Rules of Competition

Updated 1/26/01



1.   Introduction


TLC's Robot Challenge is a four-event competition, featuring 24 Robots plus the design teams that build and operate them.


To follow are the rules, regulations, and restrictions necessary to ensure a safe and entertaining competition.  Robot builders are urged to be as creative as possible, within the framework of this document.  The show’s producers will consider design features not approved in the framework of this document on a case by case basis.  Alternative features requested by participants may be allowed if they are deemed safe and in keeping with the spirit of the competition. Any changes in the approved specifications must be approved in writing and will be made available to all participants in the competition.



2.   Competition Format


2.1         Advancement

All 24 competitors will compete in one of twelve preliminary matches.  Each preliminary match will consist of three events.  Preliminary match winners will move on to a semi-final match. Each semi-final match will consist of one event.  The six competitors who win a final match will advance to the Championship Finals.


2.2         Event Types

There are three events to each preliminary match.

1       The Maze - Robots must navigate to the center of a maze.  Along the way, they will face a number of obstacles intended to impede their progress.  These will include obstacles such as flamethrowers, flip ramps, pile drivers, turntables and waterfalls (obstacles subject to change with proper warning given to competitors).

2      Speed Demons - Robots race around a figure eight shaped track in an effort to be the first to complete a designated number of laps.  Robots will travel in opposite directions.  As competitors cross paths, they are allowed to knock each other off the track.


3      The Gauntlet – Robots will run on identical, parallel courses.  They will pass underneath 4-5 archways and be required to destroy increasingly difficult obstructions.


After three events, one Robot will advance to the semi-final round, which consists of one event.


4      Fight to the Finish - Robots will meet in an elevated arena.  Surrounding the arena will be a moat, which is filled with flames, spikes and a massive "crushing device." (objects subject to change)  The object of this round is to disable your opponent and push him into the pit.  At the start of this round, the arena will be surrounded on all sides by walls or guardrails.  As the contest progresses, the walls will be lowered, exposing both Robots to the danger of falling off the edge of the platform.  Additionally, there will be a 50-pound pendulum randomly swinging across the arena.


2.3         Scoring of Matches & Declaration of Winner

Rules of the individual challenges are subject to revision at any time prior to the start of competition in order to preserve the “spirit” in which the challenge was conceived (agility, speed, strength, power/fighting ability).

1.    The Maze - The winner is determined by whichever Robot reaches the center of the maze first.  Points will be awarded for each obstacle successfully navigated and a bonus will be awarded to the Robot that reaches the center of the maze first. If a Robot is immobilized, he/she forfeits 10 points from its total score. Should both Robots become immobilized, the game will be temporarily stopped and Robots will be allowed a brief repair period. When the game continues, Robots will be placed at the point immediately adjacent to the last obstacle that each Robot successfully navigated, and on a signal from the referee, the contest will continue. Should both Robots be unable to complete the course, the Producer’s have the option of awarding a reduced winning point bonus to the Robot that has completed a greater portion of the event.

2.    Speed Demons - The first Robot to complete a designated number of laps wins the event.  If a Robot drives off the track it will receive a point deduction.  Each lap successfully completed earns points. The winner is awarded bonus points.  As with "The Maze,” should both Robots be unable to complete the course, the Producer’s have the option of awarding a reduced winning point bonus to the Robot that has completed a greater portion of the event.


3.    The Gauntlet - Each archway will contain increasingly difficult obstructions to destroy and pass.  Each obstacle with be worth increasingly higher points for successful destruction.  The Robot that accumulates the most points wins and is awarded bonus points.  This round will have a time limit.


The Robots with the most points at the end of all three events moves on to the semi-final match.


4.   The Fight to the Finish - There is no scoring for this match.  The last machine left in the arena wins the event and moves on to the Championship Finals. Total scores from the qualifying rounds will be used to seed the six finalists in the Championship Finals.


2.4 Event Frequency and Eligibility to Compete

All participants must compete in a qualifying round in order to advance to the preliminary round of competition. Each preliminary round is made up of three events.  The winner of the preliminary round will compete in a semifinal match the same day as his/her qualifying round.


1      Preliminary Round - After each event, operators and their teams will have thirty minutes to make whatever repairs are necessary to their Robot.  If a Robot is not mobile (able to start its motor and move in at least two directions), then the operator may take another 30 minute repair period, but will forfeit ten points.  Operators can continue to take additional 30-minute repair periods at a forfeiture of 10 points until their Robot is operational. If they opt not to take the extra time, their machine is placed in the Robot impound until the competition resumes.  Should both machines be immobile after the initial 30-minute repair period and both require additional time, no point penalty will be assessed.  Participants may also use this repair period to make modifications to their Robot in preparation for the next event.  Modifications must be approved by the Producers in advance.


