Questions and Answers about Combat Robotics
from Team Run Amok

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About Like Your Kitchen
Q: I wasn't going to ask this initially because I didn't want to be 'That Guy', but how loud (in decibels, preferably) are average insect weight fights? I ask because I don't usually see people wearing hearing protection during beetle/antweight events, but is that because their hearing is already bad? In Texas the arenas for insect weights have floors made of plywood and walls made of lexan at least 1/4 of an inch thick. I don't know how much that would increase/decrease the noise, but I thought it would be important info.

-sincerely,Iceywave [West of San Antonio ✪]

A: [Mark J.] The noise level at an insect-class fight is about the same as the noise level in your kitchen when you're making spaghetti. Maybe less. You likely won't need hearing protection at a Texas beetle fight.

Reply: Thank you for assuring me about the noise level. Unless I have an unexpected emergency with 'Exa' this will probably be my last post before I finish my extremely belated April Fool's Day surprise (which I guess should now be called May-pril Fool's).

-sincerely,Iceywave :)

Unlimited Breadsticks
Q: Caution: Humerous Post I think NHRL's rules are too confusing (don't we all?) so I decided to fix them.
First - Only give weight bonuses to bots that are sponsored by 'Olive Garden', since everyone knows that you gain lots of weight when you're there.

[Mark J.] Can I just name my robot 'Unlimited Breadsticks'?

Second - Limit the amount of bots on one multibot team to only prime numbers. This change will appease math nerds like myself.

Change it from primes to the Fibonacci Sequence and I'm in.

Third - Allow water jets to be used as weapons. If your bot can't handle liquids then you need to up your game.

Let's just flood the arena with an inch of water. It would make the "ground game" much more interesting.

Fourth - Ban the color red from being painted on all robots. It's a hazard for near-sighted hummingbirds.

I don't like painted bots to start with. The paint shows damage.

Fifth - Make a separate weight class for bots with cardboard armor. This will encourage more versatility in the designs.

Bad idea. NHRL would add five more pages to their ruleset to define exactly what qualifies as 'cardboard'.

I think if all events adopted my rule set the world would be a much better place. Thank you for all the help with my thwackbot!
-sincerely,Iceywave [West of San Antonio ☆]
Q: what rules would be needed to define a cardboard weightclass that would take up 5 pages? -BackyardBots [Rocky Mount, Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] You're referencing Iceywave's fifth suggestion above, where I reply:

NHRL would add five more pages to their ruleset to define exactly what qualifies as 'cardboard'.
The National Havoc Robot League rulebook is known for being lengthy and overly complete. Example: sub-section "2.1 Expectations and Standards of Conduct" has an introductory paragraph followed by fourteen bullet-pointed examples of "Prohibited Conduct" and a concluding paragraph defining the physical area in which these behaviors are prohibited.

My reply is a joke based on satirical exaggeration of the length that would be added by the NHRL to define exactly what qualifies as 'cardboard'. I'm only willing to explain this because I think that the NHRL may not get the joke either. You may now laugh.

Old Age and Titanium
Q: Could a Comedy Central era bot still be competitive in the modern Battlebots era assuming the overall design remains the same but the mechanical bits are modernized? [South San Francisco, California]

A: [Mark J.] Somebody hasn't been paying attention. Here's a fight between a spinner reportedly accepted to the 2024 BattleBots World Championship VIII and a veteran flipper from the Comedy Central era that should answer your question:

Hero of the Revolution
Q: HHEEEEELLLLLPPPP!!!!!!! I signed up for Australian Robowars thinking it was a protest against Taco Bell... BUT IT WASN'T!! I've never seen a robot fight before! My friend told me to come here and ask what I should do?!?!?!?!?!?!
- Mistro Deb Hamper

A: [Mark J.] Make yourself a nice cup of herbal tea and take a deep breath. I'll get you thru this.

Just because Robowars didn't think they were a protest doesn't mean they couldn't become one. Pop out and buy yourself an R/C trailer truck, paint "Taco Bell is Murder" on the side, and stuff it full of those little Taco Bell hot sauce packets. Go back to the robot fight and toss the truck into the arena. Some nasty spinner robot will vaporize the truck and coat the inside of the arena with bloody red hot sauce and burst plastic packets. Nobody there will ever go to Taco Bell again and you will be a hero of the revolution.

Q: Hey Mark, just wanted to let you know my video editor said she was having trouble relating to combat robots, so I sent her here. She has a history of blowing up in peoples faces (you should see the credits of the IceyBots pilot episode!) so I told her to keep it down a notch. She goes by "Mistro Deb Hamper", by the way.
- sincerely, Iceywave [West of San Antonio ☆]

A: No problem, Icey. She totally took your advice and was entirely calm and collected by the time she got here. I think I solved her problem. Thanks for the referral.

You wouldn't happen to have an actual combat robot question, would you?

Q: In response to your question, yes I do!

I've heard from various sources that in sometime in 1998 (during the severe dry spell of American combat robotics) an obscure event was held under a bridge(?) that included the likes of S.L.A.M., Ginsu, and a few others. Do you have any additional information on this?
- sincerely, Iceywave☆

A: Someone as interested in the early days of combat robotics as you are really should own a copy of "Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports" by Brad Stone. You can buy a nice used copy for less than $8 shipped.

In the early nineties, a visionary special-effects guru named Marc Thorpe conjured a field of dreams different from any the world had seen before: It would be framed by unbreakable plastic instead of cornstalks; populated not by ghostly ballplayers but by remote-controlled robots, armed to the steely teeth, fighting in a booby-trapped ring. If you built it, they'd come all right....

In Gearheads, Newsweek technology correspondent Brad Stone examines the history of robotic sports, from their cultish early years at universities and sci-fi conventions to today's televised extravaganzas -- and the turmoil that threatened the whole enterprise almost from the beginning.

By turns a lively historical narrative, a legal thriller, and an exploration of a cultural and technological phenomenon, Gearheads is a funny and fascinating look at the sport of the future today.

"Gearheads" has a nice section on the obscure event you mention, but while you're waiting for your copy to arrive I'll point you to a couple of other sources:
  • This archived post discusses the canceled 1998 Robotica event, the 1998 San Leandro Parking Lot event, and the 1999 Underground Robot Street Fight which literally took place under an overpass in Novato, California.
  • Even better, has a write-up, photos, and videos from Novato event. I will warn you that the videos are black and white, very low resolution, and in antiquated formats for which you may need to find specialized players to view.

Walking Distance
Q: Will you be attending any competitions in the next few months? (Of interest specifically to me is Robogames.) And if you've been to Robogames in the past whether you have any recommendations of places to check out while in San Jose. [Ohio-ish]

A: [Mark J.] There are no events on our calendar, but Team Run Amok has spent some time in San Jose.

  • I'm a sucker for a good science museum, and the Robogames site is a five-minute walk from The Tech Interactive - a place that I think any robot builder would enjoy.
  • When you get hungry, you're also a short walk from Kukar's House Of Pizza - a San Jose institution which comes with my highest recommendation. Eat there, don't take-out.

Anywhere But There
Q: I am part of a team that is brand new to combat robotics. We just completed and tested our very first robot and are ready to fight in our first tournament. Got any tips on how to find the right competition for our skill level? Thanks. [North American Comcast Server]

A: [Mark J.] The typical order of events to get into combat robotics is:

  • Find a nearby event;
  • Watch the tournament and talk with builders;
  • Pick a contested weight class that feels right to you;
  • Build a robot for the selected weight class; and
  • Return to compete at that tournament.
Your team appears to have skipped the first three steps and jumped right to 'build a robot' in (what I hope is) a commonly fought weight class, with no specific tournament in mind. Interesting.

The IP address attached to your question submittal has ties to servers in Maryland, California, Florida, New Jersey, and maybe other states -- so I can't provide regional advice on beginner friendly events. You aren't likely to find more than a couple of events within reasonable traveling distance, so your list of options will not be long. There are two websites that list upcoming events in North America:

Sift thru the listings to find events in your region that include robots in your weight class. Check their event-specific rules and contact the event organizer with any questions. Any tournament you select will be very happy to welcome new builders, but I advise novices to avoid the National Havoc Robot League (NHRL) events: their level of competition is VERY HIGH.

Q: I know what I said about not being back until April, but I just remembered something. I heard a rumor that a specified team was asked to leave a specified event because they committed a specified offense. Is that true?

-sincerely, Iceywave☆ [West of San Antonio]

A: [Mark J.] I have removed the names of the team, event, and offense from your question. If I can neither confirm or quash a rumor of this nature from personal knowledge I don't care to spread it. Here is what I can tell you, based on reliable sources:

  • The specified team was expelled from the specified event after the competition began.
  • There were multiple reasons for their removal, but my sources do not confirm the specified offense you mentioned.
I prefer to leave it at that.
It Has No Bottom
Q: I do have an ACTUAL question today. How many bots have competed in both BattleBots and U.K. Robot Wars (just a different paint job and name isn't enough to qualify as a different bot)?

Off the top of my head...

  1. Razer
  2. Killerhurtz
  3. Suicidal Tendencies
  4. Mortis
  5. Panic Attack
  6. Bigger Brother / Little Sister
  7. The Piecemaker / The Executioner
  8. Spitfire / Dantomkia
Am I missing any?
-sincerely, Iceywave☆ [West of San Antonio]

A: [Mark J.] You're asking me to go down a deep rabbit hole, Iceywave. The answers depend on what you think is the same robot, what qualifies as "competed", and what you consider to be "Robot Wars". I'll add eight to your list of eight, but I'm not going to attempt a complete list.

  • Multiple entries in "Robot Wars Extreme Warriors" had BattleBots alter-egos. A few examples:
    • Tricerabot / JuggerBot;
    • Propeller-Head / Agitator;
    • The Revolutionist / Phrizbee.
  • Team Storm's BattleBots entry 'Photon Storm' is a rebuilt 'Tiberius' from Robot Wars.
  • 'The Grim Reaper' fought in BattleBots Comedy Central season 5.0 and the Third and Seventh Robot Wars.
  • 'Basher' fought in the unaired Robot Wars Series 8 pilot episode and went on to fight as 'Beta' at BattleBots.
  • Robot Wars champion 'Apollo' fought in an un-aired qualifier bout for the 2015 BattleBots reboot as 'Chronic' and was accepted to fight in a nine-robot rumble that was cancelled due to time restraints.
  • Under the Combat Robot Hall of Fame eligibility rules, Robot Wars champion 'Carbide' could be considered to be the same robot as the 2016 BattleBots competitor 'Cobalt'. The 2019 onward version of 'Cobalt' is a converted 'Tungsten' from "This Is Fighting Robots" -- but that's a different crossover.

A Back Room Event and a DVD
Q: Sorry for the late post, but do you have any information on the Season 5.0 BattleAnts event? I'm very surprised no one has asked you yet, since you're pretty much the most reliable source for early 2000s robotics.

 Annoying marquee BattleAnts logo 

A: Whaddya mean pretty much?

The April 2012 issue of SERVO magazine has a very nice article on the origins of the antweight class that includes coverage of the BattleAnts demonstration event at BattleBots 5.0. The article has photos of the sixteen competitors at the invitation-only event. The full tournament tree has been lost, but I have it on good authority that Derek Young's shufflebot Hoser'd defeated Team Sinister's tracked plowbot Oishi in the finals for the tournament victory. The event was held well away from the audience and was not televised.

Q: Also, I once heard a rumor (an actual one this time) that a BattleBots sanctioned event held in 2011 had a DVD release. I don't remember where I heard this from, but is there any truth to it?
-sincerely, Iceywave ☆

A: That would be the 2011 BattleBots IQ event in Miami. A film crew was present at the event to shoot a documentary that followed three high shool teams. The resulting film is called Bots High. This is probably the rumored DVD -- but it is not a video of the tournament itself: 'Bots High' on YouTube

Date marker: January 2024
Owning It
Q: I've always wondered, why is the BattleBots trophy a giant nut? [Absolutely Nobody]

A: [Mark J.] Have you also wondered why the 'Comedy Central' network broadcast BattleBots? It doesn't seem like a very good fit for a comedy channel until you realize that it was presented as a Laugh at the Geeks show with crude sexual innuendo from the interviewers. After a Season 1 match where Grant Imahara's 'Deadblow' snapped its hammer shaft, Grant was repeatedly asked about having his robot's pecker fall off.

The trophy was a Giant Nut because Comedy Central portrayed the builders as 'nuts' and the winner should get a trophy that showed they were the biggest nut of all. BattleBots has chosen to 'own' this relic of their unfortunate origins and carry it forward as a badge of honor.

Mechbots Warrior
Q: 'Hammerbot' is on the front cover of "Building Bots: Designing and Building Warrior Robots" by William Gurstelle (2002). Any evidence on this extreme masterpiece? [Erskine, Scotland]

A: [Mark J.] Bill Gurstelle lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and this book is packed full of photos of local Mechwars competitors. 'Hammerbot' is a middleweight from the stable of Team Falcon based in Minneapolis. I can find no record of the robot ever having fought, but records from early Mechwars tournaments have been lost.

Hexbug Tournaments
Q: Now I really would like to hold a Robotica Hexbug Challenge or Hexbotica however if I want to do it what would I need to create simple arenas for challenges and don't get me wrong I do like Antbotica more than Rich likes it however it would be nice to create challenges based the three televised series for:

1 - The Speedway
2 - The Maze Or The Labyrinth
3 - The Gauntlet
4 - The Fight To The Finish

What would be good to make them simpler and scaled for the hexes? [Erskine, Scotland]

A: [Mark J.] As an aside, I think Rich had a good time at Antbotica -- he just brought the wrong robot to be competitive.

Antbotica was my best attempt at a miniature Robotica challenge. It worked well with one-pound competitors and the arenas were reasonably easy to construct. If you're looking for a different take on a scaled down Robotica you'd best ask for input from someone else.

Speaking of 'someone else': I'm accustomed to receiving questions about combat robots and publishing my answers, but recently our correspondent 'Iceywave' has taken to writing his own replies of encouragement and advice to some of our question submitters. Just a bit before I received this question from you I received a note for you from Iceywave about your earlier Hexbug tournament post. I present it here, unedited:

Hey Erskine, I just wanted to give you a heads up, from one Hexbug modder/Lego builder/Antweight driver to another. I've seen your post about Hexbotica and I just want you be aware of how difficult putting on a Hexbug tournament actually is. I made my first attempt at a tournament in mid-2021 with only 8 robots. They were all sub-par compared to the robots I would make later on, and the fights themselves weren't very exciting. I wasn't disappointed however, as I used that experience to help my building skills improve for my next tournament, which was held about one month later and featured more competitors. While the battles still weren't as good as I hoped, I saw clear improvement, and realized my builds had become more accurate. This led me to create 'Ultimate Hexbug Tournament', a BattleBots Fight Night inspired series with 18 robots. The competition had 3 fight cards, a Desperado Tournament, and a single-elimination 8 bot bracket to determine the champion.

It was an incredibly fun experience. The fights were very entertaining, and my builds had massively improved. But as much fun as it was, it would have never happened without over 2 months of hard work, perseverance, dedication, and willingness to learn from my mistakes. I then took a long break from Hexbug modding to find other hobbies. And now I'm back! And better than ever before. My newest Hexbugs are miles and miles ahead of where they were when I first started 2 years ago. My next tournament, 'Ultimate Hexbug Tournament 2' is set to film soon, and I can't wait!

So Erskine, I just want you to know what you're getting into. Planning a Hexbug series is no easy task, and I don't want you to be disappointed in yourself if it doesn't work out. My advice is to start with smaller tournaments and events, just 8-12 robots or so. Then learn from what went right and what went wrong with your robots, your competition format, your camera work, etc. I'm in no way saying you're not capable of making a tournament like this, but 48 bots is a lot compared to my 24 bots for 'U.H.T.2', so please, take your time, don't get too ahead of yourself, and don't get discouraged if things aren't perfect the first time. Your Run Amok models are amazing! And I just want you to succeed with whatever project you're working on.

Perhaps you should work with Iceywave on your project? If the two of you want to be put in contact you can each send me an email address and I'll pass them on.
It's About Time
Q: I have an unimportant question today (but would still like a legitimate answer). If someone 8 years ago said to you that Discovery would make BattleBots a successful seven season long series with multiple spinoffs and a Vegas live show, what would the you from 2015 say to them? - Iceywave [West of San Antonio]

A: [Mark J.] I would have said, "It's about time!" Greg Munson and Trey Roski never gave up on their vision for the future of BattleBots. Granted, their vision has never been the same as mine -- I miss the original open and approachable BattleBots tournaments with hundreds of enthusiastic amateur builders. Still, they put in their time and money thru the lean years and I'm glad to see them rewarded.

A Video Finesse
Q: The ideal concept for a Robotica game is a finesse. 'Robot Arena 2' has the Run Amok model and the 'Fight To The Finish' arena, and 'Metalmania' has Run Amok and a version of 'The Gauntlet'.

If Robotica had been released as a video game back in 2001/2002 it would have been in the Nintendo GameCube / Sega Dreamcast era. What things would you have expected to see in a game for those consoles? [Erskine, Scotland ☆] (Edited)

A: [Mark J.] Although it's nice to see the 'Metalmania' mini-game and the 'Robot Arena 2' salute to the 'Fight to the Finish', I honestly don't think that 'Robotica' would make a good transition to a full stand-alone video game for any era of console.

I suspect that the best possible adaptation would be to complete construction of the remaining Robotica stages in Robot Arena 2. That would give players the ability to both construct replicas of actual Robotica entrants and also experiment with new designs in a quest to find the ultimate design.

They Went Heavy in Minnesota
Q: I found these pictures on the MechWars website. I've tried reverse image searching, but I can't find any information about them. I'm still making that YouTube video I mentioned in one of my posts,(about the history and changes of robot combat weight classes) so any information about these bots or the MechWars competition would be greatly appreciated! (Especially since the website hasn't been updated since 2008) - Sincerely, Iceywave [West of San Antonio] A: [Mark J.] Twin City MechWars was a robot combat group in Minnesota that put on a series of annual events with classes for antweights all the way up to their exclusive MechWars super-heavy 390 pound class. Why 390 pounds? The winters are long up there.
  • The site you found is not the real MechWars website. The real site is no longer 'up' but may be explored via archived Wayback Machine captures.
  • You can examine the records of 'bots in the 390 pound class at the archived SPARC Botrank.
  • A local television channel broadcast coverage of their MechWar 5 event (2002) in a four-episode series. Episode 1 is availble on YouTube.
  • The Builders Database has photo galleries for Mechwars 8 (2005) and Mechwars 9 (2006). Click on the individual photos for more info.

P.S. have you ever made Halloween costumes for your robots?

A: I have too much respect for my robots and pets to costume them for the amusement of the public... but I do costume myself.

What's the Difference?
Q: Is there some obvious difference in between the real BattleBots and the robots in the destructathon? You say they are different but they look the same to me. [Ames, Iowa]

A: [Mark J.] There are several things to look for that 'tip' a BattleBots Destruct-a-Thon Showbot:

  • Wheels On all three of the robot pairs in the photos below the custom wheels and tires on the Realbots have been replaced on the Showbots with 'off-the-shelf' components that are easy to obtain, quick to replace, and much less expensive.
  • Weight The drilled "lightening holes" on Realbot 'Whiplash' (center column below) are time-consuming but are needed to keep the 'bot within the weight limit for BattleBots competitors. The Destruct-a-Thon show has no weight limit, so no effort has been made to save weight on the Showbot version.
  • Weapons Realbot 'Malice' (left column below) has the option of a single-toothed horizontal drum weapon that is both expensive to machine and potentially fragile. Showbot 'Malice' uses the much simpler "Purple Pain" thick metal bar with bolt-on impactors that are easy to replace. Realbot 'Kraken' (right column below) has hand-forged steel fangs to chomp down of its opponents, while the Showbot has less effective fangs inexpensively cut from steel plate.
  • Sponsors There are no sponsorship decals on the Showbots. Realbot 'Whiplash' (center column below) prominently displays decals from major sponsor 'Meggit' and smaller stickers from other sponsors, but the Showbot version has only the robot's name.
There are internal differences as well, but you can't spot many of those from the grandstands.
Q: Now, Antbotica is a very good dedication to Robotica but I had an idea for a hexbug edition of Robotica called either Robotica: The Hexbug Challenge or Hexbotica and it would include a mix of challenges from all 3 seasons I would create hexbug scaled arenas of the speedway, the maze (which will be a mix between the maze and the labyrinth), the gauntlet (which is a mix between the gauntlet from all 3 seasons) And The Fight To The Finish and here are the bots from both the TLC show and Comicpalooza show (just for good measure and relatives) will be:
Run Amok (Season 1 Champion), Juggerbot (4x Fight To The Finish Finalists), Jawbreaker (2x Championship Finalists), Hot Wheels, Northern Fury, Rambot (Season 2 Championship Finalists and Resemblance to Run Amok), Viper (Season 1 Championship Finalists), Flexy Flyer (Season 2 Champion), Logoseye (Former Team Members Of Juggerbot), Panzer MK 3 (Season 3 Champion), Avalanche (Robotica 2022 Competitor), Piranha (Robotica 2022 Competitor), Deferred Maintenance (Robotica 2022 Competitor), NEUMATIK (Robotica 2022 Competitor), Orly (Robotica 2022 Competitor), Kritical Mass (2x Robotica Championship Finalists), Killer B, Boxster (Robotica Season 1 Competitor), Multi-InTriVerter (which is a mix between InTriVerter and Re-InTriVerter), Whyatica, The Eviscerator (Season 1 Competitor), Negative Reinforcement (Season 1 Competitor), Tiger Plywood (or Tiger Cardboardwood), Spring Breaker X2 (A Modern Spring Breaker), Towering Inferno (as Mini Inferno In Season 1), Ram Force (Season 1 Runner-Up), TakaTakaTak, The Dredge (Season 3 Competitor), Scrap 8.2, Mini-Rip (Season 3 Championship Finalists), Botzilla (Season 2 Runner-Up), Ill-Tempered Mutt (Season 2 Championship Finalists), The Killa Gorilla (Season 2 Championship Finalists), Armorgeddon (Season 2 Championship Fnalists), Deb Bot (Season 2 Championship Finalists), Jav Man, Fintastic!, Scarab, Wendingo, Hammerschlag, Solar Flare, Pandora's Bot, Particle Accelerator, Happy Catter (Robotica 2022 Competitor), Dark Track, DaClaw, and Denominator 2.
However for the fight to the finish I would like figure out a way to drop the rails after 1 minute maybe by having the rails hinged anyway Robotica: The Hexbug Challenge or Hexbotica is still going to be some fight fest out of all fight fests. [Erskine, Scotland]

A: [Mark J.] Very ambitious, Erskine. A couple of the arenas will be difficult to construct and your long list of competitors includes some robots very difficult to model as Hexbug replicas. A few notes:

  • 'Boxter', 'Negative Reinforcement', 'The Eviscerator', and 'The Dredge' were all Robotica alternates; the were not selected as competitors.
  • No Robotics Rats?
  • The 2022 Comicpalooza Robotica competition was a standard robot combat event related to TLC Robotica by name only. I wonder why you would exclude successful Robotica veterans to make room for robots not designed for the TLC Robotica challenges.

I Still Don't Think So
Q: Hey, not a question here just a clarification on that Jawbreaker question that was asked earlier. Back around April, there was a post on Reddit from someone who was associated with the Battlebots live show, that was hyping up competitors who had expressed interest in taking part in the show (not guaranteeing it, mind).

Tim Berghoefer's Jawbreaker was one of the robots listed in the post, apparently a 2004 rebuild of the bot that was never used in combat since all the shows were gone. Of the robots listed in that original post, 4/10 have made Proving Grounds appearances so far. Given how many robots have been rumored or announced over the years for various events it wouldn't surprise me if there was a plan to bring it out at some point, but life or something else got in the way. [Alberta, Canada]

A: [Mark J.] I'm still not buying it. Multiple Reddit posts have mentioned a robot named 'Jawbreaker' from an unspecified team with no mention of Tim Berghoefer. This was supposedly based on the un-named team having "shown clear intent through one of their own social media channels". A later post to Reddit noted that no one had been able to find any statement of interest by any team with a robot named 'Jawbreaker'. I stand by my earlier opinion -- the whole thing qualifies as an unsubstantiated rumor.

The Really Big Bounce
Q: Run Amok only lost one stage at Robotica. What went wrong in the maze against Kritical Mass? [Las Vegas, Nevada]

A: [Mark J.] I went back to the video to refresh my memory and grabbed a few frames to make the GIF.

In the preliminary round my opponent ('Spring Breaker') jumped out to an early lead in The Maze and I had to work hard to catch up. I had lost time being cautious on the opening 'teeter-board' obstacle and I resolved to push much harder in the finals against 'Kritical Mass'.

The run started well with Run Amok tracking cleanly up the teeter and down the other side. I had timed the decent correctly and the front wheels hit the end of the board just as it struck the floor, but the board snapped back up hard and tossed the front wheels skyward just as I applied full throttle. The motor power held the wheels high all the way to the 'push box' where Run Amok was almost vertical when she hit. It all went downhill from there.

You can read the whole story in our Robotica Journal.

A Really Big Show
Q: According to ['Robotica' Producer] Don Weiner he said something about Robotica having autonomous robots and wanting it to become a full arena show where you have multiple games laid out I.e. flying robots and underwater robot battles if you watch 'Inside Robotica' Episode 306 on YouTube I wonder what he meant by that, what do you think? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] The Discovery Network was very excited by the TV ratings generated by the first season of Robotica -- it was the highest rated of all the robot shows. The budget for seasons two and three were increased considerably over season one, and I can assume they were exploring grander options for subsequent seasons. I think the 'Inside Robotica' comments were just ideas that were being tossed around, but the ratings for seasons two and three did not meet expectations so future options were not explored farther.

The Time Keeper
Q: I like the Robotica Season 1 filming emphasis in the pits but who was the guy that said "and your 45 minutes starts now!" ? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] You've really strayed into Robotica minutia now, Erskine.

The Robotica rules allowed for 45 minutes of robot repair and modification time in the pit area between events. The time limit was there only to keep the filming on schedule. You may be able to spot small kitchen timers provided by the production on the pit tables. In practice the set changes required much more than forty-five minutes, so I do not recall the time limit actually being enforced.

Story Producer Andrew Greenberger was the primary contact between RBI Productions and the teams, but I recall Segment Producer Aaron Wiener being involved is some specific shots. If you can give me an episode number and a time mark I will try to figure out who made that announcement in the pits, but after more than twenty-two years I can't promise an accurate answer.

Don't Change a Thing!
Q: How would you feel if there was a director's cut of Robotica Season 1 Episode 1 with Run Amok And Spring Breaker running the Speedway and Maze First and Episode 2 with Kritical Mass And Grimlock running the Gauntlet first then Boelter Beast and Hot Wheels following just to make the correct order of Red Team vs Blue Team first THEN Silver Team Vs Gold Team? [Erskine, Scotland ☆] A: [Mark J.] The director (Justin Pollaak) already had his say. He told the video editors to put Robotica together just the way it is. If you start tampering with it...  I might not win!!! 
Two Questions and One Observation
Q: It's Iceywave again, back at ya with more questions.

1. Were there any independent flying combat robots other than SPS2? By "independent" I mean a robot that isn't a counterpart to a main bot, (Warrior Clan, Subzero, etc.) it's an idea for a short YouTube video.

2. Are infrared controllers and receivers legal for combat robots? I would like to one day enter a heavily modified HexBug BattleBot in a fairyweight competition, but I don't want to spend my time making one if I'm not allowed to compete.

This isn't a question, but I noticed in the CRHoF under 2023 results, it lists Whiplash as an honorable mention, even though it already got honorable mention status in 2021.

Other than that, I want you to know how helpful you've been for me, I haven't emailed FingerTech yet (very busy) but without your help, my dreams for Flamin'Yon would've been dashed, so THANK YOU!

- Sincerely, an amateur animator : )  [West of San Antonio]

A: [Mark J.] Thanks for spotting the misprint in the Combat Robot Hall of Fame results summary. Other places in the website correctly show 2023 honorable mention to Droopy Hydra Lynx SawBlaze and MegatRON and I have corrected the summary to show the same.

Happy to help with your robot transmitter problem. Let me know what FingerTech has to say. Flamin'Yon is a great pun/name.

1) J.D. Streett's 1995 US Robot Wars lighter-than-air competitor 'SPS #2' (pictured) was for a long time the only "solo" flying robot to compete as a combat robot. That status ended in June, 2023 when Logan Davis entered the NHRL beetleweight tournament with a flame-spitting drone called 'Spitfire'. It managed to win two matches! Spitfire video

2) The legality of an IR controlled fairyweight would be entirely at the discretion of the event organizer. Contact the EO for any events you might enter for their clearance and any special conditions.

There are Always Rumors
Q: Why did Robotica get canceled? I've heard some sources say TLC axed it because of comparatively low ratings. But I've also heard sources say that it got into copyright trouble with BattleBots and Robot Wars. You're definitely the most reliable source about this show, so which is it?

A: Fans are always looking for plausible reasons why their fave shows were canceled. The show was so good it couldn't have had poor ratings!

  • BattleBots was canceled in 2002 because Budweiser threatened to pull all their advertising from the Comedy Central network.
  • Robotica was canceled because of intellectual property infringement issues with the early seasons of Robot Wars.
  • Captain Kangaroo was canceled because they discovered that Bob Keeshan was an actual kangaroo.
None of the above rumors are true.
What's the Ante?
Q: Entry level costs [Melbourne, Australia]

A: [Mark J.] First, find your local events and determine what weight classes are supported in their tournaments. Smaller classes are less expensive both to build and maintain but you need to build something with which you can compete.

Costs vary depending on what your fabrication skills and equipment allow you to make versus what you will purchase pre-made:

  • A capable and beginner-friendly R/C transmitter (like the FlySky FS-i6) and receiver may be purchased for about $60. You can find cheaper transmitters, but you will face frustration in setting-up and adjusting the radio to suit your robot and driving preferences. See my combat robot radio guide.
  • A complete (minus radio) beginner one-pound antweight kit (FingerTech Viper) that can be upgraded as your growing skills merit may be purchased for about $150 US ($200 Canadian). An upgrade to a rechargeable lithium battery and charger is about $55 US ($75 Canadian) but the kit runs well on a 9-volt alkaline battery. Don't buy their optional radio; the Viper performs well with the FS-i6 radio mentioned above.
  • A simple, competitive, and almost complete three-pound beetleweight kit (BotKit D2 Dozer) runs about $400 US. Adding the required motor controller ($45) a couple LiPo batteries ($25) and a functional lipo charger ($35) brings the price up to about $500 US, plus radio. The Dozer kit will perform well with the FlySky radio mentioned above.
  • You will need spare parts and tools to repair damage to your robot during a tournament: drive gearmotors, wheels, and battery at a minimum -- plus simple hand tools, tape, quick-set adhesive, and perhaps soldering gear.
There are more exotic kits available but they require assembly and operational skills not commonly found in entry level competitors. Start simple.
It Gets Kinda Tricky
Q: It's Iceywave again, I wanted to say thank you for the kind response, I'll make sure my 2025 ballot is much better. Now I do have some questions...
  1. I'll be starting a YouTube channel soon, would you like me to promote this website on my channel?
  2. How many total weight classes are there in the history of robot combat (It's an idea for a YouTube video I'll probably post later this year)?
- Sincerely, a bird clock lover : )  [West of San Antonio]

A: [Mark J.] We all get carried away from time to time, Iceywave. Think nothing of it.

  1. I don't request links or promotions for any sites - I have my reasons - but you're free to feature 'Ask Aaron' if you find the site worthy.
  2. That gets a little tricky. Weight classes evolved over time. For example, the 1994 US Robot Wars had three weight class maximums:
    • Lightweight - 40 pounds
    • Middleweight - 70 pounds
    • Heavyweight - 100 pounds
    Two of those classes changed for the 1995 event and a fourth 'Super Lightwight' class was added with a 20 pound maximum. All four of those weight limits were increased for the 1996 event.
In current competition there are minor differences in classes of the same name when conducted in Europe and measured in round kilograms versus US events measured in round pounds. As best I can figure, the full-combat weight classes that have persisted for more than a couple of years are:

Weight ClassMax Weight
UK Fleaweight0.75 kg
US Fairyweight 0.15 kg
UK Antweight0.15 kg
US Antweight1 lb
Canada Kilobot1 kg
US Beetleweight3 lb / 1.4 kg
UK Beetleweight3.3 lb / 1.5 kg
Mantisweight6 lb
Hobbyweight12 lb
Dogeweight15 lb
Featherweight30 lb / 13.6 kg
US Lightweight60 lb / 27 kg
UK Lightweight66 lb / 30 kg
US Middleweight120 lb / 54.5 kg
UK Middleweight121 lb / 55 kg
US Heavyweight220 lb / 100 kg
UK Heavyweight242 lb / 110 kg
BattleBots Reboot250 lb
SuperHeavyweight340 lb
MechWars SuperHeavy390 lb

Deep Cuts
Q: I found an episode of inside Robotica! Inside Robotica Episode 306 [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Good find, Erskine.

"Inside Robotica" was a weekly program broadcast on The Science Channel as sort of an 'after-show' for "Robotica" seasons 2 and 3 that aired on sister channel TLC. It was comprised of interviews with the teams, clips from the show, visits to the pits, and testing/construction video from the teams. It's pretty 'deep cut' stuff. I know of no other episodes that have survived.

Nobody's Home
Q: Do all the BattleBots teams live in Las Vegas now so they can drive their robots in the daily destruct-a-thon? How much are they being paid? [Fort Colins, Colorado]

A: [Mark J.] The actual BattleBots teams are quite rarely involved in the BattleBots: Destruct-A-Thon shows. The 'famous' robots appearing in the live show are special easy-to-repair 'showbots' made to look like the real 'bots. These showbots all driven by the same two hired operators, and the "teams" that enter with the robots are actors. It's a show, not a competition.

The only real teams and robots in the show are there for the 'Proving Grounds' fights for new competitors. These fights are occasionally scheduled as part of a Destruct-A-Thon show. See these two consecutive archived posts for more information on the Las Vegas live shows.

I Know So Little
Q: How do you feel about Conquering Clown taking part in the BattleBots Proving Ground? [Clay, New York]

A: [Mark J.] It's difficult for me to feel much of anything about an entry about which so little is known.

  • Original team members Don Lariviere and Mike Flanagan are experienced and effective competitors, but are they still the team? Returning to BattleBots after taking off ten or twenty years from combat robotics has not met with much success.
  • I have not seen even a sketch of a new 'Conquering Clown'. I'll be disappointed if they decided to drag out the carcass of their Robot Wars Extreme Warriors competitor to amuse a weekend afternoon Vegas show audience.
I'll hope for the best.
I'm Gonna Say No
Q: I saw on the BattleBots wiki that a robot called Jaw Breaker would be competing in the Proving Ground of the Destruct-A-Thon. By any chance is it the same robot build by your old friend Tim Berghoefer that made it to the Robotica championship twice? [Clay, New York]

A: [Mark J.] The BattleBots Wiki reports all sorts of unverified information.

  • The Wiki names an unspecified 'Jawbreaker' as a "rumored" Proving Grounds competitor.
  • No 'Jawbreaker' appears on the official BattleBots Proving Ground schedule, which lists matches thru December of this year.
  • Stephen Montero's robot 'Jawbreaker' competed at BattleBots 5.0 and would have a claim to that name.
  • Tim Berghoefer's robot 'Jaw Breaker' competed at BattleBots 3.0 under the name 'Nasty Overbite' and would likely use that name again for a return to the competition.
Besides, I think Tim would have dropped me a note if he were heading to Las Vegas.

Elvis Has Left The Building
Q: how will battlebots destruct-a-thon work? neither overkill or ginsu have active weapons? what is the proving ground? and where can i watch it? [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] The BattleBots "Destruct-A-Thon" is like an Elvis impersonator: a staged and scripted Las Vegas show. It is not a competition and it does not follow BattleBots competition rules. See the next post down the page for a description and review.

The "Proving Ground" is a segment inserted into the Destruct-A-Thon show on an irregular basis. Here's what BattleBots says about it:

"Select Destruct-A-Thon shows will included fights with robots trying to prove their worth to be on the BattleBots television show and next World Championship. We're calling this BattleBots Proving Ground! Come watch as rookie bots battle to impress the Selection Committee; Established veterans try out new weapon systems; or bots on the bubble battle to stake their claim for a World Championship position."
The Destruct-A-Thon is neither recorded nor televised, but some of the 'Proving Ground' matches have been oficially released on the BattleBots Supporters-Only Facebook page. If you want to see the whole show you'll have to catch a bus to Vegas and buy a ticket.
A Live Vegas Experience
Q: I wanna to go see the battlebots live in las vegas. Whens the next tournament and how much are the tickets? [Web Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Right now (summer 2023) there are BattleBots 'Destruct-A-Thon' shows running five days a week at the Caesars Entertainment Studios in Las Vegas. Tickets cost between $62 and $193 plus fees.

The 'Destruct-A-Thon' is not a tournament -- it's a scripted ninety-minute show with five 'fights' and a lot of video clips from the TV series. BattleBots calls it "a live Vegas experience based on the hit TV show". There's no Faruq, no Kenny, no Chris, and no judges. The teams are played by actors, and the robots are easy-to-repair lookalikes. Here is a 3-star review from the Ticketmaster website for the show that sums it up well:

"So here was our take on the destructathon event. It's a made for Vegas every week event. The robots are real but not the bots they use in the actual tournament... it's their B Bots or older gen bots they use for testing or such. The drivers are not the actual bot builders. They were just 2 guys that drove all the bots. They hired actors to act like the original teams. But all in all it was cool. Robots got destroyed. And we even had fire!!!! So the hits are real but just not quite with the same velocity they would have going for the giant nut. It's still cool to see if you're a fan of the show."
The next actual tournament is tentatively scheduled for "first quarter, 2024". Filming runs about two weeks with two 'sessions' per day; you can expect to see about seven fights per session. Ticket prices for the real tournament are higher than for Destruct-A-Thon, averaging more than $200 per session.
One Thru Six
Q: The teams behind Juggerbot, Jawbreaker, Kritical Mass, HandsOFF!, Panzer Mark 1 and Viper returned from Robotica Season 1 to Robotica Season 3 with new robots:
  • Juggerbot 3.0
  • Jawbreaker's Revenge
  • Ultra-Violence
  • Mini-Rip
  • Panzer Mk 3 and
  • Viper Revision 2
What tournament seedings would you have given them? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Ignoring my knowledge of how they actually did in Robotica Season 3 and basing my seedings only on how the teams performed in Season 1:

  1. Juggerbot 3.0 - Team JuggerBot grabs top seed as the highest placing robot team returning from Season 1.
  2. Ultra-Violence - Team Suspect missed out on the Season 1 final fight to the eventual champion on tiebreaker scoring.
  3. Panzer Mk 3 - Todd Mendenhall did not make the Season 1 finals, but dominated the preliminary trials before losing a pushing contest to 'Viper'.
  4. Jawbreaker's Revenge - Team Jawbreaker's two-wheel design had control trouble, but was agile and unstoppable.
  5. Viper Revision 2 - Team Viper lacked speed and was unable to complete The Maze trial, making the finals on pushing ability.
  6. Mini-Rip - Team Litewav did not do well in Season 1, scoring only 20 points in their first-round loss to 'Ram Force'.
You can follow their actual performance on the Robotica Season 3 tournament tree.
You Can't Find What Isn't There
Q: what was nasty glass of waters weapon? and why cant i find it on botrank? [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] 'Nasty Glass of Water' was a hobbyweight robot we built for the September 2001 NERC Hobby Expo event in Chicago. It was a 'bottomless' dust pan controlbot design driven by a huge pair of automotive windshield wiper motors running at 24 volts. Think of it as a very early experiment in anti-wedge forks.

At the moment it's impossible to find much of anything on SPARC BotRank -- the database is badly corrupted and a great many records are missing.

Example - The index page claims to have a record of 4750 historic matches for the 12-pound class, but if you add up the fights column for all the listed 'bots you only get 854 individual fights. Since it takes two 'bots to make one match, that means 90% of the fights are missing.
The last intact version of BotRank I know of is the May 2022 archive from The Wayback Machine, but you won't find 'Nasty Glass of Water' there because NERC didn't start sending their event reports to BotRank until 2003.
UPDATE: I wrote to admin Rob Farrow to ask about the situation at BotRank. He responded:
Hey Mark, sorry I didn't reply earlier.

It's been busted for about 6 months and you are the 1st to notice. No one uses it anymore. It is going to be semi-retired from regular use. Everyone has switched over the the results/tracking and ranking system on the RobotCombatEvents site which has >90% of events submitting their results as opposed to the height of botrank which had ~50% of events.

[Name Redacted] wants to take it over and do some stuff with it, so it isn't going away but it may take some time to get it transferred.

I didn't even know about the RobotCombatEvents Ranking System. I'm happy that there's something tracking results, but it certainly isn't a substitute for the historic records that were available at BotRank.

You can drop a note to Rob to thank him for keeping BotRank going thru the years and let him know that you found it to be a valuable asset to combat robotics.

Hard to Compare
Q: what robot has the most wins to every loss? as far as I can tell its bite force [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] Hall of Fame robot 'Bite Force' has a record of 23 wins and 1 loss which makes for a 95.8% victory rate. While this record is remarkable, there are combat robots with better victory rates.

There are a number of robots that have swept to victory in multiple tournaments before retiring with a perfect record. For example, middleweight 'Hworf' fought undefeated thru three tournaments to retire with a 12 win - 0 loss record.

A fair comparison should include the number of matches in which a robot has competed. There should also be some consideration for the level of competition. It gets very messy. Below is a table showing robots with high victory rates categorized by number of fights. There may be better records, but these stood out in a quick search.

FightsRobot NameClassWin/LossPercent
10 to 19HworfMiddle12/0100%
20 to 29Mini PumaBeetle24/196.0%
30 to 39Margin of SafetyBeetle35/294.6%
40 to 49Wedge of DoomLight43/589.6%
50 to 59DemiseFairy46/492.0%
60 to 99Dark PounderUS Ant81/1287.1%
100 plusSilent SpringBeetle116/3079.5%

Better to Ask Reddit
Q: what do you consider a good fight? one that is really close like fusion vs witch doctor or a quick knockout like uppercut vs sawblaze. [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] This is the type of fan question they love over at Reddit. If you aren't monitoring the r/battlebots subreddit you may want to take a look.

Here's the type of fight I like.

Always Carry a Tape Measure
Q: how tall are warrior clan and p1? [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] The next time I'm walking thru the BattleBots pits I'll measure them for you.

But it Looks Like a Tournament
Q: What is your opinion on how only fifty bots can get into battlebots now? [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] Given the time and resources required to compete and the way the competitors are compensated, I'm surprised that there are still fifty teams interested in competing:

BattleBots is not a televised sports tournament.

BattleBots is a television show that looks like a sports tournament.

See: Why Things Happen on BattleBots.

Q: Also, in an old post you say that the commentary is added in later, is the part where the hosts talk with the winner also added in later?

A: The BattleBots commentators are 'ringside' for the matches, and some of their reactions during the fight may be used in the commentary. Most 'real life' television shows record the entire commentary in a studio after the event.

Post-match interviews are done immediately after the match -- you need the teams to be full of spirit and 'fresh from the fight'.

The Store is Closed
Q: I'd like to order the hat and video CD from your web store. How long is delivery? [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] Is my webstore still on-line? I was sure I took that down six years ago when I moved to my new web server. I had a few extra Team Run Amok hats for sale and I was tossing in a video CD from the 2002 'Oregon Clandestine Street Fight' as a bonus. It's 2023 and they don't even put CD drives in computers anymore! Here's a description of the video from the web store:

Oregon Clandestine Street Fight

It was a hot July afternoon and the finest heavyweight and super-heavyweight combat robots in the Northwest gathered at an undisclosed location to test their mettle.

No TV coverage - No spectators - No prize money - No trophies - No scale - No clock - No rules
  • Slam Job vs. The Gap - a ranked heavyweight overhead pneumatic spike against the highest lift-bot in Robot Wars. Will the spike find a target before the lifter gets under the skirts? Which 'bot can recover and/or survive?
  • The Gap vs. JuggerBot 3.0 - high lifter against rambot, maneuverability against speed, spatula against flapjack? You'll need pencil and paper to keep track of the weapon hits, hazard damage, inversion recoveries, and strategy changes in this marathon battle!
  • Rosie the Riveter vs. Tillah - Oh the humanity! Tillah is the latest 'bot out of the JuggerBot camp. Ask them how much power the drum weapon has and they just smile. Listen for the team members yelling for the drivers to stop the match!
  • Tillah vs. Chevy Van Door - bonus footage of Tillah working out against a late entry. Turn up the sound!
  • Strike Terror vs. Chevy Van Door - you've never seen a weapon like the one mounted on super-heavyweight 'Strike Terror'. Wild weapon gyrations and an unearthly whine when the weapon winds up left us fearing for our lives! Spot the teams in the background hiding behind trees.
I've removed the web store, Vestal -- but I'll tell you what I'll do:
  • I'll dig out one of the hats and send it to you as a reward for letting me know that the store was still on-line;
  • I'll toss in a set of combat robot trading cards; and
  • I'll upload the Oregon Clandestine Street Fight videos to YouTube and post a link.
The link is now 'up': Oregon Clandestine Street Fight

Comment: Thank you so much for the hat. Im a big fan of the site if you couldnt tell.

Reply: You're very welcome, Vestal.

Q: what would you say is the biggest upset from the battlebots reboot? I think its ripperoni vs end game. [Vestal, New York]

A: [Mark J.] This falls outside the range of question types we answer here. Ask Aaron is not a fan site. See FAQ #14.

I'm sure this question would be welcomed on the Battlebots subreddit.

A Rat Has Resurfaced
Q: I found on your archive that [Name Redacted] was the creator of the Robotica Rats. Did he and someone else control them? And do you think he has them in storage, or are they scrapped? [Clay, New York]

A: [Mark J.] Robotica host Dan Danknick says the rats were controlled by "an experienced Hollywood SFX team" which makes sense. You wouldn't want any of the competitors to feel that the rats were anything but impartial. According to a 2022 post on Reddit at least one rat chassis has survived [photo above] and one of the comments to that post implies that the chassis is in the possesion of the original builder. The condition of the original plastic rat bodies is unknown.

