Bot Design Rules

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Here are our updated bot design rules. These will take effect starting at our May 2022 competition.

Differences from previous ruleset

  • All bots, including sportsmen, must have an active weapon (exceptions: meltybrains and thwackers are allowed).
  • The non-wheeled bonus for the 30lb class is now +15 lbs.


All bots must be at or below their maximum weight listed below at the start of the fight. Any cameras or recording equipment on the bot does not count towards the weight. All bots can qualify for two additional weight bonuses, as defined below.

Non-Traditional Movement Bonus

A weight bonus for non-traditional motion systems. Traditional (usually wheeled) motion systems are generally defined as a locomotion system that operates primarily through angular momentum of the component touching the ground, but also includes any system that uses unpowered rotating objects (wheels, drums, rollers, ball bearings, etc.) as a means of friction reduction. Any motion system that does not meet this definition qualifies for the weight bonus. In the event of a multibot, only the heaviest bot needs to be non-wheeled to get the bonus.

Multibot Bonus

An entrant consisting of multiple independent bots qualifies for a weight bonus. Every bot in a multi bot must have active control and be able to influence the fight. In 12lb and 30lb entrants, the maximum weight of any single bot cannot exceed 110% of the normal bot weight. Only the heaviest bot needs an active weapon; see “Weapon” section below for further details.

If your configuration does not rely on a multibot for a weight bonus, you may choose to run with or without that multibot for each fight.

Weight Bonuses
Weight Class Non-Wheeled Multibot Absolute Maximum
3lb +2 lbs +1 lbs 6 lbs total
12lb (including Sportsmen) +6 lbs +3 lbs 19 lbs total*
30lb +15 lbs +8 lbs 53 lbs total

* 12lb and Sportsman bots cannot fully take advantage of both weight bonuses at the same time.


3lb and 12lb Sportsman bots must fit into a 30 x 30 x 24 inch cube at the start of the fight.

12lb and 30lb bots must fit into a 36 x 36 x 36 inch cube at the start of the fight.

Bots can expand or contract to any size during the fight, so long as they can start at this size. Multibots must all fit and start the fight within this cube together.


All entrants must have a weapon system operated independently of locomotion that can contact or impact the opponent (known as an active weapon). Meltybrains (bots that can show controlled movement while spinning rapidly) and thwackbots (bots that attack with a hammer on an unpowered arm, using inertia from driving) are exempt from this rule. Only the heaviest bot in a multibot needs an active weapon.

Sportsmen are not permitted to have a conventional horizontal or vertical spinning weapon (with the exception of saws). Rotary lifters are allowed, so long as they do not do damage like a conventional spinning weapon.

All weapon systems must have a lock that stops their actuation. Weapons that move must have a lock that stops movement in all directions. Weapons that fire or shoot must have a physical means of blocking firing and blocking the expulsion of a projectile.

Flame and heat based weapons are allowed and encouraged at NHRL, including low- and medium-power rocket motors. Flame weapons should self-extinguish within 30 seconds of losing contact with the transmitter. 3lb bots are allowed up to 6 ounces of fuel. 12lb, 12lb sportsman, and 30lb bots are allowed 12 ounces of fuel. Fuel storage canisters must default to the closed position if damaged or removed from the bot.

Projectile weapons cannot exceed speeds of 150 miles per hour.

Weapons that primarily act by obstructing visibility (e.g. smoke grenade or fog machine) are not permitted. Weapons that produce smoke or fog as a by-product of their attack (e.g. rocket motors) are allowed.

Electrical and shock weapons such as tasers and cattle prods are not permitted, nor are electrical weapons that purposefully block radio signals.

Any weapons that result in harm to those outside the cage (lasers, strobe lights, excessively loud noises) are not permitted.

Modular Bots

Modular bots are permitted at NHRL. Modular bots are robots that can change offensive or defensive features depending on who they up against in the tournament. Repairs and replacing broken components of your robot don't count as a modular robot.

No more than 50% of the weight of a modular bot can change between configurations. A configuration cannot cause a bot to gain or lose the non-traditional motion weight bonus. If you bring spare robots, your modules must be interchangeable between spares.

Like all other bots you still need to bring it to the green room in its final ready state. You can only bring entries you intend to fight into the green room. Swapping of modules or bots at the cage is not allowed.

If your configuration does not rely on a multibot for a weight bonus, you may choose to run with or without that multibot for each fight. Adding, removing, or swapping multibots counts towards the maximum configurable weight of a modular bot.

Spare Bots

Bringing exact copies of your bot is allowed. In order to count as the same bot spares must be as close to exact copies as possible. All copies must pass safety before competing. If you are bringing spare modular bots, all spare bots must be able to use any module.

Design Restrictions

Entanglement devices, defined as “a component of the bot that is designed to be entangled in the rotational or moving parts of the opponent,” are not permitted.

Liquids expelled from the bot are not permitted. Liquids used as a fuel source are allowed. Liquids expelled from the bot that become gaseous shortly after leaving the bot and/or before hitting the opponent are allowed.

Combustion-powered bots are allowed and encouraged. Combustion engines may be manually started during load in, assuming they do not cause the weapon to move. Electrically started engines are also allowed.

Fabric, foam, and other ablative armor are allowed.

Electrical systems cannot exceed 60 volts for 3lb bots, and 72 volts for 12lb and 30lb bots. Your bot should be designed to be powered on in the cage for up to 3 minutes before the start of your match.

Batteries that are charged inside the bot are permitted if the bot measures less than 11 x 8 x 6 inches.

If you are unsure if your bot design is in violation of the rules or not, please email us! We’d rather see new and interesting bots fight than disqualify them.