Do you like to watch expertly designed robots smash and grind each other to bits? What about watching them compete to solve mazes, or win a game of soccer? If you're a normal person and said yes to all these questions, then you need to be at Robogames — and it's coming up next weekend.

Photo by Dave Schumaker

After a few year hiatus, Robogames is back in the San Francisco Bay Area from April 3-5, in San Mateo. The event brings together amateur and professional robot-building teams from all over the world, who compete in destructo-style combat, as well as games of skill and intelligence. It's the perfect place to see two giant machines slice each other to bits (behind safe, thick plexiglass walls, which you'll be grateful for when 500-pound burning robots are hurled at them). Several events are just for kids, too, so it's a great place for a family outing. Also, it's good for dates! True fact: I met my spouse at the Robogames, because there is nothing more romantic than the smell of burned metal.

The brainchild of robotics expert David Calkins, president of the Robotics Society of America and a consultant with NASA, Robogames have been a mainstay for robot fans since 2004. This year, Calkins is joined by hosts Grant Imahara (Mythbusters) and Dr. Kiki Sanford (This Week in Science).

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Though the death matches between bots may be the most theatrical element of the Robogames, the real fun comes from walking around and talking to the robot builders. It's one of those events where the pros go to swap knowledge, but everyone is happy to teach newbies about the joys of robots. You will come home smarter, and with a smile on your face.

Organizer David Calkins sent us the relevant facts about Robogames:

* 671 bots total

* 215 teams

* 21 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Estonia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Mixed, Nepal, Panama, Phillipines, Poland, UK, and USA

* 725 meatbags from those 21 countries who think they control the robots. Silly meatbags.

All kinds of crazy stuff happens at these events. Calkins describes one of the highlights from recent years:

At the last event, the Brazilian robot "Touro Light" was the #1 ranked lightweight ComBot going into the tournament. Driven by 26 year old PhD candidate Daniel Freitas, it seemed invincible and was heavily favored to take the gold. Yet it was defeated in the quarter-final round by Hannah Rucker, who was only 8 years old at the time. That's not a typo for 18. She was eight. And she knocked him out - eliminating the "beast from Brazil" from the medal rounds. She then went on to win the bronze. She's now ten years old and returning with both a lightweight and a heavyweight ComBot.

If you've ever wanted to see robots in combat — and teach kids about technology in the process — then Robogames is your ticket for next weekend. Gizmodo will be there, too! We'll bring you along via the internet even if you can't make it in meatspace.

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Get $5 off both ticket prices and advance DVD/BluRay sale prices if you use the coupon code "Gizmodo" at checkout.


Contact the author at annalee@gizmodo.com.
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