Anatomy of a robot – What makes Storm 2 so fast and powerful?

July 26, 2016
Anatomy of a robot – What makes Storm 2 so fast and powerful?

Storm 2 made a huge impact when it was first created, and Team Storm wanted to raise the bar. They didn’t want to just build something that was the same as the others, there was a desire to do something totally differently. When Storm 2 was built, robots tended to have perhaps 2 horsepower (hp) of drive – really, really powerful robots (like Tornado, winners of Robot Wars Series 6) had around 7hp of drive. When Storm 2 first appeared it delivered a genuine 18hp to the wheels. Whilst some of this was lost due to heat, inefficiency and wheel spinning – it quickly established itself as the fastest, and thanks to the great driving from the team, one of the most agile robots out there. But what makes Storm 2 so fast and powerful?

It’s a careful balance of components that have been refined over time. Using data that the team can pull back from the robot after each fight, genuine changes can be made and tested to ensure that development is in the right direction. There’s significant technology in the speed controllers to ensure that the robot keeps running, and real-time configuration changes to how the controllers operate ensure max power. For example, if the speed controllers detect that the power the motors are drawing is causing the battery voltage to sag (drop due to the 100s of amps being asked of them), the speed controller can detect this and ease down the power automatically to ensure the right balance of voltage and current is drawn. Just like the modern Software-Defined Datacenter, what’s as important as the core components is the way you monitor and manage them to deliver the best health, risk and efficiency you can.

Around 4 years ago Storm 2 moved away from these very powerful motors – a balance of expense and understanding what was needed to win. Just like in IT where for example trying to build your own ‘Platform as a Service’ is a waste of time, it became clear that as other robots started to catch up with the competitiveness of Storm 2, what made the robot great was not the choice of motors. In fact, just like in IT, Storm 2 moved from a hugely expensive design of motor to something costing less than half of this – whilst at the same time the team focused on drivability and a range of weapons.  Storm 2’s greatest asset – its power – was now just a commodity. And just as in IT, the focus needed to move to how we could get more from the robot, whilst reducing the number of bespoke engineered parts.

We’ll leave you with a few pictures of the incredible machine – and watch out next time for an overview of the build diary of the robot, and how Team Storm in effect lives the DevOps approach of rapid innovation in designing, constructing and running Storm 2.

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Would you like to read more about Storm 2, the VMware sponsored robot featuring in this year’s Robot Wars? Well check back for upcoming blogs for inside information on the different features of Storm 2 and if you can’t wait till then, why not have a look at last week’s blog to see an overview from the World Championship winning team.

 


 
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