Remote War Bots

Introduction

I'm a big fan of the classic Robot Wars as seen on PBS. For the last few months I've watched "Battle Bots" on Comedy Central. I have to tell you, I'm seriously depressed. Not only is Battle Bots atrocious, it acts like it's not. For the last couple months I've been thinking about an idea for a similar concept on a grander scale. I can my game Remote War Bots (RWB).

Location

RWB will be played in a remote area of the Nevada or New Mexico Desert (the final location has not yet been chosen). The RWB compound will consist of a piece of land two miles square (four square miles total area). The actual playing space will depend on the class of the robots participating. The playing space will range from 100 feet sqaure to the full 4 miles square.

Weight Classes

RWB will consist of five classes of bots:

Micro Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 1kg Mini Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 20kg Small Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 100kg Medium Class Max Empty Gross Weight: 1000kg Super Class Max Empty Gross Weight: None The Largest Empty Gross Weight specified for each class is the most that a bot may weight without power source or weapons attatched. In each class weapons may be any size and mass, but must be launched from a vehicle. Note that a launching platform is considered a building, and thus weapons may be launched from a platform but the platform's empty weight must be at or below the Max Empty Gross Weight. Terrain

The terrain on the playing field will consist of sand, gravel, rock, asphalt, water, mud and other various substances. The player should not assume a consistency in terrain from battle to battle. The playing area will always have a small river running down the middle of the playing area. The river will be at least 10 feet wide and at least 5 feet deep at its deepest point.

Bots

In RWB all bots are allowed and encouraged. Any type of transportation is allowed, provided it conforms to FAA regulations (if traveling above 3000' AGL). Every bot must be able to be controlled remotely.

Control

All operators will be housed in a control bunker. Repeaters will be allowed and stations will be set up to place your tower outside the playing area. If your tower must reside within the playing area, it is fair game for desctruction. Repeater towers positioned outside the playing area are not allowed to be destroyed by the enemy purposefully. The judges will determine what is purposeful destruction and what is not. Should a repeater tower be destroyed outside the playing area and the incident be ruled an accident, the play will be suspended until the player can repair or replace his tower. If he cannot do so within 1 hour, the bots will be removed from the playing area and the area will be prepared for the next teams. Play will resume once the tower has been replaced. If the player cannot replace his tower, he must resign and his opponent will be ruled the victor. Power will be provided for control apparati (100 Amps). Repeater towers are limited to 500 watts power output. Direction broadcasting exceptions may be made if the player can demonstrate to judges convincingly that the broadcast truely is directional and the broadcast hardware must be adjusted so as not to cause interference to nearby radio operations (i.e. Government, Aircraft). Other modes of communication are allowed (and encouraged!). However, all communications gear must be inspected by judges to ensure it will not be used as an offensive weapon by the player. The control bunker will be located at a different location depending on the class. Visuals will be provided to the contoller via overhead derigible, long range cameras mounted on surrounding hills, and tower cams mounted around the perimeter of the playing field. The controller is strongly encouraged to provide himself with robots that broadcast their location so that he may have a more accurate understanding of the location of his bots. Within the control bunker the players will not be allowed to see one another or one another's equipment.

Weapons

The advantage of RWB over other bot war games is the lax restrictions on weapons. The only restrictions on weapons are:

No nuclear weapons (due to the US's agreement to adhere to a test ban treaty). The yield of a warhead cannot be so large that it could likely cause injury to the controllers. Rest assured that the controllers will be far enough away that should you be able to injure them your bots will have to be destroyed in the process. No organism (biological) weapons Toxic Chemicals must not be radioactive. Large spread chemical weapons (i.e. "crop dusting" your opponent with hydrochloric acid) will be allowed at the judges discretion. Although we admire your creativity, we can't keep moving to a new site after every battle, and most bots don't do well driving on a sea of acid. =) Unique forms of weapons are allowed and encouraged.

Gameplay

Gameplay will begin with each player positioning his bots at the designated starting locations on his side of the playing area. Play will commence at the judges signal. Play will continue until the first of the following is reached:

A 1 hour time limit, after which a 10 minute sudden death round will occur. Complete Immobilization of the enemies bots. Should the one hour time limit be reached, a sudden death round of 10 minutes will be played during which the boundries of the playing area will be reduced to the next smallest weight class (in the case of the micro class play will finish on one side of the river). Complete immobilization occurs only when a bot is incapable of operating in an upright position. Turning a bot upside down does not count as killing it. It must not be able to operate in any significant way when uprighted. Should all the enemies bots be turned upside down the player will have a five minute period during which he may attempt to immobilize the bots. Shoudld he fail to immobilize his enemies bots, each player may right his upside down bots and play will continue. Should the time limit be reached or each side expire it's weapons, a judge's decision will be made as to the winner. Winner's will be judged on a 100 point system. 5 judges will destribute 20 points to both players. 5 each in the areas of strategy, grace, aggressivness, and intelligent control. The winner will move on up the bracket, the loser down. A final winner will be found in each category, and the prize awarded (a prize has not yet been chosen, but suggestions have been money, a hummer, a ballistic missile, and a jet).

