I really, really, really like tracked robots - 101 is probably the root cause of this, remaining one of my favourite ever Robot Wars machines. The Data Fields came as the inevitable result of my love of tracks, after I obtained some Tamiya ones from the same Josh Valman bits box source as the wheels for "Yoda". The body was made of hardened, anodised aluminium sheet with home-made 12mm polypropylene axle mounts at the front, and the electronics and drive were a combination of parts from the first Jigsaw and a SOZBOTS speed controller bought from Peter Waller that had been cutting-edge antweight technology about five years previously.
In its first appearance, The Data Fields suffered badly from radio interference despite the aerial being threaded out of the chassis for almost its entire length, and had a bad habit of driving off the arena and propelling its steel spikes (taken from an executive desktop dartboard found in a Pontefract charity shop!) towards the nearest chair, or human, leg. The bodyshell, made from the same material as the base, was also badly warped after an encounter with CombatANT, so for AWS 32 the armour was replaced with 1mm polycarbonate and the radio equipment with Spektrum 2.4ghz. Though this curtailed its thirst for blood, it could sadly not make it truly competitive - although I now had control, the SOZBOTS lacked the precision of more modern controllers, the tracks lacked grip, and a slightly loose right side motor meant the track on that side was prone to jumping in extended fights. It remained, however, an unrelentingly fun robot to drive, skidding around my living room floor like an improbably hypothetical pinball with tracks.
The Data Fields was permanently corrupted at Richmond Fighting Robot Club in September 2010 - despite the addition of a titanium front 'bumper' to deflect spinners, MilitANT's disc was low enough to bypass this, remove the tracks, and buckle the base panel beyond repair.
Arcus was another robot that grew from one part - or, in this case, parts. Due to some interesting economics involving the use of Coca-Cola bottles as currency, I obtained through Dave Weston a chassis for what had originally been intended by builder Tony Fowler to be an antweight replica of heavyweight claw Tough As Nails, with beautifully made aluminium horizontal claws linked by two servo arms and output gears. In a rare outburst of engineering, I press-fit the servo output gears into the claws themselves, enabling the mechanism to be made lower, and constructed a chassis based around the claws at the front using internals taken from "Yoda" and a rather expensive - but bought at half price - Futaba metal geared servo used to replace the originally-used Naro HP, which was drawing too much power and causing the Peter Waller speed controller to cut out.
The fundamental issue with Arcus, at first, was that it didn't fit in the four inch cube; with the claws closed it was too long, but with them open it was too wide, and no position in between managed to balance the two enough to fit. It was never really built for full combat though (the armour was only thin carbon fibre and polycarbonate), more as an eye-catcher for public demonstrations of antweights, and it served impeccably in that role - being described by one roboteer as a work of art, and always drawing audience attention despite its inability to self right and the slight mechanical flaw that when the claws are closed, the wheels lift off the ground.
However, due to a lack of functioning robots ahead of Antweight World Series 42 in Staffordshire, the chassis was cut down and a new bodyshell made out of a welded DVD case to allow it to fit in the cube. Under the name of Pocket Arcus, the claws at last tasted battle, and even - in a fashion - victory, due to Harry's excellently built and named Blue Cadet 3, Do You Connect? breaking down on first impact. However, an encounter with Sidewinder damaged the bodyshell and claw linkage and ensured a swift exit for Arcus, and following the World Series it was dismantled. The claws remain waiting for a suitable host, while the drive motors and wheels will appear very soon on this list...
The fundamental question of 'what is a robot?' has been asked ever since Karel Capek introduced the term in 1920, and most sensible answers would most certainly exclude Spall. It began life as an infrared-controlled beach buggy on a shelf in the Pontefract branch of B&M Bargains, on sale for £5 during a late summer rotation of stock, and it was purchased purely for my own curiosity's sake - after noting how relatively easy it was to remove the bodyshell, I raided my scrap materials box for some thin polycarbonate and a piece of bare copper-clad PCB that had been inside an old transmitter and made it a more robot (or not) shaped device. Spall's sole purpose was suicide; Richmond Fighting Robot Club was coming up and I thought it would be reduced to small pieces by the various spinners present for the amusement of all.
