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killswitch rules


The point of KILLSWITCH is to stage spectacular robot battles, not to identify and exploit loopholes in the rules. The spirit of the rules will be upheld at all times.

Looking for clarification on a rule? Raise any questions in the Knox Makers KILLSWITCH chat channel or direct them to the Board of Directors.


KILLSWITCH is open to both individual and team entries. Teams can be arbitrarily large.

KILLSWITCH is open to both Knox Makers members and non-members.

Individuals and teams may enter as many robots in the competition as desired. Each robot will be qualified and bracketed separately.

An entry fee of $24.50 will be assessed for each robot submitted. This fee is non-refundable, even if the robot fails to qualify for competition. Entry fees will be used to offset costs associated with building the arena and staging the tournament. Should any monies be left over at the end, they will be donated to the Knox Makers general fund.


Before competing, every robot must fit within a box whose width, height, and depth total 24″ or less. They are allowed to unfold, unfurl, extend, or otherwise grow once the match begins, but must do so under their own power.

All robots must weigh three pounds or less.


All robots must be mobile and their movement must be powered and under the control of an operator.

Allowed forms of mobility:

  • Rolling (wheels, tracks or the whole robot)
  • Walking
  • Shuffling
  • Slithering
  • Gyroscopic procession
  • Ground effect air cushions
  • Jumping / hopping

Prohibited mobility forms:

  • Flying
  • Floating


All of the robot’s functions must be under reliable remote control. Loss of control equates to loss of match.

Autonomous functions are permitted, but they must be able to be remotely disabled or overridden at any time via the remote control system. If autonomous systems are employed, an easily-visible indicator of autonomy is required. This will make it plain when the robot has been rendered "safe."

Remote control must be via commercially-produced wireless 2.4GHz systems with digitally-coded, mated pairs between transmitter and receiver.

Radio systems that stop all motion in the robot (both drive and weapons) when the transmitter loses power or signal are required for all robots. This may be inherent in the robot’s electrical system or be part of programmed failsafes in the radio.


All electrical power to weapons and drive systems must have a manual disconnect that can be activated within fifteen seconds without endangering the person turning it off (e.g. no body parts in the way of weapons or pinch points). Relays may be used as a secondary power control, but a mechanical disconnect is still required.

Pre-approved battery types are

  • lithium ion (LIon)
  • lithium polymer (LiP)
  • lithium iron (LiFe)
  • nickel metal hydride (NiMH)

Prohibited battery types are

  • nickel cadmium (NiCad)
  • sealed lead acid (SLA) / gel cell

Other battery types are subject to approval.

All robots must incorporate an easily-visible indicator lamp that shows when main power is activated.


Any springs or flywheels must be loaded and actuated remotely under the robot’s own power. They may not be loaded or in motion before a match begins or any time the robot is out of the arena or designated testing area.

All springs, flywheels, and similar kinetic energy storing devices must fail to a safe position on loss of radio contact or power.


Pneumatic systems on board the robot must only employ disposable, commercially-available pressurized cartridges or cans (e.g., CO2 cartridges). It is not permissible to use fiber wound or other handmade pressure vessels.

All pneumatic systems must have a manual main shut off valve to isolate the rest of the system from the source tank. This valve must be easily accessed for robot deactivation and refilling.

All pneumatic systems must have a manual bleed valve downstream of the main shut off valve to depressurize the system. This bleed valve must be easily accessed for deactivation. This valve must be left open whenever the robot is not in the arena to ensure the system cannot operate accidentally.

It is required to be able to easily bleed all pressure in the robot before exiting the arena.


  • hydraulics
  • internal combustion engines


Killswitch is all about spectacle. Robots are required to incorporate at least one independently-powered weapon designed to physically damage competitors as excitingly as possible. Robots without functional, effective weapons will not be allowed to compete. Specific notes regarding limitations and prohibitions follow.

Limited weapons

Electrical weapons are prohibited unless they are capable of producing large, visible, high-voltage arcs.

