Pete Smith

Pete's Articles

TIPS FROM THE PITS: Getting Connected
August 2013
The “magic smoke” from burned out motors and electronic speed controllers (ESCs) is inevitable in combat robotics, and getting those parts replaced quickly can make the difference between working your way through the brackets to the finals and an ignominious forfeit and early exit.

Fachan: A Dangerous Fairyweight — Part 2: Getting the Parts
September 2018
Designing a Fairyweight version of my Beetleweight and Antweight combat robot kits.

Fachan: A Dangerous Fairyweight — Part 1: Design
July 2018
Designing a Fairyweight version of my Beetleweight and Antweight combat robot kits.

New Year’s Resolution — Part 3
May 2017
Description of the design and build of the new steel wedge for Isotelus Rex and how it fared at the Motorama 2017 event.

New Year’s Resolution — Part 2
April 2017
After putting my 12 lb (Hobbyweight) combat bot, Isotelus Rex on a weight loss program to get better results at competitions, it was time to build the new lighter chassis and drivetrain.

New Year’s Resolution — Part 1
March 2017
Putting my 12 lb (Hobbyweight) combat bot, Isotelus Rex on a weight loss program to get better results at competitions.

Motorama 2016 — Teeth and Consequences
August 2016
Results from the 2016 SCRC Motorama 2016 combat robot tournament.

Coils of War
July 2016
Hardening a motor for the combat arena.

EVENT REPORT: Franklin 2015
May 2016
Coverage of the Franklin Institute 2015 event.

Higher Voltages: The iCharger 1010B+
February 2016
For several years now, the voltage limit on most budget hobby RC electronics has been 6S LiPo (22.2V), and that’s been fine in combat -- certainly up to the 12 lb Hobbyweights.

BUILD REPORT BaneBots P60 Repair and a Brushless Upgrade
November 2015
My 12 lb Hobbyweight, Isotelus Rex lost to Attrition in the finals at this year’s Motorama.

Parts is Parts: More Musings on the Hobbyking CAR-45A and HK-SENS-35A Brushless Reversible Speed Con
October 2015
In last month’s SERVO, I modified a HobbyKing CAR-45A and tested it to see if it was suitable for use as a weapon ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) for 3 lb Beetleweights.

EVENT REPORT: Clash of the Bots 2015
September 2015
Carolina Combat Robots ([url=][/url]) and the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, NC ([url=http://www.schiele]http://www.schiele[/url] held their sixth Clash of the Bots event on June 6, 2015.

Parts is Parts: HobbyKing CAR-45A Brushless Reversible Speed Controller
September 2015
I have been using HobbyKing ([url=][/url]) brushless speed controllers in my combat robots since 2007, when I used one in Surgical Strike to take first place in the 12 lb weight class at RoboGames.

Quality Versus Quantity — Or, Why One Axle is Sometimes Better Than Two
June 2015
The drums on my Saifu kits have worked pretty well, but when they lose it’s usually been the same problem: bent axles.

EVENT REPORT: Motorama 2015 — Ice, Snow, and Beetles ... Lots of Beetles
May 2015
Winter was doing its best again to make life tougher on the East coast, but fortunately it did not have the same effect at Motorama (organized by NERC; [url=][/url]) as it had last year when only two-thirds of the competitors made it.

Testing a Theory ...
March 2015
It was just after Motorama 2014 that I bought a weapon disc that had been designed for use on the lethal 30 lb vertical spinner, Shaka.

PRODUCT REVIEW: FingerTech Robotics TinyESC v2.4
November 2014
TinyESC speed controllers have typically been the ESC (electronic speed controller) of choice for the drives of many Ant and Beetleweight combat robots.

November 2014
The 1.5" and 2" wide Colson wheels have been popular in the 30 lb+ weight classes in combat robotics for many years, but builders often had to make their own hubs to mate the large bore of the Colsons with the standard 1/2" keyed shafts that come on drive gearmotors like Banebots P60s.

BUILD REPORT: The Weta Equation
October 2014
Weta, god of ugly things — my 3 lb Beetle weight — has always had a different beater bar than the kit bots for which it was the prototype.