2      Semi-Final Match - Participants advancing to the semi-final round will have 90 minutes to make repairs and modifications to their Robot.  Show's producers and experts will have the right, at their own discretion, to afford more repair time to ensure an even and semi-final match. 


The show’s producers and experts determine all decisions regarding eligibility, and their decisions are final.


2.5  Competition Arena Specifics   ***SUBJECT TO CHANGE***

The general arena will be approximately 50 feet wide and 50 feet long.  However, each event will be configured differently.  Any hazards (pile driver, flip ramp, etc) will be set at regular intervals so as to be negotiated.

1      Maze - Channels within the maze will be six feet wide.  Openings in the maze walls will also be six feet wide.  Other Hazard specifics: The see-saw ramp will be 4’Wx12’L and 18”H at its pivot.  The push box will weigh approx. 20lbs.  The “flywheels” will have a contact surface of 4’x4’ centered in the 6’ aisle.  Speed bumps are 1.5”H, 12”W, and spaced 2’ apart.  The waterfall is a continuous “sheet” of water, flow rate TBD.  The surface is OSB board, rough side up.

2      Speed Demons - The track will be approx. ten feet wide.  At its widest point, the figure eight will be thirty feet wide.  The course will be fifty feet long, with a cross over in the exact center of the arena.  Guard rails will bracket the lanes on the curved portions of the track.  The surface is concrete.

3      The Gauntlet – Two identical, parallel courses will be approx. 50’ long, and containing 4-5 increasingly difficult obstacles. The surface is concrete.

4      Fight to the Finish- Arena will have a diameter of 16 feet.  The center of the arena will be a 4’ diameter steel grate from which will spew intermittent pyro/flames.  Surrounding pit will be five feet wide.  The arena will be elevated 8 feet off the ground.  The surface is flat steel covered with traction paint.


2.6 Decisions of Show's Producers, Experts, and Match Referees

The decision of show producers, experts and match referees regarding scoring, eligibility and declaration of winners are final.  Producers reserve the right to make changes in the event rules and competition specifications at its own discretion.


Participants acknowledge that the Producers are not responsible for costs incurred in the construction of Robots nor are the Producers responsible for costs associated with any damage incurred as a result of their participation in this event.





3.   Robot Specifications


3.1         Size and Weight Restrictions

In order to be eligible, Robots must be able to fit within the physical confines of the challenges.  As such, no Robot can be wider than four feet, taller than four feet, or longer than four feet.  Appendages that extend mechanically up to a foot beyond the maximum in any direction may be incorporated into the robot’s design.  Robots shall weigh no more than 210 lbs.  However, builders are urged to carefully examine the specific dimensions of the arena to make sure their Robots will be able to maneuver.


3.2         Power Sources and Drive Systems

All Robots entered into the TLC Robot Challenge must be battery operated.  No gasoline-powered engines of any kind will be accepted.


All batteries must be shielded to minimize the chance of spills or leaks.  Shielding for car batteries, sealed lead-acid batteries, and similar batteries must be pre-approved.  “Gel cell” shielding does not require pre-approval.


The primary concern of Show's Producers is to ensure that Robots are safe.  To that end, Show's Producers reserve the right to disallow any power source they, and/or their experts deem to be unsafe.  Should this occur, Show's Producers will provide operators with fair notice of such a decision.


3.3         Weapons

All weapons located on a Robot must be cleared in advance with Show's Producers.  This includes, but is not limited to, any and all hydraulic systems, projectiles of any kind, flamethrowers, buzz saws, hammers and entanglement devices.  While no particular weapon is expressly forbidden, Show's Producers, in the interest of safety, reserve the right to limit the use and design of weapons.


Show's producers will work with builders and operators to ensure that certain safety levels are maintained, while allowing builders maximum creativity.


3.3.1   Pneumatic systems

·      Tank pressure maximum is 2000 PSI.

·      Gas expelled into the atmosphere for any reason cannot exceed 100 PSI (excluding gas expelled due to retraction of a gas-powered cylinder).

·      Operating pressure may not exceed the maximum rated pressure of the lowest-rated component in the system.

·      Under no circumstances may any component be operated beyond its maximum rated pressure (tank, hoses, cylinders, etc.).

·      Nitrogen or CO2 systems may be used, provided above rules are adhered to.


Please see item (6) for current list of specific examples of approved and disallowed weaponry.


3.4    Other Restrictions

All pressurized tanks must be shielded against damage by a minimum of 3/8” of aluminum or equivalent on all sides.