Fire-based weapons are permitted, but

  • only propane and butane fuels are permitted
  • the ignition system must incorporate a remotely-operated shutoff allowing the operator to disable the system

Prohibited weapons

  • RF jamming or other approaches to interfering with or preventing control of competitors
  • Light, smoke, or other systems intended to impair visibility of robots
  • Magnetic or electromagnetic grapples, nets, tapes, strings, cables, and other entanglement weapons that stop combat
  • Liquid or foams
  • Powders, sand, ball bearings, glitter, and other forms of dry chaff
  • Explosives such as gunpowder or cartridge primers

Prohibited strategies

There are several well-known design patterns for fighting robots that are prohibited in Killswitch. The rationale for these bans is to increase competition and make fights more exciting for spectators.

  • Robots designed primarily break other robots’ contact with the ground by using an inclined plane to raise one side (“wedges”).
  • Robots designed primarily to push  other robots (“bulldozers”).

Note that these are prohibitions on designs and/or primary strategies. If your robot's weapon is disabled in combat, you should absolutely try to force your opponent into an arena hazard -- you're just not allowed to employ that as a primary strategy.

As a general guideline, Killswitch prohibits "passive aggressive" weapons and invisible attacks. If it will look awesome, it's probably allowed. Make an inquiry if you're uncertain.


The arena will be roughly six feet by six feet, or thirty-six square feet.

The arena floor is made of metal, and has both smooth and textured surfaces. The floor is substantially flat.

The arena will be enclosed in thick Lexan to protect competitors and audience members from shrapnel.

Four electromechanical hazards, designed to be capable of destroying competing robots, will provide additional danger and excitement.



All robots will be required to defeat a harmless children's toy to qualify for competition.

Failure to destroy the harmless children's toy within standard match parameters (explained below) will result in disqualification and ignominy. Should this ridiculous outcome be reached, the harmless children's toy will advance to the Warriors' Bracket.

Should the harmless children's toy win the Killswitch tournament, Knox Makers will be disbanded in shame.

Match Duration

A match is three minute minutes long.

After the first minute elapses, one of the arena hazards – selected at random – becomes active.

At the end of the second minute, another randomly-selected arena hazard is activated.

Match Frequency

Competitors will have a minimum of thirty minutes between any two matches. This time is intended for battery charging, maintenance, and repair. If a robot is unable to compete within five minutes of scheduled match time, the match is forfeited.

Grappling and Pinning

Robots may not win by grappling or pinning their opponents. Grappling and/or pinning is allowed for a maximum of fifteen seconds at a time. An attacker that does not stop a pin or lift when requested by a referee may be declared the match loser unless the two robots are stuck together.

When a pin is released, the attacker must move far enough away after releasing the opponent that the opponent has an opportunity to escape for the pin to be considered released.

Stuck or Entangled Robots

Matches will be paused to separate robots in the event that they become stuck together in the arena and cannot separate from each other after five seconds.

Neutral Area Restart

Before restarting a match that has been paused to release stuck robots, the robots may be driven to neutral areas of the arena if directed to do so by a referee.

Incapacitated Robots

If a robot does not appear to be able to move freely, the referee may stop the clock and ask that the robot perform a mobility test (drive in a straight line, drive in a figure eight) in order to prove that the robot is still able to compete effectively. If the robot fails the test, it is counted as incapacitated and has lost the match.


At any time, a competitor can voluntarily forfeit a match. Under this circumstance, the opponent must cease attacking. This counts as a loss for the forfeiting robot and a win for the competitor.

Declaring the Winner

The goal of Killswitch is to destroy your opponent spectacularly. The best case is one in which the other robot is in pieces and on fire. Things may not work out that way, however… so a robot will also be declared the winner when

  • the other robot is incapacitated or out of control
  • the other player surrenders

If none of these conditions are met, both robots lose. Remember -- the goal isn't to survive, it's to kill.


Initially, all qualified competitors will be randomly seeded in the Warriors' Bracket.

Upon suffering a loss in the Warrior's Bracket, robots that are still operable (or that can be made so) will be randomly seeded in the Losers' Bracket.

A loss in the Loser's Bracket means a robot is out of the competition.

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