UPDATE: The information I previously had about the Robotica Rats was incorrect. The Rats were built and operated by J.D. Streett Special Effects & Pyrotechnics of Los Angeles. J.D. Competed in the first season of Robotica with

Audiences Want Action
Q: How come no one uses a cord ball or dispenser to entangle spinner weapons. The have everything else. [Generic Verizon Server]

A: [Mark J.] Most all combat robot rule sets prohibit entangling devices -- they make for dull matches. Example from the BattleBots Design rules Section 8-j:

Prohibited Weapons

The following weapon types are not allowed under any circumstances:

  • Fouling devices such as glue, nets, fishing line, ball bearings and such.
  • Squirting liquids or liquefied gasses such as liquid Nitrogen.
  • EMP generators or other means intended to damage or jam the opponent bot's electronics.
  • Deliberate smoke generators.
  • Bright lights, lasers, etc., that are distracting or dangerous to vision.
  • Weapons that damage the other bot by destroying themselves.

Could You Make It Work Today?
Q: My favorite part of Robotica was the challenges that were nominally point-based, but the robots could interfere with each others' progress. Given the massive advancements in weapon effectiveness & destructiveness, if such a contest came back in 2023, would there be a fair way to allow some degree of moving weapons for glassbreaking, self-righting, and a reasonable amount of interference, without the dominant strategy becoming "kill the other robot, then scoop all the points unimpeded"? [Newton,  Massachusetts]

A: [Mark J.] Robotica Seasons 2 and 3 did have challenge stages redesigned to allow greater opportunity for robot vs. robot conflict. Most competitors chose to focus on the points-gathering tasks, although in a few matches the close quarters of the starting turntable in "The Labyrinth" saw weaponry deployed.

I think it would make sense to have active weaponry for a Robotica-style event comply with "Sportsman Class" rules as defined in section 4.2 of the SPARC Ruleset. That should allow for ample capacity to interfere without destroying the opponent or the set.

It Really Doesn't Matter
Q: For the filming days of Robotica:
Day 1 - episodes 3 and 6
Day 2 - episodes 1 and 5
Day 3 - episodes 2 and 4
example for the speedway did the episode 3 competitors go first in day one, did the episode 1 competitors go first in day two and did episode 2 competitors go first in day 3? we know the filming days of season 1 but what about seasons 2 and 3? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Season 1 filming day 2: the 'bots from what would become episode 1 went first -- but this was just chance as the order of the episodes was not determined until the video editing was complete and the producers watched each show. I do not know the order of competition for days 1 and 3 or for any of seasons 2 and 3.

All the Way to the End
Q: What is the difference between your copies of Robotica Season 1 and my copies? frame rate, colour, screen quality? if so, which copies are better or are we evenly matched? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] I have good copies, you have good copies.

Mine have the full end credits. If yours had the end credits you wouldn't have needed to ask about the opening title graphics in your last question.

Q: Now I know what you're gonna say next however the Channel 5 UK Recordings of Robotica Season 1 are the best quality there is yet. Only if someone has the original TLC recording of the Robotica Season 1 Championship and/or if someone has all 7 episodes of Robotica Season 1 from the Discovery Store Discovery Website you name it, coz do not get me wrong here but it would be nice to watch download view and cast the Robotica Episodes WITHOUT the screen bugs of Channel 5 and TLC. All 3 Seasons of Robotica i think were shown on another UK TV Channel called Challenge (or Challenge TV) which is a UK version of GSN (Gameshow Network).

A: No, I don't think you do know what I'm going to say, Erskine.

I prefer to watch the shows as they were originally presented, complete with the commercials and credits. The original commercials from national advertisers were themselves quite entertaining, and TLC tossed in promos for some of their other programs like 'Junkyard Wars'. The best bits were some very clever teasers for upcoming episodes of Robotica. This is the way I first saw the series and it is the way it was intended to be viewed.

You're entitled to your opinion of the 'best' possible version of the show, but I'm fortunate enough to already have my preferred version.

Q: You're right Nash entertainment has all 21 episode of Robotica on tapes, and even thought it may or may not be done due to the "legal lavidaloca" what do you think would be the best thing for them? time will tell are the only words that i initially have.

A: A lesson in values:

For several hundred years the native inhabitants of the Yap islands in Micronesia carved stone "coins" out of a special crystaline limestone found on a few nearby isles. Some of these ceremonial coins are quite large: meters in diameter and weighing thousands of pounds. When one of the coins changes ownership it is usually just left where it is and the story of the coin is ammended to include the name of the new owner. The location of the coin is immaterial as long as everyone knows to whom the coin belongs.

One large coin was being delivered by a jumbo outrigger canoe when it came loose and sank to the deep ocean floor. This sinking did not decrease the value of the coin because the islanders know that the coin still exists on the seabed. The sunken coin continues to be bartered as a high-status item.

The coin isn't important - the story is important. You can throw the master tapes into the ocean for all I care.
It's All a Blur
Q: Any idea on who created the opening title graphics for the intro to Robotica? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] The opening animation was created by Blur Studio in Culver City, California. The concept designer was Feng Zhu, who now runs the Feng Zhu School of Design. A render from his original Robotica concept appears below.

The Schedule Was Rough
Q: Now, when Run Amok entered the arena for and competed in Robotica, did Run Amok have any Run Amaniacs? or as i would like to describe it: Was Run Amok the crowd favourite? Live life and bring on the Run Amoking. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] If you watch the audience shots you can see some Run Amok signs in the stands, but it was difficult to build up any real following because of the way the production was scheduled. The filming days for Robotica were very long - about 14 hours - and there was a lot of 'down time'. The studio could only have one of the large sets assembled and ready for filming at a time, and it took hours to move one set out and assemble the next. This did not make for a happy and involved audience for the filming.

Two audiences were brought in for each of the four filming days: one at 1:00 PM and another at about 7:00 PM. By the time the 'Fight to the Finish' was ready to shoot it was well after midnight and the only people in the stands were the teams and their families. No single audience was able to see more than one or two stages of the competition so they really didn't have time to develop 'favorite' robots.

I will say that the competitors gathered in the stands for the final 'Fight to the Finish' were generous in their appreciation for Run Amok's victory over Juggerbot and Ram Force. Immediately after the filming was completed, the entire production crew gathered on the set and gave Team Run Amok an enthusiastic and extended round of applause as a reward for our contributions to the show. They really hadn't been sure that the show was going to work, and they were very pleased with the result.

On a Raised Platform
Q: Even though you didn't enter Robotica Season 3, at least we did have Rambot which bears great resemblance What would you do if you did enter Robotica Season 3, would you have entered Run Amok or created a Run Amok 2? And if there was a 3 way Fight To The Finish between Run Amok Vs Flexy Flyer Vs Panzer Mk 3 I would say that something similar to Run Amok Vs Juggerbot Vs Ram Force would have happened and Run Amok would win to become the Champion of Champions -- and you know what: i think you deserved to be on Robotica Season 3. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] I'm told that the Season 1 teams that returned for Season 3 playfully chided Tom Sweeney about his 'Rambot' being so similar in appearance to 'Run Amok'. Oscar Wilde famously claimed that "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and I have always felt honored by his tribute.

Run Amok would have been poorly suited for the challenges of the later Robotica seasons. An all-wheel drive platform more like Rambot would have been my choice. Tom made the finals with Rambot and with a bit more experience could have contended for the victory.

Q: By the way, do you still have Run Amok with the Robotica Armour in your garage anywhere?

A: 'Run Amok' sits in her Robotica colors under a spotlight on a raised platform in the corner of my workshop. By her side is our Robot Wars entry 'The Gap'. Batteries have been removed, but both 'bots are otherwise fully functional. Respect.

Three Breaches
Q: Regarding the RoboGames 2023 arena Breach issues would a 100mph tip speed limit have stopped it from happening or would it have been too little? [Ashburn, Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] There were apparently multiple issues contributing to the arena breaches at RoboGames. I have also heard of concerns about LiPo fire response and lax radio impound enforcement. Given the actions taken by RoboGames at the time of the incidents I expect the offical response will attempt to minimize the seriousness of these events.

Enforcing a 100 MPH tip speed on spinner weapons would have prevented the breaches, but with a serious impact on the matches:

The kinetic energy of a spinner increases with the square of rotational velocity, so reducing the speed of a 250 MPH spinner to 100 MPH would reduce its stored energy to: (100 / 250)2 = 16% of its current value.
A 50,000 joule weapon would be cut down to 8,000 joules -- do you think that would make a heavyweight match worth watching?

A proper arena for heavyweight robot combat does not have three breaches in four hours. If RoboGames isn't going to provide a safe environment for big 'bots that are built to the current standard perhaps they should stick to smaller robots.

...That Never Was
Q: Challenge of the Champions...Challenge of the Champions...Challenge of the Champions...Challenge of the Cha-... wait stop stop wait. Challenge of the Champions event!? Really!? Allright first of all i feel sad that Robotica was...can i say axed after Season 3? If there was going to be a Challenge of the Champions event what would it involve, who would present and/or commentate it, what would the challenges be and between Run Amok, Flexy Flyer and Panzer Mark 3: who would win and more importantly what would it be called? for example maybe i was thinking Robotica X, Robotica Hexagon or Robotica: Challenge of The Champions. And for me Run Amok would accurately win. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] You're refering to this post from the Team Run Amok and Friends archive, 2006:

Q: Why didn't Team Run Amok enter Robotica seasons 2 or 3?

A: Entry into the Robotica tournaments was by invitation only and winners weren't invited back. The producers were saving the winners from each season for a 'Challenge of the Champions' event that was to take place after a few more seasons had gone by. The ratings for seasons 2 and 3 fell off from the first season and the 'Challenge' tournament never happened. Rats!

There is a bit more to the story. Robotica seasons 2 and 3 were filmed back-to-back over a two-week period in late 2001. On Sunday of the weekend between the two filming sessions I got a call from one of the Robotica segment producers. He explained the whole 'Challenge of Champions' concept to me, but said they were short one robot for the season 3 filming and wondered if I could be in Los Angeles with Run Amok on Monday morning to jump into the tournament.

I was sitting nine hundred miles north of Hollywood with a combat robot still in 'Robot Wars' colors and Robotica wanted me there in 18 hours. I stalled a bit and considered options. If they'd given me an extra day I could have been there, but there were just too many things that would have to come together perfectly to get there that quickly. I thanked him for thinking of me but I had to admit that I couldn't make it work. They had to re-use season 2 competitor 'Intriverter' in season 3 as 'Reintriverter' to fill out the field.

Had there been a "Robotica: Challenge of The Champions" it might well have used an assortment of individual events from each of the earlier six or so seasons that would have transpired leading up to it. Who would win? See: Frequently Asked Questions #33.

Open a New Can of Robot
Q: What happened to End Game? [Cardiff, Wales]

A: One of the many available copies of 'End Game' got caught in a floor hazard at BattleBots WCVII and was ripped in twain by a vicious pizza. Depressed, 'End Game' made its way to the top of the Vegas Stratosphere Tower and leapt off - only to land on the open bed trailer of a semi truck bound for Florida.

After hitching a ride into Orlando, 'End Game' worked as a buccaneer in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' ride at Disney World for several years and saved every penny until it had enough money to open a small mango juice stand. It married a lovely Mouseketeer named Annette and had four children: a girl, two boys, and a pneumatic floor jack. The family is doing well.

See also: Mad Libs

Costume Changes!!!
Q: You know there is one thing that kills me: I wonder how and why day 2 Robotica Season 1 Episodes 1 and 5 were filmed together maybe it's coz of 2 oregeon bots (Run Amok And Juggerbot) and Why Ahmet, Tanika and Tanya looked the same in the episodes whilst presenting.

Episodes 1, 5 and 7 are my only favourite episodes of Robotica Season 1 so far by best there for i declare Run Amok, Juggerbot, Armourgeddon (Season 2), Logoseye (Season 3) and Hammerhead (Season 3) as an elite group of oregonian bots in Robotica History. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] You just solved a mystery for me, Erskine: Tanika and Tanya looked the same in the episodes. Tanika and Tanya's interview sequences took place down on the set immediately following each event, so event interviews for episodes filmed the same day should have Tanika and Tanya wearing the same outfits -- as you noted for episodes 1 and 5.

I was sure that Episode 6 (Viper) filmed on Day 1 but I'd never been certain that I was correct in assigning Episode 4 (Ram Force) to that same filming day. After seeing your comment above I quickly pulled up the Season 1 videos and noted the costumes Tanika and Tanya wore in the post-Speedway interviews. The costumes matched in Episodes 3 and 6 which makes them filming day 1, and a different set of costumes matched in Episodes 2 and 4 for filming day 3. I'm correcting the filming sequence everywhere I can find it.

Not a Kid's Show
Q: Do you think that not just male or female adults but children are interested in Robotica and might get involved with the program if so which season? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Robotica was aimed at a young adult market, not children. No funny team costumes, no anthropomorphic house robots, and a more complex competition made for less appeal for pre-teens when compared to the other robot competitions.

A review of robot combat TV shows by Robbie Fraser in the August 25, 2001 issue of TV Guide pointed out that Robotica's "welcome dose of hipster madness, with its sharp MTV-style cutting and the yammering commentary of host Ahmet Zappa" was a very different take on robot combat compared to Robot Wars's "ultraviolence" and BattleBots's "brutal head-to-head dueling":

"Robotica goes for a slightly more cerebral approach, pitting robots against each other over several obstacle courses and races, with only the two most versatile and high-scoring robots making it to the final combat round. "We challenge builders to crate smarter, intelligent robots that execute a variety of challenges, not just one," says series producer Gena McCarthy. "They have to be not only strong and powerful enough to throw their opponents around the ring but also fast, agile, maneuverable and able to answer a wide variety of physical and strategic tests."
Certainly some children will like anything with robots in it, but I think the other robot competitions hold more interest for them.
Two Simultaneous Shows
Q: Correct me but during filming the heats or preliminary rounds i take it it may or may not be Run Amok's heat first, Then Kritical Mass's, Then Jawbreaker's, Then Ram Force's, Then Juggerbots and Then Viper's?

coz i've had that strange prediction that it was either Jawbreakers Heat first, Then Viper's, Then Run Amok's, Then Juggerbot's, Then Kritical Mass's and Finally Ram Force's Heat. Sorry for carbon corruption. but if Run Amok's heat was filmed first then the only word that one gets is entertaining. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Two of the preliminary shows were filmed each day for three days. Each of those days went like this:

  • All robots available on set took on the unfilmed qualifying trials. The eight top qualifiers paired-off into four pairs.
  • All four pairs took on The Speedway, that set was removed, and The Maze set was set up. The set change took hours.
  • All four pairs ran The Maze, that set was removed, and The Gauntlet set was installed. The set change took hours.
  • All four pairs completed The Gauntlet, that set was struck, and The Fight to the Finish set went up. The set change took hours.
  • The two pairings for The Fight to the Finish completed their combat and everyone went home for the night. It was past midnight.
Fianlists Jawbreaker and Viper qualified on day one. Their two shows filmed simultaneously that day. These shows became episodes 3 and 6.

Finalists Run Amok and Juggerbot qualified on day two. Their two shows filmed simultaneously that day. These shows became episodes 1 and 5.

Finalists Kritical Mass and Ram Force qualified on day three. Their two shows filmed simultaneously that day. These shows became episodes 2 and 4.

Top Two Red
Q: Let me think: Robotica Season 1 heat winners of Qualifiying
Day 1: Jawbreaker and Viper
Day 2: Run Amok And Juggerbot
Day 3: Kritical Mass and Ram Force
Day 1: Ram Force And Viper
Day 2: Run Amok And Juggerbot
Day 3: Kritical Mass and Jawbreaker
Which was it? This is so confusing!...ish. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Are we talking about episode winners or the daily qualifying sessions? If episode winners, your first series is correct -- the Jawbreaker and Viper episodes were filmed on the first day.

If you're asking about qualifying sessions, the top two scorers in each of the three days of qualifying for Robotica Season 1 were assigned Red Team patches and placed in one of the two shows to be filmed that day.

Neither Jawbreaker nor Viper wore Red Team patches, but Panzer and Wendingo did -- so by my recollection the top two finishers in each qualifying session were:

Day 1: Panzer and Wendingo
Day 2: Run Amok And Juggerbot
Day 3: Kritical Mass and Ram Force

Word Origins
Q: I wonder why [the TV show] Robotica was called Robotica, maybe the came from latin or maybe it was used after the Robotica 1998 competition was scrapped. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] "Robotica" is not from Latin. The word "Robot" itself comes from Slavic roots (robota, rabotat) related to "labor" or "slave". "Robotum" is a recent addition to the supposedly dead Latin. "Robotica" is the feminine singular form of the Italian word "robotico" and is also found in Protuguese to describe the science and technology of robots.

I have no specific insight as to why the word was choosen as the title of the TV show. I suppose it sounded 'sexy' to someone.

Nash is a Thing
Q: Do you know if Nash Entertainment the owner of the Robotica MASTERtapes or Betatapes (i just want to call it that) is still in busiuness or in the working community or whatever word you want to use coz how they did Robotica was entertaining and although it may or may not be done due to the legal Schmoidenfoifensrunflundergraabteszt but if Robotica was on Discovery plus or something what would it mean to you?, Allow me to just put it like that. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Nash Entertainment is still in business: Nash Entertainment website. They list 'Robotica' in their television show library, and I'm sure they would be pleased to have it shown again. I'm not sure I'd watch.

Robotica Music
Q: Did you know that the background music for Robotica was composed by Danny Lux and John Carta from SESAC? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Yes. A post from 2015 in this archive:

Q: Who was the composer for Robotica? [United States]

A: [Mark J.] The end credits for TLC's 'Robotica' series list veteran Hollywood composers Danny Lux and John Carta for music.

SESAC is simply a company that collects and distributes royalty fees for artists.
Same As It Ever Was
Q: During the Robotica Season 1 Championship before the fight to the finish (and I am talking about the original TLC broadcast, not the internet archive copy) didn't Run Amok Vs Juggerbot Vs Ram Force get a fight card in before the commercial break began? Or is it just the same as the Run Amok Vs Killer B fight to the finish where there was no fight card? I would be psyched if it had. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

NOTE We do not typically answer this type of question here at Ask Aaron (see FAQ #14) but I've made an exception for a dedicated fan.
A: I pulled out my DVD of TLC Robotica Season 1 Episode 7 and compared it to the UK Channel 5 recording on the Internet Archive. As far as I can tell the TLC and Channel 5 shows are identical: in both recordings Run Amok, JuggerBot, and Ram Force each get their video 'fight card' just after the seventh commercial break. That's at the 1:16:00 mark in the Channel 5 version on the Internet Archive. The Fight Cards are followed by a long segment showing the three teams preparing for the final fight. The 'Fight to the Finish' itself starts after the eighth commercial break.

Q: On the Robotica season 2 episode 5 at the first few minutes are missing. Can you remember what Ahmet Zappa said for Ill-Tempered Mutt's introduction before it entered the arena? If you can look back at the tape or something I would appreciate it.

A: I'm not going to fill up Ask Aaron with fan trivia, Scotland. Send me your email address - I'll keep it private - and the next time I pull my VCR out and hook it up I'll run the Robotica 2 tape. It may be a while...

A Long Pilot
Q: Now, Robotica (I think) did not have a pilot episode. Why is that, and if it did what would it have for starters? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] For this type of production the costs of building sets, hiring on-screen 'talent', and booking studio time make a short pilot series very little more expensive than a single pilot episode. The short first season of Robotica (seven episodes) effectively was the pilot for the continuing production of the series into seasons two and three. As is common with a pilot, the show format and on-screen talent were adjusted for the seasons that followed.

First a Left Then a Right
Q: The Speedway was the best in Robotica Season 1 but somehow the winners of the speedway never got 8 laps, Run Amok in the Heats got 3 laps but in the Championship got 6, Ram Force was so close to getting 8 but only got 7, if there was anyone who would've gotten 8 laps in the speedway: who do you reckon would run the figure-8 track 8 times for 80 points plus 20 for 100? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] In qualifying I drove Run Amok thru 5-plus laps in one minute -- but I was standing right next to the figure-8 track and had no distractions from another robot circling the track in the opposite direction. Running 8 laps in two minutes is certainly possible, but would require a little cooperation from your opponent to stay out of your way.

Of the Robotica competitors from seasons 2 and 3 who did not get to run the 'Speedway' course, I think Jeff Vasquez could have done a good job with 'Deb Bot'. Jeff is a fine driver and Deb Bot is fast, nimble, and small enough to have ample 'elbow room' to get thru the turns.

The Robotica Mascot
Q: Now, during the TLC Commercials for Robotica Season 1 there was a fictional robot named Shrapnel which is a robot with a pincer hand and a circular saw hand. Sound familiar? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Familiar? We were roommates in college! 'Shrapnel' (AKA 'Commander Clank') appeared in three entertaining television promos for Robotica. Shrapnel was also prominent in print media ads for the series, such as this full page ad from the April 2nd, 2001 edition of Newsweek magazine.

I've assembled all three Shrapnel commercials below for your viewing pleasure. I really wish I had the Shrapnel action figure the kid in the second commercial is carrying. The third commercial is a parody of this famous Coca Cola commercial. I've also added an entry for Shrapnel as the Robotica mascot in the Robotica Competitor Gallery: Season 1.

Jeff, Mark, and Dan
Q: You recently posted about an "Ask the Builders" question and answer page on the old TLC Robotica fansite. You mentioned that host Dan Danknick had a Q&A and I believe you had one as well. Did any other builders have a Q&A on that site? [Boise Idaho]

A: [Mark J.] You have a good memory. The official TLC/Discovery Robotica Fansite (archived) took questions from viewers as the seasons unfolded. Jeff Cesnik (Kritical Mass) Took the first shift for Season 1. I took over at the end of the first season to fill the gap 'til the start of Season 2 when Dan Danknick took over as technical advisor and host.

I've got a complete set of the questions and answers from all three volumes. Give me a sec and I'll wrap a webpage around them...

Four Hours Later...

There -- all done. It took a bit of squeezing to get all the links to work; I think I got most of them. Viewer Q & A from the TLC/Discovery Robotica Fansite

No - Not Really
Q: According to the Team Toad Website 'Windchill' sent in an audition packet to be in Robotica Season 2 but was not selected. If you watch this short clip from their audition video you'll realize that Windchill's weapon is a brushbroom. A Brushbroom!? Really!? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] I believe you have misinterpreted the events described on the 'Windchill' webpage. Windchill had a modular lifting spike that could accept attachments to suit differing tasks. That video clip simply showed the versatility of their lifter. Any number of things could have led to the show producers rejecting Team Toad's application, but I'm sure the issue was not the ability of their 'bot to push a broom.

Rats Need Love Too
Q: I don't think that the Robotica Rats from the Season 2 and 3 Labyrinth get enough love. They did a great job of keeping the Labyrinth competition going while adding a touch of mayhem. Can you tell me anything about them? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] The Rats were a great idea and they did keep things moving in The Labyrinth. In several matches the Rats were able to unstick a competitor and get them back in the game, yet they showed no favoritism and were never a deciding factor in who moved on. A few Rat facts:

  • The Rats were built by J.D. Streett Special Effects of Los Angeles, who also built Robotica Season 1 competitor 'Crisis Management'.
  • The two Rats (Red and Black) each weighed about 90 pounds and had modest circular saw weapons in the rear.
  • The translucent plastic rat bodies covered a welded aluminum chassis with a swivel castor wheel under the nose.
Q: The Rats still need some TLC so I gave them their own page on The Robotica Wiki.

A: Let me give you some more material gleaned from the archived TLC Robotica Fansite where host/advisor Dan Danknick answered questions from viewers:

Q: I was watching your show the other day, and I saw the mice attack the competitors. I was wondering if the mice were controlled by people, or if they acted on their own accord. They were my favorite and I thought maybe I could drive them some time.

A: Most of the technical details concerning the Robotica Rats are classified but I can tell you there is an experienced Hollywood SFX (special effects) team in control of them. Pay close attention to their behavior � not only do they impede and attack the competitors at times but they can also give them a hand in the Labyrinth!

I have added entry for "The Labyrinth Rats" at the bottom of my Robotica Competitor Galleries for Season 2 and Season 3. I credit them as 'House Robots' and include most of Dan's description of the Rats from above.
The Lips Are Synched
Q: I know that all 3 seasons of Robotica are available on the Internet Archive, but did you know that they have a new and better copy of Robotica Season 1? Improved Robotica Season 1 Videos at Internet Archive [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Very nice! Better color saturation, less screen distortion, and perfect sound synch. I've changed all the site links for Internet Archive Season 1 Robotica to point at the new uploads.

A Real Mystery
Q: Who built 'Boxster' for Robotica season 1? It was an alternate and did not compete, but I wonder about the team that built it. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] There were several robots at the Robotica Season 1 filming that were not able to compete. Some had mechanical problems, some failed in the daily qualifying sessions, and then there was the mystery of 'Boxster'. Some of Boxster's design elements are common to a well-known combat robot team, and I did spot a member of that team in the robot storage area, but I can't directly attribute the build to them. I'm not going to start any rumors that I can't back up.

Just Put Seven At The End
Q: now about robotica season 3, it ran for a marathon on TLC back in 2002 but it might have been the wrong order, so shouldn't have been this order?:

ep 1 - Juggerbot 3.0's heat, ep 2 - Ultra-Violence's heat, ep 3 - Mini-Rip's heat, ep 4 - Jawbreaker's Revenge's heat, ep 5 - Panzer Mk 3's heat and ep 6 - Rambot's heat

coz in my opinion i feel it should've been Juggerbot 1st, then Jawbreaker, Ultra-Violence, Mini-Rip, Panzer and finally Rambot after that instead of Mini-Rip to Ultra-Violence, no idea what TLC were doing. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] The original broadcast order for Robotica Season 3 episodes was:

1. Mini-Rip
2. Jawbreaker's Revenge
3. Panzer Mk III
4. Rambot
5. Juggerbot 3.0
6. Ultra-Violence
7. The Championship
I've mentioned previously that the order in which the Robotica episodes were shown had no relationship to the order of events at the competition. As long as the Championship is shown last to avoid spoilers the viewing order of the episodes is irrelevant.
Point a Camcorder At It
Q: Did you know that back in the early 2000's you could by VHS Tapes of Robotica Season 1 on the TLC Website?

YouTube user 'Flipperbots Rule' has all seven tapes of Robotica Season 1 and he recorded them by just pointing a camcorder at the screen of his TV (classic thing to do, right?) Here's his playlist. He also has Season 3 as shown on The Science Channel. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Yes, Discovery/TLC sold VHS tapes for many of their popular shows. They were available both thru their websites and at their 'Discovery Stores' in shopping malls across the country. There weren't any 'extras' on the tape -- just the show. As I recall, they were about $15 each.

If you're interested in the three seasons of Robotica you don't need to suffer thru Flipperbots' second generation analog copies. The Internet Archive has nice clean digital copies you can stream, cast, or download: see this archived post.

First Find a Hockey Puck...
Q: Antbotica - what was the shuttle race like and how did it work? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] From the Antbotica rules:

3.1 Shuttle Race

3.1.1 - Two robots start on opposite ends of the 4 foot by 8 foot Shuttle Race field within their 'goal zone'. A regulation hockey puck (or substitute) is in a marked area in the center of the field. Points may be scored in two ways:

  • The robot may traverse the length of the field and touch the end-board at the back of their opponent's goal zone for 5 points. The robot may then return to their goal zone and touch the end-board for another 5 points. This may be repeated to a maximum of 100 points.
  • Should any part of the puck be within a player's goal zone at the end of the game, the opponent will be given 20 points. The line designating the goal zone is placed 8" from the endboard and is considered a part of the goal zone.
3.1.2 - A puck that leaves the playing field will be retrieved and replaced at its starting place in the center of the field by the event marshal. The clock will not be stopped while this takes place.

3.1.3 - The Shuttle Race is over when either robot scores 100 end-board points, or 2 minutes have elapsed. Maximum points for the game: 120.

The challenge of the race is to judge your braking point so you tap the end wall of the arena and quickly reverse to the near wall in your goal zone.
  • Slow too late and the slam into the wall may set you sideways or even flip you out of the arena. The arena wall is less than 2" tall. The general event rules allow an out-of-arena 'bot to be replaced but the clock continues to run.
  • Reverse too soon and you may miss tapping the end wall and get no points.
The hockey puck is a distraction. Some 'bot designs will have no trouble shoving the puck from its starting position into the opponent's goal, but it is typically more difficult to maneuver the puck out of the tight quarters of the goal zone. Often the puck will be left in a goal zone until the final seconds for an attempt to push it clear.

Deja Vu
Q: If there was a Robotica Season 4: What would you like to see improved, redesigned, redone and/or brought back TLC's Robotica was renewened with for Season 4?

For Me, I would have to say Ahmet Zappa still presenting and commentating, the statistics to show the name of the robot, the weight, the weapons and design feature, the speedway to comeback along with the maze and the gauntlet, and the fight to the finish to be larger giving the robots more room to drive, and maybe perhaps all Veterans from Seasons 1-3 returning. Maybe some newcomers should join in as well, and not just robots from Canada and the US but maybe other countries, something that's never been done before, and something familar. These are my Robotica Season 4 ideas, what are yours? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] A previous post asked for my thoughts on a Robotica reboot back on September 16th of last year. My answer hasn't changed: Archived post from 9/16/2022

Robotica Top Five
Q: I found a channel on YouTube for Nash Entertainment, the production company that made 'Robotica'. They call it 'Crazy 8 Videos'. They have a pair of Robotica clip compilations: They haven't released a 'Top Five Fights to the Finish - Season 1', but if they do here's my prediction:
  1. Episode 1 - Run Amok (Red Team) Vs Killer B (Silver Team)
  2. Episode 2 - Kritical Mass (Red Team) Vs Hot Wheels (Gold Team)
  3. Episode 4 - Ram Force (Red Team) Vs Solar Flare (Gold Team)
  4. Episode 5 - Juggerbot (Red Team) Vs Hammerschlag (Silver Team)
  5. Episode 7 - Run Amok Vs Juggerbot Vs Ram Force
What would your Season 1 'Top Five' be? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Great find! The videos are better quality than I've ever seen for 'Robotica', but of course Nash Entertainment has the original tapes. Are you ranking those matches in decreasing or increasing order???

I watched five of the seven season 1 'Fight to the Finish' matches from either the studio floor or the drivers' platform, so I had a different perspective than the TV audience. I could hear all the screaming metal and smell the smoke. Let me give my top three in decreasing order - best first:

  1. JuggerBot vs. Hammerschlag Episode 5: This should have been an easy victory for JuggerBot, but they made an error in calculating the required thickness of their tianium front wedge. An early strong hit from Hammerschlag bent their wedge downward enough to lift their front wheels off the ground -- creating serious maneuverability problems and negating half of their power and traction. More than once they were on the brink of elimination, but driver Tom Vaeretti kept finding new ways to get the disabled robot to respond.
  2. Panzer Mk 1 vs. Viper Episode 6: The battle of the six-wheeled pushers. Panzer was a terrifying competitor with great gobs of speed and power. Viper was the only 'bot at the event with enough traction to have any hope of standing up to Panzer. After Viper proved to have the lower wedge, the two went blunt tail-to-tail in the middle of the arena, leaving arcs of dark rubber across the surface and filling the air with acrid tire smoke. Panzer chose to trust their superior power in a pushing match rather than maneuvering away and taking a risky speed-ramming approach. In the end, Viper's tires were better matched to the arena surface and delivered enough pushing force to derail Panzer's first try for Robotica glory.
  3. Run Amok/Juggerbot/Ram Force Episode 7: The season 1 fight to the finish platform was less than half the area of the one built for later seasons and there really wasn't enough room for three robots -- but there we were. As much a three-way chess match as a fracas, it came down to who found the best position before the rails dropped.

A Robot From the Shadows
Q: 'The Eviscerator'. Sound familliar? [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Yes -- that photo of Ray Scully and his robot 'The Eviscerator' was taken in a secure area of the old ABC studios in Hollywood where robots were un-crated and stored during the filming of Robotica season 1. 'Run Amok' was stored just out-of-frame to the left.

The Eviscerator did not compete in the event, but I don't know exactly why not; perhaps weight issues or perhaps it did poorly in the qualifying tests. I don't recall seeing Ray during my qualifying session on day 2 of the filming. The article in the Robotoca Wiki linked in your question says:

The producers brought Donald Hutson the builder of Tazbot and Diesector from Battlebots to replace Ray, his team and The Eviscerator.
I recall seeing Donald and one of his 'bots during the Robotica filming, but given that he did not compete in the event I don't think it's accurate to say that he replaced Ray in the competition.
The Perfect Weapon
Q: What's the idea behind a projectile weapon like Double Jeopardy's? When I see them on TV, it never seems to do anything to the other bot. What is such a weapon supposed to do? [Richardson, Texas]

A: [Mark J.] Double Jeopardy's projectile weapon has done exactly what it was supposed to do, and it did so before it ever fired a shot:

  • The current incarnation of BattleBots is not a combat robot tourament or a sporting event -- BattleBots is 'reality' entertainment. The producers of the show want to maintain a variety of interesting designs to keep their audience entertained.
  • Prospective competitors must submit an application to the show producers that includes detailed design drawings, an explanation of the features of the proposed robot, and a summary of the resources and skills available to the build team.
  • If your proposed 'bot and team look and act like robots and teams the audience has already seen you're simply not going to be accepted to appear on the show.
A robot with a pneumatic cannon campaigned by three lawyers in suits? They aren't like any other team, so they're 'in'. Is the weapon effective? It doesn't need to be -- for TV it just has to be different.

See also: BattleBots is a television show that looks like a sports tournament.

Date marker: January 2023
Nothing More to Prove
Q: I've heard that Robotica had more challenges planned beyond 'The Speedway', 'The Maze/Labyrinth', 'The Gauntlet' and 'The Fight to the Finish' -- like a 'Storm The Castle' event with a guardian bot. Do you know what was planned for the guardian bot? Please don't say the Robotica Rats. [Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] There were a number of challenges were considered and abandoned in the development of 'Robotica' but none of them moved past the early planning stage: no blueprints, no guardian robot design, no artwork.

For season 1 the show developers settled on three preliminary challenges that tested two robots at a time for speed, agility, and power:

  • The Speedway A test of speed and stability that perhaps drew inspiration from the Season 1 UK Robot Wars trial "Stock Car" figure-eight race, but with competitors running in opposite directions!
  • The Maze/Labyrinth A showcase for agility and control that combined elements requiring tight maneuvers and delicate coordination between machine and operator.
  • The Gauntlet In spite of sharing a name with the early UK Robot Wars stage, Robotica's challenge was a unique arrangement of progressively more difficult barriers to test applied power and the ability to deal with the resulting debris.
Given the elements tested by these challenges I'm not certain what an additional challenge might add that would be unique. What new capability might be proven in a 'Storm the Castle' challenge, and how do you assure that a 'Guardian Bot' is an equal challenge for two competitors at the same time?

The developers did a fine job of selecting a set of challenges that fully tested the abilities of the competitors, and "The Fight to the Finish" was the perfect concluding element.

Keeping it Simple
Q: If Robotica the TV Series was rebooted what ideas would you think would be good, for me i would say:
Bring the speedway back shaped like the hot wheels criss cross crash set where all 4 robots come to play each turn with 4 obstacle 1.sheet of metal, 2.metal cans, bricks and 4.concrete cement pillars, and elevated bridges to the centre platform with red and blue glass panes and a fifth and final ramp with an orange pane of glass, a medium sized pit, bring back the labyrinth with almost all the obstacles with new ones including pulverizers, rapid spinning turntables, flame pits and towers one with a 90 degree turn the other a full circle turn with 4 robotica rats, cyan (which is a light blue), orange, purple and green, have a new event called the arena (similar to the fight to the finish but unelevated with the walls being higher) where the robots fight in a minileague and score 50 points for the winner by Knockout and 0 points for the loser and in the event of a judges decision on Style, Control, Damage and Aggression, 30 points for the winner and 20 points for the loser, and then bring back the fight to the finish itself with the platform elevated and larger giving the bots more room to drive in with the same way the fight to the finish from previous series works with rails falling over after 1 minute. And i don't mind TLC bringing it back but maybe Discovery has the chainsaws flamethrowers and axes.
[Erskine, Scotland ☆]

A: [Mark J.] Quite detailed and imaginative. I personally like to keep things a bit simpler. Antbotica works well and has ample opportunity for combat in every stage. I would scale it up to heavyweights. Q: Something that bothers me: in most of the Robotica season 1 challenges it was 'red team vs blue team' first followed by 'silver team vs gold team'. But in the Speedway and Maze of Episode 1 and the Gauntlet of Episode 2 it was 'silver team vs gold team' first followed by 'red team vs blue team'. Why was that?

A: The order of events in the televised version of the show had little relation to the order in which those events were filmed. For example: the two shows that would eventually become episodes 1 and 5 were filmed together on day two of the four filming days.

The order of teams in specific events within each episode was edited together in whatever order the series producer believed would be most entertaining for the television audience. I specifically remember in filming episode 1 that 'Run Amok' (red) versus 'Spring Breaker' (blue) was filmed before 'Killer B' (silver) versus 'Mini Inferno' (gold). See our Robotica Competition Journal for more filming details.

Better to reign in hell...
Q: I don't understand the NHRL weight bonus for multibots. Why are they giving a weight bonus? How much is the bonus for a beetleweight? Are any other events doing this? [A Cry in the Darkness]

A: [Mark J.] The organizers at the Norwalk Havoc Robot League seem to enjoy experimenting with robot design and construction rules. As long as they run safe events quirky rules are fine with me, but some of their rules violate the Do's and Don'ts of Writing Combat Robot Rulesets. A few head scratchers:

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.
  • What are they trying to prevent here? Why is there no size limit on beetles? The usual rule is: "If it fits thru the arena door it can fight." A few words of explanation would reduce builder frustration.
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.
  • OK, we can all agree that it's bad if nobody can see what's going on because you set off a smoke grenade. But if nobody can see what's going on because you set off a rocket motor that's fine?
Batteries that are charged inside the bot are permitted if the bot measures less than 11 x 8 x 6 inches.
  • Why does the rule address arbitrary robot dimensions instead of the type and capacity of the battery? This seems less like a safety issue than a whim. Explanation?
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.
  • I have no idea what might qualify under these criteria. What does 'angular momentum' have to do with this? Any rotating object has angular momentum -- did they simply mean 'rotation' but wanted something that sounded more technical???

Back to your question: NHRL weight bonuses become complicated because the non-wheeled and multibot weight bonuses may be combined under some circumstances, but the 12-pound classes have an absolute weight cap below the total of the two possible bonuses. Why are 12-pounders treated differently? No explanation is given. Excerpted from the NHRL rule set:
Multibot Bonus

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

Weight Bonuses
Weight ClassNon-WheeledMultibotAbsolute Maximum
3 lb+2 lbs+1 lbs6 lbs total
12 lb (including Sportsmen)+6 lbs+3 lbs19 lbs total*
30 lb+15 lbs+8 lbs53 lbs total
* 12 lb bots cannot fully take advantage of both weight bonuses at the same time.

Good rules are clear and objective. Unfortunately,
Every bot in a multibot must... be able to influence the fight. not objective. Two reasonable people might disagree on what a 'bot must be capable of doing in order to 'influence the fight'.

I assume that the clause is there to keep a builder from entering a 3-pound 14-ounce uber-beetle and a useless 2-ounce fleaweight, but an objective cap on the maximum weight of any single 'bot in a multibot entry (as the 12 and 30 pound classes already have in this ruleset) would (IMHO) be preferable to leaving the decision up to the whim of the organizer.

As written it is possible that any of the following combinations - and more - could fight as a beetle multibot:

  • a pair of 2-pound wheeled bots
  • a 3-pound beetle and a 1-pound antweight
  • a 3-pound 8-ounce overweight beetle and an 8-ounce minibot
  • a swarm of twelve 150-gram fairyweights

And because for multibots only the heaviest bot needs to be non-wheeled to get the bonus:

  • a 5-pound non-wheeled bot and a 1-pound wheeled antweight
  • a 3-pound non-wheeled beetle and a 3-pound wheeled beetle
  • a 1-pound non-wheeled antweight and fifteen 150-gram fairyweights!
To the best of my knowledge, no other events are running the NHRL ruleset.

How TV Does Things
Spoiler Alert if you haven't watched Robotica.

Q: So I've been watching "Robotica" through the Internet Archive link you posted and I was wondering: were the team colors indicative of an internal seeding system? I noticed that every single Red team managed to make it to their show's 'Fight to the Finish', and there was a 50/50 split over whether they faced the Silver team or the Gold team in the arena; plus, 2/3 of the Red teams made it to the finals (alongside one Gold and one Silver).

I did re-read your Robotica journal and saw that you mentioned getting first seed, so I figure such a system existed. [Lake Oswego, Oregon]

A: [Mark J.] It was never officially discussed during the filming, but yes the team patch colors for the preliminary rounds did represent a seeding system based on qualifying performance -- at least for season 1. The filming schedule complicated things a bit...

The six preliminary shows were filmed over three days. Each morning there was a qualifying session open to any and all teams on-site. The top eight qualifiers would compete in the two complete shows to be filmed that day. Failed qualifiers could try again the next day. Details of the qualifying process are in our Robotica Journal.

  • The first day competitions became episodes three and six;
  • The second day competitions became episodes one and five;
  • The third day competitions became episodes two and four;
Our flight got us to the studio too late for day one qualifying, but we were fully ready for our shot on day two. My somewhat fallible memory has the top eight qualifiers for that session finishing in this order:
1) Run AmokEpisode 1Red
2) JuggerBotEpisode 5Red
3) Mini InfernoEpisode 1Gold
4) KryplerEpisode 5Gold
5) Killer BeeEpisode 1Silver
6) HamerschlagEpisode 5Silver
7) Spring BreakerEpisode 1Blue
8) NollEpisode 5Blue
Each episode paired a Red team with a Blue team, giving Red teams the advantage of competing against a much weaker qualifier. The Gold/Silver matches paired competitors of similar strength and were generally more closely fought.

The episode 7 finals were filmed on day four and required two new team patch colors (Purple and Orange) to accommodate the field of six competitors. Assignment of colors for the finals appears to have been arbitrary, pairing the winners from episodes 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6.

Robotica Seasons 2 and 3 were filmed together in a single studio session and featured re-designed challenges for the robots. There were also no extra robots to weed out; all of the pre-selected competitors got to compete. There were no qualifying sessions.

  • No single team color assignment dominated in Season 2.
  • Season 3 featured returning teams from Season 1, and although five of six alumnae made it to the finals, not all of the alumnae shared a single team color.
I asked Team Juggerbot lead Mike Morrow what he could recall about the team color assignments and match pairings at the filming of Season 3:
We were an alumnus [from Season 1] and each alumnus was assigned a different episode so they had to fight their way thru new competitors to the finals. I'm not sure how they decided the early pairings but I really think everything was simply manipulated by [the producer] to attempt to maximize screen appeal.
I've re-drawn the tournament trees for Robotica season 1, Robotica season 2, and Robotica season 3 to show the team patch colors and assign episode numbers to the matches.
A New Robotica?
Q: I read over at r/battlebots that Robotica is coming back! Is this true? [Columbus, Ohio]

A: [Mark J.] Yes... and no.

YES - Houston Area Combat Robotics has acquired rights and will use the Robotica name for their upcoming event at the Comicpalooza convention in Houston, Texas on July 16-17, 2022. Multiple vintage heavyweights are rumored to be 'interested'.

NO - The event will not follow the Robotica competition format. Fairy, beetle, feather, and 'sportsman' heavyweights (no destructive spinners) will compete in conventional 3-minute combat matches. The event will not be televised.

The organizers did contact me to ask if I was interested, but Team Run Amok has retired from robot combat.

View, Cast, or Download
Q: I'm a big fan of the TLC Robotica series, but I'm having trouble finding some of the season 2 and 3 episodes. Would you consider uploading these seasons from your library to one of the video services? [Tempe, Arizona]

A: [Mark J.] We won't upload copyrighted video to the internet services -- see FAQ #13. However, I've recently learned that the Internet Archive has a complete set of Robotica episodes from all three seasons available to view, cast, or download:

Consider clicking on the Internet Archive's "donate" button and chipping in a couple bucks to support their work.

There's a Buzz in the Air
Q: Recently, UK robot combat tournament organisers have announced new measures to ensure robots are adhering to the 250 mph maximum tip speed rule. One measure they mentioned was "frequency monitoring using microphones in the arena". Can you accurately determine the speed of a spinning object by the sound it's giving off? Or is this more aimed at the whine brushless motors make? [Armagh, Northern Ireland]

A: [Mark J.] An Acoustically Coupled Fast Fourier Transform Tachometer can actually give you RPM from the ambient sound of a spinning object. From that and data specific to the weapon in question you can calculate a tip speed. It sounds very fancy but you can download a simple acoustic tachometer for your smart-phone.

I've seen this tech used to measure tool speeds in otherwise quiet workshops, but accuracy may be questionable in a combat arena. I suspect this might be more of a warning to builders than an accurate prevention measure.

Related from the archives:

Q: I'd like to find the actual speed of my spinner weapon but I have no measuring tools and no budget. Are there any oddball tricks? [Facebook]

A: [Mark J.] A few, but I can't vouch for any of them...

  • The eyeball test [Paul Gancitano] -- download one of many free stroboscope apps to your phone and put a daub of white paint on the side of the weapon tip. Spin up in a darkened room and find the fastest strobe speed that 'freezes' the white spot in place. Result may be revolutions per second (Hz) or direct RPM depending on the app. Note: I can't find a working app that is fast enough for our purpose.
  • The earball test [Derek Reihe] -- put the edge of a playing card in the path of the tooth and match the tone it makes to a known source (frequency generator app). Matching the tone (Hz) gives revolutions per second. Divide by two if two teeth hit the card on each revolution.
  • The tongue test [Anonymous] -- spin it up, spin it down, then quickly lick it to see what it tastes like:

  Egg Salad
  2k RPM
  4k RPM
  6k RPM
  8k RPM
10k RPM
12k RPM
14k RPM
Let it spin down some more.  

If you actually want to know how fast your weapon really spins you can buy a digital laser tachometer online for less than $20.

They Must Have
Q: Has battle bots ever considered tag teams [North of Knoxville, Tennessee]

A: [Mark J.] Given that Robot Wars has hosted six Tag Team tournaments I think it is safe to say that yes, BattleBots has considered that option. Here's video of one of the Robot Wars events we fought in: Robot Wars Extreme Warriors Season 1: Tag Team Terror.