Contestants must operate their robot via radio-control from the designated area, i.e. “riding robots” will not be allowed.


Robots may not carry any device capable of operating autonomously or by radio control when physically separated from the robot, or attached by a tether.


Robots must not destroy any elements of the competition arena, i.e. “blasting” holes through the walls of the maze.  Any substances placed on the arena floor must be pre-approved and easy to clean.  Any deliberate destruction of sets will result in immediate disqualification.  Decision of Show’s Producers and Experts on these matters is final, no exceptions.



4.   Pit Area


4.1         Personnel

Operators must approve all pit crew personal with Show Producers.  All pit crew personal must be willing to appear on camera and must sign on camera release forms.


At a future date, Show Producers reserve the right to make a determination limiting the number of pit crew members per team.




4.2         Allowable Materials

Operators may bring as many spare parts as they wish.  However, it is strictly forbidden to bring a replacement Robot to swap out during the competition.  Pre-assembled, replacement parts must first be cleared with Show's Producers.


Show's Producers, and their experts, reserve the right to disallow any materials they deem unsafe from the pit area.


4.3         Testing Area

Show's Producers will provide teams with a testing area, which may be used, at the operator's discretion, between rounds.


4.4         Impound Area

Robots will be sent to an impound area under the following scenarios.

1. After a Robot and operator has exhausted their 30 minute repair period, should show producers not be ready to begin the next event, Robots will be placed in impound until such time producers are ready to continue.

2. At the conclusion of each day's competition, Robots will be placed in impound overnight.

3. During any day of the competition in which an operator's machine is not competing.

4. When placed in impound, operators can have no access to their machines.  Impound area will be guarded against tampering 24 hours a day.


4.5         Master Power Switch

All machines are required to have a remote-controlled master power switch, which can be used to power down all drive systems, weapons and parts on the Robot.  Robot must be deemed "safe" by Show's Producers and Experts in power down mode.



5.   Contestant Selection Process


The TLC Robot Challenge is both a robotics competition and a television show.  Thus, the 24 contestants selected to participate will based several different criteria.


5.1         Ability to Construct a Viable Robot

Contestants must be able to demonstrate an ability to construct and operate a Robot capable of competing in the various challenges.  Factors to be considered will include, but are not limited to, training in mechanical engineering, past experience in robot combat competitions, previously constructed robots and financial means.


5.2         Willingness to Appear on Camera

Contestants must be comfortable appearing on camera.  This is far more difficult than it might seem.  Using their expertise in such matters, Show Producers will pre-interview all potential contestants to determine those most suitable for the program.


5.3         Casting Considerations

In an effort to make the most interesting and entertaining television program possible, Show Producers will attempt to find contestants with personal stories that coincide with the themes of the show.  Thus, Show Producers might give extra consideration to contestants with dynamic, unusual or otherwise entertaining story lines.


5.4         Scheduling Conflicts

Contestants must be able to attend championships in Los Angeles, California on the pre-determined date of their particular event.  Contestants must also be traveled to Los Angeles at a reasonable cost.  Show Producers will make best efforts not to allow scheduling and financial considerations stand in the way of selecting contestants, but reserve the right to make such a determination if they deem it necessary.


5.5         Decisions of the Show Producers

Decisions of the Show Producers concerning casting and selection of contestants are final.  Show Producers will make every available effort to give potential contestants not selected for this competition first consideration for future competitions.














6      Specific Examples of Approved/Disallowed Weapons


6.1         Approved

·      Magnets

·      WD-40 powered flame thrower*

·      Pneumatic lifting/flipping shovel

·      10” pneumatic-powered spike

·      8.25” carbide tipped steel-cutting circular saw blade

·      Tethered grappling hook on a winch

·      Hydraulic crushing jaw

·      CO2 powered pnuematic system (150 psi) with a hammer/pick/saw on an arm

·      Propane flame thrower (1/4” or larger output nozzle)*

·      Oil slick (limited – 1 fluid ounce)

·      8-10 8” saw blades mounted vertically across the front of the robot

·      36” horizontally rotating steel blade

·      Air cannon containing a net (Only two net shots allowed per round)

·      “spinning mass” weapons


6.2         Disallowed

·      Liquid fuel (non-propane) flame throwers

·      Road flares/uncontrolled flame

·      Electric shockers

·      Devices that interfere with other competitor’s radio control

·      Gel type driven fire spouts

·      Dropping metal filings

·      Gunpowder

·      Spraying corrosive substances




* All fuel tanks for flame throwers must be shielded on all sides by a minimum of 3/8” aluminum or equivalent.