Unfortunately for those plans, it survived examination on multiple fronts by Peter Waller's minions - doing better than The Data Fields managed! - as due to its nature as a childrens' toy, whatever parts came off were designed to reattach easily. Its twenty-seven grams of pure impotence thus ended up going to far, far more events than were originally intended, dodging its intended fate on many an occasion with even VariANT unable to do more than move the infra-red reciever sideways a bit. Somehow, in the main competition at AWS 34, it even won a fight, albeit due to Inertiant managing to lose drive on one side within seconds of the call to activate.
Spall is not retired as such, but its event appearances have become more sporadic in the years since it was built - at one point, the bodyshell had literally fallen down the back of a sofa - and with a recent Antweight World Series rule change to exclude commercially available vehicles from competing, its competition days appeared to have ended. Sense and logic, however, do not apply to Spall, and the night before AWS 46, it was transformed - with the aid of components left over from Chickens From Outer Space (see below!) - into Mecha-Spall. 200g of steel, aluminium, polycarbonate, elastic bands, and hatred shambled into the arena on March 28th, and came out in many, many pieces, thanks to Alex Shakespeare's excellent Test Robot Please Ignore.
Spall itself, however, had not been killed. After a change of batteries in the transmitter, the £5 radio controlled car continued to trundle around happily, and I think - in all honesty - it can't be said to not have earned a happy retirement. Maybe it'll be framed and held up as a testimony to the power of luck and hope in combat robotics!
The Hurting was, ultimately, a spinner that was too powerful - both to control, and to contain its own power within the rather limited engineering skills used to build it - but when that power could be applied to the opposition, as opposed to itself or the arena, the results were often rather spectacular. Further information can be found on its robot page here.
The story of what will be called, due to reasons of sanity, Chickens From Outer Space lies in sales at two separate businesses. Technobots had, for some time, been selling a 27mhz two channel radio set with the reciever having built in dual motor drivers, which could concievably drive a robot - as long as you didn't want to go backwards, as it could only power the motors in one direction. For just £6, I reasoned that I couldn't go wrong, and had owned it for a while when I saw The Works in Lancaster selling boxes of multicoloured novelty Easter chicks for £2 each. The idea to combine the two into a robot occurred to me almost instantly, but it wasn't until it became clear that S. D. F., my intended second entry to AWS 43, wouldn't be ready in time, that I actually began to build what is possibly simultaneously the best and worst antweight ever made.
Chickens From Outer Space was built in one day, using a piece of VHS case as a rudimentary chassis, part of a desk lamp to protect the battery pack, the drive motors and wheels from Arcus, and absolutely no offensive capability outside of the beady eyes of no fewer than twenty yellow, green, pink, and blue chicks epoxied to almost every accessible surface. Like Spall, it was never intended to be competitive, merely to serve as colourful, amusing spinner fodder, and tragically it was drawn in a group with only one spinner - Peter Waller's Anticyclone. However, one was all that was needed, as the chickens - fighting alongside a "bug" walker kindly donated by Dave Lawrie due to weighing little more than a fleaweight - managed to scrape through by luck and by crook to face Anticyclone in the losers' bracket, where feathers, beaks, fluff, and wheels flew in all directions to roars of approval before Anticyclone ricocheted out of the arena in a truly wonderful fight.
The chickens proved to be a minor sensation at the event - turning up attached to various other robots over the course of the main competition - and beneath all the comedy, the £6 electronics module performed solidly enough to prove its worth under battle conditions, even withstanding a direct spinner hit. As the chickens proved, you don't necessarily need the ability to go backwards to win fights...