They Aren't *All* TV Shows
Q: I've been following various combat robot events such as Battlebots and Norwalk Havoc. It seems like the judging systems used are quite skewed toward damage. In particular, I keep hearing Kenny and Chris say �damage with a primary weapon�. But how are control bots supposed to score damage points given their weapon is meant for control rather than damage? Does using the wall to jam up a spinner count? Or using a robot's kinetic energy against it? As a new control bot driver myself, it's something that has struck my curiosity. [Concord, California]

A: [Mark J.] BattleBots is a TV show made to look like a combat robot tournament. They cater to an audience that likes to see stuff destroyed. They are not interested in control robots and they do not reward such designs. Norwalk Havoc has adopted a similar approach in an attempt to build the on-line audience for their well produced video offerings.

Take a look at the BattleBots Judges' Guide to see what qualifies as 'damage'. Note that BattleBots judges not only score damage for more points than 'control' and 'aggression', but their definition of 'control' is likely very different from what you think it might be:

The Control of a BattleBot is about the ability of the Bot's Operators to attack an opponent at its weakest points, use their Bot's weapons in the most effective way, and avoid being damaged by the opponent or the Arena hazards.
The good news is that your local/regional event is likely to have a more builder-oriented scoring approach. There is a lot of variation. Talk with the organizer of any event you plan to enter to discuss the scoring standards in use and what specific scoring opportunities exist for control robots.
False Economy
Q: Do you think I could make a plastic ant arena out of 3/16" or 1/4" acrylic? [Parker, Colorado]

A: [Mark J.] You could, but I wouldn't. It would be neither safe nor durable.

The physical properties of acrylic (Lucite) and polycarbonate (Lexan) are similar except in impact resistance. Depending on the testing protocol, polycarbonate has between 20 and 40 times the impact resistance of acrylic due to its ability to flex and spring back. Acrylic simply shatters.

I don't know what arena design you might have in mind, but even with substantial inner bumpers set well back from the arena walls to keep the 'bots from directly impacting the plastic I would not be comfortable with even plastic ants. Acrylic is false economy -- use Lexan.

I Have 'em but Don't Own 'em
Q: If you have all (21) episodes of Robotica on tape: there's only one webstie to upload 'em if you can't upload it to the tubes and that website is internet archive u think u can do it?, coz i have no idea why i am saying that and last year i've converted the run amok model i made years ago to pullback powered with a bit of lamination to give a metal look to it. need i say more? [Bishopton, Scotland]

A: [Mark J.] It's always nice to hear from a fan of 'Run Amok' and 'Robotica'. I understand your desire to watch all of the episodes of Robotica on-line, but recording a copyrighted television program does not give rights to distribute that program. Copyright law is clear on this matter.

I realize that this is not a popular stance but I am particularly sensitive to the issue as I have had my own copyrighted property stolen on multiple occasions. If you create something it belongs to you and you have the right to control its distribution. See: FAQ #13.

Break It!
Q: My team is starting to do an initial assembly of the electronics for our bot and we're going to begin testing shortly. I've read on Reddit that "testing takes the longest amount of time" in the design process for combat robots.

We are trying to decide if we should delay our competition plans to give us more time for testing, but we are having a hard time understanding why testing will take so long. Why is this the case? [Ithica, New York]

A: [Mark J.] You've read it where???

  1. Ignore anything on Reddit.
  2. Testing process: break it, then make what broke stronger.
  3. A tournament is an excellent place to break it.
Get the radio mixing sorted, then tweek the transmitter settings to make driving feel natural. Tighten all the fasteners (Loctite is your friend), yank-test the electrical connections, pack your spares and tools, and go to the tournament.
How Low Can You Go?
Q: Hi, I am pretty curious about your opinion about the Killsaws in battlebots making bots stuck in the holes. Do you think the way it prevents people from using forks is good for the competition? Do you think letting a ground battle become necessary for a robot have positive impact on the sport?
--random guy from china [Shanghai, China]

A: [Mark J.] I think that you have two choices in combat arena flooring:

  1. You can provide the smoothest possible surface, but a perfectly seamless and gapless floor is simply not attainable in a large arena. Worse, the gaps and seams will change a bit every time the arena is assembled and they will get worse over time. This forces competitors to guess at just how low they are able to set the design of their wedges and forks. I don't believe guessing at uncertain arena conditions should be a determining factor in success. Losing because you're stuck in the arena floor is a bad way to go out of a tournament.
  2. You can provide a more 'naturalistic' arena floor with a defined and consistent surface. Events like Robot Battles have experimented with a grid of raised bolt heads across the surface of the combat surface to better define the required clearance and shake up the design paradigm. If builders know specifically what to expect they can design for the situation. I believe this is a viable option and could bring more interesting design options to the larger combat robots.
There is a third option, but if I mention 'full terrain' with dirt, rocks, and maybe a few shrubs I get hate mail.
Send In Another One
Q: You've posted in [an on-line combat robot forum] that you object to the growing practice of bringing multiple copies of a robot to 'swap in' at a tournament. I honestly never understood that sentiment. If my opponent brings a spare bot, that shouldn't effect my tournament run at all. It's up to each person to be prepared enough to bounce back from any damage they recieve, and the only situation I can think that a spare bot would matter, is if that person's opponent fails to come into the arena at 100%. And if that's the case, that's not cheating on the part of the spare bot owner, it's underpreparedness from the person with the limping bot. What's the big deal? [Direct Message]

Evil twins A: [Mark J.] BattleBots allows and encourages teams to bring multiple copies of their robot in order to keep the competition from running out of functional robots over the long and trying series of events in their schedule of qualifying, main tournament, and additional challenges. This is necessary for the type of television show they are producing, but this is one of several compromises that I believe places them into the category of entertainment rather than a true sporting event:

  • Entrants are limited to designs the producers want to see;
  • Matches are determined by the show producers rather than random draw;
  • Some design and tournament rules are flexible at the discretion of the producers.
What bothers me is that the practice of allowing a competitor to swap in an identical (or maybe not so identical) robot during a tournament is starting to 'trickle down' into true combat robot tournaments where it is not needed and does not belong. Consider:
  1. A combat tournament is a challenge in survival with cumulative damage a key part of the competition. In each match you must defeat your opponent and leave your own 'bot in reparable condition to move on. Would a boxing match be fair if your opponent swapped in a fresh substitute for the 8th round after they were on the ropes at the end of the 7th?
  2. Competitions with a large mechanical component (like auto racing) understand that keeping the vehicle intact is a critical part of the event. A team is free to repair damage from collision or mechanical failure, but swapping in a new car during the race is forbidden. If you break your car beyond quick repair you're out.
  3. Showing up with multiple copies of a combat robot is $$$ EXPENSIVE $$$. It enables better financed teams to buy an advantage and encourages disposable 'glass cannon' designs rather than building for endurance and repairability. This raises the bar for entry into a sport that frequently struggles to attract 'new blood'.
  4. If you are allowed swappable versions of your robot, just how 'identical' do the versions need to be? I know for a fact that the various copies of 'Bronco' at BattleBots were not identical. Differences could range well beyond the common modular weaponry if not well defined in the rule set. How do you write up those rules to be clear to the builders and fair for the competition? Did I hear someone say "can of worms"?
I can understand that a spectator's desire to see the competitors in their best possible condition to make the best possible fight, but in my personal opinion allowing entirely new and ready-to-go robots to replace battle-weary machines in mid-tournament is too great a compromise of traditional sporting norms.

Date marker: January 2022
Wish Granted
Q: Do you ever think Motorama will return once Covid settles down? NHRL is cool and all but they don't run anything below 3lbers? [Richmond, Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] Your wish is granted. According to the Motorama Robot Conflict webpage, registration for the February 19-20, 2022 event will open November 14th, 2021. Fingers crossed -- check there for updates.

What Goes In the Box?
Q: Do you have any sort of guidelines on how many spares you bring to tournaments of each part? Obviously it depends on the bot design and tournament format, but I have no baseline estimate for how much damage I'll expect to take on each part and what's most likely to break. I'm using a Viper wedge kit in a double elimination tournament, so I assume it's reasonable to have at least one spare of everything going into the arena, but what needs to be prioritized? At the moment I'm thinking extra spares of wheels and the front polycarb/metal wedge are a must, but are motors and ESCs likely to break? What about the receiver? [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] Repair time can be a limiting factor at a tournament. Highest priority for spares are components that:

  • Will prevent the 'bot from operating when damaged; and
  • Are likely to take damage that cannot be quickly repaired.
There are a LOT of Viper wedges out there. Builders who have competed with Vipers can tell you which specific parts commonly damaged. I've never campaigned a Viper, but my minimal spares box for a local tournament would have:
  • A replacement drive gearmotor (a spinner hit to the protruding shaft can kill the gearbox);
  • A pair of ready-to-mount latex-coated foam tires (spinners shred the tires but the hubs are well protected);
  • Zip ties, duct tape, 5-minute epoxy, a soldering kit, and every tool I could stuff in my carry bag.
A spare wedge would be 'nice'. Electronics in a stock Viper are unlikely to fail, and if they do you can always stand on top of your pit table and yell, "Who's got a spare tinyESC?"

If I were going to BattleBots I'd have two complete spare robots ready to pull out of their crates and toss into the arena, plus enough parts to build one more 'cause that how TV works these days. Your spares list should probably fall in-between these two extremes.

Into the Briar Patch?
Q: Hey Mark, just stumbled across your "You be the Judge" page and found it super interesting. Have you considered making a similar one for the Battlebots ruleset? I imagine this type of thing would be a great teaching tool to link when people claim the judges are idiots, but I doubt using the old Robot Fighting League D/A ruleset would do a very good job of explaining the current TV rules for the uninitiated. [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed my judging guidelines quiz. The RFL guidelines attempted to be very specific but caused some unexpected outcomes if they were closely followed. The purpose of the quiz was to point out those odd decisions in hopes that the guidelines could be adjusted to eliminate nonsensical results.

Jump forward a decade. The judging guidance for the BattleBots reboot is less specific and has corrected many of the problems I had with the RFL guidelines, but a number of controversial judging results have appeared each season. The guidelines are constantly updated in response to builder input, but there is still a lot of heated discussion on fan sites that official BattleBots explanations have done little to resolve.

I appreciate your suggestion, but I don't believe that throwing myself into that particular briar patch would help the situation. I'll pass.

An Editorial Statement
Q: I've seen you post this on social media several times:
BattleBots is not a televised sports tournament.

BattleBots is a television show that looks like a sports tournament.

I'm not sure what that means. Can you explain? [My barista at Starbucks]

A: [Mark J.] I typically use that phrase when someone is asking about why some specific thing happened on BattleBots; a robot was given a second chance in the tournament, or a robot with a better record was left out of the tournament in favor of another. They are making the error of believing that BattleBots is an actual tournament that plays by the same rules a 'real' sports tournament uses. It is not.

The original Comedy Central version of Battlebots (2000 to 2002) was an actual open-to-anyone combat robot tournament with hundreds of robots in multiple weight classes. The format cheated by allowing favored robots to sit out as many as four tournament rounds to increase their chances of meeting in later rounds, but it was otherwise a standard tournament.

The producers picked out the best fights and pieced them together into a happy little low-budget "look at the geeks and laugh" show -- have you never wondered why the trophy is a Giant Nut? That version lasted two and a half years on a new and obscure basic cable channel. Nobody made much money.

Jump forward in time: After more than a decade of exhaustive effort, the owners of the BattleBots trademark cut an honest-to-god primetime network deal to bring the show back. The money and pressure jumped up a couple orders of magnitude. The new show had to be less 'choppy' and involve the audience in following a cadre of carefully invited and vetted teams and their robots thru the process of qualifying for and participating in a tightly orchestrated and structured series of matches that eventually selects a "champion". Throw in some exhibition side-events and you have yourself a viable primetime television franchise.
The ABC/Discovery BattleBots reboot does not play by the rules of an open sports tournament:

  • A limited number of hand-picked competitors are selected by the show to be as different from each other as possible with distinct visual appeal, a requirement for flashy weaponry, and a penchant for funny costumes.
  • Each preliminary match is determined by the show runner for maximum audience appeal, as is the starting structure of the eventual 'tournament'.
  • Entry into the championship tournament is entirely at the discretion of the show producers. The preliminary matches - over which the producers have full control - are only used as guidelines
  • If a particularly entertaining or 'fan favorite' robot is eliminated from the tournament tree too early, the show producers can pop it back into the tournament for a second chance.

Things like this do not happen in actual sports tournaments
Please Note that I do not blame BattleBots or similar robot combat shows for operating in this manner. Millions of dollars and dozens of jobs hinge on their TV shows getting good ratings. All I ask is that you be an educated viewer and understand that you're not watching an actual sporting tournament but rather a tightly controlled television show.

What Can I Expect?
Q: Hi Mark!, as you probably would have guessed, I a pretty new builder having built one UK antweight and currently working on a second. I haven't yet been to an event. What can I expect from the event? What is the community like? What robots should I bring? What spare parts and tools should I bring? How long do events last?
Thanks! [Oxford, England]

A: [Mark J.] The only UK events I've participated in were heavyweight tournaments at Robot Wars -- I don't think my experiences there would translate to a local UK antweight event.

I'm going to refer you to the Fighting Robots Association Forum. The builders there can provide you with relevant answers to your questions. In general I recommend attending an event as a spectator prior to signing up as a competitor.

Talk to the Organizer
Q: I am building a UK Antweight and was wondering what the rules were regarding metal armour. I have heard previously that metal was allowed but at a maximum of 1mm thick, but a thread on the FRA Forum shows an antweight robot being built with 1.2mm aluminum -- and other sites say that metal armour is not allowed at all. Are the rules flexible with having slightly thicker than 1mm armour? Is metal armour allowed at all? Is the 1mm thick metal rule strictly enforced?

Thanks! [Oxford, England]

A: [Mark J.] In understand your confusion, Oxford. As is often the case for robot combat classes, there is no single set of rules for UK Ants. Different events have differing rule sets:

  • Some rule sets specify a 1.0mm / 0.040" / 18-gauge metal armor maximum, with additional rather vague rules about bending and welding.
  • Some events are 'old school' and do not allow any metal armor.
  • Some rule sets make no mention of any armor limitations.
  • The FRA forum thread you reference shows an ant being built with a 1.2mm aluminum chassis pan, but the chassis structure does not generally count as 'armor'.
Contact the organizers of events you plan to enter for specific guidance on robot construction. Ask lots of questions!
Q: About my recent question considering UK antweight metal thickness, I was going to build my chassis, which is also the armour from a square steel tube and could not find any of suitable 1mm thickness. Would I be able to use a 1.5mm tube for the chassis which would also be the armour? (I don't really want to wait 2 weeks for bars to ship from Taiwan.)

Thank you for your help!

A: Some UK Antweight rule sets mention things like:

  • "Panels of metal may not be continuous to more than one plane" and;
  • "Metal may be bent but the whole robot may not be constructed out of one continuous piece of metal."
If rules like these are applied, they specifically forbid construction methods of the type you plan. You need to discuss your plans with the organizers of events you intend to enter -- not with me.
Critter or Terminator?
Q: I'm confused about the first ever robot combat event. The Robot Battles website claims that the first 'Critter Crunch' robot combat event took place in 1987, but you claim that the 'Terminator Tournament' in 1988 was first. Doesn't the Critter Crunch count? [The Upper Penisula]

A: [Mark J.] I've seen several sources claiming that the first 'Critter Crunch took place in 1987, but I've never seen a photo, film, or document to support that claim -- not even a mention in the program from the 1987 'MileHiCon' science fiction/fantasy convention where the event was supposed to have taken place.

A 2011 article in Wired magazine titled Critter Crunch, Mother of All Robot Battles sets the date of the first 'Critter Crunch' at Oct. 28, 1989 and documents that date with photos and a written mailing from event organizer Bill Llewellin. The article does mention a 1988 non-combat event at MileHiCon called the 'Critter Crawl' which was, "a sort of beauty pageant for windup toys and remote-control gizmos" with no judging or winner. This makes a strong case for 1989 as the first Critter Crunch.

The 'Terminator Tournament' has documented support for their event in September, 1988. In addition to video footage of the event, the YouTube page has the following statement:

September 1988. Long before Robot Wars, BattleBots or the band called "Dangerous Toys", Los Angeles toymakers created the ultimate battlefield. State-of-the-art toy vehicles were designed to battle to the death using man's oldest, most destructive weapon: FIRE. The rules were simple: build onto a specified toy car chassis using tether control to avoid R/C interference, use minimum plastic armor, and limit combustibles to road flares and charcoal lighter fluid. "Two man enter, one man leave." This original VHS video was the first of many covert contests, and led to two appearances of the "Dangerous Toys Team" on Late Night with David Letterman in Dec 1988 and Dec 1989.
Pending the production of documentation for the claimed 1987 Critter Crunch event, I believe the 'Terminator Tournament' to be the first organized robot combat event. Further, these tournaments continued for many years. Here's video from the 2009 Terminator Tournament.
Don't Blame Roger
Q: Hi there.

Just a quick one, on your "Who won?" page for series 10 of Robot Wars (Heat 3) it says that Track-tion withdrew but it was actually Vulture that withdrew.

Regards. [University of Manchester]

A: [Mark J.] I'd like to blame Roger the Web Gerbil for this, but I drew up that tournament tree myself. It must have been a late night; not only did I swap 'Trac-tion' and 'Vulture' but I put in an extra copy of Heat 4. Roger has corrected the tree: Robot Wars series 10.

Ice Ice Baby
Q: Why are CO2 pneumatic systems banned at Battlebots now when it has been legal in pretty much any other competition including the early Battlebots era? [The Aether]

A: [Mark J.] There is a potential safety issue with carbon dioxide. At room temperature, CO2 gas converts to a compact liquid form at about 850 psi and is stored in the pressure tank in that form. As gas is vented from the tank, liquid CO2 boils off to replenish the gas. That phase change from liquid to gas draws a great deal of heat from the system, creating extreme cold temperatures that can clog vent lines with ice plugs created from atmospheric moisture. This can prevent gas pressure from being fully vented from the system at the end of a match. The unvented gas may cause unexpected motion in the weapon system.

See the What a gas! section of Team DaVinci's Understanding Pneumatics for details on CO2 expansion, temperature, and pressure.

Q: How is that different from a BattleBots-legal nitrogen pneumatic system?

A: Nitrogen can be compressed and stored at pressures up to 5000 psi but does not convert to a compact liquid form at room temperature. As a result, nitrogen requires a larger tank to hold the same volume of gas.

A tank of nitrogen @ 5000 psi holds only 63% as much gas as the same tank filled with CO2 @ 850 psi.
However, because there no phase conversion from liquid to gas there is much less temperature drop as the gas is drawn off and passed thru the pneumatic system. The problem with ice in the system is avoided.
Control Yourself!
Q: What are Autonomous combat robots exactly? I saw that in Robot Wars 1996-1997, there was a award for those types of robots. Were there any others at those events other than the winners? [Fremont, Nebraska]

A: [Mark J.] Autonomous combat robots are self-controlled -- no human operator giving commands with a radio transmitter. Think: Roomba vacuum with a buzzsaw. They use sensors and an on-board computer to locate their opponent, plan an attack, and execute the plan.

The US Robot Wars tournaments from 1995 thru 1997 featured an autonomous combat class, but there were only a handful of competitors and the records of the matches are fragmentary. I can tell you that the technology available in the 1990's did not make for exciting matches. The robots often took most of the match just to find each other. The photo shows the 1997 autonomous champion 'Thumper', one of two autonomous robots at the event.

Jump forward a couple decades and autonomous combat robots have greatly improved! Have a look at at modern autonomous sumo robots.

Q: Hello! I have a couple of questions:

First, where can I find the full melee for 1997 US Robot Wars? I was able to piece together the 1994-1996 results, but not 1997. I know you guys have the overall winners, but I also want to know the competitors in each melee. [Fremont, Nebraska]

A: [Mark J.] I've never been able to find a list of melee participants for the 1997 US Robot Wars. The US Robot Wars operations shut down immediately after the event and the official website was never updated with photos or lists from the event. Two sources may help:

  • There is a mashup edited video compilation of the '97 melee fights from which you will be able to identify many of the competitors, but sorting out the individual melees will be a challenge.
  • A brief write-up by Jim Smentowski about his robot 'Hercules' confirms that there were two separate heavyweight melees at the '97 event, and he mentions the competitors in one of the fights. There was at least one additional melee for lighter robots.

Q: Secondly, Also are you aware of if a entry list for Robotica 1998 or Battlebots 6.0 (2002) was ever made? Or perhaps something Like it?

A: You're diving deep, aren't you?

The 1998 'Robotica' event -- unrelated to the later Robotica events televised on TLC -- was canceled due to legal concerns around the break-up of the US Robot Wars series. Following the cancelation, two separate events were organized by disappointed competitors:

  1. Mike Winter built a wood and wire arena in a San Leandro parking lot and had a very informal, invitation-only event with about six lightweight 'bots. Mike's walker 'BORB' and Jonathan Ridder's 'Ziggo' are the only recorded entrants.
  2. In February, 1999 Trey Roski and Greg Munson put on the informal 'Underground Robot Street Fight' literally under an overpass in Novato, California. Jim Smentowski has photos, video, and a write-up. Entrants:
  • La Machine (Roski/Munson)
  • Ginsu (Roski/Munson)
  • Doo-All (LaValley)
  • Junior (Smentowski)
  • S.L.A.M. (The Nelsons)
  • Voltarc (Felk)
I have never heard of a 'BattleBots 6.0' event in 2002. There was a private BattleBots competition with eight competitors held in Las Vegas for a corporate client in June of 2006 mentioned on Smentowski's 'Breaker Box' page but the full competitor list has never been made public.

Q: Hello again! Thanks for answering my other two questions. To answer your question Battlebots Season 6.0 was meant to be run in November 2002 but was canceled after Comedy Central pulled the plug.

A: As a rule I don't speculate about events that didn't happen. Word leaked out in September of 2002 that Comedy Central would not pick-up a sixth season of BattleBots. I suspect Greg and Trey knew earlier. Since season 6.0 was not set to film until November I doubt that there ever was an official entrant list. Ditto for the 1998 Robotica. Even if there were sign-up lists there is a big difference between Signs Up and Shows Up.

Ask Me Again...
Q: Here's a question I have: I've been trying to find bots that had planned to compete at the "US Robot Wars 1998 / Robotica 1998" event. That was why I asked the earlier question. Now, I've been going through the bots on this link:

Team Nightmare list of US Robot Combat Links

But it's hard to tell for certain which had planned to complete there. I'm particularly interested in bots that planned to compete there or debut there but would never attempt another event after they were canceled. I'm also interested in those that would later compete, but had planned to debut there. [Fremont, Nebraska]

A: [Mark J.] I don't believe there is anything in the Team Nightmare Links that will help you fill in your list of probable entrants for the 1998 Robotica event. The list was made 20 years ago and most of the links are broken -- but you can use the trick in Frequently Asked Questions #30 to find an archived copy of many of the old web pages.

Brad Stone's book "Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports" mentions one robot that planned to debut at the cancelled event: Combat Robot Hall of Fame member 'Voltarc'. If you have an interest in the history of combat robotics and the early US Robot Wars events, "Gearheads" is well worth a read.

As I noted in my reply to your earlier question, I doubt that there ever was an official registration list for the 1998 Robotica event. The few robots I listed in my reply as competing in the 1998 'San Leandro Parking Lot' event and the 1999 'Underground Robot Street Fight' are the best candidates for your probable entrants list. Beyond that, the list is all speculation.

Q: What changes could be made to arenas to make it easier for builders to make autonomous combat robots? Different arena floor colours? Sensors in arenas? [Parton, England]

A: [Mark J.] Autonomous sumo 'bots do fine with just an contrasting line painted around the Dohyo edge to keep them from driving out of the arena. Adding arena walls complicates things a bit. Basic robot sensors can find an object like a wall or a robot, but sorting out a robot in front of a wall takes a bit more effort.

If you want to make it extra easy on autonomous bots you could add a rule that sticks a tiny coded infrared emitter on top of their opponent. That makes it a cinch to find the other 'bot. The arena itself needs nothing special.

Q: Do Melty Brain spinners count as an active weapon? If I'm interpreting the SPARC ruleset correctly, they would classify a Melty Brain as a passive weapon. I'm only asking cause I've been to a couple tournaments before with an active weapon rule and I want to make sure I can still compete.

A: [Mark J.] Although there is no functional difference between a Melty Full-Body Spinner and a conventional FBS, the guidance given by the current SPARC Robot Construction Specifications v1.3 is open to interpretation by Event Organizers. The rule often cited in the SPARC ruleset is in the 'Sportsman Class' section 4.2:

4.2.1. Weapons such as a fixed spike that require the movement of the bot to function do not qualify as active weapons.
Some EOs interpret "movement of the bot" to mean that an active weapon must be entirely independent of the robot drive system. This interpretation excludes Meltys as active weapons.

Other EOs interpret "movement of the bot" as translational motion across the arena. Because Meltys can translate while spinning but do not require translational motion to function, this interpretation includes Meltys as active weapons.

Bottom Line You'll need to ask the EOs for specific events at which you plan to compete if they consider Meltys to be 'active' weapons.

Date marker: January 2021
Q: I saw the graph of the number of robot fights and tournaments for each year on the Team Run Amok webpage. You say there that the data for the graph comes from SPARC Botrank. Is that data available to everyone? [Sacramento, California] A: [Mark J.] It is! You can go to their events list to find the events listed by date and the number of individual fights for that event. Clicking on the event name will take you to a list of all the fights at the event listed by weight class.

You might also be interested in this graph of similar data from the combat robot tournament registration site BuildersDB for comparison. Mouse-over the graph above, or click this link: Builders Database Events Chart. The BuildersDB chart shows 'Registered Bots' instead of 'Fights' because that's what the site tracks. Not all events report results to BotRank, and not all events use BuildersDB for registration -- but both charts show similar trends.

Q: Hi there. I'm looking for information on competitors who competed at San Fransisco Robot Wars event in 1997 and I'm also looking for pictures of them. Thank you. [Apparently from New Zealand, via two proxy servers in the UK]

A: [Mark J.] Info from the 1997 San Francisco Robot Wars is more difficult to obtain because the entire US Robot Wars organization was shut down immediately following the event. They didn't even have time to update their website with photos and results. There are a few good sources of info and photos:

Q: Hey there, i am purchased a leopard 58110 motor for my 30kg bot for weapon and I am using a ZTW 200amps ESC but I don't know why my motor isn't able to pull the weapon. I am unable to figure out that did I made a mistake in selection of each or i am putting some wrong programming values while programming my ESC.. please help me (nepal)

A: [Mark J.] You claim to be from Nepal, but your IP trace says your message came from Mumbai. Ask Aaron no longer answers questions from robot builders competing in India (Why not?).

Assuming you are from Nepal, you have provided far too little information for me to even take a guess at a solution to your problem. All you've identified are the weapon motor, weapon ESC, and robot weight. So many things that could be wrong -- so little information provided. About all I can tell you is that the motor and ESC are compatible and that the default ESC programming should be an adequate starting point. Something else is wrong. The hamburger is bad.

Q: Hey Mark, thanks for answering my previous question. It seems that you haven't visited india in past 2 years.. the arena quality is much improved since 2018 as the Indian robotics community boycott all those events having unsafe arena...

May be you should start answering all indian roboteers from today. Thank-you. [Mumbai, India]

A: Maybe you should develop a sense of honor and stop lying about where you're from.

Maybe you should stop kidding yourself about robot combat safety on the Indian subcontinent.

Here are a few video highlights from regional 2019 tournaments with horrible safety conditions:

Q: Hi there, I dunno if you'll know the identities of [these three] UK entries during the 1995 UK Robot Wars pilot. I know they were all built by Derek Foxwell and I've checked the archived website for images and names but I'm struggling to discover who they were. Any ideas? [Bodmin, England]

A: [Mark J.] The best info I have is that the three robots in the photos were small machines weighing perhaps 5 Kg that were built by Derek Foxwell for 'proof of concept' trials staged months prior to the Robot Wars pilot event that came to be known as the 1995 UK Open Competition. Short film clips from a compilation of the UK Open were released years later as part of the 'Robot Wars - The first Great Wars' video. That compilation shows the three small robots in what may have been a 'Robot Soccer' event.

The featured fights at the UK Open had early versions of U.K. robots 'Eubank the Mouse' and a multibot version of 'Grunt' called 'Grunts' versus well-known US Robot Wars competitors 'The Master', 'La Machine', and 'Thor'. Both Eubank and Grunt appeared in later seasons of Robot Wars, but the names and full story of the three 'bots you ask about are undocumented.

Q: Did Marc Thorpe invent robot combat in 1994? Were there any organized robot tournaments before then? [Arlington, Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] There were several robot combat competitions prior to Marc Thorpe organizing the 1994 Robot Wars competition in San Francisco, but we can credit him with commercializing the sport.

  • The earliest evidence of an informal robot fight I can find is this 1988 Terminator Tournament. It's just a few toy designer friends out in a parking lot, but it looks like robot combat to me.
  • The first event open to all competitors took place at the 21st Annual MileHiCon Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention in 1989. The inaugural 'Critter Crunch' was organized by the quirky and elusive Denver Mad Scientists Club and remains a part of the MileHiCon to this day -- current ruleset. Wired magazine has a nice article about the first Critter Crunch.
  • In 1991 the Atlanta 'DragonCon' Pop Culture convention began hosting their 'Robot Battles' series using a ruleset derived from the Critter Crunch. This series is also a continuing part of the convention.
Marc Thorpe created the 1994 'Robot Wars' event in San Francisco as a larger stand-alone commercial event at a venue that allowed for larger and more violent competitors. The event brought media attention to the sport and launched robot combat as we know it today. Early Robot Wars Logo Anyone interested in the early history of robot combat should obtain a copy of 'Gearheads' by Brad Stone. It's a fascinating read and does a fine job of keeping all the parties involved very human.
Q: Hi there, I'm currently trying to construct a circular arena for a Hobbyweight class competition in order to kickstart a robot combat scene here in Indonesia, do you have any specific pointers in order to make the arena safe? I want the arena to have big ring out zones like the kind of arenas you'd see in the UK in order to make flippers viable - and indirectly make ultra-high powered spinners worse because they run the risk of flinging themselves out of the arena. [Jakarta, Indonesia]

A: [Mark J.] The information I have on safe arena construction can be found in Frequently Asked Questions #38.

Q: I'm flying to my first combat tournament as a competitor in a couple weeks. How do I pack my beetle and tools to pass security and get onto the plane? Checked baggage? Carry on? Do I need some sort of permit? [Columbus, Ohio]

A: [Mark J.] It's not terribly difficult to fly in the US with a small 'bot. No special permit is needed. The items you'll travel with fall into three categories:

  1. Items that MUST be in checked baggage:
    Includes all sharp edged tools, any tool longer than seven inches, your 'bot if it looks dangerous, and liquids/gels/aerosols in volumes greater than 100 ml.
  2. Items that MUST be carried in the cabin:
    For our purposes this is primarily lithium batteries not in a personal electronic device. Your 'bot does not qualify as a PED so pull the lipo from your checked 'bot and pack it and spares in your carry-on bag. Tape over the connectors just in case the TSA is being picky that day. You may carry any number of batteries up to 100 watt hours each, and most airlines will allow two larger lithium batteries (up to 160 watt hours) in addition to the smaller ones. For reference, a 2000 mAh 4s lipo is less than 50 watt hours. FAA Lithium Battery Guidelines
  3. Items that may be either checked or carried:
    Small tools, battery chargers, radio gear, most spare parts, your harmless-looking robot. You've most likely got a checked bag with some items in it, so you might as well pack the rest. Most airlines allow a 'personal item' to be carried aboard in addition to your carry-on bag. Some builders like to carry their transmitter as their personal item.
Enjoy your flight, and good luck at your first tournament!
Q: Hi there I'm currently making fan made fan robot wars series. For YouTube do you know I find pictures of competitors robots what competed in robot wars 1997 [London, England]

A: [Mark J.] A London fanboy... You'll be after pics from the 1997 UK Robot Wars -- 'cause London fanboys refuse to acknowledge that there ever was a 1997 US Robot Wars (video).

The archived Tectonic Robot Wars site has a complete set of competitor photos from the 97 UK series. Click the show number links to get to the photos.

Please Note 'Ask Aaron' does not generally answer questions about UK Robot Wars (reason). I've made an exception in this case to encourage interest in the early history of robot combat.

Date marker: January 2020
Q: are there any 60 lb lightweight competitions in the us now that robogames is gone [Lexington Park, Maryland]

A: [Mark J.] Two answers:

  • There are no currently scheduled tournaments that include a 60 pound weight class.
  • This isn't the first time that RoboGames skipped a year. Just 'cause there wasn't a 2019 RoboGames doesn't mean they're "gone".

Q: RE: Robogames. You say it skipped a year, but I was under the impression it was on indefinite hiatus due to retirement? [Sunbury-on-Thames, England]

A: Robogames is an ego-based project that comes, goes, and changes at the whim of its creator. In 2014 Robogames 'skipped a year' and in 2019 it skipped another year. I choose not to guess at when or if Robogames will return but - given its history - a skipped year or two doesn't mean that it is 'gone'.

Q: Hi Mark! Happy early 4th of July! Just some fun questions to ask. Seeing how BattleBots requires at least 1 active weapon, and looking at the current field of bots, what do you think would be the best active weapon for a bot competing? What kind of bot would you bring if you were to compete?

Thank you for everything you do! [Columbus, Ohio]

A: [Mark J.] You're very welcome, Columbus.

The return of BattleBots on the ABC network in 2015 brought many changes to the way the tournament worked, and those changes have continued into the Discover network reboot. The original BattleBots series was open to all competitors, but the new format requires competitors to apply and be accepted for one of the limited number of available tournament slots. The multi-step application process requires a robot technical description, detailed exterior (3-view amd perspective renderings) and interior construction drawings (animation encouraged), electrical/pneumatic/hydraulic/flame schematics, a component and materials list, and a team audition video that answers a list of specific questions.

If your design is accepted you still are not guaranteed a slot in the tournament. There are background checks, legal contracts to sign, and progress reports to file. The producers have to like you, and the robot you actually construct has to be both capable and different enough from the other robots to inspire interest from the television audience. Welcome to Hollywood.

Given the application gauntlet you need something unique and interesting to even get a shot at competing. Applying with a big bar-spinner 'Tombstone' clone won't get you anywhere (see: The Texas Spinner Files) and the field is already well-packed with all the common and effective weapon types. Active weapory is not only required, but attacking with your active weapon is the only way to score 'damage points' in the judging. Simple lifters and other 'control' designs effectively need to score a knock-out to win a match.

It gets worse. In the 'Fight Night' tournament structure of the current 'Discovery' BattleBots your 'bot has to survive the multi-fight evaluation rounds to even get into the final tournament. The process is so hard on robots that many teams build multiple copies of their robot to be able to 'bring in a spare' when the damage is mounting faster than available repair time can repair. A single 250-pound robot is expensive, and additional copies really start to add-up. It pays to build a robot with these factors in mind, and it helps to remember that this is more 'TV show' than combat robot tournament.

If I were so ambitious as to apply for a slot at the new BattleBots -- and I am not -- what design would I submit for approval? I like the approach Hal Rucker takes with 'Duck!' and 'Marvin': build a nearly indestructable chassis with moderate and reliable weaponry and throw it at your opponents until they break. The problem is that I don't think either 'Duck!' or 'Marvin' would have been selected by the show producers if Hal had not proven his building and entertainment skill in the BattleBots reboot with his exotic ring spinner 'Ringmaster'. Even so, I'd give a lightly-weaponed highly-survivable brick design a try.

Q: I haven't heard anything about the TV ratings for Battlebots. Are they as good as last season? Will BattleBots be renewed next year? [Tulsa, Oklahoma]

A: [Mark J.] The Nielsen cable ratings for the 2019 season of 'BattleBots: Fight Night' on the Discovery network are not as good as last year.

  • Mid-June ratings in 2018 averaged 11th place on Friday night with 960,000 viewers.
  • Mid-June ratings in 2019 averaged 18th place on Friday night with 836,000 viewers.
That's a 13% drop in viewers for comparable periods year-to-year. Shows with ratings dropping that quickly are generally not renewed.
Q: What is a safe tip speed limit for beetleweight spinner weapons that will fight in an open arena? I've heard that 20 feet per second is safe. Is it? [Altoona, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] Have you ever seen a video of somebody dropping a basketball with a tennis ball on top of it? The tennis ball flies upward with much greater speed than either object had going into the collision because conservation of system energy transfers a disproportionate share of the collision energy into the smaller ball. Speed is not conserved in an elastic collision but total energy of the system is conserved, so a 20 FPS spinner impact can send debris flying off toward the audience much faster than 20 FPS.

You also need to add in the closing velocity of the robots to get the full picture -- that adds more energy to an impact. Any 'safe' figure is arbitrary. On general principles I strongly suggest simply not allowing spinning weapons in an open arena.

Date marker: June 2019
Q: what kind of motor is best for... (deleted) [Maharashtra, India]
The 'Ask Aaron' website is closed to questions from builders competing in India.

The best enclosed arenas in India would be considered inadequate for 30 pound robots in Europe or the US but are hosting events for much heavier 'bots. Aaron certainly wouldn't approve of the reckless endangerment of life and limb, and I will not contribute to the development of combat robots in any region where the arenas are not universally able to safely contain them.

Q: Why did the superheavyweight class die out? Was the cost of building such robots too high, or did the audience and builders just lose interest? [Nobleboro, Maine]

A: [Mark J.] The increasing costs of building and transporting a 340-pound superheavyweight class 'bot had certainly damped enthusiasm, but more important was the expense of reinforcing existing combat arenas to keep up with raising energy levels in superheavy weaponry. By 2010 there was only one event still willing to host the extra-big 'bots: RoboGames. The self-proclaimed "World's Largest Robot Competition" was a three-day event with more than fifty different robot events (combat robots, fire-fighters, LEGO bots, hockey bots, walking humanoids, soccer bots, sumo bots...) and the schedule was very tightly packed.

The RoboGames combat tournament had already eliminated the builder-popular 12-pound class and was considering elimination of the well-attended 30-pound featherweight class just to gain a little schedule room. When only two superheavys showed up at the 2010 event their fate was sealed. There was no superheavy class at the 2011 RoboGames and the cost of an arena to safely contain a 2019-era superheavy is prohibitive. They're gone and they aren't coming back.

Q: Hey I'm building a 30kg/60lb vertical spinner robot and i wanted to know... (deleted) [Goa, India]
Although I very much wish to support the technical aspects of robot construction in the energetic and expanding Indian subcontinent, I am also greatly worried that I may be contributing to an extremely dangerous situation for builders and spectators. This has brought me to a painful decision:

The 'Ask Aaron' website is closed to questions from builders competing in India.

The best enclosed arenas in India would be considered inadequate for 30 pound robots in Europe or the US but are hosting events for much heavier 'bots. Aaron certainly wouldn't approve of the reckless endangerment of life and limb, and I will not contribute to the development of more powerful combat robot weaponry in any region where the arenas are not universally able to safely contain them.

Q: I loved BotsIQ in high school and wanted to continue with the weight class after I graduated. I look in the Builders Database but cannot seem to find an event. I'm looking for a 15lb competition or something very close. [Monroeville, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] The 15 pound class is almost exclusively limited to school-based competitions. The only open competitions I know of for this 'dogeweight' class are associated with the 'Battle Beach' tournaments in Florida.

You'll have more luck shaving off some weight and finding a tournament with a 12-pound class. The big annual NERC Motorama event in Harrisberg Pennsylvania has 12-pound 'hobbyweight' and 30-pound 'featherweight' classes. The event is coming up in February -- registration closes soon.

Q: I also want to make a truly big bot as I am starting my own machine shop. I was thinking a 60lb or larger, but also am having trouble finding an event. Do you know of any for that as well?

A: The larger the 'bot the harder it is to find a competition. Robogames in northern California is the only open US tournament fighting 'bots larger than 30 pounds, and they have cancelled their 2019 tournament. Keep an eye on Robot Combat Events as well as The Builders Database.

Q: Hey this is not really a question but more of a correction. There are events other than RoboGames that fight larger 'bots. AVC Sparkfun in Colorado runs 60lbers, and Maker Faire Orlando runs 250lbers. [Richmond, Virginia]

A: I didn't mention those events in response to the question because:

  • 'AVC Sparkfun' had exactly two 60-pound robots at their 2018 event. That's not worth dragging a robot to Colorado; and
  • 'Battles at Maker Faire Orlando' had a good number of 220-pound heavys in 2017, but had no event in 2018 and shows no scheduled big 'bot event for 2019 [see below].
That's not enough activity for me to encourage a builder to start construction on anything above 30-pounds.

Q: The shows that 13 heavyweights registered for Battles at Maker Faire Orlando 2018. [Douglasville, Georgia]

A: Thanks for the correction. BotRank has no results from the event and the 'Registered Robots' page at the website has an expired security certificate. If you want to fight 220-pound heavys it looks like Maker Faire is your only current US option.

Q: With Robogames over, are there any non-televised competitions that you'll be making tournament trees for? [Newark, New Jersey]

A: [Mark J.] Why do you believe that RoboGames is 'over'? The official statement that "There will not be a RoboGames 2019 in California" clearly refers only to next year's event. RoboGames took a year off in 2014 but was back the following year. I fully expect the event to return.

I have compiled tournament trees in a standard format for more than 40 major robot combat events at the Run Amok Combat Robotics Tournament Winners page". I'm considering adding the recent big Chinese events '(Fighting My Bots', 'King of Bots', 'Kentucky Fried Bots') if I can find the necessary data.

Q: Hi, I am currently part of a high school robotics club that enters 15lb competitions. Last year I helped co-design a robot and drove and we placed fairly well throughout the year. We are starting design presentations this week to decide what we are doing for this year's robots. This will be the first year I try to design independently and I present Wednesday. I have used your website, tools and archives and asked questions quite extensively while designing this robot over the last summer or so and just wanted to say thank you for being such a good learning resource to newer builders.

As a last question before we present I just wanted to know if you had any tips for a design presentation as such, Thanks! [Coudersport, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] I appreciate your 'thank you'. It's nice to get feedback from our readers and builders. You're very welcome.

You know the way these presentations go from your earlier design efforts, but there are a few things I see left out too often:

  • Individually list each of the critical engineering elements that needed to be addressed and the elements of the design that address them.
  • Discuss the design compromises that were necessary, the alternatives you considered, and the reasons why you consider your choices best.
  • Your project has a human interface -- the link between the robot and the operator. It's a plus to mention that interface and any design considerations that went into it.
Above all else, let them know that you're proud of the work that went into the design and that you have confidence in its success. Best luck!
Q: Hey can you host Robogames 2019 in lieu of David Calkins [New York, New York]

A: [Mark J.] I'm not interested in adopting the child of a madman's ego.

Sometimes RoboGames happens, sometimes it doesn't. The rumor that there will be no 2019 RoboGames comes from two words in a PM from a volatile personality suspected of frequently posting after a few glasses of wine. There has been no confirmation or denial on an official channel.

Watch for updates.

Update: Facebook post:
"There will not be a RoboGames 2019 in California. RoboGame Egypt 2018 & 2019 will likely have a small non combat event. But there are no plans for a large combat events anywhere on the planet under my direction using my arena, ect."

- David Calkins, October 15th 2018 -- 1:30 PM PDT

Yes, there is such a thing as 'RoboGames Egypt'.
Q: So I'm making a new 1lb and 3lb competition in the midwest. As a builder what do you suggest I should do. ( box size. Large sheets of lexsan and where I can get is) thank you very much [Omaha, Nebraska]

A: [Mark J.] What would I suggest? I'd suggest that you attend combat robot competitions and talk with event organizers until you no longer need to ask me to summarize in a couple of paragraphs everything you need to know to put on a safe and well-run competition.

Unwilling to do that? Head over to SPARC: Standardized Procedures for the Advancement of Robotic Combat and read every word in their 'Event Resources' section - top of page on the right. The last item in their event resources section is the 'SPARC Arena Construction Best Practices' which provides construction considerations, cost estimates, material recommendations, and example arena photos.

Check local plastics suppliers for polycarbonate ("Lexan") sheet. If you cannot source locally, a quick web search will turn up multiple suppliers -- but shipping on large sheets can get expensive.

Q: I'm confused. Didn't anyone got to pick there own Loanerbots in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors? [Clay, New York]

A: [Mark J.] 'Ask Aaron' no longer answers questions about UK Robot Wars for reasons discussed in Frequently Asked Questions #37.

Q: I have scoured your answers as well as Aaron's archives, and fully respect the reasonable advice that a builder's first build should be a wedge due to the lack of complexity inherent in a bot without an active weapon.

However, I have other concerns about taking a wedge to a competition. I plan on participating in the U.S. antweight category (1lb/454g) and I worry mainly about how fun it would be for other teams to compete against a wedgebot. I watch other competitions and when a robot does not have a weapon capable of damaging the enemy robot it seems that the intention is to either flip the opponent, or hope they self-destruct on the wedge.

My question is if you recommend that a builder first build a wedgebot, do you also recommend that be the first bot they take to competition? I hope to assuage my concerns that bringing a wedgebot to competition is something that is frowned upon, or detracts from the experience for other competitors. [Gainesville, Georgia]

A: [Mark J.] It's very considerate of you to express concern over the experience of the other builders, but let me dispel those concerns:

  • As a new competitor you will be welcomed with open arms regardless of the type of 'bot you bring to the competition. The sport thrives on 'fresh blood'. Both event organizers and your fellow builders are very happy to see new faces.
  • Our advice to build and compete with a wedge before adding the complexity of an active weapon is not controversial. The question of what type of 'bot to build first is commonly asked on the on-line forums, and 90% of the responses are "Wedge". The other 10% are variations on "Build whatever you like, just please build something".
  • There is a HUGE learning curve to climb in building a successful combat robot. The number of 'little things' that have to be right is boggling, and no amount of driving around on your kitchen floor will bring these things to light. You've got to get to a competition to expose the items that require attention, and you've got to survive enough battles to make your learning experience worthwhile.
  • If you walk in to your first tournament with a complex design you're likely to have a pile of scrap after your first fight and have no idea about what went awry. That will both discourage you and leave a 'bye' hole in the tournament structure -- and that will detract from the experience of the other competitors.
Now, if you show up with the same wedge to the same competition the next year you may get some gentle questions about what your next design is going to be. By then you'll have an answer for them.
Q: Hello Mr. Joerger, my apologies if you may be getting flooded with this particular question, but how do you feel about Battlebots "no tapping out" situation from the recent episode [ABC/Discovery Season 3, Episode 4: "There's No Tapping Out in BattleBots!"]? I recall an interview where Ray said how Battlebots wants him to portray himself as a villain (despite the fact that I would assume Tombstone is very popular with the crowd). While I'm glad Ray didn't decimate Gigabyte, this whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth concerning how Battlebots views the competitor's robots.