BUILD REPORT: Bleuhh Cheese
September 2014
My first attempt at a Fairyweight combat robot had been a failure when I built it to meet an imaginary 250 g weight limit, rather than the actual 150 g limit.

August 2014
Afew months ago, I was making a batch of drums for my Saifu Ant kits when I received an order for a wider drum for a customer who was building his own chassis.

BUILD REPORT: Printing Cheese
July 2014
The 3D printing phenomenon had more or less passed me by. I had learned to use one at the TechShop in Raleigh, NC, but that wonderful resource closed days after my course and I never got a chance to use their machines.

BUILD REPORT: Isotelus Rex — Part 4: The Sprint to the Finish Line
May 2014
In Part 3 of this series, I had received most of the parts and started work on the chassis. Is this part, I will put together the drive motors, complete the rest of the parts, and assemble the bot. I was on a tight deadline as there was only four weeks to go before the bot’s first event ...

March 2014
Pololu produces an interesting set of components that allow you to have caterpillar type tracks on your small 250 g to 1 lb combat bots.

BUILD REPORT: Isotelus Rex — Part 3
March 2014
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I showed how I designed my new 12 lb combat robot, and then revised the design so that it would meet the weight restrictions.

EVENT REPORT: Franklin 2013 — Fall Fun in Philly
January 2014
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia ( hosted its 7th annual robotic combat event on September 21, 2013. The Institute provides the venue arena and N.E.R.C. ([url=][/url]) organizes the event.

BUILD REPORT: Isotelus Rex — Part 1
January 2014
Aweight class in combat robotics can be dominated — often for years — by one particular bot.

August 2013
Kitbots and FingerTech Robotics have joined forces to develop a new range of hubs for smaller bots.

PRODUCT REVIEW: HobbyKing HK4B6 Charger
July 2013
It is convenient to have all four batteries on one charger, and it takes up less space in the pits. It’s also a little cheaper than having four separate chargers, but it could also mean that if it fails you may lose all four at once.

TIPS FROM THE PITS: Speeding Up a Motor Change
June 2013
Half the battle in combat robotics is having your bot repaired completely in time for the next fight. This is the first of a series of short articles detailing some ways to make that just a little bit easier.

EVENT REPORT: Motorama 2013
May 2013
Just this February, the Northeast Robotics Club ([url=][/url]) hosted the 11th annual combat event at the 2013 Motorama motorsports extravaganza and custom car show ([url=http://www.motorama]http://www.motorama[/url] in Harrisburg, PA.

Is This the Future of Combat Robotics?
April 2013
There have been whisperings and rumors of a revolutionary new drive system for over a year now, but details have been hard to come by until our photographer got a picture at a recent late night test session in a barn in rural Pennsylvania. Our contact (who wished to remain anonymous) could give us only a few details of what she called “hoverbots.”

BUILD REPORT: Mini Bot Hockey Bots — Part 3
April 2013
In Part 2 of this series, I discussed how I made the chassis and drive train. In this part, I will show you how I wired the bots and set up the transmitter and receiver.

Building a Large Scrolling Display — Part 2
March 2013
Buoyed up by my success in getting one panel to work, I decided to add a second panel to increase the impact of the display and to make it a little easier to read.

PARTS IS PARTS: Product Review: OrangeRx T-SIX 2.4 GHz Transmitter
March 2013
The OrangeRx range of 2.4 GHz spread spectrum DSM2 receivers (available from HobbyKing) has proved to be very useful in combat robotics over the last couple of years as they provide a cheaper alternative to the Spektrum receivers required by the popular DX6e and DX6i transmitters.

BUILD REPORT: Mini Bot Hockey Bots — Part 2
March 2013
In Part 1 of this series, I covered the design of a new mini bot.

Building a Large Scrolling Display
February 2013
Ioften attend shows where I’m either demonstrating combat robots and bot hockey, or as a sponsor providing prizes of Kitbots products. In order to inform the public about the event or the products, I have several banners to hang up on the walls, plus I also hand out business cards and information sheets when I have the time. It would be useful, however, to have a more eye-catching and informative way of passing on the information.

