You know how Battlebots is coming back to TV? I decided not to wait. This weekend, I drove to San Mateo to watch homemade robots battle to the death at the Robogames. Here are a few of the epic things I saw there.
Pump is a robot that spins a giant, heavy blade horizontally, right above the floor, to cut off opponents at the knees. But on Saturday, it was no match for Counter Revolution’s twin vertically spinning blades. While I watched, those belt-driven, waterjetted and tempered S7 tool steel slicers not only disabled Pump’s weapon, but tore right through the bot’s armor as well. There wasn’t a damn thing Pump’s driver could do as Counter Revolution went for the kill, tearing right through the other bot’s throat.
Here’s a close-up of one of Counter Revolution’s blades:
Here’s what was left of Pump:
Thanks to Melonee Wise for the slow-mo video.
And yet, the most fearsome bots in the arena didn’t use blades at all—but rather drums that spun up to tens of thousands of rotations per minute, only to transfer that force into an opponent with a giant toothy uppercut that sent them flying skyward. Here’s a tiny portion of a fight I filmed between a pair of smaller drum-bots, but it got even more intense than this: a Brazilian heavyweight drumbot known as Touro Maximus threw bots into the walls and ceiling with such force that Robogames organizers had to shut down fights for a bit on Friday to ensure spectator safety.
Here’s a closer look at a drum-bot’s primary weapon:
Would you believe this little girl just lost a robot fight? There are roughly four different interlocking reasons this picture blows my mind. 1.) She’s ten years old. 2.) She’s totally composed! 3.) She just suffered a humiliating defeat, and 4.) her bot, Whoops, is an impenetrable juggernaut carved out of a single block of aluminum, and seeing it drive into battle I didn’t think it could be beat.
It sure was beat, though: here’s the heartrending moment where Polar Vortex trapped Whoops against a wall, then broke its back—so to speak—with the immense strength in its lifting arm.
Still, totally composed. Maybe it’s because Hannah knows she’s got plenty of time to get her revenge: she’s been helping her dad Hal Rucker build bots since the age of six, and took her first bronze metal in a bot battle two years ago!
There’s more to the Robogames than sparks flying and robots dying, of course—I also saw sumobots, miniature autonomous vehicles, an incredibly detailed R2-D2, and a giant robot hand carefully spinning a globe. I spoke to builders eager to share their knowledge of building bots, including one fine gentleman named Casey Kuhns who explained the risks and rewards of using brushless motors to spin up giant robot weapons — a risk I soon understood when fellow builder Jerome Miles’s Hyperbite turned into a scrapheap after its weapon failed to start:
But if you haven’t had enough robot carnage yet, there’s plenty more where that came from. Here’s a giant YouTube playlist of robot duels from Robogames attendee Headbanger142 to get you started. And if you’re willing to wait a while longer, there’ll be an official DVD of the event, hosted by famed combat robot builder (and MythBusters star) Grant Imahara. You can get $5 off the sale price if you use the coupon code “Gizmodo” at checkout.
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