-Jacob [Fort Worth, Texas]

A: [Mark J.] My answer requires a bit of history...

  • Back in the Comedy Central era, BattleBots was a real tournament with hundreds of competitors. Teams built their 'bots, travelled to the tournament, and paid an entry fee out of their own pocket. In those tournaments you could 'tap out', but if you did there was a reduced chance that your match would get on TV. Comedy Central could pick thru a huge number of matches and show the most entertaining fights. This was a good model that lasted five television seasons.
  • All this changed when the series was rebooted for the ABC television network. Teams had to go thru a lengthy and detailed application process for a very limited number of available openings in a small tournament. There was no longer going to be a big pile of fights to pick thru for entertaining matches -- very nearly all of the matches had to be shown.
  • Teams that are accepted to compete in the BattleBots reboot are given a substantial stipend to assist in the construction of their robots, and their travel costs are covered. The producers correctly feel that the teams owe them some entertaining fights. Given the cost of a television production and the limited number of robots the show allows to compete, the production cannot allow a team to destroy the broadcast value of a match by 'tapping out'.
  • "No tap-outs" isn't unusual in televised robot fights. Robot Wars has never had a tap-out option, and if the match isn't entertaining the 'House Bots' come in and destroy a 'bot or two so the audience isn't disappointed. At least in Robot Wars you can try to drive into 'The Pit' to save yourself.
  • The current Discovery network 'BattleBots: Fight Night' is not a tournament at all; it's a collection of fights that the show producers think will be entertaining. They will eventually get around to a small playoff tournament, but the emphasis is on entertaining matches.
The bottom line is that if you're afraid that your 'bot is going to be destroyed you shouldn't put it in the arena. Gigabyte's "Robotic Death Company" team came off as sniveling pantywaists. They have destroyed more than their share of opponents over the years, and they were paid to be at BattleBots and put on a good fight. Instead of a basket full of destroyed robot, they went home with a burlap sack full of shame.
Q: How did 'Pork Chop Jr.' end up fighting in China? What happened to it there? [East Texas]

A: [Mark J.] After losing all of its matches at Rocket City Robot Assault, 'Pork Chop Jr.' fled to India where it competed in cage matches for thousands of rupees. After crippling a professor at IIT Goa, it got a job on a Chinese TV show where Zhang Yimou drove it directly into the arena hazards. Depressed and now missing a wheel, it went drinking at a disreputable KTV where it met a girl from Xinjiang. Accompanying her home, 'Pork Chop Jr.' settled down to life as a goat herder.

See also: The Many Lives of Pork Chop Jr.

Q: Mark, with the booming scene of Chinese robot combat, here's one short question: How long do you think it will take for a Chinese bot to be introducted into the Combat Robot Hall Of Fame?

Also: I would still like to thank you and Aaron's kind help to us from 10 years ago, without your useful information I could not be here today and commentating fights for the teams I can dream of fighting in China, thanks. ['Chinese Forum' guy that now has became the commentator of FMB in China]

A: [Mark J.] Ahh... I remember the 'Chinese Forum'. Many interesting questions came from that group of builders. I appreciate your gracious note of thanks, and I'm pleased that you are involved with 'Fighting My Bots'.

The explosive rise of robot combat in China took me by surprise.

  • The early robot combat history of the US, Europe, Brazil, India, and Australia all started with local and regional tournaments attended by enthusiastic novice builders who developed their own designs and styles of combat.
  • In contrast, the first Chinese tournaments I learned of were large, televised tournaments attracting international competitors. This stiff competition may have pressured local builders to adopt successful existing designs rather than create novel designs of their own.
Chinese builders will certainly develop their own style, but their path to a Hall of Fame robot will be different from what we have previously seen.

The website attracts a very limited readership from China. The attached map shows how our typical web traffic strongly skews to the US and Europe, with China trailing behind India, Malaysia, and Australia. I wonder how many builders in China are even aware of the Hall of Fame?

Reply: Mark, please be sure that the Combat Robot Hall Of Fame is still known in China, the web traffic from China might be a bit low, but we are certainly aware of it! I really hope in the future that I can have a chance to meet you in person, for all the help Aaron and you have gave to me over the years. [Chinese Forum, or should I now be called FMB commentator guy?]

Q: Hi, I don't have any question regarding the combat robots, but want to know how to build a safe arena for combat robotics in India and what weight category do you think we should play in? [India, just outside of Chicago?]

A: [Mark J.] See Frequently Asked Questions #38 - How do you build a safe robot combat arena? Fight a weight for which you can afford a safe arena.

Q: I want to ask you that why don't you accept questions from people from india.what sort of safety concerns are you talking about ? [Maharashtra, India]

A: [Mark J.] 'Ask Aaron' does not accept questions from robot builders competing in India. The photo below was taken earlier this month (January, 2018) at a combat robot event in Tamil Nadu, India. It is an arena for 120 pound combat robots. Click here.

Date marker: January 2018
Q: Do you think Bite Force changed its design because its builder wanted to or because of the new primary weapon rule? [Beckley, West Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] Let's get an answer straight from the source. I asked Paul Ventimiglia, captain of the Aptyx Designs Battlebots Team. He provided a succinct response:

"Because I wanted to, enjoy destruction, and enjoy building new machines."

Concept: Antbotica-esque competition, but A) it's in a Plastic Class, and B) it's also a rapid build-a-thon: instead of a 'Bring Your Own Bot' model, all competitors arrive maybe 2-5 days before the competition and are handed kits holding motors, batteries, controllers, fasteners, etc. all the non-plastic essentials for a bot, and a spool of thermoplastic filament (with a different color in each kit perhaps). Then, they are pointed to a workshop with many 3d printers, and they spend the next couple-to-a-few days designing and constructing their bot.

Sure, it's obviously very costly especially being a multiday event requiring a workshop with plenty of printers. You can charge the competitors more than a typical competition of course; you're paying for their bots and hosting the build experience in a proper shop. Also, maybe it could be geared towards teens with a STEM education focus and STEM education funding. Instructors/mentors guiding & teaching kids on how to accomplish the design they want, from the CAD to the controls.

My region has a few events like that: coding camps hosted by schools in summer, dancing hexapods at the library, FIRST is big here, etc.. How feasible do you see this concept ever being, considering it could be refined a lot? What do you think the biggest issue(s) would be? [Buffalo, New York]

A: [Mark J.] I don't think I'm the person to ask about this. You need to parade the idea in front of a group of builders that might be interested in attending this type of event, and that's not me.

The event doesn't match my design/build methods: I'm a grumpy old man who doesn't CAD, doesn't print, would be frustrated by the lack of hardware choice, and who doesn't see the need to enforce 'plastic' for an 'Antbotica' style event that eliminates the advantages of exotic materials and construction by its design. With identical hardware I suspect that you'd end up with a field of very similar plastic 'bots.

Perhaps the Combat Robotics group on Facebook would like to comment on your event? If not, you can always click the button.

Q: Hey hey! I was wondering if you'd like to take a look at my articles about rejected BattleBot designs on the BattleBots Wiki. What do you think of them? Are there any of these rejects that stand out to you? Which one do you, personally, think should've been in Battlebots? Thanks! [Decatur, Illinois]

A: [Mark J.] I fondly remember the earlier series of BattleBots where no design was rejected. Anyone could build a combat robot and simply show up for the tournament, and hundreds of teams did just that. If your 'bot passed tech inspection you were in. That spawned great diversity and interest in combat robotics. It was first a robot tournament and second a television show.

In the ABC series the creative purity of the builders was overridden by a need to present a design that might 'audition' well and catch the eye of the producers. The fighting ability of the robot takes a back seat to audience appeal, and your design can be rejected simply because if might not film well. Is your team well financed enough to build a duplicate robot to have standing by so that repairs won't slow down the production? That would never fly in a true sporting event, but it was a plus at ABC BattleBots.

I'm not going to second guess the BattleBots producers over their selections and rejections, but I will say that the most capable reject in your collection is 'Team Velocity'. Their record is outstanding, their design was appealing, and they certainly would have been in contention for the championship.

Q: With a certain televised competition allowing limited forms of entanglement as a "counter" to the ever-increasing number of powerful spinners, do you think more competitions in smaller weight classes will consider adding similar rules? Would you like to see entanglement in any form return to robot combat? [Alberta, Canada]

A: [Mark J.] Every time an entanglement post appears on 'Ask Aaron' I get hate mail from builders in the US who take this as an attempt to emasculate their robots and ruin the sport. No other topic causes so great a reaction -- it makes me wonder a bit about builders. Outside the 'sportsman' class, I don't see any possibility for measures that might reduce destruction.

Q: Do you know anything about Chinkilla? I've heard rumors of Jay Leno having the robot, but not having it appear on BB due to copyrights and legal things of the like. Do you think Chinkilla would ever make a return, even if it's for shits and giggles? [Champaign, Illinois]

A: 'Chin-Killa' was a demo 'bot supposedly made by 'The Tonite Show' tech crew for Jay Leno. It was built for a publicity tie-in to BattleBots and was never intended to compete, being overweight (more than 400 pounds) and generally unsuited to combat. In BattleBots season 2 it did fight a televised exhibition match against BattleBots co-founder Trey Roski's ultra-heavyweight 'Ginsu'. It ain't comin' back.

Q: What are your thoughts on Expulsion's ability to self-right? Plain genius or plain silly? What are your thoughts on Expulsion's camouflage during the 10-way rumble? [Champaign, Illinois]

A: 'Ask Aaron' stopped answering questions about Robot Wars competitors many years ago. See FAQ #37.

Q: Are there any combat arenas in my area? If so how do I find them? [St. Louis, Missouri]

A: [Mark J.] Closest I know of is the Central Illinois Robotics Club in Peoria. See FAQ #12.

Q: Is the Derpasaurus the greatest robot to ever robot? [Trenton, New Jersey]

A: [Mark J.] A little respect for Team Peerless Zhuge, if you please. The name of their robot is 'Violent Dragon'.

With a deceptive appearance hiding the most brutal attack, it comes from the underground world of beasts: Violent Dragon!

I expect a lot of votes for 'Violent Dragon' when the Combat Robot Hall of Fame when it next opens for nominations in 2019. It doesn't look like it can self-right. Pity.

Armor ambition! King of Bots -- an unparalleled high-profile event, a real-time athletic reality show, and highest specification robot fighting competition.

Q: I am looking to make an arena for Fairyweight & Antweight bots. Where can I get plans or at least recommended materials & thicknesses? [Watertown, Massachusetts]

A: [Mark J.] The SPARC Arena Construction Guide will give you a good overview, and this arena build diary from the Dallas Area Robot Combat group will walk you thru the details.

Q: The dallas build report isn't linked correctly? [Westerville, Ohio]

A: Well that's the last straw. I've sacked my entire web staff and replaced them with a highly recommended gerbil named Roger. His r�sum� is impressive and his rates are remarkably affordable. I was lucky to get him. I just hope that the little wheel Roger runs in all night long doesn't keep me awake. Try the link now.

Q: I always wondered, where was 'Robotica' filmed? [Syracuse, New York]

A: [Mark J.] RBI Productions filmed 'Robotica' at the historic Prospect Studios just east of Hollywood. The studios are owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company, and were formerly the west coast headquarters for ABC television.

I kept a journal of the filming that you may find interesting: Robotica Journal.

Q: Do you know of any semi-large teams from around Illinois? I've searched high and low but I haven't really seen anybody from around here that knows anything about combat robots except for a few teams that competed in Bot Brawl 2017. By semi-large, I mean teams that are known but not really, really known like... [long list of well-known robot builders expunged]. [Chamapign, Illinois]

A: [Mark J.] The short answer is no, but you can search for yourself:

  • Go to The Builders Database;
  • Click on 'search' in the top menu bar:
  • In the 'Team Search' section put 'IL' in the 'State' box;
  • Click the blue 'search' button.
You can click on the team names that pop up to view their robots. You can also do a state search in the 'Builder Search' section, but there is no option to view robots there.
Builder Shane Ferrell recently shared some of his hard-learned lessons about combat robot design and construction in a Facebook post. In my experience, you can replace every "can" and "may" in his post with "quite often will".

Lessons learned from Seattle Bot Bash 2017

  1. When you are out of the running to win the match, tap out or you may get destroyed.
  2. Set screws may not hold a pulley to a shaft.
  3. Motor screws may loosen in the middle of the match.
  4. Not putting a flat on the shaft for the set screws is a mistake.
  5. Aluminum weapon shafts may bend.
  6. Welds should not be ground down flush to make them pretty (but weak).
  7. Wheel guards can get crushed into your wheels.
  8. Roll pins do not make good shear pins for combat robot wheels. A sheared pin makes driving 'theoretical'.
  9. Cast aluminum should never be used where it could take a hit. All 3 sets of my front forks busted.
  10. Check that your spares are identical to the parts on the robot. My spare weapon supports were 1/8� shorter -- the drum dragged.
  11. Use the good Loctite on your weapon hub [every threaded fastener].
  12. Double check all screws before the match! Having your weapon fall off is embarrassing.

Date marker: January 2017
Q: Hello, Mark. I have recently received a drone and I was wondering if it might be suitable for combat in the Battlebox. I know of the nessesary requirements in joining another team and whatnot but, I mostly just need to know how to attach a proper weapon to the drone. Thanks-Luke from Alabama

P.S I love the new file attachment system, it makes asking questions so much simpler.

A: [Mark J.] Nice little drone, Luke -- but I don't believe it's suitable for use in robot combat. The only current event allowing weaponized drones is the re-booted BattleBots, and that presents three problems for you:

  1. The support drones used at BattleBots are much larger, heavier, and complex than the hobby drone you have received;
  2. An effective drone weapon can take hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to develop -- see "Buzz" Fire Drone for Team Caustic Creations; and
  3. BattleBots has apparently not been renewed for a third season on ABC.
See also my earlier comments about drones farther down in this archive. Have fun with your drone, and don't let a robot swat you out of the air with a garden rake.

Q: Show me a picture of killerhurtz and deadpan side by side [Ashburn, Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] You've confused 'Ask Aaron' with Siri. Show me a little respect.

Q: If you have [insert spinner name here] then should you destroy [insert knocked out bot here] if it is getting counted out? [Ashburn, Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] Look over at the other team and tilt your head to one side.

  • If they wave you off or tap out -- back away.
  • If they flip you off or moon you -- trash 'em.

Q: When you looked over at the other team and tilted your head, have any builders mooned you? [Elkridge, Maryland]

A: [Mark J.] Only metaphorically.

At our second trip to Robot Wars we had pit space next to a tracked robot decorated like a military tank that had the noisiest drive train imaginable. I was badly jet-lagged and was trying to catch a nap under my pit table, but every five minutes that damned tracked robot would test their drive.

We drew the tank and a BattleBots veteran in the first-round three-way elimination match, and I wanted a good shot at that noisy bugger. The treaded noisemaker was quickly disabled but I wanted a trophy to make up for my interrupted nap. I lined up to take a run up the rear wedge of the tank to shear off their decorative turret. I got the turret, but also high-centered my 'bot on top of the tank. We were both immobilized and were being counted out -- but the BattleBots veteran had just finished his fearsome E-Tek powered disk spinner a few hours earlier and was looking for a target to test it on...

Moral of the story: don't tick off anyone in the pits, and don't turn your back on a spinner.

Comment: Hey Mark, I've made a video of the Fight My Bot Championship 2016 in China [link fixed]. There are 8 fights including Semi Final, Grand Final, 3rd Playoff and a 6-Player Rumble! I hope you enjoy it : ) [Zhejiang, China]

Reply: [Mark J.] Sharp robots, nice arena, good crowd, and a great video. Thanks!

Update: An expanded video with more fights is now up -- FMB Championship Video Clips 2.

Q: I had a random idea that I probably won't pursue, but with how drones are a thing at Battlebots now, what's your thoughts on an 'Air Superiority' drone designed to combat other drones? Again, not really something I'm planning on doing, just a random thought.

Also, off topic: I just noticed that the icon for the solenoid FAQ is the Elsy'ier sept symbol from Warhammer 40,000... [North Carolina]

A: [Mark J.] Flying a drone in the BattleBox is a real challenge; the pilots report that the ventilation fans make precision flying impossible. I don't think it's a good place to stage an air battle, particularly given that a lawn rake has proven so effective in swatting multi-thousand dollar drones out of the air. Plus, whatcha gonna do if your opponent doesn't have a drone for you to fight?

I suspect that drones are last year's robot fashion accessory. They've been added by teams desperate to gain one of the limited slots available on the show.

Builder: "I've built a robot with a mini drum that's a good fighter and the team wears funny costumes."

Producer: "We've got a lot of those. Anything else?"

Builder: "Well, I've got a drone with a flame thrower..."

Producer: "OK, you're in."

If there is another season of BattleBots (and given the ratings that's a pretty big 'if') I don't believe any sort of drone will help to get you on the show. Try something new.

Q: Hey,Mark i've watched some of Malaysian built bots and i they're not as exciting as US or UK combat robots and i consider joining one of the tournaments so do you know where i can find the rules or anything about those tournaments? [Selangor, Malaysia]

A: [Mark J.] Please allow me to Google that for you:

Q: Hmm..its me the guy who asked the 'Malaysian combat robots rules' guy here. I searched it on google and the only one that i could find is a tournament that happended 3-4 years ago.I know all of the links that you suggested but i still cant find anything, oh well.

A: I think I misread your question. The links I provided above take you directly to pages that have rules and current details on major US and UK tournaments and schedules. Were you asking about Malaysian tournaments? Sorry, I have no info on them. Perhaps you could ask elsewhere.

Q: Which robot FIRST used CO2 or gas powered weapons. [Selangor, Malaysia]

A: Pneumatic weapons have been around from the start. There were three pneumatic weaponed robots at the first Robot Wars event in 1994:

Comment: China fighting robot championship FMB (Fighting My Bots) coming soon. We got a preview video, drum spinner and flipper. I build both of them. : ) This video is very exciting, I hope you will enjoy it. [Yunnan, China]

Reply: [Mark J.] You've been very busy! The robots look great. I recall the tournament is soon -- September 15th if I remember correctly. Looking forward to more video.

The preview video wouldn't open on my android, but I had no problem opening it on my PC.

Q: What are the rules of the 'fairy weight' competition? [New Jersey]

A: [Mark J.] Most events for the 'insect class' robots:

  • 150-gram 'fairies'
  • one-pound 'ants'
  • three-pound 'beetles' and
  • six-pound 'mantises'
as well as the heavier classes follow the SPARC Robot Construction Specifications.

SPARC also provides guidance on robot combat tournament procedures, match rules, and match judging. Links to these files can be found on the SPARC Documents page.

Rules may vary from event to event so make sure to check with the organizer of the specific event you plan to enter for any special allowances or restrictions.

Q: With season one of the new Robot Wars complete, I gotta ask: What did you think of it? Personally, I really... (expunged) [Roseville, California]

A: [Mark J.] My apologies, but the topic is off limits. A number of years ago we were beset by particularly odious Robot Wars hooligans and I swore that never again would Robot Wars content appear in Ask Aaron. See Frequently Asked Questions #37.

Q: How popular is the 12 pound weight class? I want to graduate past ants and beetles but I'm not sure I'm willing to put the money into a 60 'pounder [Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] The table below shows the number of active robots and fights for popular classes 60 pounds and below as reported to BotRank in the last two years.

August 2014 to August 2016
1 pound2961,770
3 pounds2681,566
12 pounds2994
30 pounds26130
30 (sport)27146
60 pounds2284

NERC has good turnout for hobbyweights at the Motorama and Franklin Institute events in your region, but none of the heavier classes are nearly as popular as the insect classes.

Q: Thanks for your tech support, I design a drum bot for the 2016.9.15 FMB(Fighting My bots) in Shanghai, I will send the video to u after the match : ) [Yunnan, China]

A: [Mark J.] Awesome! I don't often get to see the robots from builders who seek our guidance. Thank you, and best luck at the tournament.

Comment: It`s my drum spinner build video : )

A: Wow -- it looks first class to me! Get in some driving practice and you'll be set. Looking forward to seeing the tournament video.

Q: What's going on with BattleBots teams showing up with two complete robots and swapping them in for different fights? I don't know of any type of competition that allows this, and BattleBots didn't permit it in the past. [Minnesota]

A: [Mark J.] You shouldn't think of 'BattleBots' as a robot tournament; think of it as a major network TV reality show with huge production costs. They don't want to wait around with the clock ticking while a team gets their damaged robot ready for the next fight. Pretty much anything goes to keep the filming on schedule.

Several teams at ABC BattleBots S2 had duplicate robots - see the pit photo of the twin 'Broncos' at right. At least one team swapped in a complete spare 'bot for a fight because it was 'convenient'. Traditionally you have one robot and a limited amount of time to repair the machine between rounds. This is a big change.

I'm told that the decision as to which teams get a 'second chance' slot after a defeat is largely based on who is ready to fight. That makes having a complete spare 'bot ready to go an appealing but expensive option for a team. Allowing duplicate robots is controversial in part because it throws a strong advantage to the better financed teams.

BattleBots has made compromises to favor television for a long time. Starting in Season 3 of the original series popular robots were allowed to 'sit out' the first several rounds of the tournament, giving them battle-weary opponents and a better chance at making the finals. Questionable practices like these kept Team Run Amok well away from BattleBots.

Q: What's my best option for someone who wants to get into combat robots but can't find any tournaments around me? [An IP server in California]

A: [Mark J.] Travelocity. The last tournament I went to was 590 miles away.

Q: Hello Mark, Crushed Dreams guy here.

While waiting for my pre-assembled kitbot to arrive (I thought I'd reverse engineer how it all works and then start from there), I decided to start building my own lexan arena suitable for ants and beetleweights. The lexan panels would be 8' x 4' x .25" and would be assembled on a sturdy tabletop with L-angles connecting the panels together and, of course, would come with a roof. The arena surface material has yet to be determined. I'm actually using this render as a guide.

However there is one flaw in this design. How on earth am I supposed to get the robots IN the arena? In other words, how best should I construct a "door" that would be structurally safe and sound? I'm certainly not asking you to do my homework for me, I was just wondering if you had an idea on which approach would be the safest. I don't like metal shards.

Appreciate it, David R. [Livermore, CA]

A: [Mark J.] Drill a 1" hole on opposite walls then assemble the two combatants thru the holes in the same manner used to make a 'ship in a bottle'. Insert two corks and fight. Totally safe. Alternately, take a look at the resources linked in FAQ #38.

I've seen all sorts of doors: top-loaders, sliders, standard hinged outward-opening... I saw one set-up with no door at all -- the arena wasn't actually attached to the base and it was just tipped up to insert the bots. I liked it, but I suppose that isn't practical for an 8-foot square arena. I think you're on your own for a door design. Talk to some ant event organizers?

I've never built a combat arena and so must defer to those who have, but I do know Lexan! A few tips:

  • Drill all the mounting holes in the Lexan oversize -- by about twice.
  • Use large 'fender' washers between the Lexan and the nut or bolt head.
  • DO NOT tighten down the mounting hardware onto the plastic! The hardware just positions the Lexan, it should not 'secure' it. Use tubular spacers if you like, but leave room to let the Lexan move.
The Lexan does not structurally support the arena -- the frame alone supports the structure and should have corner bracing. Lexan gains its strength from being able to flex and spread the impact loading. If you constrain that ability the Lexan cracks.
Q: And another question:Lock-Jaw and Yeti had a very tough match that went for full 3 minutes in the qualifying round,if Battlebots is using the rules of last year or the old days of TV era,would Lock-Jaw ever have a chance to be judged as the winner? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] I make a point of not judging robot combat matches based on edited video. I've seen matches in person that looked very different from the same match when shown on TV.

That said, I believe that the revised judging guidelines for BattleBots ABC season 2 greatly favor more destructive weapons such as the large drum on 'Yeti'. Under the old rules I believe that 'Lock-Jaw' would have won both the aggression and control categories and would have had a good chance with the judges overall.

Q: Hello Mark, I was having some ridiculous thoughts in my head (as usual) and I was curious, has anybody ever tried to make a water combat class? Like stick two R/C boats/submarines in a small pool or large fish tank and then put weapons on them? I would love to build an arena myself but, I don't have any funds to undertake a project of that magnitude. Thanks-Luke [Alabama]

A: [Mark J.] Check R/C Warship Combat. It's been going on for a long time. Lots of videos.

Q: Hello Mark, I have watched some of the videos about R/C ship combat but that isn't what I meant. I meant a small combat class with more traditional robotic weaponry like (spinner, flipper, wedge, axe, etc.)

A: Water spinners? Sounds slower, less dynamic, and more expensive than dry combat. Combat arenas cost enough to build without making them hold water. Interesting to think about, but I don't see this gathering a following.

Q: Hello Mark, what's your opinion on Battlebots� changed judging criteria displayed on the fight between 'SawBlaze' and 'Razorback'? Should that change be kept to "appeal" audiences? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] The BatteBots� judging criteria changed for the 2016 season. You can download your own copy of the 2016 BattleBots Tournament Rules which contains a scoring summary.

Previously, three judges each split up five points between the two competitors in each of three categories: aggression, control, and damage: three judges, 15 points allocated by each judge, 45 total points in the match. Aggression was based on the relative percentage of time each robot spent persuing and attacking their opponent.

For 2016 there have been multiple changes:

  • There are now four points-earning categories with new point assignments for each judge to consider. The categories are described in some detail in the 'Tournament Rules':

    1) Aggression
    2) Control
    3) Damage
    4) Strategy
     2 points
     1 point
     1 point
     1 point

  • Each of the three judges assigns the full category point to the robot they believe won each category; the two 'aggression' points may be split. Each judge then totals the awarded points to determine their 'winner', and the match win is given to the robot selected by the majority of the judges. The judges' raw scores are not combined.

  • Aggression points are now awarded under a new definition:

    "Aggression is judged by the frequency, severity, boldness and effectiveness of attacks deliberately initiated by a Robot against its opponent using its powered weapon(s)."

So now it's all about aggression, and aggression is all about active weapons. If your active weapon fails or you just don't use it you're completely boned.

Rumor is that TV audiences weren't happy about last year's tournament being won by what some considered to be an 'uninteresting' robot, so the judging criteria were changed to favor robots with more 'entertaining' and destructive weaponry. BattleBots� used to be a robot tournament that had some of its matches shown on TV. Now it's a TV show that's kinda like a robot tournament. Try to enjoy it for what it is.

Addendum I dropped an email to BattleBots asking for a copy of the "BattleBots 2016 Judges' Guide" referenced in section 7.6.1 of the Tournament Rules. They were kind enough to send a copy along with a request that I not publish their copyrighted guide online. I'll honor the request; if you want a copy (and you probably do) you'll have to ask for one from 'rules(at)'.

The six-page document is an interesting read. Perhaps the most interesting part being that the definitions and descriptions in the "Judges' Guide" do not entirely agree with the judging criteria stated in the "Tournament Rules" -- particularly with regard to 'aggression'. Repeat after me: "It's just a TV show."

Q: Why did so many of the robots in Battlebots have their names changed? (Sewer Snake, Last Rites, etc.) [California]

A: [Mark J.] BattleBots generally requires entered robots to have a name and appearance different from any used in previous competition for publicity and merchandising reasons. They want exclusive rights to the names and images of all competitors. Some teams with existing robots have simply renamed and repainted a 'bot to enter BattleBots, perhaps adding extra armor to take advantage of the increased weight allowance -- but appearances can be deceiving:

  • Team Hardcore's 'Tombstone' is a completely different robot than 'Last Rites'. You can read the story of Tombstone at the Hardcore Robotics website, and you can compare photos of the two 'bots to see the differences.
  • Likewise, Team Plumb Crazy entered a re-painted version of 'Sewer Snake' renamed 'Stinger: The Killer Bee' in the non-televised 2009 BattleBots event, but the current version of 'Stinger' was built from the ground up to compete at BattleBots. It's an entirely different robot from the now-retired Sewer Snake.

Q: Please tell me I'm not the only one facepalming at 'Obwalden Overlord'... [North Carolina]

A: [Mark J.] 'Obie' isn't much of a fighter, but BattleBots has a history of 'Artbots' displaying exotic robotic technology. Remember 'Mechadon' and 'Snake'? ABC BattleBots 2016 needed at least one oddball 'bot.

Bigger question: why did Team Razer turn fearsome 'Warhead' into a dragon?

Historical Note There was a robot similar to 'Obie' at 'Robot Wars Extreme Warriors' fifteen years ago. An American team brought 'The Wife', but they were unable to get it working and it didn't appear on the show. At least 'Obie' got to fight.

Q: I recently saw a video on Youtube of a pair of (admittedly bad) combat robots built out of old printers. Do you think Printerbots (i.e. combat robots that are built only from the components of a household printer apart from batteries and electronics) would be a good idea for a new class? [North Carolina]

A: [Mark J.] I love events that encourage imagination and creative thinking, but I've seen numerous competitions based on "build this using only [fill in the blank]" and they all eventually end badly. Somebody will spend way too much time and effort to find a very specific and rare household printer that has far better components for a combat robot than any other. Everybody else then has to search high and low, bid up eBay auctions to crazy levels, and exhaust the market for those specific old printers just to be competitive. Rather than encouraging creativity, the event quickly becomes very tightly constrained.

Something with printers that might work out is the new 'Plastic Ant' class. Rules are standard except that the chassis and weapon must be 3-D printed from a select group of plastics. This gets rid of all the exotic materials and fancy machine work. You can create your own print file or download one supplied by generous designers. Use your own 3-D printer, borrow/rent time on one, or send your file into an on-line printing service. Sounds like fun to me!

Q: Mark, what's your opinion of some teams using drones to assist their "main" part of the robot? Would that really be effective? Because I saw Basilisk's assist drone being quite useless in the preview episode of the second season of Battlebots. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] BattleBots has changed. It used to be an open tournament that anyone with a robot and the entry fee could enter, and the robots were built to win matches. Now you have to apply to be part of the 'show' and the robots are evaluated on their entertainment value. Adding a drone might make the difference between acceptance and rejection -- useless or not.

I can say that you may be more impressed by drone performance later in the 'tournament'.

Q: You've made some passingly negative comments about the new Battlebots show, would you care to elaborate? [Mount Laurel, New Jersey]

A: [Mark J.] I think I've been clear in expressing my concerns. I don't think the approach the BattleBots re-boot takes in selecting competitors is good for the sport.

The original 'Comedy Central' era BattleBots events were 'open' tournaments, unique among televised combat robot events. Anyone with the bug could build a robot, travel to the next scheduled event, and compete. Hundreds of thousands of people watched the show, and hundreds of them built robots and fought in the tournaments; 396 robots fought at the Season 3.0 event alone. Jay Leno built 'Chinkilla', Homer Simpson built 'Chief Knock-A-Homer', audiences were involved! The robots themselves developed at a frantic pace with new designs spawning and being tested at each event. That was great for combat robotics.

Now BattleBots is back, but the tournaments are no longer open and inclusive. Builders must 'apply' to gain one of a very limited number of spots at the event. The application process is lengthy and difficult with robots being judged by the producers NOT on how well they will fight, but on how they will look on television. The robots selected look like they were built by NASA contractors with major DARPA funding. A parent and child sitting at home watching the show are not going to think that they could strip down that old lawnmower in the garage and turn it into a robot.

The new format presents combat robotics as a closed, elitist activity. The brain trust behind BattleBots has long pushed to develop the sport into a larger enterprise like NASCAR, but that's not what the original format was about. Going upscale will not engage the audience. I had hoped for better.

Q: A question regarding the original Battlebots: Was there ever a rumble where one bot was left standing? I know Toro came close in the Season 2 SHW rumble, failing only to KO War Machine, but were there any bots in any BB weight class who went 'all the way', so to speak?

On that note, do you think Toro could have been able to flip War Machine before the rumble ended? [Portland, Oregon]

A: [Mark J.] The only rumble with 'one bot left standing' I can recall was the middleweight melee at the 1995 US Robot Wars where 'La Machine' was the sole operational competitor remaining. 'La Machine' went on to win the heavyweight melee at that event, and upgraded versions of the 'bot won the 1996 and 1997 heavyweight melees -- a string of rumble victories never equaled.

I suggest you watch the BattleBots S2 super-heavyweight rumble and decide for yourself if 'Toro' had a reasonable shot at flipping 'War Machine'. From where I sit, Dan Danknick pwned 'Toro' the whole match with a wedge that was lower than the lip of the big flipper.

Q: can the same robot armed with a 4 bar lifter enter in the featherweight and the sportsman class as well? [Quebec, Canada]

A: [Mark J.] Technically yes -- but be aware that the sportsman and featherweight class fight schedules may overlap. That will have you scrambling in the pits to charge batteries and repair damage. Some event organizers don't allow dual-class entries over concern for delays in the fight schedule and/or the (very real) possibility that the 'bot won't survive the first class and take up a spot it can't use in the other class tournament tree. Check with the event organizer.

[Mark J.] The following post has a few  briticisms  that may benefit from an explanation. 'Mouseover' a highlighted word to pull up a translation.

Q: Hi;
I'm currently doing a mechatronics and robotics degree, and, since we've ended up building depressingly little so far within the remit of our degree, myself and a bunch of other people on our course have decided to try and set up a robotic combat competition within our  uni . I think there's about 20 people interested at the minute, and we're aiming to get things set up and underway fairly quickly, in order to run the competition shortly after the summer exams period. We're aiming for something around beetleweight, although we're not planning on working to the standard weight classes; we'll be working to a size limit instead, of either 15 or 30cm3 (still under debate)

Since we're all students, and, relatively speaking,  skint , we're looking to keep the costs of running the competition as low as possible, and we're setting a budget limit on the robots of around �30-�40 (we haven't finalized this figure yet), to try and avoid people getting priced out of competing. We've asked around, and have been able to  blag  a few bits of assistance from around the university, such as permission to use one of the workshops for the builds, along with spare material, and a laser cutter, and have been given some speedframe to build the basic structure of an arena from (looking at the amount we've got, we can probably manage about a 2.5*2.5*1m arena, give or take). Since we want to keep things quick to build, easy to repair, and not too tough to do damage to, we're going to be limiting the materials that can be used for the armour, chassis, and weapon; most likely, the robots will be largely made out of MDF, plywood, acrylic, and aluminium, since these are easily available in the university scrap bins. We'll be standardizing some of the components, particularly radio gear, on the basis that radio gear is one of the more expensive parts, and, since there's only a couple of robots in use at any time, we can get away with sharing a smaller amount of transmitters. We'll also standardize batteries.

We're reckoning on charging a ~�10 per person entry fee to help cover costs, primarily the transmitters and material for the arena; we're looking at other ways to get a bit of cash in to fund it, too, such as sponsorship etc. but don't have anything lined up that we can rely on.

Based on the rather long dirge of information that i've just thrown your way, i've got a few questions;

1): Are we being total unrealistic morons, liable to be mown down by a belligerent toy car?

A: [Mark J.] In the grand scheme of things we're all unrealistic morons, but as long as you have fun building your robots and running the competition you'll be ahead of the game.

2): What would you recomend using as protection on the arena? We've been debating between various mixes of chipboard,  perspex , polycarbonate, netting, and heavyweight tarp, some of which we could likely blag for free, others we'd have to find and pay for ourselves.

A: Hmmm... the type and thickness of arena materials depends on the energy level of the robots to be placed therein. Containing a cow and containing a rhinoceros are different challenges. Since you're thinking 'out of the box' for your tournament, you might find food for thought in two Team Run Amok web articles for adventurous event organizers:

If you're set on a classic box arena viewable from all sides and robots with high-energy rotary weapons:
  • Chipboard: likely adequate for flooring and for any walls you don't plan on seeing thru. Possibly usable for low internal arena boundaries to keep 'bots away from the transparent bits.
  • Perspex: brittle and not recommended for combat arenas. Tends to shatter on heavy impact.
  • Polycarbonate: the standard material for combat arenas. Must be firmly attached to and supported by the arena framework. Thickness dependent on energy level of the weaponry -- around 5mm typical for beetleweight robots. Expensive, but avoid old 'reclaimed' polycarbonate as UV radiation weakens and embrittles the material over time.
  • Netting: useless. Think 'shrapnel'. Probably worse than nothing as having it present would give a false sense of security.
  • Heavy Tarp: Possibly better than nothing. Could be useful as an arena top cover:
    • If the arena is elevated near eye level so there is no 'line of sight' path for projectiles to spectators;
    • If the energy level of weaponry is controlled;
    • If it is well attached;
    • If adequate light can enter the arena.
Just a thought... might there be an enclosed handball/racquetball court on campus you could schedule for the day? Your arena could then be a very simple design, just enough to keep the robots themselves from leaving. Your 'netting' might have some use after all. Set up the robots, retreat from the court, re-enter when the match is over.

3): What other safety precautions would you recommend? We'll be requiring the usual lockouts on weapons, and will probably require some sort of removable link, but we're not sure on failsafes etc, as buying a transmitter with a built-in failsafe bumps up the costs quite a bit.

A: Transmitters don't failsafe; receivers and motor controllers failsafe. You may find that it isn't a problem as even low-end components tend to adequately failsafe these days. Make sure all transmitters are switched off before anyone opens the arena; a bumped transmitter can cause a 'bot to dart or a weapon to activate.

Keep strict control of the transmitters -- NO ROBOT TESTING OUTSIDE THE ARENA!

A concern about transmitter sharing: modern 2.4 GHz transmitters must be 'bound' to their associated receivers. This can take a bit of time. Also, even inexpensive modern transmitters typically have a wide range of features that may have to be set to the requirements of a specific combat robot. This could take more time and possibly cause control issues if rushed.

Use common sense, stay safe, and have some fun.

4): Do you have any other general advice on setting up a combat robotics competition? Thanks in advance; sorry for the rather lengthy question. [Blackpool, England]

A: In the US there are major concerns about insurance and liability. If somebody gets hurt, somebody gets sued -- and that somebody is likely the event organizer. Consider looking into having the event sponsored by a university club/department/entity so that you will be covered by their insurance.

Q: Dear Mark, what's your opinion on BBC deciding to reboot Robot Wars? Does that mean that audiences are interested in robot combat again? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] It means that someone at the BBC believes that audiences are again interested. They've signed on for six episodes with no start date announced. If television programming boffins could actually predict what audiences wanted to see there wouldn't be a 65% cancellation rate for new television series'.
Q: Hello,Aaron.
Why the CO2 cannot be used in Balltebots' competition ? [Hebei, China]

A: [Mark J.] When CO2 undergoes a phase transition from its compressed liquid state to its gaseous state it absorbs a great deal of heat energy, cooling itself and the materials it contacts. The cold surfaces condense water from the air. There is a small chance that condensed water can freeze into an ice plug and block a gas port used to depressurize the pneumatic system. This can lead the robot's operator to believe that the system is fully depressurized when it is not -- a dangerous situation!

Compressed air or nitrogen does not cool nearly as much as CO2 when powering a pneumatic system and does not risk building up ice blockages. Battlebots chooses to avoid this possible safety risk in their current rule set -- although they are alone in this action. I suspect it's an insurance issue.

Q: did i get on battlebots yet? [Philadelphia]

A: [Mark J.] Lemme check... ummm... no.

What's all this about combat robots in Russia? See the new post on the Team Run Amok webpage.

Q: Hey, Mark
I was wondering if Robotica get brought back like battlebots, what are some changes you would make to make it better and do you think you would like compete in it .
from SMP. [Detroit, Michigan]

A: [Mark J.] I gave that question a fair amount of thought after Robotica. Team Run Amok put on three 'Antbotica' tournaments to try out a few of the ideas I came up with. They worked out pretty well.

The Antbotica competition has four different challenges for one-pound robots:

  • Dodge and run in the 'Shuttle Race'.
  • Chase strategy and your opponent on the 'Scramble Playground'.
  • Show off your power and control in 'Pushover'.
  • Make gravity your friend in the 'Showdown'.

Check the rules and results page.
I lost my teammate two years ago, and Team Run Amok lost its heart. Although I'm pleased to continue offering what advice and guidance I can, I no longer have any reason to compete.
Q: Hello, Mark, do you think it makes sense that the BattleBots rules banned organic substance? In the 'Prohibited Materials' , organic substances are banned, except wood, wood products and battery electrolytes. The purpose seems to make the arena easier to clean. However, the contradiction is 'Radioactive' contains lots of plastic but it was accepted. I think there's no need to ban organic materials. [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] I'm not going to comment on every oddity in the build rules for Battlebots ABC season 2. BattleBots started as an open combat robot tournament with hundreds of teams showing up to compete. With so much interest the organizers must have realized that they could do anything they like and the robots would still show up. If you're not willing to put up with their arbitrary rules there are plenty of teams that will, so builder opinions carry no weight.

Q: The build rules for Battlebots season 2 were released recently. One thing that intrigued me was the requirement for a minimum of two master switches in each robot, one for drive and one for weaponry. Surely this is a bit uneccesary? Other rulesets I've read only require one master switch for both drive and weaponry. Does this new rule make robots "safer", or is it just a new inconvenience for current robots with only one switch? [The University of Manchester, England]

A: [Mark J.] I've learned to avoid thinking too much about why BattleBots does what they do. There are a number of puzzling requirements and vague 'soft' limits included in the new ruleset that are causing consternation in the builder community -- and what is that 'telemetry package' they mention in section 12?

Referring to multiple switches controlling different circuits as 'master' switches is a misnomer. For maximum safety it's clearly best to have a single true 'master' switch/link that will bring ALL robot motion to a halt. A requirement for separate switches for weapon and drivetrain does not make for a safer combat environment.

There has been no explanation of the switch requirement from BattleBots and I don't expect that there will be. BattleBots appears to actively discourage builder involvement or discussion of their ruleset. On the ruleset cover page it states:

"No portion of these Design Rules may be published, reproduced, sold or distributed by any means, or quoted or published in any medium, including on any website, without the prior written consent of BattleBots, Inc."

I wonder if I'll get in trouble for quoting their restriction on quoting their rules? Corporate sewage like this is one of several reasons why our team has not and will not compete at BattleBots.

Date marker: January 2016
Q: Hi Mark
Would you please make a report for the HW championship this year? Thank you! [A proxy server: maybe in Kansas, maybe in Virginia]

A: [Mark J.] Two problems...

  1. Which "HW championship this year" - Colchester, perhaps?

  2. 'Ask Aaron' does not now and has not ever provided fanboy event reports.

Q: What thickness of the polycarbonate wall is suitable for a 500g combat robot event? [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] Thickness of the polycarbonate arena walls depends on details of the arena design. I'd be comfortable with 3mm thickness assuming:

  • a solid frame supports the arena walls; and
  • a solid 'bumper' prevents direct contact of the robots with the arena wall.

Q: You seemed pretty pessimistic about the chances of Battlebots being renewed by ABC. Did the network's decision to renew it come as a delightful surprise? [Saint Mary's College of California]

A: [Mark J.] I have mixed feelings about ABC's renewal of BattleBots for a second season. The original series on Comedy Central was an important step in the development of combat robotics. The tournaments were open and attracted hundreds of builders to each event. The new series is limited to a few dozen competitors that are hand-picked to make 'good television'.

I'll watch, and I'll be entertained -- but I'm not convinced that it's a good thing for combat robotics.

Q: I loved it back in the day when robots were made resourcefully out of junkyard stock, or parts salvaged from things you wouldn't expect. Are there any successful present-day robots made from scraps & salvage, or have custom-tailored parts for combat robots completely taken over? [Waltham, Massachusetts]

A: [Mark J.] I'm with you, Waltham. Scrapbots are pretty much extinct in the US and Europe, but amazing resourcefulness is alive and well in India.

'Robowar' is a very popular activity at technology festivals around India, and the level of adaptability and imagination that goes into these 'bots is refreshing and wonderful! Now, if I could just get the organizers to build safe arenas...

Try video and image searches for 'robowar india'.

Q: What was the earliest use of an asymmetrical spinning weapon? [Philadelphia]

A: [Mark J.] Well, there was that fight where 'South Bay Mauler' lost one of it's impactors and went all wobbly but kept spinning. Does that count?

Q:Sir ...I am student of class 12th....sir I have participated in a robowar conpitition which is held on ...3rd - 5th September... Sir I don't know anything about that ....sir can u help me for that ....the specification of that robot is maximum 60 kg ..n voltage supply is 220v and 10 amp current at each n every point of motor....sir pls give me suggestion for motor, battery n attack used in that boat ...sir pls help me . [Delhi, India]

A: [Mark J.] No, I won't. Two reasons:
  1. All proper robot organizations in India have forbidden the use of 220 volt AC power for combat robots. It is incredibly dangerous to use line voltage to operate robowar competitors. I won't encourage such unsafe events by offering specific help to their competitors.

  2. An enormous library of information on robot design and component selection is already here at 'Ask Aaron' for your use. You'll find the answers to the very basic questions you're asking. Start with the Frequently Asked Questions and browse the archives.

Q: Which is more powerful between Beta's weapon and The Pulverizer in the Battlebox do you think? [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] BattleBots keeps the power on The Pulverizer turned down to prevent it from being too decisive a factor in matches. It's potentially much more powerful than Beta's electric powered hammer.

Q: Dear Mark, as the final episode of ABC's Battlebots is shown how would you evaluate this season? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] A lot of hype, very little combat. The old Comedy Central format allowed the show to pick and choose from hundreds of fights and show three good fights in a half-hour episode. Shows in this first season on ABC had to show 24 of the 28 fights at the tournament plus a few clips from the other four. Stretched out over six hours of TV time that gave only four fights per hour, and many of them were really not good fights.

The show did not draw great audience numbers. It was badly outperformed by the lead-in program on the same network, 'Celebrity Family Feud' -- which I figure costs a whole lot less to produce. It does not look all that good for another season.

Q: And do you think the grand final with Tombstone facing Bite Force is a good match to watch? Lots of people still seemed can't accept that the "underdog" taking everything (I don't really think so though).

A: The commentator's job is to put a lot of energy into 'talking up' the matches to make them seem exciting even if there isn't much of anything happening. Watch the match with the sound off and see what you think of it. It really wasn't much of a fight. One robot suffered from mobility problems, the other cooked their weapon battery and was harmless.

