Saturday, 17 November 2012

Robot Wars

Not many people know that in 2002 I was in a Robot Wars Team.  We built two robots, RuffStuff, which has a totally ineffective circular saw and TuffStuff which had a flipper.
It was a strategic decision they we would enter the feather weight category for several reasons
  • They are easier to build (my welding was really pants back then)
  • They are cheaper to build
  • 'Er indoors wouldn't let me keep a heavy weight robot at home
  • There was far less competition so a better chance of getting on the TV!


In the first year we built RuffStuff from plywood, aluminum strip and two electric drill motors. It went like stink but didn't have much grunt, however it was large and flat so I never met another feather wight that could flip it, which would not have been a problem because it ran upside down too!
In 2002 I decided to add the circular saw which took it up to Lightweight class, which was handy because only one other person entered that category so we were automatically guaranteed a place on the TV, unfortunately the other guy pulled out as all of his other robots had been trashed the previous day so he decided to go home. Mentorn tried to contact us but we had already left and didn't get the call until we arrived at the studio. The production staff were extremely nice, we were given VIP access to the pits, had a chance to go and meet all the main roboteers and presenters. Even though it was a long day, it was still  a great day out and we were pleased to have been a small part of it.

RuffStuff - Middle right, with go faster stripes. TuffStuff top left.
Your truly in the grand final. Andrew was in that too, so I have no idea who was taking this photo!


The following year we went to enter TuffStuff in Rex's Robot Challenge, a competition that tied up with "Real Robots Magazine. It was really for kids and my son, Andrew,  who was 14 at the time did most of the work, but he only came second in the heat to a robot that was supposedly built by a 10 year old. All I can say that it was damn good welding and soldering for somebody so young, who couldn't tell us what a sped controller was.!
Andrew changing the batteries on TuffSTuff during a practice session.
Andrew taking TuffStuff through the obstacle course at Microbots 2002. It was a clear round.

The House Robots. We never faced them but at our weight we would have been massacred.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Make: Calling All Covert Operators – Build a Bug with Weekend Projects

Another genius project form the folks over at Make:. This time its a covert listening device hidden in a book. I ma not sure that this is legal in this country, it might be but you might want to check that it is OK to transmit on that frequency in the UK.
The other thing to bear in mind is that if I caught somebody putting one of those near me I might not be too happy. However as an educational tool it might be fun.
For full project details go to

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mr Rainsbury's Physics Experiment

For this demonstration a small gas cylinder was suspended under a wire which was stretched across the lab.
The piece of wood I was holding in my left hand had a nail sticking out, behind the cylinder. When I hit the cylinder with the hammer it would make a hole allowing the gas to escape rapidly, sending it shooting across the room at around 20meters per second.
With a little bit of maths you can use this to illustrate Newton's second law of motion, F=ma, and explain how rockets work.
It looks as if I hurt myself, but like many things this was a bit of theater to make it more memorable for the students.
It was shot by a student during a year 10 class during my first ever term as a teacher, I didn't know at this point that it was almost a capital crime. I can't publish his name, but he went to study A-Level physics with me a few years later and got quite a good grade :-)