Joseph Taylor

Robot Wars

Between 2nd February 2018 and 27th April 2018 I worked within a group to compete in the University of Brighton's Robot Wars assignment, as part of XE220 - Engineering Design, Innovation and Management.

This page details the process of researching, designing and building a featherweight fighting robot, that meets the build rules of the FRA (Fighting Robots Association) and the specification set by the university. As the only electrical student within the group, this page will focus more on the electrical aspects of the robot. In the battle on the 25th April 2018, our robot won against group 19, and placed 3rd in the winners' melee, both times driven my myself. I'll explain why we didn't win in the melee further down the page.

Safety, rules and regulations

Before getting too in-depth, it is worth expressing how dangerous fighting robots can be. There are many activities associated with building and operating a fighting robot that are hazardous. I will go through some of the risk below:

  • A soldering iron can burn you if you touch the wrong end of it. Mistakes do happen and if you do end up touching the tip of the soldering iron, or anything else that burns you, run the burn under cold water for about 10 minutes and seek medical attention if you don't think you'll be able to walk it off.
  • Solder fumes are toxic, so use an extractor fan when you can. A face mask or holding your breath won't help.
  • The flux embedded in solder can spit sometimes, be careful of your eyes. Wearing glasses is advised. Squinting will reduce the likelihood of hot flux coming into contact with your eye ball, but it's not ideal.
  • With some solder including lead, you should wash your hands afer handling it. In extreme cases handling solder can cause hand infection/dermatitis.
  • Lithium based batteries are extreamly powerful and must be handled with care. Assume they will spontaniously combust at any time.
  • While charging a lithium based battery, a proper charger with battery management system should be used. The battery should be stored in a battery safe bag while charging.
  • Furthermore, the battery should be stored in a battery safe bag while unsupervised/in storage.
  • Do not let the batteries short-circuit. They are very powerful and very capable of overheating and igniting.

Fighting Robot Association (FRA)

To ensure all robots competing in the University fight had a minimum amount of safety features and were within the same general specification, the groups were advised to look over the Fighting Robot Association’s latest build rules and regulations document. Key points that were picked up on within the FRA rules and regulations were:

  • 1.5 - Any sharp objects had to have a safety cover over them when not in use.
  • 1.6 – Spinning weapons have to have a locking bar.
  • 2.1 – Being a featherweight robot, the robot has to be a maximum of 13.6kg.
  • 4.1.5 – Only specific radio frequencies are allowed. The 2.4GHz transmitter/receiver provided by the university is an allowed frequency.
  • 4.2.1 – The robot must have a failsafe to completely stop the robot if signal to the transmitter is interrupted.
  • 4.3 – It is advised that a light indicates when the robot is in failsafe mode.
  • 4.4 – It is advised that robots have the ability to be shut off remotely (aka. Remote kill switch).
  • 6.1.1 – The robot must have a removable link that cuts all power from the robot.
  • 6.4 – The robot must have a power light.

These are just some of the rules that stood out; other rules apply that the robot will naturally conform to, for example, weapon RPM and battery voltages. Despite being told that we need to adhere to the FRA rules, it turns out that many groups did not implement many of the required safety features.

The FRA rules can be found here.

University Specific Rules

On top of all of the reiteration of the adherence of the FRA Build Rules, it is required that the robot is able to fit into a University of Brighton locker.


The group researched previous years' fights that had been held at the university by watching YouTube videos. There are a number of videos you can watch by searching for "Robot Wars Brighton" on YouTube. Looking at how previous robots performed helped us decide on the design of our robot. An honourable mention goes to Charles Hoile who wrote The Ultimate XE221 Robot Building Guide, answered any questions I had about the university Robot Wars event and gave me a lot of relevant advice.

As well as videos recorded at the university, there are also featherweight robot fighting events held around the world, so a lot of research was done there too. Knowing that our robot would be fighting against students with much the same resourses as us, we didn't proiritise making our robot as destructive as we'd originally wanted to. Besides, building a robot deemed too dangerous would have meant we couldn't have fought it on the fight day. We would have got full marks for building a very dangerous robot, but where's the fun in not being able to fight it?

Mechanical side of things

Being an electrical student, I left most of the mechanical side of things to the students studying Mechanical Engineering and Aeronaughtical Engineering, but I did not shy away from getting involved with things I knew I had the tools and experience to help out with.

My friend, Charles, gave me a set of wheels I suggested I use for the robot. He had them left over from when he was building his robot last year, but didn't have time to implement the wheels into his design. I showed the wheels to the group and we all agreed that they would be suitable for use on our robot.

Knowing the size of the wheels enabled the design of the rest of the robot to be establised. The size of the wheels determined the height of the robot, as we wanted the robot to be driven upside-down if needed, but still have enough ground clearance, for slightly un-level terrain.

If you have any questions about this project, or any others on my site get in touch!