This was a real tournament and it came out the way real events do: unpredictably. Sometimes it comes out the way you like, and sometimes it doesn't.

Q: And was Bronco's extremely long attachment to the flipper a clever idea when facing Tombstone? Looks like it didn't work.....

A: It was a desperation move that was worth a try.

Q: Regarding Antbotica, was your main challenge in organising it (apart from cleaning up millet seed) trying to explain the format without confusing people more used to conventional combat? I have been thinking of running something very similar (UK antweights tend to be quite receptive to alternatives to combat, there've been a few long-running events with football and obstacle courses among other things) and I'm trying to wrap my head around the logistics of running it inside one day in a country where about three people saw Robotica... [Lancaster, England]

A: [Mark J.] The first Antbotica had few competitors, but it was held at a multi-event venue where most of the regional builders were able to see the event and gain an appreciation for it. The second event had nearly all of the established builders and several new builders competing.

Be prepared to spend some time promoting the concept and building a following. Consider a very small 'practice' event to get some video to post and build interest. Oh, and if you hold the event outdoors the birds will come and clean up the millet seed for you.

Q: I find your thoughts on arena design 'breeding' certain types of robots quite interesting, and would like to know;

1. Do you think an arena even 'needs' to be designed so that no particular type of robot is at an advantage or disadvantage?

A: [Mark J.] I don't think it's possible to design an arena that could be entirely neutral to robot design. It would be like designing a cage where a wolf, a shark, and a falcon could all compete on equal terms. Any arena will favor some design elements and penalize others.

That said, if you are trying to encourage design diversity it is possible to modify the arena environment in a way that gives advantage to designs that are different than those currently prevalent. This is preferable to attempting the same change via new regulations.

2. What is the best arena you've ever fought in, both from a 'best for you' and a 'fun' point of view?

A: The best fights I ever had were at the 'Oregon Clandestine Street Fight' which took place in an empty parking lot well away from prying eyes and bystanders. The asphalt surface had good grip, the view and sound were unobstructed, and the curbs made good hazards. Understandably, we had no 'spinners' competing. I won matches against a ranked BattleBots heavyweight and a Robot Wars finalist that day.

The most fun was, as you might suspect, at 'Robotica'. New challenges with each new arena, strategic decisions at every turn, and wild untested designs. A flat-bottomed plastic box just can't compare.

3. Why do you think the Robotica/Antbotica format has never really gained traction outside of those events? IMO it would be very interesting to see how 'modern' combat designs cope with things like *gasp!* ramps and *shock horror!* unstable ground - it's one of the reasons I quite liked early UK Robot Wars...

A: I think my efforts with 'Antbotica' have been aimed at the wrong audience. Trying to convert the hard core robot combat guys who really enjoy metal-on-metal spark showers and kinetic destruction is like trying to sell root beer at a biker bar. I should probably be aiming to attract the larger sumo and line-follower audience who may be interested in a more complex challenge.

Keep up the good work; you're doing Aaron proud. And thanks for having the patience of an absolute saint. I hadn't been on here for a while and I nearly did a spit take on reading the 'bad hamburger' article...

P.S. - As a slight addendum to what you say in your radio guide about reducing interference, I have a 150g antweight made entirely out of aluminium and carbon fibre - and due to the reciever being encased entirely in a Faraday tomb, even with DSM2 2.4 Ghz I had about a metre and a half maximum of range before it started twitching. In the year 2015 I ended up having to run the aerial externally so I could control it better. Don't do that thing that I did!

Q: Hello, Mark. After the newest episode of Battlebots I have a question: Do you think Stinger really had a chance to win when facing Bronco? Looks like the kits which was made to deal with wedge and flippers can't prevent it from being launched into the sky and being flipped out of the arena. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] 'Stinger' and 'Bronco' are both very dangerous competitors, and I would give either of them a good chance against any robot in this competition. Stinger came very close to an early win when it forced Bronco up onto the 'screws'. Stinger is an incredibly durable robot, and Bronco's only real hope in the match was to get in a perfect flip. It really could have gone either way.

I'll add that I would have liked to see 'Stinger' pass thru to fight 'Tombstone' in the semi-finals. They've fought ten times in matches dating back to 2005 with Stinger (AKA 'Sewer Snake') winning six and Tombstone (AKA 'Last Rites') winning four. That would have been a great match!

Q: Hi, Mark. Looks some people really don't like the modifies on 'Ghost Raptor'. They think the targeted modification is unfair. The question is how much of modification is allowed? It seems should not be unlimited but I didn't find any rules that gives detailed description. [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] There is a long history in robot combat of 'pit fabricated' modifications to robots seeking offensive or defensive advantage against a specific opponent. Many robots have added additional plates of top armor for protection from overhead spikes, and I recall a device very similar to Ghost Raptor's 'De-Icer' deployed against the top pole of FBS 'Megabyte' at a Triangle Series match in 2003. Such modifications have been allowed at all major events without restriction.

As for 2015 BattleBots, one specific rule seems to apply:

Section 7 Sub C:

"A bot can have more than one weapon, but at least one of the installed weapons must display the ability to damage or incapacitate. The use of interchangeable (modular) weapons is encouraged. However, the bot cannot weigh more than the maximum limit regardless of weapon configuration."

The 'De-Icer' is clearly allowed under this rule as it was a secondary device attached to the active lifting wedge assembly on Ghost Raptor. Like it or not, it is entirely legal and standard practice in combat robotics tournaments.

Q: Hi Mark, I got some questions about Battlebots 2015, I hope to get your opinions. [Guangdong, China]

1. 'Overhaul' is a great robot, but many people dislike, even hate about 'Overhaul' (at least in China). Maybe it is because of the handshake refusing clip. I think the opinions on 'Overhaul' is unjust, how do you think?

A: [Mark J.] I've previously commented on the 'handshake' incident in this archive. The team's attitude didn't help their image, but the robot speaks for itself in the arena.

2. In the latest episode, 'Biteforce' match up with 'Overhaul'. At the end of the battle, 'Overhaul' flipped 'Biteforce' upside down and keep it from self righting. The judge's decision is 'Biteforce' won. I know judges struggling to make this decision. But I think the last action of 'Overhaul' (did a flip and competitor didn't self right) is enough to let 'Overhaul' takes win. Whatever, I'm not the judges, but how do you think about the decision?

A: You cannot win a match by preventing your opponent from righting. If you want to have them 'counted out' as immobile you must back away and give them the opportunity to self-right. You also don't get points for just gripping your opponent and holding them off the floor.

It was a close match and I didn't have the opportunity to inspect the 'bots for damage as the judges did -- but from just the edited video I call the match for 'Biteforce'.

3. The Killsaws are seldom used in the Battlebots 2015. I heard they are controlled by computers and there's about half second delay(from a arena interviewing video). I think this delay is unnecessary, seldom robot will step on the killsaw so long time in battle. Killsaw is a dangerous hazard in the past, now it seems unharmful. How do you think about the Killsaw in this year?

A: In previous seasons competitors and fans alike complained about the arena hazards having too much impact on matches. I'd like to see a little more use of all the hazards. What are they there for if you aren't gonna use 'em?

4. Do you think 'Counter Revolution' and 'Radioactive' are no hope to win when matching up with 'Tombstone' ? Lots of people think it is, maybe some way can lead 'Counter Revolution' or 'Radioactive' to win. (They also think 'Ghost Raptor' has no chance to beat 'Icewave')

A: You've got to have a big, hard, tough slab of front armor plus a big bucket of luck to stand any chance at all against 'Tombstone'. Period.

5. I found Ray Billings always ask 'one more?' when 'Tombstone' is certainly win and then give competitors a badly hit. Is that all last hit through competitors' permission? If not, the actions of Ray seem are not sportsmanship, many people are discussing about that.

A: Ray is a tough competitor, but I don't believe anyone in the sport considers him to be a poor sportsman. A competitor can end the match instantly by hitting the 'tap-out' button mounted on the arena wall in front of them. Ray is just offering them a moment to think about hitting that button before he takes another run at their badly damaged 'bot. I consider that to be very good sportsmanship.

6. Is it able to continue the match if the robot has been OotA climbs back into the arena? 'Stinger The Killer Bee' OotA by 'Bronco' , Matt Maxham thinks 'Stinger The Killer Bee' can climb back into the arena if their sprocket didn't break. (UK events seem will continue the match if the robot into the pit and go out from the pit itself)

A: You'll notice that 'Stinger' wasn't given a 'count out' when it left the arena. Out of the arena is an instant loss.

7. Is the more power from ICE necessary? (It required more space) The head placed ICE on 'Icewave' became a weakness when matching up with 'Ghost Raptor'. 'Brutality' has similar design with 'Icewave' , it use electric weapon, also devastating but it will not defeat by something like 'De-Icer' on the 'Ghost Raptor' (I have to admit that it is not 'Icewave' if it don't use ICE)

A: Internal Combustion Engine power certainly is not necessary, and in general ICE 'bots don't win tournaments. However, some builders are more about the spectacle than the victory and ICE spinners do make a great noise!

8. How do you think about the spinning weapon on 'Ghost Raptor'? The bar hit 'Complete Control' with tiny damage but broke itself. 'Team Raptor' has experience on building a spinner, unlikely they made the weak bar inadvertently. Or, it is just a weapon to earn aggression points and the team prepared lots of weapon for 'Ghost Raptor', the throwaway spinning bar is just one of them.

A: 'Ghost Raptor' is an update of the team's existing 220-pound 'bot 'Preda Raptor'. The team had an extra 30 pounds of weight allowance for the new weight class and built a light spinner weapon as one of the many bolt-on options available to them. It was worth a try.

9. 'Chronic' didn't take part in the main game. Its original shape 'Kronic' is very powerful robot in UK, but 'Chronic' lost a grudge battle against 'Swamp Thing'. Is that because the 'Kronic' design is not suitable for the event or Is there a large gap between US robots and UK robots?('Swamp Thing' is a robot brought as a spare in case there weren't enough robots in the game)

A: US and UK arenas are quite different and strongly favor very different robots designs. This does NOT imply that there is a competitive 'gap' between US and UK 'bots -- they're just designed for different arenas.

Date marker: August 2015
Q: Hello again, Mark! The new [2015] Battlebots is a hit in China as many people are able to watch it on the internet, but on [episode 4] there are some reflections I'm not totally agreeing with.

They thought 'Bite Force' was just lucky to hold on when fighting with 'Hypershock' and waited for the latter's overheating to win. They even thought it didn't deserve a place in the quarterfinals. I think 'Biteforce' is great and reliable enough to withstand any attack. What is your opinion? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] The 'color commentary' is added as an attempt to add excitement and controversy to the matches. It's carefully written for maximum effect and 'dubbed in' weeks after the match took place. I prefer to do my match analysis with the sound turned off.

'Bite Force' wasn't nearly as impressive in this match as it was in the first round against 'Warhead'. It was being pushed around badly, which was a surprise given its magnetic treads. 'Hypershock' did take some damage to its front clamp, but in general was the more aggressive and effective 'bot... for the first part of the match. Being effective for only part of the match isn't good enough, and the durability of 'Bite Force' served it well. It was a good win for Team Aptyx.

Q: And why was 'Lock-Jaw' so sluggish when fighting with 'Overhaul' for the second time?

A: No idea, but 'Lock-Jaw' really didn't look good. 'Overhaul' made good use of its piercing clamp and proved itself the better robot.

Q: I herd that there was no prize money for RG15 ... is that true ? if yes how come. [Delhi, India]

A: [Mark J.] It's common for non-televised events in the US to offer a trophy and/or merchandise awards in place of cash prizes. Non-televised events have very limited sponsorships and rarely break even financially. Those big Lexan arenas are expensive, and the robot builders pay for the privilege of fighting in them. The fight is for glory, not gold.

Q: Hey Mark, have you heard about Megabots and the challenge they issued to Suidobashi? I know this isn't close to anything that you or I would call robot combat as we see it, but what do you make of it and the idea? [Roseville, California]

A: [Mark J.] I like the concept of giant anime-style robots battling a great deal more than I think I'll like the actual combat. I picture two giant robots rumbling toward each other -- one of them grinding to a stop ten feet short of contact and the other one tipping over. I do wish them luck, but I expect to be disappointed.

Q: As an experienced builder and champion of Robotica, did you ever consider competing in the New Battlebots on ABC (if they have a new season)? [Shenzhen, Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] Team Run Amok competed at Robotica, Robot Wars, the Robot Fighting League Championships, and assorted local and regional robot combat events. We finished in the 'top three' in more than half the events we entered. I take pride in that record.

Back 'in the day' we considered entering the original BattleBots series. Aaron summed up our reasons for not going in a post now in the Team Run Amok and Friends archive:

Team Run Amok never competed at BattleBots. It was too expensive, too crowded, and I'm told the food wasn't very good. After all the expense of building a 'bot and traveling to the event, half of the 'bots lost in the first round and went home. Pretty small fun.

I have no current plans to personally field a robot at any future BattleBots event. It wouldn't be any fun without Aaron. I'm content to advise builders who might benefit from my experience.

Q: Hi, Mark. What's your opinion on the controversy on the battle between Lockjaw and Overhaul on Battlebots Episode 2? What probably caused that happen? Donald is very experienced and seemed won't make this kind of mistake. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Once the TV producers get hold of the tape and finish their edits there's little chance of getting to the truth by watching the show. But, I've talked with people who were there...

  • 'Lockjaw' put in a VERY late hit after the match was over -- later than was shown in the edited broadcast.
  • It wasn't a damaging impact, more like insurance to keep 'Overhaul' from righting.
  • Donald Hutson is a very 'focused' driver. He may have simply missed the (very loud) end-of-match klaxon. He says it was unintentional.
  • Regardless, Lockjaw's late hit was unsportsmanlike.
  • The reaction from the 'Overhaul' team was also unsportsmanlike and out of proportion.
  • Both teams' actions made the sport look bad, and the producers made it look worse.

While we're on the topic, I really didn't like the way the show producers cast 'Complete Control' builder Derek Young as some anti-social rule-breaking misfit villain. Derek is an amazingly inventive builder and an asset to the sport. I've always disliked the way Comedy Central portrayed the robot builders in the original series, and I like even less the way ABC is handling the new series. Ratings are dropping; I don't think the viewers are enjoying this schlock.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Hi Mark, as the season premier of new Battlebots ended, how would you rate it? And about the competitior's shown on the first episode I have some questions:

1. What do you think of Lisa Winter's Plan X's design? Does that "defense system" a good idea for armours?

2. Can Wrecks' be qualified as a walker by today's standard? And does it got some weight allowances because of that?

3. Seemed like Warhead is still way too hard to control. In my opinion that's how it lost, do you agree?

4. Why didn't Nightmare put that wheelguard on when fighting with Warrior Clan? That seemed can protect its wheel from being getting underneath by the flipper of Warrior.

A: [Mark J.] How do I rate the show? Sixty-minutes of television, ten-minutes of robot fighting. More time devoted to commercials than to combat. Lotsa fluff, and the technical commentary was incomprehensible.

  1. Lisa Winter and the 'Robot Action Team' have a long record of building 'fun' robots. They get the basics right and always add an element of whimsy. The lesson to be learned here: making certain that the essentials are well covered goes a long way toward building a competitive robot. The ablative armor elements qualify as 'whimsy'.

  2. 'Wrecks' is not a true walker under the current definition. A true walker must have mechanical isolation between the 'forward-backward' motion of the legs and the 'up-down' motion. Wrecks' leg motions are not independent -- it can't even back up.

  3. Team Run Amok's design philosophy: "A combat robot is a tool for defeating other robots. The best tools are simple, reliable, and easy to use." The terrifying 'Warhead' is neither simple nor easy to use. It also was built 13 years ago and does not appear to have any updates.

  4. I suspect that 'Nightmare' left off the angled wheelguards because they were easy targets for the very low flipper lip on 'Warrior'. I would have done the same. Without the wheelguards it became more difficult for Warrior to find a good target -- but Warrior got lucky. Could have gone either way.

Q: How do you feel about Battlebots coming back on the t.v.? [Missouri]

A: [Mark J.] I'm a bit worried about it. The TV network has so little faith in the show that that they scheduled it in a spot on Sunday night between 'Celebrity Family Feud' and a re-run of 'Castle'. That isn't a place you should put a show meant to appeal to a young male audience.

I'm also worried about the changes to the way the tournament is run. In the 'old days' BattleBots was open to everyone and hundreds of robots competed. Much of the audience appeal came from the idea that the viewers might build a robot and compete. The new tournament has only 24 teams and they were individually invited by the show producers -- none of them what you'd call 'novice builders'.

The way the new show is put together reminds me much more of televised robot shows that were not successful in attracting a fan base. If this show fails, it's going to be a very long time before we see another. Fingers crossed.

Q: About the all-new Battlebots series starts late this month [June, 2015], what do you think of this single weight class format with 250 pounds as weight limit? Would that be good for the development of robot combat in America and around the world? Looks like Gage Cauchois doesn't like it from this report.

And do you think the invitational format is good? Or was that just for TV? I do see lots of famous builders back, but I don't think that's appropriate. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] I'll wait for the show to air before I make any comments regarding its impact on combat robotics. Without seeing the finished show I'd just be speculating -- and there's more than enough of that in the media already.

General observations:

  • Builder Gage Cauchois is unhappy that the new show will feature less robot fighting and more 'backstory' about the robots and builders. I don't know why the producers believe this is a good idea, as other robot combat shows have tried such a format without success.

  • The robot forums have been discussing the new 250 pound weight limit. Some think it was raised to allow returning 'veteran' robots a little extra weight to bring them up to modern standards without having to start over. Some think it's a waste of time to try and figure out a reason for anything BattleBots does.

  • BattleBots hasn't been a true 'open tournament' for a long time. The producers have favored successful and popular builders by offering them 'seeded' starting positions within the tournament that gave a tremendous advantage by allowing them to skip the opening rounds of the tournament and face opponents already damaged by early battles.

  • The new 'invitational' format gives the show producers even more control over the show content, but eliminates the 'everybody can play' popular appeal of the original tournament structure. It will certainly cost less to organize and film a tournament with 24 robots than one with several hundred.

BattleBots has been trying to return to television for many years, and they may have signed away their soul for this opportunity. The new format sounds much more like other robot shows that have tried and failed to find an audience. We'll see.

Q: Hello Mark. It's been a long time since I asked the last few questions. Thank you for your patience over the years in answering my (and our) questions!

Recently the full episodes of Battlebots have surfaced on the internet, and in watching it I've got some questions. Thank you for your kindness to answer these questions. [Chinese Forum]

1. Is Lisa Winter's Mecha Tentoumushi's "smothering shell" a sound design? Surprisingly it fared well when competing against Lightweight bots like Wedge of Doom and Dr. Inferno Jr. However it looks like that shell could raise the bot's center of gravity heavily when raised, thus caused its knock out loss to Wedge of Doom in 4.0. But when it worked it looked impressive.

A: [Mark J.] The clever thing about a 'smotherbot' is that once the opponent is concealed by dropping the hollow shell over them it becomes very difficult to determine which 'bot is in control of the match. Is Tentoumushi moving its opponent toward the arena hazards, or it it being dragged toward them?

Judging criteria have changed, and 'control' points are no longer awarded. The day of the smotherbot has passed.

2. In 5.0 Vladiator won over Pro-Am in a very close fight. After the match [Pro-Am's builder] Mike Konshak thought Vladiator's higher speed may have made the judges think it was more aggressive, thus causing his loss in this close decision. Is that possible?

A: 'Vladiator' was (and is) a wildly overpowered 'bot that fights like a bull in a china cabinet. I think speed and great acceleration does influence judges on aggression points.-- and I think it should. Sometimes a close decision comes down to which 'bot you'd rather see fight another match and exciting, explosive speed is something you'll want to see again.

And then some questions about recent fights:

3. Is Herr Gepounden now officially the oldest American bot still competing? It still won some matches in this year's Robogames. Thwack bots are [generally] uncompetitive in today's matches, so how can it still win fights?

A: It's very difficult to determine 'oldest'. 'Herr Gepounden' had its first competition appearance at BattleBots 3.0 in May of 2001, and its most recent (as of this question) at RoboGames in April, 2015. It has made appearances at combat tournaments every few years during that long period, and it remains largely unaltered in appearance. I would say that it has a good claim to the title, but so do other 'bots...

'Mouser-Mecha Catbot' (see next question) started its career as a combat robot in June of 2000 at BattleBots 1.0, nearly a year earlier than 'Herr G.' However, MMC took a 13 year-long break between BattleBots 5.0 and its appearance at RoboGames 2015. Does that very long break disqualify it? MMC hasn't won a match in more than a decade, does that rule it out? I don't think I can make an 'official' determination.

'Herr G.' is still competitive for a couple of reasons:

  • Its 'thwackbot' drivetrain incorporates a functional 'Melty Brain' (AKA 'Tornado Drive') system that allows the 'bot controlled motion while spinning. This high-tech trick allows the robot to pursue its opponent while in 'spin mode' and keep racking up aggression points from the judges.

  • Its high profile and large ground clearance does not give much of a target for modern spinner weapons seeking low, sharp-edge targets to dig into. Herr G. can't do a lot of damage, but opponents can't damage it much either.

4. Mouser-Mecha Catbot had a brief return to combat events as well, but for a bot that hardly changed since TV era is that a good choice?

A: See my comments about 'Mouser-Mecha Catbot' in the previous question. Was it a good call to pull a 'bot out of a 13 year-long retirement to fight again? If the team had fun, then yes!

And about TORO's rather surprising loss to Phrizbee Ultimate in Battlebots 5.0 -- does that "run away and wait" strategy work when facing spinning blades? [Toro's builders] Inertia Labs got booed by the audience, but I think had they attacked earlier that might have worked for them?

A: In the 'early days' it was fairly common for high-power spinners like 'Phrizbee-Ultimate' to lack the stamina for a full three-minute fight. Battery power could run low and diminish their attack power, particularly if you could run them into the wall and force them to spin back up to speed a few times.

You'd lose aggression points and the crowd really hated it, but if you had a 'knock-out' punch like 'Toro' had it was a workable strategy -- IF you got the timing right!

Q: Hey mark ... I have some [RoboGames 2015] questions. [India]

How does the trap of original sin work for horizontal spinners?

A: [Mark J.] Search our Robot Weapons archive for 'bar spinner trap' to find a previous discussion and photo of the 'Original Sin' spinner trap. The device is intended to slow and stop the big bar spinner while keeping their opponent directly in front of them. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Q: How was last rites able to rip off polar vortex so strong wedge?

A: Massive power and a fortunate attack angle.

Q: And why was original sin smoking a bit at last times of the final match?

A: I could only speculate. 'A bit' of light smoke usually comes from overworked speed controllers or motors. Lots of dense smoke is often a battery failure.

Q: How do we beat last rites? Nothing survives that thing ... I bet touro couldent have survived those ruthless hits?

A: 'Last Rites' record stands at 44 wins 28 losses, and 12 of those losses are to 'Original Sin'. I'd suggest doing what Sin does.

'Touro Maximus' has faced 'Last Rites' twice: one win (2010), one loss (2011).

Q: And how come touro max was without an armour? It seems to be bare aluminium.

A: RioBotz likes to use very thick aircraft grade aluminum for armor. Suggest you read section 3.9.7 of the RioBotz Combat Tutorial to discover their reasons.

Q: And why does it have sort of cuts or folds on the side face? The metal seeems to be bent.

A: The side panels of 'Touro Maximus' are machined with a raised triangular 'peak'. A flat-sided robot can (and surprisingly often will) become immobilized by getting stuck balanced on its side. The peaked sides cause the 'bot to tip back onto its wheels. There is also a gentle curve to the side panel which allows it to clear the wheel while minimizing the weight of the robot structure.

Q: Who was the composer for Robotica? [United States]

A: [Mark J.] The end credits for TLC's 'Robotica' series list veteran Hollywood composers Danny Lux and John Carta for music.

Q: In a PopSci article titled "A Brief History of the Demise of BattleBots", author Kelsey Atherton claims that BattleBots was killed by boring, invincible wedges. Is that true? [Colorado]

A: [Mark J.] From the inaugural competition in Long Beach (1999) thru the final televised 'Season 5.0' (2002), fourteen different robots won class titles at BattleBots events. By weapon type, there were:

  • 1 horizontal blade spinner;
  • 1 clampbot with hammers;
  • 1 vertical disk spinner;
  • 2 full-body spinners;
  • 1 overhead axe;
  • 1 thwackbot;
  • 2 sawbots;
  • 2 flippers;
  • 3 lifters;
  • and ZERO passive wedges.
I believe that adequately refutes Mr. Atherton's premise.
Q: Who was the music composer for Robot Wars? [United States]

A: [Mark J.] See FAQ #37.

Q: [Two days later, same IP address...] Who was the music composer for Robot Wars? [United States]

A: It's apparently too much to ask that you click on the link supplied above and scroll down to #37. Allow me to reprint that FAQ entry here to save you the trouble.

Q: Why are you no longer accepting questions about UK Robot Wars events or competitors?

A: Mark J. here: for many years Aaron and I did our best to answer any and all questions on the broad topic of robot combat. A few years ago we were flooded with a large volume of trivial UK Robot Wars questions that were well outside the mission and focus of this website. 'Ask Aaron' is not a 'fanboy' site and we are not interested in investing our time in this area. We regret having to cut off all UK Robot Wars questions, but the fanboys proved themselves to be both persistent and quite rude.

I hope that's clear.

Q: Dear Mark,a question I've been wondering for quite some time:Why do featherweight class in America was rather unpopular when compared to lightweight and 15lbs class,thus made Robogames cancelled its fight some years ago,and why are they extremely popular in UK?Because of Robochallenge's promotion over the years? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Popularity had very little to do with RoboGames removing the 30-pound Featherweight class from their tournament in 2012. RoboGames removed the very popular 12-pound Hobbyweight class from the competition in 2008 even though it had more competitors than any of the other 'big' robot classes. The organizer simply preferred to have the heavier weight classes featured in the large combat arena, and removed the 'sub-light' classes from the event. The Hobbyweights continue to thrive, and the Featherweight class lives on in two popular 'flavors' at the Northeast Robotics Club (NERC) events -- regular and 'sportsman'.

I count ten(!) active weight classes in current US robot combat competition, and only three in the UK: heavy, feather, and 150-gram ants. I haven't followed the UK events closely enough to say why the competitions shook out to those three classes, but I think that concentrating in just a few classes has helped to strengthen robot combat in the UK.

Q: Mark,since RoboGames was discontinued in 2013 and now America's only "major" event seems like is STEM Tech Olympiad,would you add the result of this year's STEM event to your "tournament tree" page? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] It was several years after the start of RoboGames before I decided they were a 'major' event and added their tournament trees to the Team Run Amok Team Run Amok 'Who Won' page. One event does not make a major series. I'll give it some consideration.

UPDATE: I had a little time, so went ahead and worked out the STEM Tech Olympiad tournament trees. You can access them from our Who Won? page, or jump directly to the STEM Tech 2014 trees.

And don't look now, but RoboGames is back.

Q: is there anything such as cotton balls that would really get jammed into a pinch point of a drum and stop the weapon? can you attach things such as this to your bots armor or would it constitute an entanglement device aka against the rules?

A: [Mark J.] I don't know about cotton balls, but it's certainly possible to jam a rotary weapon with nets, ropes, and fabric. Take a look at 'Juggerbot 3.0' Vs 'Ultra-Violence' at Robotica. Entanglement devices were legal at Robotica, but the current Robot Fighting League rules prohibit "...nets, tapes, strings, and other entangling materials", so I think you're out of luck.

Q: doesnt the sticky stuff people paint on their foam wheels in the insect division violate the "no liquids" rule? Thanks again [San Diego, California]

A: The RFL rules prohibit liquid weapons, liquid that can spill out of a superficially damaged robot, and weapons that require significant cleanup. I don't think that tire traction goo falls into any of those categories, so its use becomes a call for the event organizer.

Q: I remember watching Nickelodeon Robot Wars, and I remember seeing Nancy Rodriguez with Loanerbot, 'Tut-Tut'. And questions kept racing thru my mind. Did she and her dad thought about making their own robot for Robot Wars? [Cicero, New York]

A: [Mark J.] I wrote to Mike Morrow of Team JuggerBot who coached Nancy Rodriguez and her dad Carlos in the Challenge Belt competition on Nickelodeon Robot Wars. Mike tells me that Carlos Rodriguez was the lead technician at WCMS Motors, who supplied custom electric motors to Team JuggerBot. Mike brought them along as honorary crew members for the trip to London in 2002. The teams were encouraged to bring kids along to 'Robot Wars Extreme Warriors' to drive 'bots in 'Nickelodeon Robot Wars' which filmed just after the main competition.

I don't know if the Rodriguezes had any plans to compete with their own robot at a future event, but there have been father/daughter teams in robot combat. See, for example, Lisa Winter.

Q: Mark, what caused Tanto to explode into many pieces when fighting Touro Maximus in the STEM Tech Olympiad in May [2014]? Does that prove that many robots who are fighting in England right now are not suitable to American competitions? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] British heavyweight robot 'Tanto' simply took a good hit from a strong spinning weapon storing many thousand joules of energy and suffered an extensive structural failure (video). The main chassis lands out of sight of the camera. This demonstrates that 'Tanto' wasn't strong enough to survive an attack from one specific South American robot, but I certainly won't generalize that weakness to other Britbots.

British and American combat arenas differ in design, and those differences have a strong influence on robot design and combat style. We've discussed this in earlier posts, but in short:

  • British arenas have a large space between the barrier around the combat area and the arena wall which makes it practical and relatively simple to toss your opponent out over a low retaining wall for the win -- hence the large number of flipper designs in the UK.

  • American arenas generally have a small (if any) space between the combat barrier and the arena wall, making a toss-out a much less reliable tactic and leading to an emphasis on very destructive weaponry.

Many fine combat robots have travelled across the Atlantic - in both directions - only to find that their 'bot does not do well on the other side of "the pond". That isn't to say that either combat style is better than the other -- they're just different.

Q: Dear Mark, I think most US robot can't sustain the hit 'Touro Maximus' gave to 'Tanto'. Maybe 'Tanto'just had bad luck. Tanto's Hardox fork wedge just bent a little bit, that's too much energy release in one little place. Maybe that's Tanto's design problem, the design is bad at against a drum spinner. 'Touro Maximus' also caught fire by that hit. Though 'Tanto''s battery dropped on it, I don't think battery outside can cause fire inside. The hit may also have been out of Touro Maximus's design. [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] Many opinions, but no questions.

Q: Has any bot in history had a winning streak longer than 'Hazard's? [Havertown, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] Middleweight 'Hazard' (pictured) ran up an impressive 17 match win streak before losing to flipper 'T-Minus' at BattleBots 5.0, but it isn't the longest streak.

  • Hobbyweight 'Helios' completed a 19 match win streak with its championship victory at the 2004 Robolympics.

  • Antweight 'Dark Pounder' ground out 22 wins before losing to 'MC Pee Pants' in 2007.

  • 15-pounder 'Humdinger' cruised thru a 23 match win streak in a one-year period spanning 2006 and 2007. Team mate 'Humdinger 2' retired with an 18 match win streak, going undefeated in 2008. Maybe he'll make a comeback?

  • But the current streak record belongs to beetleweight 'Gutter Monkey', who put together an astounding 25 consecutive wins over six events in 2009 - 2010.
Other memorable streaks include lightweight 'Wedge of Doom' who ran up a 15 match streak that ended at BattleBots 3.0 with a loss to 'Gamma Raptor', and heavyweight 'BioHazard' who would have had a 20 match streak if the judges had given it the controversial decision in the championship match at BattleBots 3.0 against 'Son of Whyachi'.

Q: Just thought about this when I saw the winning streak question. I remember that before BioHazard's continous win which started in 2.0 of Battlebots it had already achieved an impressive winning streak from the 1996 US Robot Wars to the quarter final in Battlebots Las Vegas 99 -- am I right? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] With an overall record of 35 wins and 5 losses, you might expect a few long win streaks. BioHazard won its first 13 matches in a streak that ran over four events, ending with a loss to 'Vlad the Impaler' at the '99 BattleBots event in Las Vegas. BioHazard's full match record at

Q: Mark, I know lighter weight is always a big disadvantage in Robotica (due to less traction it will provide), but what makes Deb bot go so far in season 2.0? It's literally a middleweight robot. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Several light robots did well at Robotica. Season 1 champion 'Run Amok' was nearly 40 pounds under the weight limit. 'Deb Bot' weighed less than half the max weight, but it had a small frontal area and a lot of power. Its small size allowed it to pick its way effectively thru the rubble in 'The Gauntlet', its nimble performance allowed it to pick out a few key obstacles in 'The Labyrinth', and its low wedge was able to get underneath a tall tankbot in 'The Fight to the Finish'.

Traction was generally difficult to find at Robotica. The special effects fog machines coated arena surfaces with an oily mist that caused trouble for many types of tires. The slick surfaces helped to level the field for large and smaller 'bots -- you needed more than just weight to get pushing power.

Q: A general competition-related question, but besides "Vlad the Inhaler" were there any builders that entered under a nickname or alias? -- VestedMadScientist [Asheville, North Carolina]

A: [Mark J.] Builders are generally proud of their accomplishment and pleased to have their name associated with their robot. "Vlad the Inhaler" wasn't actually trying to hide his identity at Combots Cup VII. Ownership of the entered 'bot was well known, so perhaps they were just having a bit of fun.

I don't know of other instances of a driver alias being used at a robot combat event, but it isn't something that I track.

Q: I noticed a lot of comments on the net thought 'The Big B' was robbed of it's lightweight title during the [BattleBots] 4.0 final, my opinion is that Ziggo showed enough strategy to win that 24-21 decision. Your thought towards this fight, Mark? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] I won't re-judge a match based on edited television video. I've been present at a number of matches that were later televised. It was easy to agree with the judge's decision having seen a match live, but working only from the video I might have come to a different conclusion. Unless I saw the match live, I'll always give the judges the benefit of doubt.

Q: Mark, what made Tazbot able to defeat Razer in dominant fashion in Battlebots Long Beach 99? Seems like the long weapon and low wedge contributed a lot. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] 'Razer' had a very specific attack -- maneuver the opponent into the jaws of its hydraulic piercing weapon and make a large hole in them. 'Taz' didn't really have any vulnerable bits that could fit into Razer's weapon, except perhaps the difficult to access wheels. The long and narrow wedge guards protected Taz's main body, and the weapon turret could safely reach around to Razer's vulnerable sides. Not much that Razer could really do.

Q: And another thing I wanted to say for a long time: in your 'Who Won' guide it states that the RG05 Middleweight winner is 'The Mortican', but your tournament tree for that event shows that the actual champion is 'Nasty Attitude' -- is that a mistake? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Worse than a mistake, a conundrum! It turns out that both 'Nasty Attitude' and 'The Mortician' won middleweight tournaments at RoboGames 2005.

  • RoboGames '05 hosted a standard double elimination middleweight tournament with 21 robots competing. That is the event that appears in my tournament tree for RG'05, which correctly shows that 'Nasty Attitude' was the winner.

  • Tacked onto the end of the middleweight results as sent to BotRank are six fights featuring four robots that did not appear anywhere in the earlier results. These six fights were apparently a separate round-robin tournament that was mistakenly reported as part of the double elimination tournament. 'The Mortician' went undefeated in this event (3 wins, 0 losses) for the win.
It's not clear if the round robin tournament was an official event or some sort of ad-hoc challenge that just happened when the arena was empty -- it does not appear in the official RoboGames Results for 2005.

I think it's best if I change the 'Who Won' page to reflect the winner of the 'official' event at RG'05 -- 'Nasty Attitude'.

Q: Mark,a question came to my mind when watching 'The Labyrinth' fight between Jawbreaker's Revenge amd Buzz Bomb [Robotica season 3]. I know Robotica had 30 seconds limit [clamping/pining] rule about 'Fight to the Finish' segment, but does that apply to Labyrinth as well? Because Jawbreaker's Revenge clamped Buzz Bomb for the whole length of the fight without referee asking them to release. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] The Robotica Gauntlet and Labyrinth were both race stages to see which robot could gather the most obstacle points in the allotted time. There was no clamping or pining limit for these stages as it was not anticipated that a robot could clamp their opponent and still complete any of the obstacles. Jawbreaker's Revenge was able to clamp and carry 'Buzz Bomb' only because 'BB' was a very small and light robot -- about 1/4th the weight of 'JBR'. A poor choice on Buzz Bomb's part.

Q: A quite silly question but I've been wondering for a long time: what made Biohazard became so successful from its first ever event in 1996 to the last televised Battlebots event? No robot during that era had this kind of consistency - 6 full years. I think that's because of its very good design and engineering level, isn't it? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Design, engineering, construction, preparation, and driving. That pretty much covers it.

Q: During the post fight interview after Vladiator vs Maximus fight in Battlebots 5.0 Gage Cauchois attibuted his narrow win to the fact that Vladiator had an active weapon,while Maximus did not. Does having an active weapon in your robot help you win the match when it really can go either way around? I read Frostbite's report from BB 3.0 and it said something like that as well.

A: BattleBots matches were supposedly judged on aggression, damage, and strategy. Aggression and damage are fairly easy to define, but strategy is a bit more subjective. I think the judges generally did believe that having an active weapon was a good 'strategy' -- good for a tie breaker point.

Q: And some questions about Ziggo: Johnathan Ridder said during Batttlebots 4.0 Ziggo's drive motor and speed controller got burnt after destroying 'Wedge of Doom' in quarterfinal, since then the speed controller and drive motor got burnt after every match, and in the final it showed that tendency again so Ridder had to save its weaponry for points. What could have caused that problem? And why did Ziggo "pull off a Mauler" so frequently in 4.0?

A: As I recall (but cannot confirm as is not archived) 'Ziggo' had an upgraded spinner motor for BB 4.0. The higher speed and greater power consumption could account for both the reduced reliability and the greater tendency to go unstable and tip up on edge -- as 'Mauler' was famous for doing. Sometimes an intended 'upgrade' doesn't work out.

Q: And about Biohazard vs Voltarc in 1.0, I read Carlo's old post in BB forum and it said Bio's hole in the bottom got caught up by Voltarc's spike in the arm so there was no escape. That was enough to make judges thought it wasn't stuck? Sorry for asking so much questions in a row, and I greatly appreciate your patience, Mark. Very thanks.

A: I can't do better than guess on what the judges thought, and don't have anything I can add to my previous comments on this match. If the 'bots were entangled, they should have been separated. It Voltarc had control of the situation, the judges should have required a release after 30 seconds. It was an odd judging decision.

Q: Mark,after watching Robotica 3.0 finals I have a question: did Robotica allow entanglement weapon aimed for spinning weapons? I saw Juggerbot 3.0 used that to stop Ultra Violence's blade in Laybrinth. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Our Who Won page has links to rule sets for all of the major combat robot tournaments, including the rules for Robotica 3.0. Those rules state:

All weapons located on a Robot must be cleared in advance with Show's Producers. This includes, but is not limited to, any and all hydraulic systems, projectiles of any kind, flamethrowers, buzz saws, hammers and entanglement devices. While no particular weapon is expressly forbidden, Show's Producers, in the interest of safety, reserve the right to limit the use and design of weapons.

Team Juggerbot received approval for their entangling net and put it to good use against 'Ultra Violence'. Other robots also attempted to use entanglement weapons at Robotica, but with less success.

Q: And why did a lot of competitors, even well seasoned ones like Panzer Mk3, get stuck on the bricks or buckets during The Gauntlet? Are there any effective ways to solve this problem?

A: Hitting a wall of bricks, blocks, or other loose items at speed sends them in all directions and can bounce the robot up on top of them. Lots of designs were tried, with mixed success.

  • A front wedge just collects a big pile of debris that builds up and stops forward motion.

  • A boat-like front prow combined with slow speed and a lot of traction/torque could get you thru reliably, but an opponent taking a chance on speed stands a good chance of beating you to the finish.

  • A whole lot of ground clearance will get you over the debris, but huge ground clearance doesn't go well with the other Robotica challenges. Adding larger diameter wheels for additional clearance on the obstacle course was tried, and worked well for season 2 winner 'Flexi Flier' -- who also had a chassis that hinged to help 'step' over debris.

A little thought and testing will go a long way, but there just isn't a foolproof solution to obstacle debris.

Q: Mark, what's your opinion on the STEM event held early in this month [May, 2014]? I think it's great! Saw a lot of intense fights form lightweight to heavyweight category, maybe robot combat in America is not really "dead" yet? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] The 2014 STEM TECH Olympiad featured a wide range of robotics, programming, and engineering events. The 'Battling Robots' portion of the event featured robots from 150 grams thru 220 pounds. The combat was well organized and had a number of memorable matches, with a good turn-out in some of the weight classes. I'm pleased to see a well organized and successful national-scale event.

Q: Do you think 'Upheaval' deserved to win this judges' decision? (Presumably using the 11-point RFL system). I'm struggling to understand how they could've scored it. Uberclocker Advanced vs.Upheaval (Sportsman Class Final) [Watertown, Massachusetts]

A: [Mark J.] I make it a point to avoid judging a robot combat match based on a video. Part of that is because the judges have the opportunity to inspect the robots after a match and assign damage points based on that inspection. You can't get that info from the video.

Also note that the match was at the 2014 Motorama, a Northeast Robotics Club (NERC) event. NERC is not a Robot Fighting League (RFL) member organization; they have their own rule set, and their own judging criteria.

Overall I think it was a good, aggressive, active match and I'm not going to second guess the judges who were present.

Q: Hi Mark,One of the members from our forum thought the scoring on damage in the fight between Killerhurtz and Hexadecimator in 3.0 is a bit weird,because on that category Hexy D won by 11-4 over Killerhurtz while it's Killerhurtz who left a hole on top of its guess is that Hexy D succefully forced Killerhurtz to use up all of its gas storage and made its axe malfunctioned in the end,thus unable to self-right.And that's more serious"damage" when compared to that cosmetic hole on Hexy D,am I right? [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] Sorry, but no. BattleBots defines 'damage' as follows:

Through deliberate action, a robot either directly, or indirectly using the Arena Hazards, reduces the functionality, effectiveness or defensibility of an opponent. Damage is not considered relevant if a robot inadvertently harms itself. Also, if a pressure vessel or a rapidly spinning device on a robot fragments, any damage to the opponent will not be considered "deliberate".

You're correct that a hole in the top of Hexy D wouldn't count very much if it didn't impact the functionality of the robot, but running your opponent out of pneumatic gas supply wouldn't count as 'damage' -- it would be covered under 'strategy'. I have to assume that the judges found some physical damage on Killerhurtz that they attributed to deliberate action by Hexy D; something that did not show up in the edited TV footage.

Q: I think the fastest match is the 'Kronic' vs. 'Iron Awe 6',it only still for 4 second,but that match was rematched,so is it the fastest match?And what is the fastest match in US? [China]

A: [Mark J.] I make the 'Kronic' v. 'Iron Awe 6' match a little longer than 4 seconds -- the 'bots are already in motion when the video starts. See if you can dig up video of Robot Wars Extreme Warriors season 2, Heat 'D' where 'The Gap' takes out 'Trackzilla' in VERY short order. There may be faster UK matches, but not by much.

I don't have a contender for fastest US match. I know that there were some really quick matches at the SozBots antweight events, where it was possible to eject an opponent from the small arena and powerful vertical spinners were common. The video record from those events in incomplete and it may not be possible to document the fastest match.

Q: Hi Mark, Chinese Forum guy again. I noticed during Robot Wars US days there was a "pinninglifting for 10 seconds to win" rule, is that true? Because Biohazard made use of that rule in 96 semi final against Vlad to win. And was this rule abolished during early Battlebots years? If so how could Voltarc hold Biohazard for that long in 1.0 quarter final to win while Sean Salisbury commentated there's a 30 sec limit? I read old post on Battlebots forum by Stephen Felk but still can't quite get it. Thanks [China]

A: [Mark J.] Thru the 1996 Robot Wars event, a robot could win a match by pinning their opponent "against any arena surface" for 30 seconds (not 10 seconds). This rule was abolished in 1997, and a robot pinned against the arena had to be promptly released. However, a robot that had apparatus to grab or lift an opponent could hold their opponent for up to one minute before releasing.

The rules continued to evolve, and by BattleBots 1.0 the rule read:

"BattleBots may not win by pinning or lifting their opponents. Judges will allow pinning and/or lifting for a maximum of thirty (30) seconds per pin/lift then ask the attacker to release. Matches will be paused to separate BattleBots in the event that they become stuck together."

Full rule sets for major events are available at the Run Amok Who Won webpage.

Q: Sorry Mark,but I have to ask the lifting/pinning time limit question again: If Battlebots already issued the rule about the lifting time limit by 1.0, why did Voltarc still held Biohazard for that long without being disqualified? I think that lift is definitely longer than 30 seconds, probably lasted 2 minutes or even more. [Chinese Forum]

A: [Mark J.] I've reviewed video of the match and it is clear that Voltarc did retract its lifter after about 30 seconds -- but Biohazard remained perched on top of Voltarc. It is unclear whether Biohazard is hung up on some part of Voltarc, or if it was simply balanced there and unable to free itself.

My best guess is that the judges believed that Voltarc was not voluntarily holding Biohazard in place and that the robots did not meet the criteria for being 'stuck together' since Voltarc was still mobile and able to demonstrate aggression by carrying Biohazard to arena hazards.

Date marker: June 2014
Q: Is 'Ripper' use the overlimit gas to fight (video [expired link removed])? This time is so powerful. [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] I can't translate the caption, but that looks like a fight from the 2013 Robot Wars. The FRA ruleset used for current Robot Wars events allows for a maximum pressure of 1000 psi at any point in a pneumatic system. I doubt very much that the technical crew would allow an overpressure pneumatic system to compete, and I certainly wouldn't accuse an established team of deliberately ignoring safety rules. I suspect the team just made some improvements in their pneumatic system.

Q: Dear Mark, Did Sewer Snake attend Roaming Robot and defeated by Kan Opener? I can't find any video on Youtube. [Guangdong, China]

A: [Mark J.] Just because something doesn't have a video doesn't mean it didn't happen. Team Plumb Crazy and 'Sewer Snake' did compete at the Roaming Robots 2006 UK Championships in Kettering, England.

  • Sewer Snake lost to horizontal crusher 'Kan-Opener' in the first round of the main tournament. Kan-Opener destroyed a driveline component on Sewer Snake to immobilize them.
Sewer Snake also fought in the 'International Challenge' event at the same tournament:
  • SS won their first round match, dominating the Belgian flipper 'Hades'.

