 11:04 AM
Andrew - Can we *sticky* this post please?

07-19-2013, 03:28 PM
It's outdated and soon to be replaced by the WIKI