BUILD REPORT: Mini Bot Hockey Bots — Part 1
February 2013
Playing bot hockey is great fun, and it’s a big hit with the crowds at events. I have my own full team of 15 lb class bots.

BUILD REPORT: Finding a Happy Balance
December 2012
Today's Beetles and Ants have drums and beater bars that can spin in excess of 20,000 rpm.

BUILD REPORT: Siafu: An Army of Ants — Part 4
September 2012
In this final part of my Army of Ants series, I will describe how I made the drum for Siafu and completed the rest of the bot build.

BUILD REPORT: Siafu: An Army of Ants — Part 3
August 2012
In this part, I will show how the parts were manufactured, provide a list of the other parts used, and how they went together to make a drivable chassis.

BUILD REPORT: Siafu: an Army of Ants — Part 2
July 2012
In Part 2, I will detail the design of the drive motor mounts, the hubs and wheels, the drum and its mountings, and the design of the front wedge profile.

BUILD REPORT: Horses for Courses
July 2012
Combat robotics is — in many ways — a game of Rock-Paper- Scissors. If everything else is equal, a brick will beat a spinner; a flipper will beat a brick; and a spinner will beat a flipper.

EVENT REPORT: Happy 10th Birthday for Motorama – Motorama 2012
June 2012
This February 17th–19th, the Northeast Robotics Club ([url=][/url]) hosted the 10th annual combat event at the Motorama Motorsports Extravaganza and Custom Car Show in Harrisburg, PA.

BUILD REPORT: Siafu and the Army of Ants — Part 1
June 2012
I decided my first serious Ant would be a drum bot.

Product Review: Spektrum DX5e 2.4 GHz Transmitter
May 2012
The 2.4 GHz spread spectrum transmitters and receivers have transformed the R/C market.

PARTS IS PARTS: Product Review
May 2012
Product Review: Turnigy Simplex 1 - 4 Cell LiPo/ LiFe AC/DC Charger.

EVENT REPORT: “Beware the Hobby that Eats” (Benjamin Franklin): Franklin Institute 2011
February 2012
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA ( was host to the Northeast Robotics Club’s ([url=][/url]) 5th Autumn Event last year on October 15th.

December 2011
For about a decade or more, it has been possible to get cheap cordless drills from Harbor Freight ([url=][/url]).

PARTS IS PARTS: Fine-Tuning a Brushless Electronic Speed Controller
November 2011
My 12 lb Hobbyweight bar spinner Surgical Strike had a problem at the last couple of events...

EVENT REPORT: Clash of the Bots 2 by Pete Smith
October 2011
The Schiele Museum ([url=][/url]) in Gastonia, NC held their second “Clash of the Bots” open day on Saturday, July 23rd.

End Of The Alkalines
October 2011
Iwrote an article about programming cheap 2.4 GHz HK-T6A transmitters that appeared in the January’11 issue of SERVO. In that, I commented on how it’s probably a good idea to convert from the standard AA alkaline batteries to rechargeable batteries.

BUILD REPORT: A Team Building Exercise
October 2011
My Kitbots bot hockey team “Team Scotch Pies” had competed in one event and taken part in a couple of demonstrations, but the bots were retasked for a summer camp and were less than ideal.

BUILD REPORT: Trilobite — a Tough Beetleweight Brick/Wedge
October 2011
Ihave long held the opinion that a good wedge/brick is the best type of bot for most beginners in the sport.

BUILD REPORT: Building a Better Beatle Beater Bar — Part 2
August 2011
This month, I will show how to create the axle, drive pulley, and flanges.

EVENT REPORT: Robot Rumble
July 2011
The Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC held its fourth annual “Robot Rumble” on Saturday April 16, 2011.

BUILD REPORT: Building a Better Beatle Beater Bar – Part 1
July 2011
A higher rotational speed gives a bigger hit but it also reduces the bite.

The Reality of TV
June 2011
An Opinion Piece by Pete Smith

EVENT REPORT: Motorama 2011
May 2011
Each February, the Northeast Robotics Club ([url=][/url]) hosts their biggest competition of the year as part of the Motorama motorsports extravaganza and custom car show ([url=][/url]) in Harrisburg, PA.