  • SS lost their second round match when UK flipper 'Kronic' threw them out of the arena.

[Mark J.] Featherweight fight between spinner 'Hyperactive' and sawbot 'Gloomy' at Motorama - February 15th, 2014. This is why you shield your LiPoly battery with more than thin polycarbonate.

Q: Dear Mark, it's said that there's a bot called Original Sin2, is it true? [Jiangsu, China]

A: [Mark J.] Gary Gin entered two robots in the heavyweight class at Robogames 2007: 'Original Sin' and 'Original Sin II'.

Original Sin II was a very low wedgebot with covered wheels. It was badly damaged in a first-round loss to 'Megabyte' (video) and limped thru a second-round loss to 'Full Smash' (video). OS2 never fought again.

Q: Do you know the correct show order for Robotica season 3? [Havertown, Pennsylvania]

A: Mark J. here: not sure why you'd want to know, but yes:

  • Episode 1 - Hammerhead, Mini-Rip, PSHHHT!, Scrap 8.2
  • Episode 2 - Buzz Bomb, Jawbreaker's Revenge, Nemo's Nemesis, Pangolin
  • Episode 3 - Panzer MK III, Re-Intriverter, Terror, Zeus
  • Episode 4 - Dark Track, Particle Accelerator, Rambot, Viper Revision 2
  • Episode 5 - Da Claw, Denominator, Logoseye, Juggerbot 3.0
  • Episode 6 - Fury, Tiger Wood, The Tick, Ultra-Violence
  • Episode 7 - Championship

It greatly saddens me to announce that my son, Aaron Joerger, died very suddenly on the afternoon of October 18th, 2013 of an apparent pulmonary embolism. He was 22 years old. Aaron's obituary.

The 'Ask Aaron' project was important to Aaron, and I have decided to continue the site in his memory. Thank you for the many kind messages of sympathy and support that have found their way to me.

- Mark Joerger, Team Run Amok

Q: Hi Mark, I got two questions:

1. I got a risky question that ties into televised robot combat (so slightly UK Robot Wars but also BattleBots and Robotica so I'm not really breaking the rules) but in your experience as a roboteer do think that some televised matches are rigged or fixed? As in matches where for just the disgust of improving TV ratings you have whether high-ranked robots or low-ranked bots just throw in the towel? [Belfast, Northern Ireland]

A: [Mark J.] Absolutely not. Odd things happen in robot combat, and sometimes the simple explanation from an outside observer might be that a 'fix' was on -- but I've never known this to be the case. If any of us were approached with such a proposal the word would surely have leaked out, and there was never even a rumor of 'rigging' amongst the competitors.

2. I don't know if you know this answer but do you have any idea how matches in tournaments are sorted in any of the televised shows?

A: At Robotica, all the competitors went thru a qualifying trial. We were each given a fixed length of time to...

  1. Knock down three stacks of small objects;
  2. Complete a lap around the Figure-8 course; and
  3. Push a weighted box across a line.
The quicker (or farther) you got thru the course, the more points you received. The top 8 qualifiers for each day's shooting were paired off 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5. Season 3 had seeded returning competitors from season 1 ranked by their finish in that competition paired against newly ranked qualifiers. Couldn't be fairer.

BattleBots was a very large competition with hundreds of competitors. Tournament matches were supposedly a random assignment, with the 'ranked' competitors from earlier seasons introduced into the tournament structure a few rounds into the competition. See the Series 4.0 Heavyweight tree for an example. This gave the ranked 'bots a large advantage in the tournament. Televised matches were selected by the production company for their entertainment value -- most matches were not televised.

Robot Wars was a television spectacle first and a competition second. All matches were apparently set by the production company, with care taken to separate the seeded favorites so that they might meet in later rounds. A few of the high seeds never seemed to fight robots that might exploit their weaknesses -- coincidence?

P.S. - I offer my deepest condolences about Aaron. With the way he answered questions about everything about robot combat, he must have been a very bright kid.

A: Thank you. Aaron was tremendously determined to overcome the obstacles in his life. He never could settle for less than his very best, and those who underestimated him were invariably proven foolish. He was also a very entertaining and upbeat companion. I miss him terribly.

Q: Was "Hot Wheels" from Robotica season 1 actually made by Mattel? [Havertown, Pennsylvania]

A: [Mark J.] 'Hot Wheels' was built by a team of Mattel employees headed by Mark Mayer, but there was no official involvement by the Mattel toy company.

Q: How did "Northern Fury" get negative points in the labyrinth during Robotica season 2? [Camden, New Jersey]

A: [Mark J.] Aha! You've been looking thru the Team Run Amok collection of combat robot tournament trees.

Both Charles Haliburton's 'Northern Fury' (-5) and Ed Robinson's 'Fintastic' (-20) received negative net scores in the Labyrinth section of the second season of 'Robotica'.

The six individual obstacles in the Labyrinth carried point scores of 15, 20, or 25 points each, but a contestant could be penalized the full value of an obstacle if they became stuck before completing the obstacle and blocked their opponent from attempting to complete it.

As I recall, 'Fintastic' became stuck on the first obstacle they attempted: the Suspension Bridge I think. 'Northern Fury' completed one obstacle, but then got stuck and blocked the second (higher point) obstacle attempted -- I don't recall the specific obstacles.

If you need to know the specifics I can pull out the tape and watch it, but it may take me a few days.

Q: Dear Mark:
I am sorry to hear of Aaron's death. He helped my e-friends know more about robot combat. Please accept my deepest condolence on Aaron's death.

Are there any surviving competitions for combat robots, especially heavyweight robots in the USA now?

A: [Mark J.] I have received many kind comments and supportive messages about Aaron. I appreciated each of them, and they helped me reach my decision to continue with Ask Aaron. Thank you all.

Robot combat continues in the US -- but I know of no confirmed plans for heavyweight competitions at the moment (November, 2013). Suggest you check with The Builders Database, the Robot Fighting League forum, and the NERC Robot Conflict site for event announcements.

Q: According to The RFL forum USATL is hosting an event [with heavyweights] in Miami Beach May 5-6, 2014.

A: The United States Alliance for Technological Literacy is a fine organization, but they have never put on an event for large robots and the details of the planned event are not yet set. I wish them luck, but I'm not ready to call their event 'confirmed' at this point.

Date marker: October 2013
Q: Whilst talking to with my US roboteer brethren, a question came up that I'd like your opinion(s) about: Would a UK- style touring event business model work in the USA? Not saying it would ban HW spinners as that's largely an insurance problem in the UK - No guarantees of the same conditions of contract. [Luton, United Kingdom]

A: I think it's way too late. The UK touring events - like Robots Live - were able to get on their feet while the interest from Robot Wars was still very strong. The robots and teams were well-known to a large potential audience, and the transition from popular television show to live event went quickly and smoothly.

It's also a simpler task to drag an arena and robot teams around a relatively small area like the UK than it would be to do the same with major venues in the US. I don't see a touring event working in the current US combat robot environment.

Robot haiku:

The UK maintained
Momentum from Robot Wars.
Too late for US.

Q: How "real" do you think robot combat league is? While there are some dubious moments (sparks flying when they shouldn't, The Commander snapping in half like a cheap action figure, A.X.E.'s head falling off) while some show legitimacy (Crash braking Steel Cyclone's arm in a cross counter, Game Over vs A.X.E., baring the very fake looking decapitation.) Do you think the combat is real and unscripted, or do you think its choreographed? [Aumsville, Oregon]

A: I have absolutely no doubt that Robot Combat League is unscripted, and I'm certain that the contestants are competing fairly and openly. That said, I'm also certain that the robots are built to be somewhat fragile, and that they include elements such as impact-triggered pyrotechnics to make the fights more visually interesting. Two invulnerable robots just punching each other wouldn't be much fun to watch, would it?

Robot haiku:

Robot Combat League.
Absolutely playing fair,
But there's real and "real".

Q: On the Syfy channel, the Robot Combat League show that aired on March 8th,2013 between The Commander & Scorpio was an unfair fight due to weapon with blades on Scorpio and The Commander had only boxing. Common sense tells you the fighters didn't belong together. Very unfair fight. Why did they allow that fight? [Brooklyn, New York]

A: Several different types of robot combat appear on television:

  • Some, like 'BattleBots', are real sporting events with strict rules that are filmed for television. Only highlights from the event make it onto the show.

  • Some, like 'Robot Wars', are sporting events made specifically for television and include elements in the competition to make all the matches exciting enough to be shown on the air.

  • 'Robot Combat League' isn't a sporting event at all -- it's a pure 'reality' TV show. The show producers made the rules and they made the robots. The show is more about the people chosen to operate the robots than it it about the robots themselves.
RCL isn't ment to be 'fair', it's ment to be entertaining. Sit back, watch the pyrotechnics, and enjoy the show.

Robot haiku:

Get a free robot
And fight for a big cash prize.
Who'd say no to that?

Q: when is the next us robot war?

A: The last one was 11 years ago, so don't hold your breath.

See #12 for info on upcoming robot combat events.

Q: How much of your [televised] fight with Panzer, Drillzilla, Spatacus, General Chompsalot, and Cyclone was cut out? It seemed like Drillzilla had the win. [Havertown, Pennsylvania]

A: Mark J. here: you can't judge a robot fight based on what you see on TV after the film editors get done with it -- particularly a melee battle. In this case it wasn't so much what was left out as it was which camera angles were included in the final cut.

Even the competitors are too busy with their own 'bots to judge what's happening in a melee match. I was standing right next to Dave Hall when the results were announced, and he was stunned to hear that his 'Drillzilla' had not won. The concensus of the teams who were able to watch the match from the stands was that the judges got it right -- 'Panzer' was the correct choice for the win.

Q: What are your thoughts on the new robot combat league show on Sci-fi? I am rather skeptical of this whole thing. The robot's can not stand up on their own, for one. The robots are not for your average person to attempt to build either. They look like the robots from the movie real steel and I feel as though they are just animatronic puppets. I fear that the "damage" will be faked so the show is more interesting. It doesn't look good to me.

A: The SyFy channel just released info to the media about the 'Robot Combat League' show set to air in February, 2013. I think the photo of the 8 foot tall, 1000 pound humanoid robot-on-a-stick peeing itself pretty much says it all -- awesome! More "Rock'em Sock'em Robots" than "Real Steel" -- it's certainly NOT robot combat as we have come to know it, but that doesn't mean that it won't be entertaining.

BattleBots super-builder Mark Setrakian ('Mechadon', 'Snake') designed the robot boxers, which will be handed out to operator teams who will fight for the $100,000 prize. The robots are a very ambitious undertaking that doubtlessly took enormous effort and substantial risk. It looks like the 'boxers' are built to rip apart in dazzling showers of pyrotechnic sparks and gushes of hydraulic fluid. It should liven up an otherwise dull Tuesday night!

Q: I was wondering if you guys had the fight brackets for the BattleBots 2009 College and High School events.

A: We have none of the tournament trees for BotsIQ or other BattleBots school events, and we have no plans to collect the information.

Q: To follow up on my question about the 2009 BattleBots brackets, do you know where/if I could find them? You have the 2009 Pro championship brackets, so I assume you found them somewhere. Thanks.

A: The Pro championship results were reported to -- the results for the high school and college events were not. I've never found full results for any of the BattleBots school events, and I can't even give you a place to start looking. You've got some detective work ahead of you. Best luck.

Q: You mentioned in a reference to Dragon con that robots there could use control cables or radio control. Is there any major benefit to an external cable vs a radio and batteries? I guess I could use 110v motors with a cable, but it could also be severed. Any thoughts?

A: The robot competitions that take place at Dragon Con are run under the Robot Battles ruleset. These rules do allow for robots operated either by radio control or by control cable, but you are not allowed to run power in thru the cable from an external source. Rule 1b says:

"All power sources must be 100% contained in the vehicle and packaged appropriately for the expected abuse."

The Robot Battles ruleset has been around for a very long time, and the 'control cable' rule is an artifact from a time when radio control systems were expensive and unreliable. The rule was intended to encourage participation by low-budget teams.

I haven't seen a cable controlled robot used for many years. Any minor advantage you might gain would be more than offset by the restricted mobility and the extra weight and vulnerability of the cable.

Q: I am wondering, where did you get your information on the Robot Wars 1994 brackets? You seem to have the only website with any real info on the 94 event.

A: Mark J. here: old fashioned research. I got some of the individual match results from builder webpages, corresponded with Robot Wars creator Marc Thorpe, interviewed as many of the the competitors as I could locate, and reviewed magazine articles that covered the event. It took two years to piece the Robot Wars '94 tournament trees together, but I believe it was worthwhile to preserve the historic details of the event.

Q: The list of foreign competitors at the Roaming Robots Wiki lists 'Sewer Snake' and 'BioHazard'. Is that true? Did Sewer Snake and Biohazard really compete at Roaming Robots?

A: You should only believe half of what you read on a Wiki. The problem is figuring out which half.

  • Team Plumb Crazy and 'Sewer Snake' did compete at the Roaming Robots 2006 UK Championships in England. They learned a lot about being flipped out of the arena.

  • 'BioHazard' has not competed at Roaming Robots. Their listing is pure fanboy fantasy.

Q: What is your opinon on Robogedon right now? Do you think the show will even air?

A: Mark J. here: I'm concerned that the producers of 'Robogeddon' may have been sold a bill of goods by BattleBots. If Robogeddon really is set to be a competition for very large bipedal combat robots, I don't think the outlook is good.

  • There are VERY few teams who could hope to muster the expertise and financing needed to construct such robots;
  • The lead time required for construction would be very great; and
  • The fights could be really dull -- see Mech Warfare (video).
Until I learn more, I'm not optimistic.

Q: Aaron, I thought I notified you that normal combat robots that are 'cool' are allowed in Robogeddon, but you could have flying robots even as well or anything that could be cool. [New York]

A: Back in the middle of May you mentioned (private email) that you had heard that there would be some 'exciting news' coming soon about Robogeddon. Your source was an un-named BattleBots representative, and you didn't mention 'cool' robots. Months have passed and there has been no announcement from BattleBots. How would you even write a 'cool' rule, and who would decide what's cool?

This type of vague hype is typical of BattleBots promotion. Back before their last 'big' [failed] television event I remember a flood of non-information, countless changes, odd silences, and promises that never materialized. This is starting to look very much the same.

Q: When will the next Robochallenge event be held? I want to see Predator, the mini Warhead, early.

A: I assume you're asking about the featherweight UK Robo Challenge -- there are several events called 'Robo Challenge' in the US and Europe. The only information (very little) I have on UK Robo Challenge comes from their website:

Q: Which flip is the highest flip in the history of Robot Combat do you think? Subzero flips The Mortician in Robogames 2007 or Wheely Big Cheese flips Axe Awe in Robot Wars 5 or something else?

A: Ask Aaron no longer comments on Robot Wars matches (see #37) so we can't provide a definitive answer. I will say that the flip 'Subzero' put on 'The Mortician' was impressive, but not the biggest ever.

Q: Do you think there's any room for a Robotica-esque competition in 2012? That is to say, a task-based competition that allows for a very vast array of possible designs, but doesn't completely shut out the combat aspect?

A: By my count there were 61 robot events at the 2012 RoboGames. Only seven of those events were classes of traditional R/C 'combat' -- so there is certainly 'room' for non-traditional events. See Antbotica.

The new 'Robogeddon' event/show announced by the Discovery Channel in May (2012) is rumored to be task-based with a strong combat element. When more details are announced we'll see what this really means, but I think it can only be good for robot combat.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Hi Aaron - if we enact a regulation that defines combat robots into different groups not only by their weights but also by their costs, would that make robot combat events more attractive to builders like you?

A: I don't know how you could evaluate the 'cost' of a specific robot without being extremely subjective:

  • A skilled machinist could make a very complex and effective robot at a small monetary cost for materials but at a great investment of time. It could be indistinguishable from a very expensive robot made from purchased components.

  • An experienced team can make effective use of surplus and 'junkyard' parts, where less experienced teams would have to buy their parts new from retail sources - raising their costs.

  • A well financed team can afford to sort thru and test a whole stack of 'cheap' parts (ESCs, batteries, motors) to find a few good ones that will stand up to combat. Their robot will look like it cost very little, because you don't see the pile of components that failed in testing.
Having a competitor show up with a robot built for an 'inexpensive' class and having a judge decide it isn't 'inexpensive enough' would create hard feelings, heated tempers, and a possible brawl. What we need (IMHO) are innovative events that attract new builders and fire the imagination -- not new classes and rules that favor experienced teams.
Q: What do you think of Mech Warfare?

A: I'm not favorably impressed by Mech Warfare. The competitors and organizers go thru a lot of effort and expense to try to do something 'in real life' that's probably better done in a virtual computer environment. The result is a lot of 'not very much happening (video)'.

The rules seem overly subjective and refer a lot to the 'spirit of the event' -- is it competition or role-play? It may develop into something, but I think it's just a curiosity at present.

Q: Do you know why most spinners are banned in the UK competitions?

A: The Fighting Robot Association (FRA) rules do impose limits on rotational weapons designed to limit the weapon energy, but final approval of mega-spinners is left to the event organizer:


11.2 Limits
Rotational weapons exceeding any TWO of the three limits below must be submitted for review and be preapproved by the event organiser.

11.2.1 Weight
The spinning element is more than 20% of the robots total weight. (This includes any directly coupled motor components rotating on the same axis).

11.2.2 Speed
The spinning element spins above 500 RPM.

11.2.3 Size
The spinning element is greater than 24 inches in diameter.


UK robot combat has a different 'vibe' than US competition. The roboteers are less accepting of having their robots destroyed by mega-weapons, and the audiences are more interested in well-fought matches than in destruction. Lower weapon energy also makes for less wear and tear on arenas and reduces arena construction costs.

Q: Are there battlebot tournaments in Oklahoma?

A: See #12 for info on how to find combat robot tournaments.

Q: What exactly is Dragon*con? Is it combat robots or Sumo?

A: It's kinda both and neither at the same time.

Dragon*Con is an annual 'popular culture' convention in Atlanta, focusing on science fiction and fantasy. 'Robot Battles' puts on a robot combat event as part of Dragon*Con. It isn't sumo -- and it isn't exactly what you're used to in robot combat either. The event rules are derived from the oldest robot combat event in existence: Critter Crunch in Denver.

The matches for larger 'bots are not contested in an enclosed arena, and you can lose by being pushed out of the competition area. Radio control is NOT required -- control may be via a wired tether. If the audience is offended by your robot or tactics they can invoke the 'Frankenstein Rule' to confiscate your robot and throw it (and you) into the nearest body of water. Seriously!

Other odd rules may or may not be enforced. It's a very informal and zany event. If you aren't there to just have fun, this is not the event for you. If you go, send me one of the posters!

Mike Jeffries from Near Chaos Robotics writes in with some additional Dragon*Con information: They run 1lb and 3lb full combat on Sunday of Dragon*Con with no judges. This means you win by knockout or pushout. If after the time is up there isn't a winner you have to fight again. 12lb and 30lb tabletop takes place on Monday. Last year the 1 & 3lb class was single elimination due to the number of entrants, 12 and 30lb was double elimination. Here's a highlight video from last year that shows the format for the 12 and 30lb bots.
'BotMedic' joins in and attempts to convince us that Dragon*Con is less 'zany' than we believe - or maybe not: We're also doing autonomous mini sumo on Saturday. The Frankenstein rule has only been used once when a competitor blatantly cheated (pushed his falling robot back onto the stage). The zaniness is mostly from of the random stage hazards and the MC's personality. The stage is made up of 4 risers [it looks like 8 in the video], usually bolted together with some flat iron bracing. These and the metal riser edges keep traditional wedges from being very effective without some creativity. The MC is also known to add some rubber snakes, rubber duckies, or other cheap toys to the stage, and usually wears a crazy costume. MicroBattles (1 and 3lb) is pretty normal, enclosed arena battles. Disable or push the other bot out of one of the pushouts, or judges (usually deferring to the crowds) decision on draws. Both events usually end in a Royal Rumble with all functional (or at least partially functional) bots in each weight class going at it. I also can't recall a non-RC [wired tether] controlled robot in the last 12 years. In the early 90's there were a few.

I agree that you should participate in this event to have fun and entertain the crowd. None of us take it too seriously and will bend over backwards to help another competitor get their bot back on the stage or into the arena between fights. Where else can you have Klingons, Storm Troopers, and Brown Coats cheering for a robot driven by a guy dressed as Tony Stark with a functioning Arc Reactor ring under his shirt against a bot driven by Zombie Abe Lincoln?

Q: Can you tell me something new about Robogeddon?

A: The Team Run Amok Homepage is updated with any new information we get.

Q: Dear Aaron, I've been asking you a lot of questions, and I wanted to thank you as well as tell you some exiting news.

I recently built my first-ever combat robot called 'Hangar 11'. It's a heavily modified a Finger Tech viper antweight kit. I changed the drive direction, added a weapon, gave it UHMW armor, and double stacked the wheels on each side. I flew to Florida for the Battlebots USATL competition and won the event undefeated 6-0! The arena was an 8X8 ft box with a small pit in the corner, which I used every match except for when I made a horizontal spinner cut off one of its own wheels by hitting the blade in the right spot!

You were the guy that introduced me to Sam McAmis when I asked about Florida combat robots. Sam, his wife, and his team members helped us a huge amount at the competition, and I have become good friends with the University of South Florida Robotics Interest Group. I fought Sam's 'Capricant' in the antweight final for the championship. You can see that final fight here: Hangar 11 vs Capricant.

So thanks a lot for this fantastic site. I will keep posting questions. Thank you, New York

A: WoW -- well done New York! A modest amount of power, a clever and unique passive 'clip' weapon, well controlled driving, and solid construction all added up to a winner. I'm sorry that there isn't any video of the spinner cutting off its own wheel. I would love to see that!

Q: Hey Aaron, are there any good combat tournaments near Ohio? It doesn't have to be in Ohio, but somewhere close. I've checked Google, and the main competitions are all out of date. I need ones that are in the end of this year, or the begining of the next.

A: See #12. Ohio and Pennsylvania have many combat robot tournaments -- you should have no trouble finding an event.

Q: Aaron, if I did not register my robot in the Builerdb before I competed, am I able to register and still have my bot have the title as entered into that event? I think not, but what if the results go to bot rank?

A: You can register your team and robot at BuildersDB any time you like. Registry at BuildersDB is not required for inclusion in BotRank, and I believe your record at BuildersDB will be updated with any events reported to BotRank. Give it a try.

Q: What is the most unusual design you have seen in a combat robot?

A: That would have to be J.D. Streett's 'S.P.S. #2' at the 1995 Robot Wars. It was a true 'featherweight' -- really feather light! The only flying robot ever to compete, 'S.P.S. #2' was supported by baloons and attempted to drop an entangling net on its opponents.

It won its first match vs. 'Orb of Doom' as there was no way for the orb to attack the flying robot. 'S.P.S. #2' ventured a little too close to the arena floor in its next match vs. 'Soba' where it was snagged, dragged, and popped!

J.D. returned to Robot Wars the next year with another interesting S.P.S. robot. Search the archive for 'fruit as a weapon' for a photo of his 1996 entry.

Q: How does a 'Round-Robin' tournament work?

A: Round-Robin Tournament @ Wikipedia

Q: May I ask for your thoughts on the new Robogeddon series being commissioned? I know that the Joergers have long been pessimistic about the future of robot fighting. Now that a new series is more than just a rumour, do you have any second thoughts? [United Kingdom]

A: Mark J. here: we have long said that the future of combat robotics is not to be found the current format; wheeled robots beating each other up in a flat bottomed sealed arena is not the path to renewed popularity for the sport. The scuttlebutt about the new 'Robogeddon' series on Discovery is that it will be very different from the stale combat events of the last decade. No 'second thoughts' on this -- I'm anxious to see what the new competition looks like.

Q: Robogeddon guy again. Could you offer a little elaboration on what's going to be "very different", I can't find any sources anywhere. As a secondary question, will you be considering entering? Cheers [United Kingdom]

A: There is no official information. What little info I have is gathered from hearsay, scuttlebutt, and the dark corners of the internet:

  • Word from a source claiming to be very closely involved is that veteran combat robots will be unsuitable for the new competition, and that the supplies in current builders' workshops will be of little use.

  • On hand at the Discovery press event was veteran builder Donald Huttson, who has been experimenting with some radical projects for the last few years and who claims that he will compete at 'Robogeddon'.

  • A very well-known robot event production group that has been pitching a radical alternative combat event for years has recently claimed to have some type of 'deal' with producer Mark Burnett, co-producer of 'Robogeddon'.

  • Finally, does it make any sense that Hollywood super-heavyweights Mark Burnett and James Cameron would be involved with some weak re-do of R/C vehicles in a plastic box?
I'm not yet convinced that this event will actually happen. If it does, will Team Run Amok enter? No comment.

Q: I think the bot on the right of the recent Robogeddon post is [name deleted] I right? I wanted to know more info about [name deleted]. All I know is that it is made by [name deleted] and is very, very, very, large!

Do you think that the new robots will be massive like that one, and that ordinary people could not build them? Also, what were the 'dark corners of the internet?' Do you have a link? [New York]

A: I've spread enough rumor for now. I don't know what unrealistic promises have been made, exactly who made them, or how it's going to work out. If I hear anything concrete I'll pass it on.

The dark corners of the internet wouldn't stay dark if I told everybody how to find them.

Q: Do you know anything about [name deleted] (as a separate question)? [New York]

A: [Name deleted] was built in 2004, weighs more than 800 pounds, and has never been combat ready.

Update: I've continued to dig for more clues about 'Robogeddon'. I've found a set of very sketchy rules and a format description for an 'experimental' robot competition written in 2008 by someone who just happened to be at the Discovery Channel announcement of the new show. Are they related to 'Robogeddon'?

A quick summary:

  • Maximum weight: 1000 pounds(!)
  • Minimum weight: 150 pounds
  • Locomotion: anthropomorphic (two-legged walking)
  • Weaponry: 'hand-held' with limited kinetic energy
The event itself is described as a 'Capture the Flag' variant with competitors having the option of:
  1. Attacking their opponent directly;
  2. Destroying items in their opponent's base; or
  3. Stealing an item and returning it to their own base.
These notes may prove to be a false lead but there is a strong connection between the author and the event, and they do fit in with the other scraps of information I have. Stay tuned.

Q: Aaron, do you know where I could find the fight brackets for Robogames 2012? [New York]

A: The 2012 tournament trees for the light, middle, and heavyweight classes are posted on the Team Run Amok Who Won resource page. Here's the direct link. The organizer of the insect classes at Robogames hasn't bothered to share results for several years. You'd think the competitors would complain!

The winners for all 2012 Robogames events are listed on the Robogames results page.

Q: How quickly does the average robot get outdated?

A: I'd say the average robot proves itself obsolete about 20 seconds into its first match.

Superior robots survive to fight another day - with updates.

Q: I mean as in how 'Biohazard' didn't stand a chance against 'Megaybyte' even though used to stand undefeated previously.

A: 'BioHazard' is way far not an 'average' robot. Its career stretched over nine years and it is arguably the most successful heavyweight robot to have ever rolled into an arena. It was not, however, undefeated at the time it fought 'Megabyte' at the Combots Cup. BioHazard's record.

The 'average' new combat robot loses its first fight and never attains a winning record. Successful robots typically upgrade from one tournament to the next to keep up with the competition. In your example, 'BioHazard' had been continuously upgraded while it was an active competitor, but it came out of a three-plus year retirement to enter the Combots Cup without any changes. That proved to be a mistake.

Bottom line: your robot is either already outdated or it likely will be by the time the next tournament starts. Upgrade or die.

Q: It appears that Robogames no longer has issues with getting enough competitors: It seems that the issue is financing the event. Overall, the number of registered robots went down for 2012, but it appears to be because of participation "caps" caused by budgetary limitations. (I say this because the number of new robots and new teams was up dramatically, and the number of robots in each weight class went more or less right up to the limit.)

So, now, we need to make the sport profitable. But how?

Oh ya. Adding one more thing to the competition stats: I noticed that a lot of the new teams are university-sponsored groups from college engineering departments. They appear to regard the arena as sort of an ultimate "proving ground." I imagine that we definately want to keep that group, since they would provide a stable supply of builders, but I don't think they are enough to make the sport grow "correctly."

A: Mark J. here: RoboGames draws a large audience and media coverage because of the diversity of robotic events on display. Destructive robot combat is only a small part of the event, but it soaks up a large chunk of the manpower and infrastructure budget. Over the years, RoboGames has cut back more and more on the number of weight classes supported and the total number of participants because every additional class and competitor costs them money -- not to mention the money lost by competitors in building robots and traveling to the competition. Robot combat is and always has been an inherently money losing proposition.

Many sporting events share this unfortunate fiscal imbalance, but they survive and prosper by attracting audiences which lead to sponsorships. When robot combat was fresh and new, there was enough public interest to sell the sport to sponsors and make a go of it. The disastrously failed 2009 attempt by BattleBots to produce and film an event 'on spec' for television broadcast should convince rational observers that there simply isn't enough public interest remaining in classic robot combat for the model to work anymore. BattleBots couldn't round up enough commercial sponsorship to pay for the air time on even the most obscure cable sports network, let alone meet the production costs and turn a profit. The viewing audience has seen enough of two robots beating each other up in a flat bottomed plastic box.

The current format cannot return the sport to profitability. The sooner organizers and builders realize that they are engaged in a fringe activity without broad appeal, the sooner they can move on to something more rewarding and marketable.

Q: Thankfully, it appears (to me at least) that the current "fight in a plastic box" model is sustainable at least fan-wise and builder-wise. I am not sure if you agree with that, but the robot combat is still the most popular event at Robogames, and there always are plenty of new teams and new bots each year.

Neither of us seem particularly satisfied with this remaining a niche sport, though. The question is, how do we grow?

Sorry, I know this "question" isn't really productive nor asking anything. I just really wanted a place to bang out my thoughts.

A: Discussions about the future of combat robotics are welcomed -- no apology required. If I try to discuss this on the forums all I get back are very nasty personal attacks.

It's very difficult to get growth when the largest tournament on the west coast restricts the number of competitors who can enter, and when that number decreases over time. Having the number of 'new teams' dramatically higher is a warning sign to me -- it means you're losing experienced teams. If you want growth, you need to both recruit new builders and retain old ones. Organizers need to ask the departed builders why they didn't come back and work to correct that as well as work to attract new builders.

There were only about 20% as many combat matches fought in 2011 as were fought just eight years earlier. The current format is likely sustainable at this low level for a while, but events will continue to be expensive to stage and it will continue to lose money. Eventually you'll run out of organizers willing to finance a losing proposition and then it's done.

I will mention that the Fighting Robot Association in the UK is carrying on quite well -- drawing good, paying crowds and maintaining an effective group of competitors. If you'd like a model of sustainable robot combat you could certainly follow their lead. You'll find that UK combat is quite a bit different than the US version.

Q: Dear Aaron, is there a way we could watch the Combots/Robogames tournament right now live? I would love to watch!

Also, is there going to be another killer robots?

A: ran some live coverage of RoboGames in 2010 and 2011 - but not much combat. I can't find anyone streaming this year.

The last I heard, 'Killer Robots' on the Discovery Channel was go for 2012.

Q: What do you think about "joke" robots that do OK and only show up once? (I.E The Great Pumpkin, Mini-Fridge...)

A: We build robots to win matches, but people build combat robots for all sorts of reasons. Some builders believe that putting on a good show is more important than winning. That's fine with me.

FYI, 'Great Pumpkin' has appeared at multiple events and has done much better than 'OK'. I don't consider it to be a 'joke' robot.

Q: Dear Aaron, can you send me some pictures of robots in Robotica? My e-mail adress is [deleted].

A: No need. Photos of competitors from all three seasons of Robotica.

Q: Aaron, what exactly was the Jay Leno bot? I don't understand if it ever competed, as the say on some websites that it was a 'demo' bot.

A: Jay Leno and 'The Tonight Show' had an interest in BattleBots. Several BattleBots competitors appeared on his show with their 'bots, and 'Team Leno' - a group of NBC technicians - built and operated a large and very heavy robot named 'Chin-Killa' with an exaggerated image of Jay Leno's face on the front lifter. The robot did not comply with BattleBots competition rules and was used only for demonstration matches.

'Chin-Killa' fought two televised demonstration matches: one on 'The Tonight Show' versus spinner 'Mauler 2000', and one at BattleBots 2.0 in Las Vegas where it took on Trey Roski's 'Ginsu'.

Q: How come you don't have any standings or results from ComBots and their Cup I-IV and eventually Cup V? I noticed their were competitors from Robo Games in the competition. Can you explained it to me, because I was just curious?

A: Mark J. here: our Team Run Amok Who Won resource does not attempt to provide results and tournament trees from all robot combat events -- only important historical tournaments, major televised tournaments, and tournaments that determine an authentic national championship. The ComBots Cup does not currently meet those criteria.

If you're interested in robot combat tournament outcomes, raw match information from a great many events can be found at the BotRank events page.

Q: Dear Aaron, combat robot events only show up on the builders database when there is one in the near future. This means that if i was to wait until the summer when I have time to go to one, I would not know if there will be a large event(at least with bots heavier than 6 lbs). All the competitions have different names, so I can't just go to '' if you understand what I mean. Do you know of a way to predict/learn if there is going to be an event in the summer or any other time? I just don't want to wait to long and then learn that there is nothing scheduled. [New York]

A: Summer in general is not the 'hot season' for large combat events. Scroll thru the past events at BuildersDB for summer events and contact the event organizer to see if the event is on for this year. You can also check the Delphi Forums to see what events the builders are looking to attend.

Q: Dear Aaron, I don't know if the events of the previos summer are anual, but do you think that there could be more events in the summer just because it could happen that way? Also, what events do not use the BD? I know combots doesn't. Also, off hand, which organisations fight bots that are hobby (12lbs) and larger? Basically, events that are not insect events. Finally, which events have the biggest besides Combots? [New York]

A: Mark J. here: Aaron already gave you a leg up on this, New York -- check with the event organizers of past event and poke around the Delphi Forums for new events. Add to his suggestions:

  • Scan the events list at BotRank for more completed events. BotRank lists dates and the number of fights. Open the individual events to see the weight classes they fight.
The answers to all your event questions are there. If you can't find events to meet your criteria between Aaron's suggestions and mine, they either don't exist or they don't want to be found.
Q: It seems like the idea of two robots fighting in a plastic box has kinda been done. Everybody's seen that, and the interesting robot designs that used to be around have gone away. Is there anything new? [Ontario]

A: Mark J. here: the current nonsensical damage/aggression combat judging system has severely narrowed the focus of the sport and greatly reduced the diversity of both combat robot design and the people who choose to compete in the sport.

Q: How do they nationaly rank a robot?

A: Mark J. here: there is no 'national ranking'. is an independent website that compiles data and calculates rankings " performance at all events, and weight classes, known to" over a rolling period of the last 23 months. Events from the U.S. Canada, and Australia are currently reporting results to BotRank.

BotRank uses a variant of the Elo rating system, which is used to rank players in chess and other two-player games. Robots start with 1200 points, gain points by winning matches, and lose points for losses. The number of points gained or lost depends on the number of points their opponent has entering the match. The system requires many matches to accurately rank robots -- more matches than most robots have in 23 months.

Q: What U.S 'bot' do you think would have done best in the U.K?

A: We generally don't engage in predictions or fantasy matches, but if I could pick one US 'bot to have competed against the UK 'bots 'back in the day' it would have been 'Panzer' -- any version.

Q: Do you think that a robot should be deemed immobilized if it loses drive on one side during a fight? Rulings seem inconsistent among different fighting leagues.

A: Immobilization used to be a concern in tournament rules because it was not uncommon for both competitors in a match to suffer at least some loss of mobility. The event judges needed some way to cleanly determine a winner when two damaged robots were creeping around the arena without any real aggression, so various forfeit conditions were included in the rules. As robots improved the need for such rules diminished.

The current damage/agression scoring system does not include a specific deffinition of mobility, but reduced mobility directly impacts a robot's aggression and influences damage points scored against it. I think this penalty is the appropriate way to deal with immobility. If they wanna quit, let 'em tap out.

Q: Hi Aaron, I've almost finished my antweight fbs in time for Robogames, but I'm kind of dreading either the 8 hr drive or trying to get my bot onto an airplane (security will think its a bomb).

Do you know of any robot combat competitions in Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, etc? I haven't had any success finding any with google searches despite LA and SD being two of the biggest cities in the USA. Seems like there must be something around here...

A: You'd certainly think there'd be some combat robot action in SoCal, but if there is any somebody is doing a very good job of keeping it secret.

"The [Robot Fighting League] mission is to promote the sport of fighting robots, provide consistency among events and support builders and event organizers." The RFL was founded in late 2002 and in the following year there were more than 2300 RFL sanctioned combat robot matches in North America. Nine years later you can't find a single competition in SoCal. Great job, guys.
Q: Dear Aaron, I know that florida has a huge amount of combat robot activity and maybe some cool places to visit. I'm the same guy that always signs off as New York, and i was wondering if you thought there would be a cool place to visit for the short amount of time I am near Tampa, which is unfortunately far from Miami where I know a bunch of stuff happens. Do you have any recommendations?

Thanks, New York, but this time, Tampa Florida

P.S. - I am really interested in Combat robotics for schools as well.

A: I'm not sure you can say that there is a 'huge' amount of combat robot activity anywhere at the moment, but ask around at the Robot Fighting League forum to see if anyone knows what's hot in Tampa.

Q: Where can i find forums for Asian combat robotic events?

A: Sorry, I don't know of any Asian combat robot forums.

Q: I want to build and compete with a combat robot, but while I think I could build one and have enough money, I would be a horrible driver due to my very poor fine motor skills and reaction time. (In other words, clumsy and unable to react quickly to the point where practice would only go so far.) I also have Aspergers, leading to a tendency to unintentionally.... uh.... tick people off, so it may be hard to find someone to drive for me. Even so, no one I already know & get along with would be interested/able to drive.

Should I go ahead and build a robot & enter it into events? If so, what design would be best for someone who doesn't drive very well? If not, is there anything else I can do to help out the sport?

A: I know a combat robot driver with very similar neurological challenges who has had success in the sport. The skills required to operate a robot are both varied and different than you might think. I can't guarantee you success, but if you have an interest I encourage you to give it a try. At worst you'll have the fun and challenge of building a combat robot!

Some robot designs do require greater precision from their drivers. An overhead hammer/axe, for example, has to be positioned carefully to be effective. In contrast, a full-body spinner just has to keep moving in the general direction of its opponent and stay away from the walls. A couple of builders in the Seattle area have had some success building completely autonomous antweight horizontal spinners -- you may not even need a driver!

I'll also point out that robot combat draws a somewhat eccentric group of competitors. You may have less trouble finding a niche than you expect. You can always volunteer to help out at a robot event to get the feel of the sport -- event organizers can ALWAYS use some help.

Q: Do you think that combat robotics is becoming more popular again? Examples: It is at a big event of alot of motorsports ('Motorama'). It had it's own special on the 'Science Channel' ('Killer Robots: Robogames 2011'). It has alot of websites. It has been on 'Auction Hunters'.

A: Mark J. here: no.

Q: I would like to counter your notion that combat robotics is dying. If you look at the results for Robogames 2011, there are almost 60 more teams entered and 170 more robots than Robogames 2010. In the east coast, PA Bot Blast, Franklin Institute, Motorama, and Bots IQ have had an increase in participants. Personally, my insect robots have entered nearly 10 events that have never put the results on Botrank. I have seen the numbers of competitors in these events rise over the years, with new participants coming each time. Though combat robots is still far from where it was in 2003, it is far from dead.

A: Mark J. here: every few months we have someone write in to tell us that the sport is making a comeback. They site various improvements in attendance, media exposure, and organization. Thus far, they've all been wrong.

RoboGames hosts a wide variety of robot competitions. They report 70 total combat robots entered in 2011. That's 14 more than 2010 (not the 170 you claim) and 48 fewer than 2007. The other robot competitions RoboGames hosts are growing explosively, but combat is falling behind.

I can't comment on the Franklin Institute and Pennsylvania Bot Blast participation as they have not reported their entry numbers since 2008 and 2009 respectively. Best I can tell, BotsIQ has never reported national participation numbers. What are they hiding from?

I've never said that combat robots is either dead or dying. What I have often said is that it isn't going to make a return to mainstream popularity as long as it keeps its focus on simple aggression and destruction. The media has had its fill of that story, and few builders return after getting their first robot turned into scrap. In spite of an occasional appearance on low-rent cable TV, combat robotics as it currently exists will not raise from its status as a fringe sport.

By the way, get those mysterious underground events you compete at to get in touch with BotRank. They aren't doing the sport any good by hiding.

Q: What are some good robot driving exercises?

A: I've been waiting a long time for someone to ask that question. Surprisingly few new builders recognize the value of driving practice! It's critically important that you become proficient and comfortable operating the robot. Practice also gives you time to tweek the radio setting to your preferences -- experiment! A few suggestions:

  • A simple 'figure-8' course around a pair of obstacles. When you get smooth and comfortable, switch to backing around the course.

  • Chalk six numbered circles around your practice area. Have someone call out numbers at random and race over to the called number as quickly as possible. Add a few obstacles as you get better.

  • Place several moveable objects in your practice area. Clear the area by pushing all the objects into one specific corner.

  • Back well away from a target object, line up, and make a full-throttle run to hit it. Sounds simple, and with some robots it is. You may be surprised.

Q: And what R/C car should I use to play 'Cat and Mouse'?

A: Something expendable!

'Cat and Mouse' isn't really a good simulation of combat. Your opponent isn't going to be running away from you, they're going to be right in your face. It's more like 'Cat and Cat'.

Q: Dear Aaron, when is combats vI? I think it may have passed, but the combats website stinks. If it did pass, what were the results and will they do another killer robots? Why is it not in the builders db? Thank you.

A: Don't blame the website. The dates of the competition are in the first sentence of the ComBots main page -- you just overlooked them. The ComBots VI competition took place in late October, 2011. Winners:

  • Feather: Touro Feather
  • Light: Touro Light
  • Middle (round robin tournament): Touro
  • Heavy: Original Sin
Match-by-match results are available at BotRank.

'Killer Robots' on Science Channel covers the heavyweight combat competition at RoboGames, not the ComBots Cup. RoboGames takes place in April. Coverage of the 2012 event is planned, but I have no details.

The Builders Database is a service which - for a fee - assists robot event organizers in registering robots for their events. ComBots has their own on-line registration and has no need for BuildersDB.

Q: So... The combots cup is a different event, therefor there are two events?

A: The ComBots organization puts on many events, including two annual events in the San Francisco area: the ComBots Cup (October) and RoboGames (April).

Q: Dear Aaron, what is the USATL? It is the most combat robot event event on the builders DB.

A: The United States Alliance for Technological Literacy (USATL) has opened registration for a robot event in Florida in April, 2012 that includes open combat and BotsIQ classes. As of today (November, 2011) there are 14 robots signed up at The Builders Database. They're new, and all I know about them comes from their flashy website.

Q: Dear Aaron, how similar in destructiveness/quality/ power (just like their overall build) are the school combat robots like botsiq and NRL and pro competitions like NERC?

A: I'm not afraid of controversy, but enough people hate Team Run Amok's guts without my getting into the middle of that discussion. I don't think it would serve a purpose. I will tell you that there is a lot of variability in the build quality at any given competition.

Q: Since you know so much about Robotica, why haven't you made a Robotica Wiki yet?

A: We aren't fanboys. We have no interest in dredging up every last insignificant detail about a TV show that went off the air a decade ago. The existing web info on Robotica seems entirely adequate to us.

Q: What are monsterbots and where can I see videos of them?

A: Well, you can see a video here, but they aren't what you think they might be!

Q: Umm, the monsterbots I was talking about where listed as a class in the builders database. Sorry!

A: Yea, that's fictional too. More publicity seeking bull from BattleBots. Never happened, never was gonna happen.

Q: Dear Mark, I saw the response to the question about the media coverage. I had an idea. If enough schools competed in combat robot competitions, then the sport would have a new angle and it could come back into the media, because it allows kids to develop skills. If it was to become a TV show, then it may be successive. From there, people would get interested in the pro fights, which would bring it back into the media.

I went to the NERC competition at the Franklin institute, and everyone was captivated. I even put bets on who would win. We would even talk with the people around us about who we think was going to win.

The point is, I think that if the producers of a future show did not do it as a wrestling fight like battle bots, and put more emphasis on getting people to understand how amazing these machines are and getting WAY more organisation in streamlinging competitions and streamlining how to get into the sport.

Those shows were made a long time ago, and developments in social media and clarity of cameras and how cheap hobby motors and tools are would get people not just interested as a TV show, but captivated to compete. RW and BB made it look like it was incredibly hard to compete in the way that they presented it. In reality it is not. this is why if they were to organised this method of getting people into it, then it would become a more accessible sport.

I was captivated my self with these shows, and I may try to build one myself. I am also going to try and start a club at my school. I go to a private school with lots of resources, and maybe they will see the light. I would love to know your opinons on what I wrote above in my plan, and how I should approach starting it at my school and other private schools around me. It is a New York private school in the Bronx. We do not have a machine shop, but next year I may be able to gather the resources. I already have captivated one teacher and a bunch of students.

I wrote wayyyyy to much. I absolutely love this sight. I showed my friends at school and they will soon ask more questions.

Thank you very much.

A: Mark J. here: I admire your enthusiasm, but consider that the FIRST robotics competition has been in operation for twenty years and in 2011 had more than 2,000 international school teams competing with truly amazing machines in an innovative and spectacular tournament. How much media attention does this gather? If you look REALLY HARD you might be able to catch an hour of the competition once a year on an obscure cable network.

The eye of the media is not logical in what it chooses to view, and once the gaze turns away it does not quickly return.

Oh, and if combat robotics was not at least as hard as it looks I don't think people would have asked us more than 3,500 questions about it.

Q: Which events are you referring to in FIRST? Also, FIRST is not as exiting to spectators as metal crunching combat robots. What are your thoughts?

A: I'm talking about the FRC for high school teams. Teams compete for 14+ million dollars in college scholarships, the level of excitement at the event is enormous, and the organizers know what they are doing. Seriously, destructive violence has a limited audience (mostly teenage boys).

Q: I saw that there are two showings of each competition in Roaming Robots. How can this be? The showings were 12:30 and 3:30 THE SAME DAY!!!