Kudos to NASA! Today the first human spacecraft to ever touch down on an asteriod did so successfully. This and the attatchment of the new Destiny space module are major milestones. One step closer to Mars, I hope. And of course the Napster saga continues.

More Than a Left Brain

If you want to know the definition of "Left-brained" you would need only to examine my life. My habits, my actions, and my mannerisms all point to my powerful left-brainededness (Dave would be proud of me for making up a new word).

If you don't know what I mean basically my personality has thus far been (accurately) characterized as one of a perfectionist, an analyzer, anti-emotion, impersonal (at least to some degree), and mathematical. You might compare a left-brained person with a right-brained person using the analogy of shapes. A left-brained person would be a square, while a right-brained person would be a circle. Everything in my life is usually black or white, right or wrong. There is not much room for grey.

More recently I've begun to hang around people who are more right-brained than I. It turns out this is a very good thing. I believe that God has really shown me how both right and left brain, black and white and grey, intellect and emotion can and do work together to make this world what it is.

I've seen the world become a much more vibrant a bright place to live. My general outlook is more positive, and I see beauty in things I didn't before. The example I can best use is probably that of music. I've come to see just how music takes the precise detail of a note and combines it with others in a creative, (usually) emotional way to create a beautiful melody, peaceful harmony, and moving performance. There really is more out there than I was seeing.

Certainly I'm not going to base major decisions in my life on emotion. I will still be a black and white guy for the most part. I still see the details in everything. I usually miss the larger picture because I'm stuck on the details. I don't usually just appreciate that something is, I want to know how it works. But I will try to look beyond the details to the grander view. To step back and look at the forest. I think that I will appreciate life more because of it.

Next time you're trying to figure out how to make your microwave into a local-area wireless network hub, take some time and check out a sunset. And if you usually catch that sunset, spend some time at the library and find out why the sunset looks so beautiful. You'll be a better person because of it.

Skydiving

I must admit I was having serious cold feet when we pulled up to the place. It was in the middle of the hot desert; an old beat-up hangar and a strip of asphalt fit only for ultralights and flying tin cans. Painted desert brown the outside of the building looked like it hadn't been touched in years. I've come to think that might be exactly right.

After finding a bathroom to let off the nerves I built up over the 60 minute drive I returned to find a man talking with the rest of our crew. One of the planes had a transponder problem and it had been being fixed that morning, so the crew and plane had to make a 15 minute flight from across the city. So we waited.

I think at this point it's important that I mention how stinking hot it is in the desert in August. I'd also like to point out that swamp coolers do not work well when the humidity is even slightly high. Today it was a little more than slightly high. So we waited - and cooked while we did.

As we waited the manager invited us to sign over our lives to him and his crew, which we did (to his surprise) after reading all that we were signing over. I've signed my life over before, but wow was this a great waiver. Basically I signed on the line indicating that I knew that I was likely to die and agreed that I really did want to die and that no one else was making me die. What a great sport.

When the crew showed up we went through the procedures. This consisted of practicing our position in the plane, our position in the air, and our position when landing. After a very short time (much shorter than I anticipated) our jump-master, Dwight, said, "Alright, who's up?" Reacting to peer pressure and ego, I raised my hand and suited up. A typically uncomfortable harness was fitted to me, I was handed goggles, and we headed for our tin can.

I was pretty sure the old Skylane wouldn't even make it off the ground, but God works miracles every day and we made it up to jump altitude after 20 minutes of diligent praying and looking through the hole in door.

Once at jump height I got into position and my harness was made significantly more uncomfortable (thankfully). The instructor clipped me to him, opened the door and told me to get into position. I reached my right foot out and placed it onto the wheel spar, slid my left knee over toward the door and leaned out onto my right knee. Jump-master Dwight began to count.

1...

2...

3...

I jumped out of a plane 2 miles above the surface of the earth.

Free-falling is nothing like I thought it would be. I was thinking it would be 45 seconds of missing stomach. Instead, it's 45 seconds of unparalleled escapism. It's just you and the clouds for 45 seconds. Then he pulled the cord.

I severely underestimated the glide step of skydiving. I thought all the fun was free-fall. I was wrong. Gliding with the birds was incredible. No engine, no steering wheel, no glass. Just me and the birds and the clouds and the sound of a small breeze as we slipped smoothly through the clear blue sky.

