Aish employee Tim Rackley has an unusual hobby, but one that has seen him travel the world and become something of a cult figure. Tim builds robots in his spare time, and has now competed in several versions of the hit TV series Robot Wars, with various robots he has been involved in.
Tim’s day job is as a QCT team leader at Aish, where he oversees quality control for both mechanical and electrical engineering projects. In 2016 he was in the audience for an episode of Robot Wars and having been a fan for many years, suddenly realised he had the knowledge and the opportunity to actually get more involved. Having persuaded 3 of his friends to come on board, he subsequently set up his first team – Dorset Roboteering Team – and they began to construct their first robot called Concussion.
“We set up operations in one of the team members’ garage” Tim recalls “Between us we had mechanical, electrical and software engineering skills; basically all the pre-requisites you need to build a robot. You have to apply to Robot Wars, and satisfy a number of criteria including power, weight and battery capacity. The process begins with a CAD design, then we build a prototype and finally the real thing, refining the design throughout. We have used local companies to date for cutting material but I’m hoping Aish may be able to help us in the future.”
Clearly the process to date has been a success as teams led by Tim have been finalists in two seasons of Robot Wars, not to mention coming 3rd in the Chinese version called ClashBots and also finishing in the top 8 of the US version called Battlebots. And in the 2018 season of Battlebots, Tim’s team Monsoon was awarded the ‘giant bolt’ award. This is the founder’s award and is given to the team that best reflects the ethos and purpose of robot building as a hobby.
Tim is keen to point out there are some great lessons to be learnt from participating in Robot Wars:
“For starters, there is a great team mentality.” he says “Whilst we are obviously in competition, at the same time we all support each other. I often help other teams to rebuild their robots in between heats. In addition, it’s a fantastic way to introduce younger people to engineering, and the excitement that comes from creating something from scratch.”
Whilst some of the larger robots Tim has been involved in can command a budget of £15,000 or more, Tim has recently also been building much smaller and lighter robots, that often only cost a few hundred pounds.
So what of the future? Tim is keen to continue his involvement although the pandemic has made it difficult: “The TV series has been cancelled here in the UK but we hope there will be a return to live events soon.”
In addition, Tim has also started judging competitions, where he hopes to be able to pass on some of the knowledge he has learnt: “When I think back to how I started, sitting in the audience, if I can inspire other youngsters to take up engineering as a career then I would consider that a big success”.