A: Robot Wars used to do this, too. You bring in an audience, start the competition, call a break after a couple of hours, and empty the bleachers. An hour later you continue the competition and the spectators have to buy another ticket if they want to see the end of the tournament. Robot Wars would run multiple 'sessions' over each of several days.

Q: With Robot Wars re-runs having appeared on the British TV channel 'Dave' for over a year now, and the large event in the O2 arena in April [2011] do you think that it is possible that combat robotics is once again coming into the media spotlight?

A: Mark J. here: I don't think so. Airing some decade-old re-runs mid-morning on an obscure cable network with a 0.8% audience share does not herald a return to the media.

I will say that Roaming Robots has done a much better job of keeping UK fighting robots in the public eye than have the US robot combat organizations. A turnout of 40 heavyweight competitors for the 2011 Heavyweight UK Championships in an exhibition room at the London O2 arena (not the main hall) speaks well of their efforts, but robot combat has had its time in the spotlight. Those days are gone and they aren't coming back.

Q: From the guy who asked the question about Dave and the 02- Whilst I respect your opinion, I don't agree that Dave is an "obscure cable channel" Dave is actually quite a popular channel, especially in the demographics that appeal to Robot Wars- i.e Young Men. Just for your information.

A: OK, let's put the numbers out there and let the readers make up their own minds:

Dave ("The home of witty banter") is the tenth largest television channel in the UK. It has less than a 1% share of the market - higher for young males at 3.2%. For comparison, the Cartoon Network has a similar market share in the US. 'Robot Wars' reruns air on 'Dave' Thursday mornings at 10:00 o'clock - hardly a prime slot to appeal to the the 16-34 male demographic.

IMHO, if Robot Wars was drawing a real audience it would be in a better time slot on a more popular network.

Q: I would just like to notify you that the is back up last after a long time, though it still needs some updates.

A: Thanks for the update. It looks like the same website that went down many months ago. It is still talking about the 'upcoming' February 2011 championships eight months after it happened.

I would exercise caution in deciding to become involved with BotsIQ. The national organization is run by the BattleBots producers who are, in my opinion, both unreliable and sparse with the truth.

Q: Dear Aaron, so do you think that I should get involved with the NRL instead of botsiq? My only concern is that NRL only does 15lbs bots. Maybe I could tell them that more kids would be interested in 120lbs. What do you think?

A: I have no experience with the NRL. I'm saying that if you get involved with BotsIQ you should be prepared to deal with flakey behavior from the national organizers.

Q: How organized is the National Robotics League?

A: I've had no direct dealings with the NRL. My experience is that none of the existing combat robot groups are very 'organized'.

Q: Who sells/where to I/how do I get/build a combat robots arena?

A: Nobody sells new ones. Suggest you ask around on the RFL Forum for advice and construction tips. A combat arena isn't cheap!

Q: I don't understand the rankings at bot How do I use them?

A: BotRank keeps track of a combat robot's competition record. They award points for winning matches (more points for defeating a robot with a good record than a robot with a poor record) and take points away for losses. Robots start with 1200 points and rise or fall from that. Robots in ech weigh class are ranked by their scores. So, if you want to know if 'Combat Robot #1' is any good, you can look them up at BotRank and see how thay rate.

Note: BotRanks scoring method is borrowed from the way chess players are ranked. It works well for ranking if everyone has a lot of matches, and not so well when many individuals have few matches -- as in combat robotics. Still, useful.

Q: I am entering two robots which fly directly in the face of your weaponry advice into the Combots Cup IV. Wish me luck.

A: Mark J. here: taunting us gets you no points unless you provide the names of your 'bots so we can follow their progress at ComBots. No confidence?

Q: No confidence? Uh.... of course not! I'm......very confident! *nervous laugh*

Posting this was a way for me to cope with the pre-competition anxiety. Please don't take it personally. (But yes, the robots have weapons you probably wouldn't like.)

A: Ahhh... I can understand that. Best luck! I really hope they aren't thwackbots.

Q: Dear Aaron, I love combat robots and have gained huge public intrest! So... Who is the best person to speak to to start a combat robotics school program?

A: Your efforts will go nowhere unless you can gain support from the school. Start by finding a teacher who is willing to support your project. The teacher can then approach the administration and attempt to get their support. It won't be easy.

Q: Dear Aaron, I got a science teachers support for the school combat robots (before I asked the question but its still good advice). How shall proceed?

A: Next step: get in touch with one of the regional BotsIQ organizers and tell them what you're up to. They will be able to tell you what paperwork and support you will need.

Q: Dear Aaron, unfortunately, there is no regional organiser in my area, I would be starting from the beginning. I would be starting a regional competition (I guess) and my school competition... I would also have to get other schools. So now, what should I do? Your advice has already been amazing; I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE!

A: Talk with the nearby regional organizations. They may have options for you. Explain your situation. It's possible that they might allow you to participate as a 'guest' within their region. At very least, they can tell you what it takes to start a new region.

Q: I went to Nerc at the Franklin institute, after loving the sport for a long time. In short, it was amazing. Tetanus was a beast, and fiasco took every think out of surgical strike! I do have a question which is how 'high end' (how good, is that the real deal), and what is above it?

P.S: I love your site and with out it I wouldn't have have just bought two pro series toys! I will defiantly have fun with them!

A: I think something was left out of your question. If you're asking about the quality of the competition you attended, you can check out the current rankings of the competitors at NERC puts on a good event, but if you want to see the 'big boys' in action you'll need to attend the current premiere event in combat robotics: RoboGames.

Q: Dear Mark and Aaron, where is the Robot fighting league website? It shows me a web hosting page :( I hope it isn't gone!

A: Poor management allowed the URL to expire. Try

Q: Dear Aaron, does Bot Bash still happen, and if so, where does it happen? What is there website? (I keep getting a YouTube Channel)

A: BotBash last took blace about 9 years ago in Arizona. There is no extant website.

Q: Dear Aaron, What is the new website for the national botsiq program?

A: I know of no current national website for BotsIQ -- more poor management. Google will provide multiple regional websites.

[Update: is back up as of November 2011]

Q: Where do yu think the future of combat robotics lyes? and since I love it, how should we alter the sport for the better? and how do you think we can make it big again?

-Future combat robot promoter-seriously

A: Robot combat had its time. People saw it, had their fill, and the media spotlight moved on. We've talked about some ideas to shake-up the sport previously, but I don't think anything is going to make combat robots 'big' again. If you love robot combat you're just gonna have to do it for the love.

I've discovered something about the 'Killer Robots: RoboGames 2011' show that aired on Science Channel that bothers me. It seems that the show's producers were less than truthful about the actual outcome of the tournament. Read what I found here: RoboGames 2011 - What Really Happened.

Q: is there any robot fight on oct. 9th [2011]?

A: See #12 for info on finding combat robot events.

Q: Which is the fastest combat robot in Robogame?

A: Beats me -- and it really doesn't matter. It's like asking, "Who is the fastest poker player?" It isn't a race, and speed doesn't correlate with combat success.

Q: Is there going to be a 2012 botsiq? What happened to the website???

A: I've learned that you cannot predict anything involving BattleBots management. I suggest you contact one of the regional organizers for info -- their sites are still up.

Q: What exactly is the content of 'metal munching maniacs'? Thanks, New York

A: Like it says in the description, these DVDs each offer a couple hours of fights and a few interviews from various combat robot events: The 2003 RFL Nationals, Robot Club & Grille, and Robot Assault. Production quality is not good, but you see a lot of fights.

Q: In which Battlebots season did Killerhurtz surprisingly beat the deadly Mauler? It was broadcast on Comedy Central, so Long Beach is a dark horse of an answer, but from there I'm stumped.

A: You can get the combat record for any robot that fought in a major American robot competition at Use the 'Unique Name DataBase' link (slow loading) at the bottom of the page, find the robot in the list, and click on the 'History' link next to the name. Here is the combat record for Killerhurtz.

Incidentally, the version of 'Mauler' that 'Killerhurtz' defeated was not all that deadly: 1 win, 2 losses. I don't think it was surprising that Killerhurtz won.

Q: Out of curiosity, why don't event organizers simply have the robots fight in open parking lots and force attendees to sign a form banning them from filing lawsuits if they are injured?

It would make things a lot cheaper, and I don't think it would affect the participation levels, as people don't tend to pay much attention to the forms they sign. [Oakland, CA]

A: Mark J. here: you're kidding, right? Off the top of my head:

  1. It's morally irresponsible to expose attendees to an environment with uncontrolled conditions capable of inflicting severe injury or death.

  2. Such a hazardous activity would expose the organizers to criminal penalties, completely separate from civil lawsuits.

  3. A form signed by someone lacking full and complete knowledge of the dangers involved does not protect the organizers, participants, parking lot owner, or property insurers from liability.

  4. The adverse publicity from the inevitable injury - perhaps to a child - would kill the sport.
Q: Solutions:
  1. Profit & Popularity is more important than Morality.
  2. Many people are attracted to danger and stupid things: How else does street racing and russian roulette?Notoriety leads to fame which leads to fans.
  3. Do it in a nation with either a lax police force or lenient accountability laws.
  4. It is true, though, this group probably should be an offshoot of the main sport, in case the experiment fails.

A: Oh, I understand now -- you're a member of congress. Did it hurt much to have your conscience removed?

Q: What is, to date, the largest number of 'parts' of a multibot?

A: There is a recent post in this archive on this topic - search for 'multibot'.

The RFL rules have no requirement that the individual elements of a multibot be 'connected' in any way, so US multibots are often impromptu partnerships arranged in the pits at an event. I can't document a multi with more than three elements, but impromptu entries are hard to track down. I've heard of a hobbyweight multibot made up of six or eight ants and beetles that survived their insect tournament and went looking for more trouble, but I haven't been able to dig up the details.

'The Swarm': a three-element superheavyweight multibot.

Q: Dear Aaron, do you recommend combat robot programs (e.g. bots iq, Battle bots, National Robotics Leuge) for school and education and discovery of the STEM initiative?

Thank you very much, a future promoter of combat robotics

A: I have no first-hand experience with school robotics programs, and I had to look up the STEM Initiative. Combat robotics certainly does cover the full spectrum of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), but I'm not qualified to compare the programs you mention to alternative educational programs.

Q: Dear Aaron, regarding my earlier question about combat robot school programs, I am just trying to possibly start a program at my school. Do you think this is a good idea? I am not worried about your qualification. just give me your suggestions if you have any so I can bring the sport of combat robots which includes around 500 kids in the middle school, and about 600 kids in the high school.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you, New York.

A: I really have very little information on this topic. I do know that such programs will require you to obtain both support from faculty - who are already underpaid and overworked - and considerable investment of time and money from a 'corporate sponsor' to finance the program. Unless your school is next door to Intel or Microsoft, I think you're going to have trouble finding those necessary elements in these tough economic times.

Q: Do you know of any place where I can see the "gauntlet" and "fight to the finish" matches with Metalmorphis?

A: Sorry, I don't. Robotica clips come and go on video sites -- keep your eyes open.

Q: Would you support the reintroduction of nets and tape as weaponry in order to stop the dominance of spinning weapons?

A: First, I'm not sure I can agree that spinner weapons are dominant. The top two heavyweight robots on BotRank aren't spinners. Neither are the top ranked middleweight or lightweight robots. I think this demonstrates that you don't need tape or nets to stop spinners.

We're on record as favoring changes to the judging criteria and to the whole robots fighting in a flat-bottomed plastic box paradigm rather than specific changes to the rules.

Q: Hey Aaron. Was there any reason why Lorena 2 didn't compete in the main competition of Robot Wars '96, just the melee (which it won)? I have a feeling this might violate your 'one appearence robot' policy. If so, I look forward to the humerous response.

Q: Doh! Just checked BotRank, and it turns out Lorena DID compete, but in the superlight class, not in the lightweight where it won its melee. Forget the previous question, try this one instead. Why did Lorena compete in the superlight class, before fighting as Lorena 2 in the lightweight?

A: Mark J. here: 'Lorena' and 'Lorena 2' were two completely different robots. 'Lorena 2' was a spontaneous creation that took place in the pits at the event.

Somebody had the idea to take the evil doll topping Bob Schneeveis' superlight 'Lorena' and strap it to Paul Bell's lightweight 'Speed Bump'. The resulting robot was entered in the lightweight melee as 'Lorena 2'.

Q: Was either Snickers (Robot Wars 1995) or Snickers II (1996) the first walker in Robot Wars?

A: 'Snickers' wasn't a walker, it was wheeled. 'Snickers 2' was technically a walker, but it was a complete failure as a combat machine. It barely showed mobility and had no offense at all -- I don't think it should count.

The first walker that could successfully compete (it even won a couple of matches) was Christian Carlberg's 'Pretty Hate Machine' at the 1997 Robot Wars.

Q: Hey guys. You list 'Ramfire 2000' as the first Robot Wars heavyweight champion on your Who Won page, but the [archived] Robot Wars website lists the 1994 heavyweight winner as 'Ramfire 100', complete with a picture with a name on the side that seems to agree. Care to elaborate?

A: Mark J. here: the entry form submitted by builder Mike Sorensen for the 1994 Robot Wars event listed the robot's name as 'Ramfire 2000'. Mike apparently re-thought the name before the start of event, but the official entry name stands. Other sources, such as 'Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports' by Brad Stone, also list the bot's name with the '2000' designation.

There was similar confusion about the name of the 1995 Robot Wars lightweight 'Pain Mower' (shown in photo). The Robot Wars website misidentified the robot as 'Los Gringos Loco[s]', which was painted on the robot but which was actually the name of the team. Where there is a question about the name, we use the name that appeared on the entry form.

UPDATE: I received an email from Asim Sehic who was the weapons operator for 'Ramfire'. Asim assures me that the robot's name was in fact 'Ramfire 100' with the '100' signifying the 100 pound weight limit then in place for the heavyweight class. Given this evidence I have changed the name in our 'Who Won' records.

Q: Do you prefer the present state of robotics in USA (focused towards destruction, spinners etc.) or the state of the UK (focused on high power flippers and out of the arena flips)?

A: Team Run Amok is on record opposing the 'damage/aggression' scoring system current in the US. See our comments in our You Be the Judge page and our Questioning Robot Paradigms page. The American disposition toward destruction is (IMHO) a key reason why participation continues to decrease in the US.

That said, we aren't convinced that turning robot combat into a flipping contest is in the best interest of the future of the sport, either.

Q: Hi, it's the guy from the US style vs UK style question again. What do you propose the best way forward is then? A return to the Robotica/Early UK Robot Wars format of trials followed by one-on-one?

A: The thing we liked most about the early years of robot combat was the variety of design. All sorts of oddball weaponry and propulsion schemes showed up at the events. The combination of judging criteria favoring destruction and the tailoring of arena design to emphasize specific tactics (you can't flip a robot out of an arena with walls tight against the combat area) has led to a great reduction in design variety.

There is a good deal of discussion in the US forums about changing arena design to encourage more innovative design -- getting away from the flat-bottomed plastic box. A good number of the current competitors fear change and are unwilling risk rendering their robots obsolete, but with participation continuing to shrink they must face either change or extinction.

Q: I hope this doesn't count as a 'UK Robot Wars' question, but do you know anything about the 1995 UK Open Championship, featuring Thor, La Machine and The Master?

A: Mark J. here: there were a few matches held in the UK and Germany in the mid-90's for BBC executives as publicity tests. In early 1996 the American robots you mention flew to London for a very small demonstration event staged by Mentorn Films and Profile Records as the first 'pilot' for the Robot Wars TV show. It was just the three American robots plus three 'Eurobots' built by Derek Foxwell.

I've never heard it called the 'UK Open Championship' and it didn't happen in 1995, but it was the only UK event to feature those three American robots. If you have an interest in this period of robot combat history you really need to read Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports by Brad Stone.

Q: I saw the Robotica season 2 commercial that had 'Armorgeddon', 'Kraken', 'Metalmorphis', and 'Skewer Rat' in the next episode on Youtube. I'm confused - in the 'Fight To The Finish' did 'Armorgeddon', and 'Metalmorphis' have different designs after they won 'The Gauntlet', and 'The Labyrinth'?

A: Yes! Both bots were built to change form to match the challenges presented by the different phases of the Robotica competition:

  • Jason Giddings added an extensive set of side skirts to 'Armorgeddon' that worked with an internal fan system to suck the 'bot down to the arena surface for additional traction.

  • Dan Fetterly's 'Metalmorphis' (pictured) sat atop and powered a large-wheeled dolly for the events that needed high ground clearance, but shed that dolly to convert into a low-profile combat robot for the 'Fight To The Finish'.
All three seasons of Robotica drew unique and creative designs from highly inventive builders.
Q: [Chinese Forum] Hi,Aaron! Recently I heard that the competition of Superheavyweight bots had been cancelled in Robogames and I know the decreasing number of SHW bots is one of the main reasons. Why do competitors no longer build SHWs these days? Are they too expensive to build?

A: Very few combat arenas remain that are certified for superheavyweights, so it has become more difficult to find a place to compete. When there were still 'local' tournaments, it wasn't too tough a task to load up a 340 pound robot and drive it across town -- but traveling cross-country with a big robot is a much more difficult undertaking.

Q: Was that whole thing on Robotica with Team Force being obnoxious real or was it just fake and was a script to make the show more entertaining?

A: Previously answered: there was no script at Robotica.

Q: I don't know if this counts as a UK 'Robot Wars' question but...

A: Let's see... it's a question, and it's about UK Robot Wars. So yes -- it counts. Your first clue might have been that I didn't answer it the first time you sent it in.

Q: Why didn't Robot Wars ever...

A: That one counts too.

Q: I there a place I can find all of the up comming robot fights online? The RFL calender has nothing... Thanks!!

A: See #12.

Q: Is there a botsiq website? I saw those questions and I might ponder on entering. Thanks

A: The national Bots IQ site ( seems to be down, but a search for 'BotsIQ' turns up several local/regional sites.

Q: Since the bots iq page is down, how can I find info on the national competition? Thanks!

A: Since you can only get to the Bots IQ national competition by progressing thru the local and regional tournaments, I suggest that you contact your local/regional Bots IQ chapter for info on their competitions. Some general Bots IQ info is available at the BattleBots website.

Q: Dear Aaron and Mark, is there a contact phone number for NERC? I saw those questions and I did some research on them. Are they good? Thanks!

A: Contact info is on the NERC website. It has been quite some time since I had direct experience with NERC -- I can't comment on how 'good' they are, but they have been around for a long time.

Q: Dear Aaron, I would like to know...What is the difference between bots iq and battle bots IQ? Thanks!

A: Same thing.

Q: Dear Aaron, I have a strait forward question about some terminology I would like to straiten out once in for all. If you could state how each [of these robot organizations] are related and not related and there major differences like weight, location, frequency, ages and size. I completely understand if you don't have the info for all of them. thanks
  • Battlebots (nowadays)
  • Botsiq
  • Nerc (the Motorama thing, Idk)
  • National bot league
Thank you so much

A: You know how it isn't possible to compare apples and oranges? You've provided a list of an apple, an orange, a bananna, and a bunch of grapes. I'll do my best:

  • BattleBots is a corporation that attempts to run robot combat for a profit. I don't believe they treat the competitors with due respect. A large percentage of announced events in recent years have been postponed, postponed again, and eventually cancelled. No telling what weight classes they might fight or when. What events they do put on are usually in the SF Bay Area or Florida. I would recommend staying away from involvement with this group.

  • BotsIQ is a BattleBots spin-off run by local and regional organizers across the US. Both 15 and 120 pound combat classes are open to high school and college teams. Many local and regional events are run throughout the year, with a national championship in Florida. Rules at the BattleBots website.

  • NERC (Northeast Robotics Club) is a former Robot Fighting League member organization that split away several years ago. They currently put on two annual events: Motorama in February, and The Franklin Cup in the fall -- both in Pennsylvania. Their arena is rated to 120 pounds, but recent events have run 150 gram thru 30 pound featherweights only. NERC pioneered the 'Sportsman' combat class and they continue to develop this 'low damage' class with good results.

  • There is no such thing as the 'National Bot League". If you're thinking of the Robot Fighting League, they are a loose organization of indepedent event organizers that band together to produce a common set of rules and tournament standards. The RFL claims ten member organizers, but most of these have not staged an event in recent years. The most active members are ComBots (ComBots Cup, RoboGames) in the SF Bay Area, and Western Allied Robotics (NW Hobby Expo, Seattle Bot Battles) in Seattle. ComBots fights larger weight classes (60 to 220 pounds) while WAR fights sublight classes.

Q: when I said national bot league I meant the National Robotics League. My bad.

A: Oh, those guys! The National Robotics League (NRL) is a lesser-known competitor to the Bots IQ program. Like Bots IQ, they target school based robotics programs. The NRL have been fighting 15 pound combat robots under their own rule set since 2009. The NRL was created by the National Tooling & Machining Association.

Q: Also, how is each related to each other? I saw that nerc opened up to the botsiq which I don't understand. And am I right that when you win botsiq you go to the national Robotics league? Hence, one top of this, I am confused about how they are all related and synonymous to each other. Thank you so much, you have already been a great help!

A: The only relationship between these groups that I know of is the previously mentioned link between Bots IQ and BattleBots. Although the NRL promotes itself as 'the next step' in the Bots IQ program, there is no relationship between them. The NRL and BotsIQ each have their own local and regional events which lead to their independent national championships.

NERC did have a 15 pound combat class at the 2011 Motorama Robot Conflict event that allowed Bots IQ teams to show off their skills, but there is no direct relationship between the two organizations. There are a lot of Bots IQ teams in the Pennslyvania area, and NERC just gave them an unofficial place to compete.

Q: How many of those listed competitions are opened to middle school teams?

A: Bots IQ - no. They start at the high school level.

NRL - yes. They do allow accredited middle school teams to compete, but they do not currently have their own class; middle school teams compete against the high school and college teams. Getting a school program accredited is a complex process that requires training and sponsorship -- see the NRL website for details.

NERC - "Due to insurance concerns, Minors under the age of eighteen attending a NERC event without a parent or guardian may be required to complete a special release. Please contact NERC for further information."

Q: What do you think about Robogames' decision to get rid of the 30lb class?

A: Unfortunate, but you can only run so many robot fights thru an arena in a given length of time. Something had to go, and priority was given to heavier weight classes. With the available staff there just isn't enough time for the 'adult league' feathers. 'Junior league' feathers are still in the program, but the juniors lost their middleweight division.

Overall, I'm just glad there's still a major combat event like RoboGames.

Q: I thought they got rid of the 12lb class, did I miss something?

A: RoboGames lost the 12 pound and under combat classes in 2009. The Superheavys were removed for 2011. 'Judge Dave' recently announced that the 30 pound 'featherweight' class will not compete at RoboGames 2012 for the reason mentioned above. There is a full discussion on the Delphi RFL forum.

Q: Hello Aaron, does any fight still do super heavy weights? Thank you!

A: Currently, no.

Q: About your comment on the Killer Robots show...

As a competitor in the 2011 robogames, I understood why they would choose to portray the matches as single elimination. The producers explained to us that they thought the double elimination system was too hard to explain to the public. I agree: it was hard enough for us competitors to figure out who we would be fighting next. I see why you are frustrated, but sometimes profit and popularity are more important than accuracy.

A: Mark J. here: I sympathize with the desire to avoid the complexity of presenting a double-elimination tournament, but I don't believe that putting profit or popularity in front of truth is an acceptable option. If you want credibility as a 'sport' you can not lie to the audience. The producers of 'Killer Robots' went out of their way to mislead the viewers. Examples:

  • According the show, 'Breaker Box' was eliminated from the tournament early by 'Last Rites'.

    In truth, 'Breaker Box' beat 'Last Rites' in their early match and went on to finish 3rd overall, but we never got to see BB fight even once.

  • According the show, 'Touro Maximus' beat 'Vera' and was then taken out of the tournament by 'Original Sin'.

    Another distortion to make a 'nice story'. 'Touro Maximus' lost to 'Original Sin' in OS's first match and then fought five more matches (including the win over 'Vera') before being bumped from the tournament by 'Last Rites'.

Not even BattleBots ever re-arranged a sequence of fights to deliberately distort the audience perception of the tournament -- they presented 'highlight' matches and never pretended otherwise. IMHO, having Grant Imahara stand up and lie to the television audience was not necessary, and I believe it was damaging to combat robotics.

Here are the real and fictional tournament trees for you to compare for yourself.

Q: Hello Aaron. Does 'battle beach' happen any more? thanks

A: No. The most recent 'Battle Beach' event was in April of 2006.

See #12 for help in finding active events.

Q: Why is the old bbc robot wars the only show with house bots? They were epic! Thanks awesome website!:D

A: We no longer answer questions about the UK Robot Wars. There are, however, a great many older posts about the 'House Robots' in this archive, some of which deal with the true function of the house 'bots and the reasons why Robot Wars used them in spite of the builders' protests. Builders understandably detested the house 'bots.

Note that the 'house robot' first appeared in the US Robot wars, and that an unusual version also appeared in seasons 2 and 3 of 'Robotica'.

Q: Hello Aaron,
I know you do not answer questions about UK robot wars but...

A: That's right, we don't.

Q: Hey Aaron, I saw the bots yesterday in killer robots and I wondered... What is better, the UK roaming robots FRA bots or the American RFL bots? Thanks

A: No way am I getting in the middle of that debate. The RFL and FRA builders have been designing and constructing for very different arenas and judging criteria, and that has a big impact on the type of robots that are built. Let's just say they are different but equally awesome.

Q: Wow! did you see ['Killer Robots' on Science Channel]? What did you think?

A: I told you they could fight.

Q: Was this years [RoboGames] larger or smaller than last years? Thanks

A: The 2011 RoboGames had 153 combat matches, up from 106 combat matches in 2010.

The largest turn-out for RoboGames was in 2007 when 283 combat matches took place.

Q: Is combots only when robogames are on? Thanks

A: Let's get the terminology straight. 'ComBots' can refer to the 'ComBots Cup' event which has been held more-or-less annually since 2005. 'ComBots' can also refer generically to the machines that compete in combat robot tournaments. Combat robot tournaments are held at various locations throughout the year. See #12.

Q: Is there any tools or equipment that can be used by the organizer of a combat robot competition to detect any usage of a frequency jammer by any competing team in a match? Can the frequency jammer works against a 2.4ghz radio system?

A: Mark J. here: first, if you have a serious concern about a team deliberately jamming radio frequencies, you should find a different sport with a better class of competitors. If combat robotics has come to such unsportsmanlike behavior, you'd best leave it to the scum and move on.

I have seen a frequency monitor used at major events that indicates when specific 75 MHz radio channels are in use. The panel has a light for each channel that illuminates when that channel is active. It is designed to help avoid accidental radio interferenece. It can not directly determine if more than one transmitter is active on a specific frequency. The monitor appeared to be a custom unit -- I do not know where to obtain one. Perhaps someone on the Robot Fighting League forum would know.

The 'spread spectrum' 2.4 ghz radios are much less sensitive to both inadvertant and deliberate interference. The system picks an interference free channel at power-up and the receiver verifies each instruction it gets from the transmitter. I won't say that it is impossible to 'jam' a specific 2.4 ghz signal, but it would be difficult.

Q: Regarding my earlier question about the toy, I really would love to get into robot combat. do you know of any robot rumbles in the New York City area? I know this is a hard question, but thank you!

A: See #12.

Q: It seems like amny robot places are all gone. I cannot find one that close to the NYC area at all. I am sorry to bother I know it is an FAQ. Thanks you!!!

A: You're about nine years too late to find widespread robot combat tournaments. In 2003 there were more than 3000 one-on-one robot matches fought in North America -- by 2009 the number had fallen below 500. If you want to see live robot combat you're gonna have to travel.

Q: Aaron, on you same train of thought about the number of robot fights, what is the best way to get into the sport? I am NOT trying to be pushy at all! I just loved robot fighting since I was much younger and it was my dream to enter... As always, thank you so much!

A: First step - get to an actual robot combat tournament and get a feel for what actually goes on in the arena and in the pits. It may be much different than you expect.

Second step - research the event you plan to enter to see what classes are contested and any special rules that may apply.

Third step - build a robot. Keep it simple and get it built well in advance of the tournament and practice, practice, practice!

Q: What robot competion is the best nowdays? Are there any with more awsome/more advanced robots than Robot wars on BBC? I liked the look of Combots but the robots do not seem to be as cool as the ones at Robot wars or Battle bots.

A: There has been a great deal of progress in the design and operation of combat robots since the BattleBots era. The current crop of robots at ComBots and Robogames would send any of the old school 'bots crying for their mothers. A few have been brave enough to try a comeback, but none have met with success.

You may not find the current competitors 'cool', but they certainly can fight! Watch 'Killer Robots: Robogames 2011' on The Science Channel this Memorial Day weekend (2011) and then tell me they can't fight.

Q: Aaron, I'm building a 6lb mantis crusher with a FA-150-S-12-3 actuator rated for 100 lbs of force for the PA Bot Blast. Any ideas or comments?

A: [I have addressed the technical issues with this design in the archive, but wanted to split-off my other concern here.]

All the mantis fights since 2006 have taken place in Canada. The last time I counted there were three active mantisweights, and they were all in Saskatoon. The PA Bot Blast may have a mantisweight class, but that doesn't mean that any will show up. I'd pick a more popular class.

Q: Do you have any, I mean ANY information on the robot wars 1997 entry land shark?! He's such a creative entry with no info other than a single picture on Team nightmares site!

A: It's been a while since I did one of these -- hope I remember how...

Willis Wong's heavyweight 'The Landshark' fought a single match at U.S. Robot Wars '97 (video) and lost to Vic Lang's 'Z'. Depressed, 'The Landshark' made its way to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and leapt off - only to land on the deck of a freighter bound for Uruguay. After hitching a ride into Montevideo, 'The Landshark' worked as a caddy at the Punta Carretas golf course for several years and saved every penny until it had enough money to open a frozen yogurt stand. It married a lovely girl named Rosalinda and had four children: a girl, two boys, and a coffee grinder. The family is doing well.

See also #32.

Q: so in other words, you have no

A: I gave you the builder's name, the robot's competition record, and a link to a video. What are you complaining about?

Q: I didn't even think about the video link! thanks man! speaking of Z, can you give me some info on how his weapon worked?

A: No, sorry. It appears to be a one-shot spring loaded spike, but I cannot confirm. Although Vic Lang continued to build robots for entertainment and artistic purposes, 'Z' never fought again and Vic never entered another combat tournament.

Date marker: May 2011
Q: Can you explain what caused Brutality to explode into many small pieces during its fight with Megabyte?

A: I don't think it requires much explanation. After surviving several mega-hits, Brutality's wedge/deflector threw in the towel and exposed the sharp front corner of the chassis to tens of thousands of joules of kinetic energy from Megabyte's rotating shell. Instant pi�ata.

Q: Do you know anything about the US First Robotics Competition?

A: Yes, and you can too. Start at the FIRST website.

Q: Let's say that you and your new robot find out that your first enemy is a veteran, fear-inspiring, high powered spinner. You lack the skills needed for a major rebuild, and you imagine that even if you somehow win the fight, your robot would need just that.

Is it socially acceptable to simply tap out and head to the loser's bracket?

A: The acceptable thing to do is to put on your brown pants and fight. If you're worried about taking your robot home in a bucket you should consider a different hobby - like maybe stamp collecting.

Q: Are you ever going to put any videos of Antbotica on 'YouTube'?

A: It seems unlikely since I have no videos of Antbotica. We were too busy running the event and the competitors were too busy having a good time.

Q: Hello, this is a purely fan based question, and I'm hoping it won't bother you, but I was wondering if you were ever annoyed by the constant war between Razer and Tornado fans? I know this is technically a RW question, but it's just that that bloody debate is so annoying and I was hoping to find out an opinion of an actual roboteer on the subject. [Bath, England]

A: Mark J. here: I help to maintain the 'Robot Wars' article on Wikipedia. On a regular basis some fan will edit the results for the Sixth Wars to install 'Razer' as the winner, and I change it back to 'Tornado'.

I place blame with the production company for creating a controversy where none should exist. The fans themselves need to recognize that they have been manipulated and move on. It was a staged robot fight -- it isn't like they were playing for the Ashes.

Q: did you know that instigator from bb 2.0 was the same gator from rw 96/97 and bb lb 99?

A: Actually, it wasn't.

Dennis Millard built a lightweight robot he named 'Gator' and fought at Robot Wars '96 and '97. He returned with the same lightweight, now named 'Instigator', for the '99 BattleBots event in Long Beach.

Dennis built an entirely new middleweight robot that fought in BattleBots 2.0 and 3.0, but it kept the 'Instigator' name. I hope that Dennis had better luck with whatever he took up after combat robotics -- in the five tournaments he entered he never won a fight.

Q: Do you know of any place to watch full episodes of battlebots , robot wars or any other robot combat shows. Or is their a place to buy their dvd's ( I would even be happy with vhs)?

A: There are no authorized full episodes of BattleBots, Robot Wars, or Robotica available on-line or on recorded media. The Learning Channel did sell VHS tapes of Robotica, but they disappeared years ago. I don't believe that authorized DVDs or tapes of full episodes of the other shows were ever released.

There are DVDs for the pre-'Comedy Central' BattleBots tournaments, as well as DVDs of other non-televised robot combat tournaments available thru

Q: Did you enter BattleBots?

A: See question below.

Q: From a veiwers point of view what combat robot show did you like the best: Robot Wars or BattleBots?

A: I thought they were very different:

BattleBots was a highlight reel of only the 'better' fights from the tournament. A very small fraction of the matches were shown (14 of 91 heavyweight fights at BB 5.0) and even high-level matches were cut out (neither of the heavyweight semi-final fights were aired). I was frustrated that I couldn't follow my favorite robots and couldn't make sense of the tournament structure. I also found the 'comedy' angle of the production annoying.

Robot Wars showed all of the matches in every tournament. Some of the matches were edited, but at least you got to see them all. The theatrical aspects of the production (costumes, trash talk, etc.) were distracting and added a lot of 'fluff' to the show. Sometimes the editing of a match left out some critical part and caused confusion about the judges' decisions.

Bottom line: I watched them both and enjoyed them both - with reservations.

Q: Now from a competitors point of view which show do you think is better?

A: We chose not to compete at BattleBots, so I can only answer the question from the perspective of what others have told us and why we chose not to go.

At BattleBots you built a robot, paid an entry fee, paid your own way to the tournament, put yourself up in a hotel, and ate a box lunch in the pits. Half the field lost their first match and drove themselves home. Half the remaining field lost their second match and drove themselves home. If you survived the first three rounds, your beat-up robot went up against one of the 'seeded' robots fresh out of the box and ready to rumble; odds of clearing that round about 1 in 4. Roughly one in five robots made it onto the televised program, and most of them were seeded 'bots who had done well in previous tournaments.

As an american competitor at Robot Wars you built a robot, you and your crew were flown to England, put up in a nice hotel, got a daily stipend for food and transportation, and were fed good hot buffet food at the venue. If you lost and were bumped out of the tournament, you were offered slots in the various side events -- you could keep fighting 'til your 'bot quit. Win or lose you were paid a couple thousand bucks for your trouble. Every functional robot got on TV, and if your robot couldn't compete, the production company would loan you one of their robots to make you feel better.

So, which one would you rather compete in?

Q: How do you get DVDs or tapes of 'Robotica'?

A: I know of no current source for Robotica tapes. You'll have to come over to my place and watch them.

Q: Are there any maps of the 'Robotica' labyrinth?

A: The layout of The Labyrinth was difficult to decipher when watching the event on TV. I do have the design drawings for both The Gauntlet and The Labyrinth - as provided to Robotica contestants. As I recall, a couple of the obstacles swapped places in the version of The Labyrinth that was actually built and appeared in the competition.

Diagram: The Gauntlet

Diagram: The Labyrinth

Q: Something I don't get. Given that the number of fights and robots is down (I personally believe that at least a small revival is around the corner, but that's just me.) why not supplement the actual matches with other... games, such as...
  1. Hide and seek. an RC racecar is placed in the arena. A combat robot has the job of trying to hunt it down and destroy it. If the car survives 5 minutes, it "wins."

  2. Team fight. One pair of robots fights another pair.

  3. What do you want to kill? Audience members toss various things into the pit that they want to see ripped to shreds.

A: Mark J. here: games similar to these have been incorporated into more creative robot combat events since the beginnings of the sport: the 'Escort' event at the 1994 Robot Wars, the wild team events at BotBash, and the 'Rent a Robot To Destroy Your Bad Christmas Gift' service at Robot Club and Grill are examples.

Team Run Amok has supported and encouraged these alternative events, but you should know that there is a dominant faction of robot destruction 'purists' who will walk up to you and scream obscenities in your face for trying to 'ruin the sport'. Be prepared for pushback.

Q: Who couldn't love seeing RC cars get killed by Last Rites?

A: You were hard on your toys as a kid, weren't you?

I can only say that there are people with very narrow views of how robot combat should be conducted. Their war cry: "If they didn't do it at BattleBots it's crap!"

Q: In [the US] Robot Wars 1995 there was a cool orange robot. What's it's name?

Q: What's the name of that robot in the 1995 [US Robot Wars] heavyweight melee 1 that has sphere-like wheels and that weird flat wedge?

A: Take a look at the archived photo gallery of contestants at the 1995 US Robot Wars (slow loading). Click on a photo for robot name and builder info.

Q: Is 'Antbotica' supposed to be similar to 'Robotica'?

A: Yep.

Q: In earlier posts you said that you don't like the judging criteria on damage. So then how would you want it to be judged?

A: Take a look at our Try Your Hand as a Combat Robot Judge quiz to find out why we dislike the current judging criteria and read our suggestions for improvement.

The Team Run Amok Questioning Robot Combat Paradigms page has some additional thoughts on robot combat.

Q: How high was the sozbots arena insert wall?

A: The polycarbonate inner walls were 6" high. Full arena specs and rules are available at the SOZBOTS website (archived).

Q: Which of the US robot wars competitions between '94 to '97 did you like the most?

A: That's a hard call. If I could go back in time to one of the US Robot Wars events, I think I'd pick 1995. There were a good number of interesting robots, 'Blendo' [pictured] tore the place up, and the heavyweight championship fight between 'Thor' and 'The Master' may have been the best robot fight of all time.

Q: And, theoretically, what do you think the competitions would have been like had they not left for the UK in '98? Like BattleBots or different in someway?

A: BattleBots was founded by the builders who would have been at US Robot Wars 1998 if it had come off. The early BattleBots rule set was very similar to the late US Robot Wars rule set, and the spirit of the early BattleBots competitions was much the same. I consider the UK version (first event in 1997, by the way) to be the group that changed - it was BattleBots that continued the competitions as they would have gone if Robot Wars had not left.

Q: How many spares of each part should I bring to a competition? one? two? three?

A: Search this archive for 'how many spare parts' for the list of spares we took to one competition. You need to exercise some judgement about which parts are most likely to need replacing, which can be fixed, and which simply will not be likely to receive damage.

Q: Were any of the arena hazards from BattleBots effective?

A: Remember that there were four weight classes in BattleBots. A couple of the arena hazards were very effective against the lightweight class robots, but understandably less effective in the heavier classes.

  • The pop-up 'Killsaws' were entirely capable of launching light robots thru the air for a considerable distance and ripping tires on heavy classes.

  • The pneumatic hammer 'Pulverizers' evolved from simple sledge hammers into massive 150 pound mallets that could severely test the durability of even the superheavyweight robots.

Q: Were the hazards in BattleBots as strong as or stronger than the Robot Wars ones?

A: We no longer answer UK Robot Wars questions - see #37. I will comment that many of the Robot Wars hazards were flame based and - although showy - were completely ineffective unless the robot was already disabled.

Q: What is the best weight class for a beginner to start in?

A: Scout the event you plan to enter and find out what weight classes are popular at that event. It doesn't do any good to build a robot for a class that doesn't have anyone else in it! Start in the lightest weight class that has a good number of competitors. The lighter your weight class, the less your beginner's mistakes will cost you.

Q: From lightest to heaviest what are the weight classes for combat robots?

A: See Wikipedia article on Robot Combat.

Q: Is JawBreaker the only 'bot to have been in Battlebots, Robot Wars Extreme Warriours, and Robotica?

A: By my count there were eleven twelve teams that competed at all three events:

Team NameTeam Lead
Dark ForcesRuss Barrow
JawbreakerTim Berghoefer
Minus ZeroPatrick Campbell
SuspectJeff Cesnik
Litewav RoboticsChris Hannold
Robot DojoMike Konshak
TrigonEric Koss
Dream DroidWalter Martinez
PanzerTodd Mendenhall
JuggerBotMike Morrow
LogicomBrian Nave
Think TankTed Shimoda

Many of these teams had very different robots at the different events - but a few had (essentially) the same robot, although the name may have changed:

Dream Droidi-DroidShakaRed Virus
JawbreakerJawbreakerNasty OverbiteGeneral Chompsalot
SuspectKritical MassKritical Mass IIManta

Many of the robots were modified between events, but just how much modification was involved varied.

Q: Wasn't Team Think Tank also in Robotica, BattleBots, and Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Mark J. here: Team Think Tank did compete at Robotica ('Intriverter' and 'Re-Intriverter') and BattleBots (many robots). Team leader Ted Shimoda was at RWEW2 with 'Mad Cow Bot' (not to be confused with Jason Barger from Team Boltz who was at RWEW1 with 'Mad Cow'). However, I have no confirmation that Ted was representing Team Think Tank as I can find no mention of the team name in the event record. Participation in the RWEW events was 'political' and it's possible that Ted was there on his own without team sanction. I'm going to add them to the list until I hear other evidence.

Q: Was BattleBots Rankings like the seeds in Robot Wars as in 1-16? (Please answer this question) [N.I.Person]

A: The BattleBots ranking system was much like the seeds in RW -- it was a system by which robots with historic success in prior events were awarded status in the rankings for the current tournament. In a typical sporting event, the seeds are spread out over the tournament tree to assure that favored competitors do not meet in the early rounds. BattleBots took this much further. Ranked robots actually skipped over the first two or three tournament rounds to enter at the 'round of 32'. At BattleBots 5.0 fully 24 of the spots the round of 32 were reserved for ranked 'bots. Many teams viewed this as an unfair effort to 'stuff' the late-round televised matches with well-known robots to enhance ratings.

Q: Hi Aaron. I would like to know more about the battlebot competition in your country especially for the featherweight/15Kg category. Can you email me any details on the:
i) Battlefield
ii) Rules & regulations


A: BattleBots has a 15 pound weight class in high school, college, and open categories. Rules and tournament procedures for this class and others may be downloaded at the BattleBots website.

Q: From what I can tell, there are three basic strategies for winning.
  1. Push the enemy around. If you are always in control, they will never be able to use their weapons against you. (This would be the strategy of most wedges, rammers, and lifters. You seem to fall in this camp.)

  2. Destroy the enemy completely. Your enemy's tactics don't matter if you can simply rip their side armor off. (Spinners and some flippers)

  3. Get a critical hit. Winning doesn't come from defeating the entire enemy. It comes from destroying a single weakspot..... such as being flipped into an immobile position or having the receiver smashed. (This camp gets a little bit of everyone (minus most wedges) but any hammerbot and some flippers can be considered to fall here.)
Do you think this is accurate? [Oakland, CA]

A: It's actually simpler than that. Robot combat judging changed about 2003. You used to got points for things like control and effective strategy, but the prevailing judging guidelines now score only on 'damage' and 'aggression' with the majority of points going to damage. Constantly attacking and inflicting one more scratch on your opponent than they lay on you will get you a win. How damage is scored and exactly what counts as aggression is more than a little odd -- see Try Your Hand as a Combat Robot Judge.

A well known robot combat judge pointed out that the best strategy for winning a match is to avoid giving the decision to the judges. K.O. your opponent and you won't have to worry about a bad judge call. Hard to argue with that.

Q: I thought of several simple ways to increase combat robot diversity.

In my opinion, the reason that diversity has gone down is that the desire for destructiveness was ultimately bound to clash eventually with the desire for coolness. The former prevailed, as combat robotics is ultimately about, well, combat, and when you place emphasis on a value, people will strive for it.

A solution that some try is to put no-nonsense rules. For example, the Sportsman class flatly bans wedges. While this does work to some extent, in my opinion, I think they also alienate other builders due to the blunt rejection of certain strategies. So, in my opinion, a less direct, more cause-and-effect oriented solution would be better. Here are two examples:

  1. The minimum time it takes for a spinning weapon to fully slow to a stop should be reduced. This would force builders to either install a brake system or to reduce the overall inertia. Either one would reduce the overall effectiveness of the spinner (thus lowering the destructiveness standard and opening the door for hammers and crushers) while still allowing for innovation in the area, though.

  2. Ban certain flame-retardants. As fun as they are, each builder knows deep down that a flamethrower is an ineffective weapon. However, I am guessing that before a fight against a flamethrower, many builders coat the inside of their bot with flame-retardant chemicals. If we banned those, the effectiveness of the flamethrower could go up by a lot.
What do you think of my long, winding post? [Oakland, CA]

A: I've never liked the use of rules to limit effective strategies. I think it's much better to change the environment to make undesirable design elements less effective. Example: the Robot Battles events do not prohibit wedges, but the combat surface is criss-crossed with 1/4" high strips that stick up and make simple wedges ineffective. Problem solved, and no one is alienated by a rule.

That same well-known combat robot judge I mentioned in the last post believes that the way matches are scored does not impact robot design. I figure that judging and the physical environment of the arena are the only things that influence design. Make rules for the benefit of safety and fairness, and use the arena and judging parameters to control design.

P.S. - I don't know of anyone who adds a coat of flame retardant chemicals inside their robot to fight a flamethrower. It isn't necessary. There were huge flames everywhere at Robot Wars and our wooden armor never got so much as a scorch. Flamethrowers are for show only.

Q: Any idea what is the name of the orange robot in the 30lb rumble at Robot Battles 2010?

A: The 30 pound low wedge robot with the orange rear bumper in the 30-pound rumble was 'Pinball' from MH Robotics.

Q: Sorry but I mean the orange/brown robot with a lifting weapon and wedge that participate in the rumble

A: What photos and videos I have show nine robots in the 30-pound Battle Royale, and only 'Pinball' shows any color close to orange. The next closest thing would be a light brown lifter/wedge robot named 'Beaver of Terror'. The 12-pound Battle Royale featured a great looking red-orange wedge/lifter named 'Lobster Roll'.