After five or so minutes my nature trip ended and I stepped back onto the ground, reuniting myself with the crew.

This is an experience I will never forget and hope to be able to relive someday.

I saw a great shirt today. It said "If being in a plane is flying, then being in a boat is swimming. Get out of the plane."

Academic Freedom

"That's Academic Freedom."

When I was in elementary school, junior high, and high school I was under a false assumption. I believed that I was in school to learn. I believed that in school I was to learn about math, English, history, public speaking, and the like. I believed that by learning these things, I would be a better person; that I would be a learned person. I also believed that my teachers were there to teach me. I was under the impression that I my teachers, being wiser and more learned that I, would impart to me their great wisdom and I would be better because of it. Now, obviously this is an idealistic exaggeration of what I really thought. I had bad teachers. I was in classes where just getting through the class without muttering, "I hate this," to myself was a good day. But whatever my belief of what school was supposed to be about was, it was shattered this week when I learned about a new concept - Academic Freedom.

"Academic Freedom." Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Maybe it conjures up images of education being available to all. Or perhaps you see yourself being able to choose whatever classes you want. Or maybe you know what "Academic Freedom" really is, and you don't have such bogus ideas racing through your head. I was certainly disillusioned this week when I finally learned the definition to this term.

Academic Freedom refers not to a student's freedom, but rather the instructor's. This freedom gives the instructor the freedom to teach with whatever methods they choose, to structure the class the way they choose, etc. I also found out this week that it allows instructors to screw their students over however they choose.

This last semester I was enrolled in 3 classes. In one of my classes we received a packet that contained seven sheets of paper with 22 questions on each page, with the difficulty of the questions increasing in magnitude as they moved down the page. Each page covered one chapter out of the book. These questions were used to review for the chapter tests. If one understood the material on the sheet, he/she would likely do fine on the test.

All of this was fine until we took our final oral exam. In this exam we were asked questions orally, and we answered the questions orally. This was fine. I did not even fear the exam until I discovered how the material to be tested was to be chosen.

As each student approached the table in front of the instructor, he or she would choose a note card from a stack of 44 that were laid face down on the table. On this note card was a number from 1 to 20 (I believe. I did not see any other numbers, however I have no reason to doubt that they ranged from 1 to 20). This number on the note card was used to determine which questions the student was asked. And where did these questions come from? You guessed it, our seven-page packet. Each number corresponded to a question on the sheets. If a student chose the number 6 (through the random selection of a card), he or she would receive question 6 from chapters 1 through 7, as well as questions 8, 9, and 10 from chapter 7, to total 10 questions.

Thus each student was unfairly given a final whose difficulty varied greatly from other students. The students who received 1 scored better than those who chose 19 (such as myself) scored rather poorly (to say the least). Note: In my efforts to prove my point to the administration, they would not grant me my request of knowing how others scored, even anonymously.

Being rather disturbed by these events I went through the channels presenting my story, informing the suits of the college that I was treated unfairly. My instructor predictably defended himself and his actions. Then I went to a dean. After overcoming the initial intimidation that I felt in the presence of the dean, I shared with him my story. He tended to agree with me - he seemed to agree that I had a point. But then I heard words that previously I had not known.

"I can't really do anything. I can see your point, but he has academic freedom. As long as the material you are tested on was taught during the course, you can be tested however the instructor chooses." He went on to say, "Even material that you are not taught, but are told to know. For instance, if your history teacher said, 'you have to know the last three chapters' but did not go over them in the book. Those would still be fair game. The instructor can test his/her students however he/she chooses."

At this point the blood drained from body. Then I soaked it back up by means of diffusion just in time for it to boil as my body temperature rose to well over 300 degrees.

I was (and still am) appalled! An instructor can screw over his or her students, causing them to have to retake a class (which is what I have to do because I can't afford that C on my transcript for scholarship reasons) all because he/she has academic freedom! So here I am out $120 for the class and another $50 or so for the books. Not only this, but all future employers will have the ability to see that I received a C in this course.

These are all annoyances, but nothing bothers me more than the fact that inept teachers can waste a student's entire semester and hide safely under the blanket of "Academic Freedom."

I used to believe that academia was about learning, about students being taught. I was wrong. Academia is about making your salary while doing the least amount of work possible. Academia is not about students; it is about money, fame, and power.

As disheartening as this experience was, I would like to extend my utmost gratitude to all teachers who teach because they believe that students attend class to learn. Thank you all for teaching. Without you I would have no hope whatsoever. To all of you please keep teaching. Keep preparing those lessons and trying to cram that wisdom of yours into our heads. We may complain about our exams, but deep down, we really do want to learn.

Note: I retook the class from another instructor the following semester and received and 'A.'