Affordable 2.4 GHz
January 2011
The principal radio frequency for many years in USA combat robotics was 75 MHz PCM.

EVENT REPORT: Franklin Institute 2010 – Rise of the Melty Brains!
December 2010
The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia and NERC ([url=][/url]) presented their fourth annual robot event on Saturday, October 9, ‘10.

EVENT REPORT: Clash of the Bots — Schiele Museum 2010
November 2010
Walk in the front door of the Schiele Museum ([url=][/url]) in Gastonia, NC and the first thing you see is a full size replica of the skeleton of a T-Rex!

PARTS IS PARTS: O-Ring Wheels for Ants
October 2010
Antweight (<1lb) combat robots use a variety of different drive motors and finding small, light, and robust wheels for them can be a problem.

BUILD REPORT: Bigger Better Beetle Blade
August 2010
The first blade I had created for our 3 lb beetleweight, Pure Dead Brilliant, had been done in a big hurry to meet weight for its first competition.

EVENT REPORT: Power Play! Robot Rumble 2010
July 2010
The Museum of Life and Science, in Durham, NC, hosts this one day event each spring. Last year, three local teams got together to put on a “show and tell” about combat robotics as part of the museum’s much bigger robotthemed event.

PARTS IS PARTS: Data Points: Fine-Tune Your Bot’s Performance
June 2010
Knowing exactly how well your bot performs in a particular configuration would be very useful ... like, exactly how fast is the blade turning? What current is the weapon motor drawing at start-up and at cruise? How much does the battery voltage sag at full power?

BUILD REPORT: Reversing the Trend
May 2010
I recently completed our first drum bot — Weta, God of Ugly Things. And while it is a pretty conventional design, it does have one feature rarely seen in bots of this type: The drum is reversible, so it can spin in either direction.

How to Prepare For - and Maybe Even Win - a Robot Competition
May 2010
Get some insights and helpful tips from a veteran of robot combat.

Pattern Routing of Plastic Parts
March 2010
The easy way to do these parts is to have them watercut by a company like Team Whyachi ([url=][/url]), but if you need parts quickly and your time is cheap, then with a little careful design you can route the same parts using just a router and a pattern.

No Gain Without Pain - Franklin Institute 2009
January 2010
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA ( holds their “World Space Week” each autumn and hosted the Northeast Robotics Club’s (www big autumn competition on Saturday, October 3rd.

Increasing The Speed And Power Of A Combat Robot
November 2009
I wrote an article for the November ‘06 issue of SERVO describing how to convert a cheap cordless drill into a drive motor for a smaller robot.

Wheels For Drills
September 2009
Iwrote an article for the November ‘06 issue of SERVO that outlined how to convert the motors and gearboxes from cheap cordless drills for use as the drivetrain in smaller combat robots.

Mounting Weapons: Blades and Pullys
August 2009
Alot of builders dream of creating a bot with an active weapon but are put off by the apparent complexity. How do you attach a blade to the axle?

A Color To Dye For
July 2009
UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight) polyethylene is an increasingly popular plastic for use in robotics in general, and combat robotics in particular.

Ask Mr. Roboto | March 2008
Column: Ask Mr. Roboto
March 2008
Your Problems Solved Here.

The Appliance of Science | The First Annual Franklin Institue Event
April 2008
The Northeast Robotics Club ([url=][/url]) has held a very successful event every February in Harrisburg, PA and this year, they partnered with the Franklin Institute Science Museum ( to add a second major event. The Institute is a modern, hands-on type of museum situated in the center of Philadelphia. It houses many large exhibits in a bright modern building which also includes an IMAX cinema. It is, in many ways, an ideal venue for a robotic combat event with a regular audience ...

Judgement Day
Column: Appetizer
September 2008
I have competed in many robotic combat events and taught classes about the basics of that part of the hobby, but I have never judged any sort of competition. It was with a little trepidation then that I accepted a request to be a judge at a FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Regional Championship held at the NC A & T State University in Greensboro, NC...