Robot Battles is not keen on documentation. The 'organizers' pride themselves on a high level of chaos and disorder -- which makes a certain amount of sense given the culture of the event. However, this does make it difficult for me to report on their tournaments. Registration is on-site and unpublished, and I have no direct source of tournament trees or results.

Q: Beaver of terror is the one I am looking for. Thanks. Does it have a website?

A: Not that I can find.

Q: Looking at the details for the latest Battlebots event (wait, come back!) It only has Middleweight and 15lb events. The latter I had never heard of until I looked it up just now. Are those the two most popular classes across the pond now, is it a bad choice on the organizers part, or is there another reason why Heavyweights are [not] allowed to play? [Oxfordshire, UK]

A: Mark J. here: I've long given up on trying to figure out why BattleBots does what they do and why anyone bothers to care. BattleBots is, IMHO, an ego driven anachronism that has done little but drag the sport backward for most of the last decade.

Neither the 15 pound class (exclusive to the BotsIQ series) nor the 120 pound middleweight class are well supported outside the imagination of the event organizers. I assume that heavyweights will not be allowed because the arena selected for the event (the BotsIQ arena) is not suitable for such destructive robots.

Q: Hello i am a person who lives in Northern Ireland and I want to ask why won't Roaming Robots or Robots Live Come to N.Ireland? Do you think of a reason please

A: Sorry, I have no insight on how either Roaming Robots or Robots Live decide on event locations. I suggest that you ask them.

Q: Hello N.Ireland person here I want to ask you has there ever been a 4 part clusterbot and just want to thank you for trying to answer my question

A: You're welcome.

I don't know of any true four-part combat clusterbot; one that would enter the arena as a single entity and then split into four parts.

Under Robot Fighting League rules there is no requirement for a multibot entry to be 'connected' at the start of the match and it is not uncommon for several robots from lower weight classes to band together and enter a higher weight class under a new name, such as 'The Swarm'. Such entries may be entirely impromptu and consist of whatever participants that can be 'rounded up' at the tournament.

I recall one hobbyweight multibot entry made up from six or eight unrelated insect class robots. Do any readers remember where that happened? Such entries are unlikely to be well documented, but I'll see if I can find a reference.

Update: I can't find A reference to that multi-insect hobbyweight multibot. Still interested if anyone knows more about it.

Q: That sport ['Con Fighting' - see next post below] will not intervene with the more destructive variations... will it? Or is your intent to push the destructive ones away?

A: Mark J here: robot combat needs more diversity, not less. By my count, there is only one 'destructive variation' extant and we certainly wouldn't try to 'push it away' even if we could. Our concern is that combat robotics will continue to wither without a broader audience.

Q: One of the themes in your site is, roughly 'the future of the sport'. As part of this discussion, I'd like to put in a shameless pitch for...

A: Hey, wait a second. We don't allow shameless pitches here at Ask Aaron. It's unsavory! It's pandering! It's... it's... oh never mind, go ahead. I'll just edit it down so it doesn't take up a full screen.

Q: ...a shameless pitch for a style of event I call 'Con fighting' -- see These are low [production] cost, high portability, sumo fights with minimal rule sets and nothing between the crowd and the robot but distance. The rules are short and simple, and the robots are not destroyed by the efforts of their opponents.

Con fights happen where a likely chunk of our demographic already are: sci-fi conventions where young, technically savvy sci-fiers are out to have a good time. These folk show up and cheer and yell and ooh and ahh. And some of them turn up the next year with their own first robot.

Robot sophistication is all over the map: plywood encased R/C cars to elegantly machined total control bots. Driving ability with potential wreckage will frequently win against vastly more technically advanced machines.

The builder/driver that does win gets a $5 plaque. Some of the builders fight all over the country. The rules don't allow giga-joule instant death, but this is a different engineering problem. Folk ask questions, show their friends, take pictures, high five you on the way to the bathroom.

Con fighting is dynamic. It turns the Robot Fight about to face the public, putting eyeballs on bots at a low cost the the organizer. As a model for a gateway to growth, I believe this may have merit. This might not be a question, but I am interested in your thoughts.

A: I've always been a big fan of the Critter Crunch and Robot Battles. A lot of the appeal of fighting robots comes from spectators thinking, "Hey, I could do that!" A lot of that has been lost as the robots got bigger, more sophisticated, and more destructive. More power to you! I'd be there in a shot if I just weren't so deathly afraid of filking.

Q: For a week now, I have been unable to upload a photo of my beetleweight on the builder's database. I keep on getting this error: An error has occurred. Error: Index out of range.An error has occurred. Error: Index out of range.

How long has this been going on for?

A: First I've heard of it. Suggest you notify webmaster Marc DeVidts - he has an email link on the BDb splash page.

Q: A while ago, I asked about not being able to post an image of my bot on the Builder's database. You said that it was the first you heard of it, and that I should contact the webmaster. I did.... and no response. The problem is still going on. Could it be an issue with the particular computer I am using? I am starting to get concerned.

A: The problem is not with your computer - I just tried a photo upload with the same result. The page is broken and requires attention from the webmaster. I'll drop him a line, but I'm guessing that Marc is just busy with something else right now and it may take him a while to correct this non-critical problem.

Q: The builder's database is still not accepting new robot images. What is going on?!

A: Perhaps someone on the RFL Forum has some information. I do know that Marc is busy with other projects.

Q: I never see your robots at robogames. Why is that?

A: Long drive, small fun.

Longer answer: we really don't much like the current judging emphasis on aggression and destruction. Robot combat was (IMHO) a lot more fun 'back in the day'. If we did show up at Robogames we'd be there to put on an Antbotica tournament.

Q: I hope I'm not prying, but can I hear a little more about 'back in the day?' Hasn't damage (ie destruction) and aggression always been the emphasis?

Much longer answer: the early robot combat events had a broader range of both events and judging criteria. Some examples:

  • The first Robot Wars competition (San Francisco, 1994 - rules) was judged entirely on mobility. Pinning your opponent for 30 seconds was a 'win'. If your robot was still moving at the end of the match you moved on. There was also an unusual 'Escort' event where a competitor had to defend a small 'drone' robot from attacks from a 'house robot'.

  • For the 1995 Robot Wars (rules) a crowd applause vote was added to break ties if both robots were still mobile. The audience was encouraged to vote based on "damage, aggressiveness and control", but it came down to whichever robot the crowd wanted to see fight again.

  • The early BattleBots tournaments had a panel of three judges that each awarded a single point in each of three categories: aggression, damage, and strategy. Judges could also ask for an extra 60 seconds of combat time to settle a close match (rules).

  • The early UK Robot Wars events had a variety of events that competitors had to complete to move on to the combat arena (see rules). Once in 'The Arena', judging was based on style, control, damage and aggression - with weighting favoring damage and aggression.

  • The 'Robotica' tournaments had no qualitative score judging at all. Competitors had very specific tasks to complete and points were awarded entirely for completion of those tasks. You could concentrate on the task, or concentrate on beating up the other robot as you saw fit. The final raised platform 'Fight to the Finish' had no time limit - competitors fought until one was thrown off the platform (rules).
The current RFL judging guidelines are based entirely on damage and aggression, are quite specific, and (IMHO) make very little sense. Go have a look at our little 'You Be the Judge' quiz and see what you think of the current guidelines.
Q: Chinese Forum - Recently I saw a video of Breaker's Box vs Brutality in Battlebots 09, Breaker's weapon is pretty effective but... It stopped moving after a solid hit, and there are no significant damage on it. Brutality won that by KO. Are there any reliability issues with Jim's new bot?

A: The BattleBots 2009 videos finally showed up on YouTube.

Watch carefully and you can see the rear power light on 'Breaker Box' flicker and go dark. I'm guessing an impact popped a connector loose. It's unusual - Jim's 'bots don't quit without good reason - but anybody can overlook a loose connector.

Q: Am I the only builder who occasionally fantasizes of taking my robot to one of those AI soccer bot demonstrations, and then smashing all of their robots? Not that I would do that: I would get arrested.

A: Arrested? You'd be lucky to get out of the venue alive. Some of those AI builders are big and mean!

Q: Is Vlad the Implaler the first robot to self right? did any of the the 'bots at the mad scientist events ever self-right?

A: 'Who self-righted first' isn't a simple question. The answer depends on the conditions under which the self-righting took place. We have an article on the first self-righting combat robot on the Team Run Amok homepage that examines the candidates, and Vlad is a contender.

There is no record of a robot self-righting at the early Critter Crunch events held by the Denver Mad Scientists, but information from those events is sparse.

Q: Hello. I don't know if this is the right place to write this rather long statement/essay, but I don't know another place:

I do disagree with your statement that the "emphasis on destruction" has lead to the decline of combat robotics, and that we need to "diversify." In addition, I disagree with your recent statement about "subcultural ties."

Regarding the first statement, I feel that there is a lot against your claim. For one thing, of the three televised robot combat shows, Robotica (The least destructive) lasted the shortest amount of time, Robot Wars (the most destructive) the longest, and Battlebots (the middle ground) in between the two. This indicates that the audience seems to like destruction: In fact, one major criticism of Battlebots was that it didn't focus enough on the fighting as opposed to builder backstories. That said, we see that the builders also don't mind destruction, as the final season of Battlebots had about 25% more competitors than the previous season. Finally, most combat sports have had success with focusing on destruction.

As for the second point about "subcultural ties," I don't see how reaching out to other communities is a bad thing. Isn't that simply advertising? When a charity organization manages to get an famous baseball player to come over, the latter rubs off attention on the former. Why should it be any different for combat robotics? Perhaps the guy who mentioned the wreslting community may have not realized that most wrestling fans aren't into robotics, but, say, the destruction derby people may have a few potential pickups.

So, I really don't think you can blame "excessive focus on destruction" and "subcultural ties" on the decline in matches.

A: Mark J here: I think it's fair to say that most of the combat robot community disagrees with our stance on destruction and acceptable publicity, so you certainly are not alone in your opinions. I suspect, however, that only those sharing the 'destruction and techno music in an abandoned warehouse' mindset have held on this long. The group has self-selected along these lines as its size has diminished.

First, I would caution against equating longevity on television with health of the sport. The television audience did quite clearly enjoy the destruction aspect of the sport -- until they tired of it. That orange was squeezed dry by television and you're not going to get another drop of juice out of it. Builders were willing to tolerate the destruction in exchange for the potential fame provided by the television, but there is no media focus on combat robotics to provide that fame anymore. Right now we need builders, not audience.

On your other point, I have no issue with 'reaching out' to other communities as long as they are communities that will improve the image and posture of combat robotics. Your example of a baseball player represents wholesome, mainline American culture which I would consider to be a good thing. Associating the sport with wrestling, destruction derby, circus side-show acts, tacky ex-sitcom stars, and mud bog racers is not (IMHO) a path to renewed popularity.

As an example, consider the F.I.R.S.T. robotics competition. It is going strong, gathers a huge participatory audience, gains national press, and is supported by giant international corporations. Destruction is almost non-existent and there isn't a professional wrestler, sports commentator, or reality TV personality to be seen anywhere.

I'm curious - if you don't think excessive focus on destruction and tacky subcultural ties are responsible for the decline in combat robotics, what do you think the cause is?

Q: To be quite frank, I personally think that the reason for the decline is in your response: No media attention. Currently, combat robotics is mainly advertised to the mainstream robotics community. These builders are not to keen on watching their prescious little self aware robots get destroyed by Ziggy. So, what we are doing is like putting a horror movie add on Cartoon Network: Therefore, I think that putting combat robotics back on TV is of upmost priority. (And as I said, the common complaint was that Battlebots didn't have enough destruction)

That said, why ARE you so opposed to reaching out to the destruction derby people? That is the best hope for returning to TV Also, the ultimate goal, in my opinion, would be to make combat robotics ascend from our world of nerdom and enter the traditional section of masculinity. (I.E. Nascar, Boxing) Audience would no longer be a trouble, and quite possibly builders as well: If Nascar has an endless supply of drivers to smash to death, then we should be okay finding builders.

And the best way to do that would be to make connections with the destruction derby guys, or, if all else fails, send in our bigger bots to challenge and then beat the crap out of a wrestler in a televised match.

Yes, it would be selling our soul to the devil in exchange for fame, but who cares?

A: We simply disagree on this - which is fine. My take:

  • I'm unclear about how associating robot combat with destruction derby is going to improve television exposure. Which network is the weekly destruction derby show on?

  • You only get to sell your soul once and combat robotics already did that. It had its fame in exchange for being associated with wrestlers on TNN, having builders laughed at as geeks on Comedy Central, and being cast as an unsavory collection of violent social misfits by the broader media.

  • BattleBots survived five televised 'seasons' thru diversity of both design and builders that kept the audience involved. Can the robot built from a beer keg by frat boys defeat the robot made from tractor parts by farm boys? Can the engineering college overpower the bodgers from England? That diversity no longer exists.

  • You don't become interesting by getting media exposure; you get media exposure by being interesting.

  • For every 'fan' who complains about too little destruction I believe there are a dozen potential fans/builders who are repelled by the current focus on mechanical carnage. Wanton destruction appeals to a very small subset of the greater audience the sport needs.

  • The most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup driver fatality was in February, 2001. That's not much 'smashing to death' and I don't see how it would connect to our ability to find new robot builders if it were.

Q: Would you favor or oppose reaching out to the wrestling community and arranging a fight between one of our bigger robots and one of their guys?

If you are concerned about safety, remember: The wrestler CHOOSE to put himself in with the robot, and the audience could have some sort of protection.

A: Lemme guess: you just watched the 'Robots vs. Wrestlers' episode of 'How I Met Your Mother'.

We would not be in favor of such a spectacle. Robot combat needs to move away from the sub-cultural ties it made in the TV era and shake that tacky image rather than cultivate it. Let robots fight robots.

Q: I wanted to comment on your opinion of robot combat dying, and I don't think it is. The economy is the main problem, if the economy would go up (or down, I forget) Robot comabt should be fine, it only recentley started to drop since the economy hit.

A: I don't believe I ever said that robot combat is 'dying', just growing progressively less popular. There will always be some true believers out there fighting robots.

The downhill slide in combat robot participation started in 2003. The economy has been both up and down since then with no slowing of the decline in popularity of robot combat -- see the chart on the Team Run Amok homepage. You can't blame this on the economy.

Q: Has a tethered projectile weapon ever been used in a robot fight? The lure of a standoff ability is strong.

A: Combat rules often allow for tethered projectiles with specific tether lengths but their actual use is quite rare. There was a superheavyweight at BattleBots 3.0 named 'Neptune' that fired six pneumatic spears on tethers. They lost in the first round to 'Juggerbot'. Team Juggerbot's account of the battle and a link to a photo of 'Neptune' can be found in the Juggerbot news archive.

Q: Would you say that it is accurate to divide American Combat Robotics into 4 periods?
  1. Robot Wars Era
  2. The Dark Era (The sad years between Robot Wars & Battlebots)
  3. The Battlebots Era
  4. The RFL Era (Current)

A: Mark J here: we'll stir up an argument about this. I view your first three divisions as a single arc comprising the 'golden age': 1994 into 2002. Your 'dark era' from late 1997 to 1999 was only a hiccup.

The period dominated by the Robot Fighting League ran from late 2002 into 2006. As that period progressed the small local events were no longer able to attract public interest or media attention and the economics of organizing stand-alone robot competitions became quite unfavorable. The RFL watched their list of affiliate events shrivel.

Leadership in the current period has shifted to a few large events. ALL large robot fights (lightweights and up) in 2009 took place at two allied events in the San Francisco Bay area: RoboGames and ComBots(1). The sub-light robot sector is being lead by the Northeast Robot Conflict with their bold moves toward combat reform.

  (1) I'm not counting the secretive 2009 BattleBots event (also SF Bay area) because BattleBots is off in its own fantasy world, IMHO.
Q: What do you think of these 2 ideas for spicing up robot combat?: (Without getting into all that nonviolent "obstacle coarse" crudd)

at the end of every event, ALL the robots are split into two teams. Each weight class is split up randomly, but in the end, the weight class is divided as equally as possible. For 4 minutes, the teams try to knock as many of the other team's robots out. (Different weight classes are worth different points, so there wouldn't be as much incentive for the bigger bots to just simply squish all the ants)

Second idea: In every fight, have a robot from the next weight class up act as an "obstacle." For example, if Sewer Snake and Megabyte were duking it out, Ziggy would sit in a corner and toss any robot that is given to it. The idea comes from a rumble-like event they held at the end of the 2010 robogames. In it, original sin would occasionally "feed" Ziggy a hapless robot.

A: Mark J here: most people who build robots wouldn't think it's 'spicy' to have their expensive, carefully designed and built competition machines pointlessly destroyed by bigger robots to entertain the drooling Beavis and Butthead wannabes who blow up stuff with firecrackers and giggle. What does it prove?

You asked for my opinion. Emphasis on destruction is what sent the sport into the downhill slide it has been on for the last decade. Your first idea reminds me of public 'entertainment' during the fall of Rome and the second idea is taken from the part of UK Robot Wars that caused many of the top teams to leave. I don't think either would improve the outlook for the sport.

Note: an 'all weight-class melee' was held at the first Robot Wars in 1994. It was not repeated.

Some wanker A devoted reader wrote in to express his concern that a portion of the above post was somehow defamatory of Robot Wars. I wish to assure the reader that defamation is entirely impossible when either expressing a personal opinion or stating factual information. The comment in question is clearly labeled as opinion and the actions of the teams are verifiable fact. Further, I see nothing in the comment that might damage the reputation of Robot Wars. No worries, but thank you for your concern.
Q: Why did builder's database stop listing the Robogames events?

A: Builders Database is a service to event organizers that makes on-line registration for combat robot tournaments simple and convenient. For this service they charge a small fee. RoboGames set up their own on-line registration and no longer use Builders Database, so Builders Database no longer has any registration info to list.

Q: Some of your posts regarding the sport seem to take on a bit of an apocalyptic approach. Is this true? (Last time I was at robogames, it seemed fine) Do you regard the sport as doomed?

A: Mark J here: I won't say that combat robotics is 'doomed', but it is a shadow of what it was a few years ago. You don't mention when the 'last time you were at RoboGames' was, but the 2009 RoboGames had 62 combat robots fight 111 matches in 5 weight classes. Two years earlier the same event had 156 combat robots fight 283 matches in 9 weight classes. That's quite a drop!

It isn't just RoboGames. In 2003 recorded 2504 robot fights at 39 combat events. Those numbers have decreased with each passing year. See the chart on the Team Run Amok homepage. By 2009 there were only 472 robot fights at 10 combat events -- an 81% decrease in fights and a 74% decrese in events in six years.

Team Run Amok has been pointing out this trend for several years with hopes of inspiring innovation and change in robot competition. We have also:

  • Sponsored three Antbotica competitions to showcase an alternative to the standard combat tournament structure;
  • Seeded discussion with our 'Robot Paradigms' page; and
  • Examined combat judging guidelines with our 'You Be the Judge' quiz.
I don't think we're being overly 'negative' and we certainly aren't trying to take over the sport, but we have been accused of both. I'd be very pleased to report on any good news concerning the future of combat robotics. If you can find any just let me know.

Q: Good news! I looked into the 2010 robogames statistics (that was the event I attended) as well as the 2009 ones, and the total decrease of combat robots above 30 pounds was only 1! (74 total registered bots vs 75 total registered bots) When Ants and Beetles are taken into account, both numbers go into the 100s range. It should also be mentioned that you said there were 62 robots in 2009.

A: Very droll. Also misleading.

As I accurately reported, 62 robots fought at the 2009 RoboGames. No credit for registering, you've got to show up and fight. According to

  • 57 combat robots fought at RoboGames 2010: 14 feathers, 17 lights, 16 middles, 8 heavys , and 2 supers.
  • 62 combat robots fought at RoboGames 2009: 19 feathers, 15 lights, 16 middles, 9 heavys , and 3 supers.
No results from the insect events at RoboGames were reported to BotRank for either 2009 or 2010, so I cannot comment on a recent trend in those weight classes. It should also be mentioned that in 2008 there were 11 beetles, 14 ants, and 6 fairies competing at RoboGames, so your assertion that including the insects would drive participation 'into the 100s' seems unlikely to be correct.

If you believe that continuing losses are good news, you should invest in the stock market. You'll be ecstatic.

Q: What moron would register a bot and then not come? People drive me bonkers.

Well, excuse me while I enter my "run around in circles and shout 'We're all gonna die!!!'" phase.

A: I know that's a rhetorical question, but I thought I'd answer it anyway. A fair number of builders register a 'vaporbot' before the deadline and then can't finish construction in time for the tournament. Not morons, just poor planners with busy lives.

When you're done running and shouting, how about something constructive? Maybe create and host an alternative robot competition? Combat robotics needs to diversify.

Q: What happened to the battlebot hazards or killsaws?

A: BattleBots Inc. is still in operation. The arena, hazards, and all the 'goodies' are safely in storage. Once in a while they put on a 'corporate event' or find some other excuse to set up the arena and fight a few robots.

Not really a question, but a comment. I think the decline of robot combat graph on your [Team Run Amok] page might be a little inaccurate as an indicator of decline. You are pulling data from the RFL site which should be correct, but with the loss of Steve Judd, it hasn't been updated as much/at all. On top of that it doesn't include non-RFL fights. A more accurate source may be I am sure there more fights than are what are listed on botrank, both RFL and otherwise, but it is closer to an accurate number.

Mark J here: your point is well taken. When I started tracking these numbers in 2006 I believed the RFL data to be more stable and representative of the overall condition of combat robotics even though it did not capture all of the matches. That may no longer be the case.

For now I've modified the chart to show both RFL and BotRank data. Both data sets tell much the same story of decline - which is more the point of the chart than are absolute numbers.

Q: When I was looking on Robot Wars 1997 tournament trees, there's no photos about the competitors, is that because someone failed to take any photos of them?

A: Mark J here: my tournament tree pages have links to competitor photos from 1995 and 1996 at the archived Robot Wars webite from that period. I'm sure plenty of photos of the 1997 competitors were taken, but they never made it to the Robot Wars website. The partnership responsible for the US Robot Wars fell apart in 1997 and there was no update of the website with competitor photos.

Read 'Gearheads: the turbulent rise of robotic sport' by Brad Stone for the complete story.

Q: will you ever accept [more UK] Robot Wars questions?

A: See #37.

Q: What powered Tentomushi during its appearance in UK Robot Wars? I'm intrigued as to engine type and configuration for such a machine.

A: If you will look carefully at the box into which you typed your question, you will notice the following advisory:

We are not currently accepting questions about UK Robot Wars
tournaments or competitors. All other topics are welcomed.

Perhaps there are some browsers that do not properly parse the code to display that message?

If you have an interest in 'Tentomushi', I encourage you to follow the instructions available in our FAQ to research the archived web pages for Lisa Winter and the 'Robot Action League'.

Q: Can you give me a pic of 'Thwonkis Mobilis'?

A: I have full sets of photos of the 1995 and 1996 Robot Wars competitors accessible thru the Run Amok Tournament Results page under 'full results' for those events, but I have very few competitor photos from the 1994 or 1997 Robot Wars. Specifically, no photo of 'Thwonkis Mobilis'.

Note: has the early Robot Wars weight classes incorrectly categorized to match current weight classes. 'Thwonkis Mobilis' was a 25 pound 'featherweight' at the 1997 US Robot Wars.

Q: okay, are there any sites where I CAN see pics of the 94 and 97 bots? what happened to Thwonkis? what was his weapon? what happened to spirit of frank? can I have info on cooker? Oh! what hapened to crreping death and robot redforn junior? why did I eat so much sugar? that is all.

A: I don't hoard. If I knew of a good sites for photos of the '97 US Robot Wars robots I would have pointed you to them. Photos of the '94 bots are likewise rare. A very few photos of the '94 event can be seen on the 'photos' page at the archived Robot Wars site.

Featherweight 'Thwonkis Mobilis' fought two matches at the '97 US Robot Wars and lost them both. Depressed, 'Thwonkis' made its way to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and leapt off - only to land on the deck of a freighter bound for Nicaragua. After hitching a ride into Managua, 'Thwonkis' worked as an electrician in a petroleum refinery for several years and saved every penny until it had enough money to open a small bingo parlor. It married a lovely girl named Grizelda and had four children: a girl, two boys, and a soda can. The family is doing well. **

I think something similar happened to 'Spirit of Frank', 'Creaping Death', and 'Robot Redford Junior'. I've never heard of 'Cooker' -- if you mean 'Cooks', I believe it was crushed by a cable car immediately after its loss to 'Ominous Brick of Havoc' in 1997.

** There are hundreds of combat robots that fought once, lost, and neither they or their builders were ever heard of again. If you had read the FAQ (#32) and this archive (multiple posts), you'd know how we feel about questions concerning these obscure, one-time competitors. We spent months digging thru records from the early Robot Wars to reconstruct the tournament trees ( got their data from us) and we found little or no information about most of the competitors. I suspect that there would be little to learn from most of their stories if you could uncover them.

Q: Ok, thanks, I don't know how much they faught though lol.

A: You can follow every robot thru the entire tournament at any of the early Robot Wars events at the Run Amok 'Who Won' page. Just click on the button for the weight class you'd like to see. You can also follow the entire career of any robot you like at the Unique Name DataBase. Search for their name, then click on 'history'.

Q: ...and was Cooks really crushed?

A: I have no idea what happened to 'Cooks' after it lost to 'Ominous Brick of Havoc' at the '97 Robot Wars and I have no details of that fight.

Q: ...and what happened to Jim Smentowski?

A: Jim Smentowski got depressed and jumped off the Golden... no, wait! Jim went on to build a whole bunch of very successful combat robots and open the Robot Marketplace.

Q: how many robots on battlebots were on robot wars UK?

A: You know that box you wrote your question in? The white box that says 'We are not currently accepting questions about UK Robot Wars tournaments or competitors'? We mean it.

Q: Are there any combat cup competitions coming up in next 3-4 months?

A: RoboGames is scheduled to host an event in April, 2010, BUT No 'Combots Cup' event appears on their posted list of events.

Q: I hear that Battlebots is going to be at the Maker Fare instead of the Combots Cup. Do you know if this is true?

A: Mark J. here: trying to confirm BattleBots rumors is a fool's errand.

Q: Hi aaron i don't know whether it is right place to ask this question. But in which month will this years BATTLEBOTS tournament will be held. On their site they say the cmpetition has been postponed but any rough guesses about the month in which they'll take place. Thanks.

A: Mark J. here: on their Twitter feed BattleBots claims to have postponed the April 2010 tournament because of "new opportunities that have come up (things we can't talk about yet)". The BattleBots organizers have repeatedly proven themselves to be very sparse with the truth, producing a torrent of hype and misinformation with total disregard for competitors and fans. My best guess on the date for a 2010 tournament would be 'never'.

Q: If Battlebots actually broadcast a show, will you write about it again?

A: Mark J. here: on the Team Run Amok page I announced that there would be no further mention of BattleBots due to the long history of faulty and misleading information from the company. That prohibition applies to the activities of BattleBots Inc. and not to the efforts of participants in their events. The participants have my sympathies but they really should know better than to associate themselves with BattleBots, IMHO.

If a show airs, it will be open for discussion here.

Q: When will you start accepting Robot Wars questions again?

A: Mark J. here: don't hold your breath. We have very little interest in the types of Robot Wars questions we received in recent months.

Q: But will you accept questions about behind the scenes and really notable competitor bots like Razer?

A: If we answer any Robot Wars questions we'll be constantly arguing with submitters about the relevance of their questions.

"You answered a question about [insert robot name here], so why won't you answer my question about [insert robot name here]?"

Sorry to disappoint, but no Robot Wars questions.

Q: Were there ever 'house bots' in a US tournament? Not counting Robot Wars Extreme Warriors, of course.

A: Yes, but not in quite the same role. The 1994 Robot Wars in San Francisco had three events:

  • a standard 'Face-Off' combat tournament with arena hazards;
  • a pair of 'Mob Scene' fights with multiple robots; and
  • a never repeated event called 'Escort' where contestants attempted to protect a small R/C robot from an attacking 'House Robot'.
I don't have photos of this event and have no information on the 'House Robot'.

The second and third seasons of 'Robotica' also had a type of 'House Robot'. A pair of robot 'Rats' (maybe 60 pounds each) were roaming the 'Labyrinth' section of the competition. These house-operated robots would impede the competitors, or sometimes assist if a robot became stuck.

Q: [Chinese Forum] A little question: Why does RFL tournaments couldn't be seen on TV? Someone in our place thinks that they don't have the economic or the other power to do that because the new BB can present its own official video and try to broadcast it on TV while RFL couldn't (Or they didn't try)...

A: Mark J. here: anyone can put a show on TV -- all it takes is money. Money to stage, money to film, money to edit, and money to buy time on some cable TV network. Then you have to sell commercial time to make your money back. BattleBots is well financed. They can afford to pile money into a risky television project that may or may not make their money back. The RFL is a loose organization of event organizers who can barely afford to build fighting arenas.

Q: But why BB organised so few matches in the recent years while RFL did? And what is the biggest robot combat association in US nowadays?

A: Robot combat events do not make money -- quite the opposite. Unless you have major sponsors they lose a whole lot of money. The RFL is a group of individuals who put on events because they love robot combat. BattleBots is a for-profit business which has been putting on a very few events in an effort to keep their corporate image alive while waiting for the time when they can return to profitable operations.

The RFL continues to put on more combat events in the US than all other sources combined.

Q: Why are you not accepting [questions about] rw competitors?

A: Mark J. here: as previously stated, our main focus is to support builders of combat robots with information, design tools, and opinions based on our competition experience. As a secondary service we are pleased to share our knowledge about what goes on 'behind the scenes' and 'in the pits' at competitions, our views on issues important to the sport, and information we have uncovered while researching the history of robot combat.

In the past Aaron and I have done our best to answer any and all questions on the broad topic of robot combat. Recently we have found ourselves answering a large volume of Robot Wars trivia which lies well outside the focus of this website. We are not interested in investing more of our time in this area. There are plenty of fanboy sites out there that can provide this information.

Q: Is the DVD of new Battlebots available?

A: Nope. Don't expect it anytime soon - the results haven't even been officially released yet [as of January, 2010].

Q: [Chinese Forum] Another question about TSN:Why did Shrederator turned into a totally different shape while facing to Megabyte in the HW Final?

A: Shrederator has been very badly damaged in an earlier match. Team Logicom punted and put the pieces that still worked together to make a bar-spinner for the final. I admire their resourcefulness.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Pretty much people in youtube believe that Tekka Maki beating Shrederator during TSN 03 was pure of luck, but I think Tekka did a great job and that KO is reasonable, could you tell me your opinion abuout that fight, Aaron?

A: I'm with the majority - 'Tekka Maki' got lucky, IMHO. Full body spinners are often their own worst enemy. 'Shrederator' was taking him apart and something just came loose inside the big spinner. It happens from time to time with a full-body spinner -- they take as much of a beating as they dish out.

Q: Do you know when we can see the Battlebots 6.0?

A: A BattleBots tweet claims that something will be aired December 10th, 2009 on the difficult to find 'CBS College Sports Network'. Information from BattleBots has proven to be incredibly unreliable, so don't bet on it.

UPDATE: December 7th - a new BattleBots tweet now says that their 2009 tournament will not be broadcast on the CBS College Sports Network after all, once again proving them to be a source of incredibly unreliable information. Remember this if you decide to have dealings with them.

Q: As there are some videos of Battlebots 6.0 in Youtube, do you think we can see all the matches in Youtube one day?

A: I have no way of knowing.

Q: What is wrong with the ax touching the flipper, like on Project One?

Q: What is the concept of 3 part clusterbots like V3?

Q: How much it took you to compete in UK?

Q: Why did Joe Murawski replace Buzz, which I thought was a very origional robot, with the unreliable fliper?

Q: Was the alllignment of Nijitsu horizotal or vertical?

Q: What was Dragbot's weapon?

A: Mark J. here: we are not currently accepting any questions about Robot Wars tournaments or competitors.

Q: Can you upload RWEW 2 fights in heats A, B, E, F and G, and also the USA vs UK, the annihilator & the house robot rebellion onto youtube?

A: See #13.

Q: Why were nets allowed in early robot combat, even though they were cheating and were eventually banned?

A: Mark J. here: you may believe that nets had some unfair advantage, but they were allowed by the rules so they clearly weren't 'cheating'. Nets and other 'entanglement devices' were allowed as recently as the 'Robotica' series.

In early robot combat nobody knew what types of weapons would provide the most entertaining battles so a lot of freedom was allowed within the rules. The 'damage is fun' crowd was disgusted by the lack of violence in a net-throwing victory and they eventually pushed thru rules against them. Robot combat used to be more fun than it is now.

Q: But Brutus Maximus was disqualified from a series 7 qualifier for use of a net, even though he was given a discretionary place, eventually, but told not to use the net. Bulldog Breed was nearly disqualified for leaving a Mesh trailing from it's flipper, however, it wasn't meant to be used as a weapon, and so, it was merely warned about use of the mesh again, and got as far as the last 8.

A: Robot Wars could choose to enforce the rules however they liked and they often did so in inconsistent ways - rather like you use commas.

Q: In a number of matches in RWEW1 Shunt was mentioned as a house bot on the battleboards, but wasn't involved. Why?

A: The 'Battleboard' was added when the video from the tournament was edited into the format for the show. The editors made a few mistakes.

Q: What would've happened if Rosie was given the win over Snake bite in the RWEW2 house robot rebellion qualifier? If rosie and Buzz both won their round 2 games, would they have beaten the house robots?

A: We don't speculate on fantasy matches.

Q: Was the loaner bot Hoot- Given to teams in America and Holland for Robot Wars- based on an owl?

A: It does look a bit like an owl...

Q: I'm not asking for the whole fight. All i am asking for is what caused the Termite's defeat to Dragbot?

A: Only because it is instructive: Dave forgot to charge Termite's main battery before the match. Make a pit checklist and follow it!

Q: Was dredbot turned into drillzilla?

A: Same robot.

Q: Did Chris Harriman buy Tut Tut or was it a gift or prize?

A: None of the above. 'TutTut' was one of several loanerbots built by the Robot Wars tech crew. Chris was loaned the robot for use at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 1 after 'Cyclone' was damaged beyond field repair. Like all other loanerbots, 'Tut Tut' was returned to Robot Wars at the end of the show. It went on to compete - again as a loanerbot - at Nickelodeon Robot Wars with another team.

Q: Who fought with Tut Tut in Nickelodeon Robot Wars? I heard it was Chris Harriman, thats why I asked whether he bought it.

A: There is an error at that indicates Chris had 'Tut Tut' at Nickelodeon. I don't recall the name of the kid who drove (kids drove all the 'bots at the Nickeodeon Robot Wars), but 'Tut Tut' was operating under the supervision of Mike Morrow and Team JuggerBot.

Q: Do you know what seed Dominator 2 was in Series 7 before dropping out?

A: 'Dominator 2' would certainly have been seeded highly in the Seventh Wars if the team had competed. Based on their Sixth Wars performance and the other teams that dropped out, they would have been about 3rd seed. No official 'woulda-been' ranking is available.

Q: Are you sure about Dominator 2 being seeded 3? It would have been 5, right?

A: That was off the top of my head, which is why I said 'about'. I looked at the tournament tree and this is how I see it:

  • 'Tornado' was the defending champion - first seed.
  • 'Razer' was runner-up, but did not compete in the Seventh Wars - no seeding.
  • 'Firestorm IV' lost to the eventual champion in the semi-finals - second seed.
  • 'Terrorhurtz' lost to the eventual runner-up in the semi-finals - third seed.
  • 'Dominator 2' lost to the eventual champion in the quarter finals. If he had shown up - fourth seed.
Did I miss something?

Q: What was the greatest RW shock to you? Was it Aggrobot beating Razer (in Series 3), Iron Awe beating Bigger Brother (Series 7), Dantomkia beating Choas 2 (series 6), Raging Nightmare Beating Spawn Again(Series 7) or any other?

A: My biggest shock was 'Terrorhurtz' being a no-show for its opening round match in Series 7. Anything can happen in combat, but I never expected a seeded team to default.

Q: How many appearences, in total, did each House robot make in RWEW2? Who was alongside Sir Killalot the most times?

A: Sorry - I don't have a list of house robot appearances for Robot Wars Extreme Warriors or Nickelodeon Robot Wars, and I'm not going to sit thru a series again to run a tally.

Q: Were Mr psycho and growler in the German series of Rw?

A: I've never seen the German Robot Wars and have no info on the House Robots that appeared in that series.

Q: What's it with robot's being trashed by the house robots? Micro-mute, Vortex Inducer, Paul Bunyan and Major Tom are 4 examples of robots who broke down routinely, and were thrashed by the house bots.

Q: In RWEW2, heat D, in the other first round melle( the one not involving the Gap), why were the house robots allowed to attack Psycho chicken outside his CPZ?

A: There was a reason why Robot Wars Extreme Warriors was hosted by professional wrestlers. As previously discussed in this archive, Robot Wars was less a combat tournament than it was a television entertainment. Serious competitors were treated with a bit more respect than 'novelty' entrants, but even that broke down from time to time for the sake of 'entertainment'.

A good part of the dissatisfaction that resulted in many teams 'sitting out' tournaments late in the series had to do with the destructive actions of the house robots.

Q: Do you know if there will be merchandise for the '09 Battlebots?

A: BattleBots has gone from a multi-season cultural phenomenon to a poorly attended tournament that can't even pay to get itself aired on a backwater cable network. I'd bet against merchandise.

Q: What happened when your robots Zanzara and Run Away met Bigger Brother and Kat 3 in the international Tag Team Championship in Nickelodeon RW? What was your opinion on those 2? It was obvious why Bigger Brother would be in such a tournament, but why was Kat 3?

A: Mark J. here: two clarifications. First, 'Zanzara' (latin for 'mosquito') was a Robot Wars loanerbot -- not really 'our' robot. It was loaned to us when 'Propeller-Head' destroyed a drive gearbox on 'The Gap' and it could not be repaired.

Second, 'Run Away' was not in the Tag Team playoff match and neither was 'Kat 3'. Neither robot survived the first round eliminator. We had already pieced 'Run Away' back together once from scrap pieces after the damage it sustained from 'Destructive Criticism' in the RWEW2 main tournament and a second scrap rebuild was not possible. The playoff was 'Zanzara' versus 'Bigger Brother' head-to-head. The match was no contest. 'Bigger Brother' repeatedly flipped the loanerbot 'Zanzara', who had broken its meager weapon in the first round. 'Bigger Brother' was fast, controlled, and packed considerable offense.

All of the UK robots that appeared at the Nickelodeon Robot Wars were simply experienced teams that were invited in for the day. It was just a matter of who the producers found that would be ready and willing to show up.

Q: Why did Ref Bot stop counting Maximus when only its weapon was moving and count out Nite rider after both it and Maximus lost drive at the same time? Terror Bull and Mekaniac were deamt Immobile even though their weapons were moving so why wasnt Maximus?

A: Mark J. here: As previously mentioned, the Robot Wars matches were edited for television. The editors were more interested in making the matches exciting than in getting all the details right. It's possible that a key bit was cut out. You cannot assume that you saw the entire match. I wasn't there, so cannot say for sure what actually happened.

Q: I argue the use of Killalot and Bash as house bots in Tornado's match with Bigger Brother (in all stars) yieled Conspiricies, as I claim on youtube. I need to know it isn't.

A: Mark J. here: it's difficult to disprove a conspiracy theory. I have no information that would sway a believer.

Q: How did Root Canal do in Battlebots 6.0?

A: BattleBots prefers to keep results from their most recent tournament 'secret' until they are broadcast. We will comply with their wishes -- assuming they ever do get broadcast.

Q: When did The American RWEW air, and do you remember watching matches with other teams?

A: The first series filmed in June/July of 2001 and aired starting in late August 2001. The second series filmed in January, 2002 and started airing in late February or March of the same year. We did attend a couple of public viewing parties with Team JuggerBot and Rosie the Riveter, but the other teams were scattered across the country.

Q: Why didn't Rick, 8645T, Mega Morg, Steel Advenger, Atomic, Velocirippa (but it's team-mate competed), King B or Big nipper, participate in Series 6, even though they all participated in Series 5 and 7 and were better than robots which did qualify?

A: There were hard feelings between many of the teams and the event producers that came to a head late in the run of Robot Wars. Many teams sat out the 6th Wars. Many others sat out the 7th Wars. Ask around at the FRA Forum to get the first-hand info.

Q: Was Sir K.-Bash at least once in every show in RWEW2? If it was, was it due to conspiricies (it raises a negative atmosphere in my opinion)?

A: As mentioned previously, the Robot Wars technical crews just pulled out whatever house robots were handy and functioning for any given match. No real plan, no conspiracies, just luck of the draw.

Q: When did Bash Crumple Paul Bunyan's 230 RPM disk?

A: 'Paul Bunyan' had what may have been the world's slowest disk weapon. I believe the weapon was destroyed in the first round qualifier for the RWEW2 Robot Rebellion.

Q: Did Matilda have chainsaw or flywheel in Nickelodeon RW? What pictures of her were there?

A: As I recall, housebot 'Matilda' had the flywheel weapon at the Nickelodeon Robot Wars. You'll have to find your own pictures.

Q: Why wasn't Matilda involved in the first 4 shows in Series 7?

A: Luck of the draw.

Q: How come 'Humdrum' immobilized 'Spawn Again' on first contact?

A: 'Joker' (AKA 'Humdrum') defeated Spawn Again in the first round eliminator for the War of Independence at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 1. I believe 'Spawn Again' had a faulty kill switch -- any impact would have disabled it.

Q: Why were Tricerabot, Rosie the Riveter, Tut Tut, Drillzilla, and even Killalot & Matilda breaking the rules in the first match of the tag team in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 1?

A: Have you never seen a wrestling tag team match? They always start out following the rules and then it falls apart into chaos. That makes for good entertainment, and it was made clear to the competitors that this same pattern would be used in the tag team matches.

Q: How did you feel when the judges awarded your team the victory in the other tag team match, because the judges thought Killalot was out of order again, even though this was no reason to change the result of a tie in which the other pair were seemingly superior (no offence meant)? How do you feel when your team benefits from wrongful judges desicions like this? Do you have Sympathy for the opponents?

A: Mark J. here: Robot Wars matches were edited for broadcast and it is unwise to call a match based on what you saw on television. I saw several matches that had 'controversial' outcomes when broadcast that were clearly correctly judged when viewed in person. The matches were edited to make them entertaining - not to make the outcome clear.

In the Tag Team match you mention, 'General Chompsalot' and 'Run Away' had been dominating 'Falcon' and 'Joker' (the renamed loanerbot 'Humdrum'). Joker became stuck on an arena hazard at one point and had to be 'rescued' by a house robot, just to keep the match going.

I had tagged 'General Chompsalot' and moved 'Run Away' off away from the action. Busy watching the match, I did not notice that Sir K. had violated the rules by leaving the patrol zone and venturing into the middle of the arena. He picked up 'Run Away', tried to throw her out of the arena, put her on the 'flipper' upside-down and launched her back onto her wheels! Somewhere in this abuse 'Run Away' lost the chain drive to the rear axle and was immobile.

The judges elected to score the match based entirely on action up to the time of Sir K's infraction. They correctly awarded the match to us. There was no 'tie' that had to be broken, and there was no dissention from the audience or the other teams. I have never disagreed with the decision of the Robot Wars judges in any match that I had the opportunity to see in person.

Q: Was the worst self inflicted immobilization in robot combat Cyclone, Blendo, War Hog, Mauler, or Fluffy? Or is there any other bad self inflicted spinner immobilization in any robot event?

A: There have been so many! 'The worst' has to be a matter of opinion. I am personally very fond of 'Mauler' flipping itself over onto it's own back in a wild demonstration of spin instability.

Q: Why do you think [the Robot Wars] loaners are not destructive? Whilst loanerbots like Hoot, and Green mouse/squirmin Vermin were average, but ones like Tut Tut and Vertigo were good. Which team drove Vertigo?

A: The loanerbots were built with rugged chassis and reasonable drive trains, but their weaponry was dismal. They were designed to simply fill-in spots in events where no suitable 'real' competitor could be found.

I cannot think of a single example of a loanerbot causing any weapon damage to another able competitor. The rotary blade on 'Silver Box'/'Zanzara' was comical. The full-body spinner 'Humdrum' (AKA 'Joker') spun at about 200 RPM and would not have damaged a sturdy cardboard box. 'Rott Box' had a pnumatic mace that would not crack a walnut. 'Hoot' had rotary bars that had almost no power and would fall off on impact. Any success that a loanerbot may have had was based entirely on their basic drivetrain. None of the teams feared the loanerbots.

We have previously mentioned one exception to this rule. When Chris Harriman was given 'Tut Tut' for use in RWEW1 he examined the pneumatics used for the overhead axe, opened his parts box, and reworked the system on his own to provide more power. It was still not a 'killer' axe, but when combined with the pyramidal body design it was a reasonable competitor.

'Vert-I-Go' was loaned for use in the Nickelodeon Robot Wars, but I don't recall to which team.

Q: What were the house bot combinations for every [match] in RWEW 2?

A: If you're interested in specific fights, you'll have to watch the tapes yourself.

Q: Is it true that the reason why Tartarus claimed their robot was built by a secret agent in Series 7 was because the driver didn't turn up and the replacement team didn't know about the robot? Or was it a wind up to shock Jayne Middlemiss?

A: Roboteers were encouraged to make exaggerated claims and to come up with outrageous stories in their interviews. Why specific claims were made about secret agents, I have no idea.

Q: Why do robots drive in the pit? Not just 'The Gap', but 'Basenji', 'Disconstructor', 'Brute', 'Major Tom', 'Killerhurtz', 'Meshuggah', and even 'Panic Attack', 'Chaos 2' and 'Firestorm'. Why do they do that?

A: At Robot Wars, the drivers were in an enclosed, second-story room looking out onto an arena larger than a basketball court with The Pit down near the far end. Many drivers had never tried to operate their robots under similar conditions. The TV cameras had a much better view of the area around The Pit, but the drivers had no access to the camera views.

Often landing in The Pit was a matter of miss-judging the position of your robot. You may have been trying to shove your opponent in and just missed, or you may just not be able to tell where the edge of the pit is from your driving viewpoint.

Sometimes the robot was handling poorly due to damage. In the case of 'The Gap', 'Propeller-Head' had scored a direct hit on one of the gearboxes and the robot was only capable of driving in a circle - a circle that happened to intersect The Pit.

Once in a while it was deliberate. If your robot was damaged to the extent that the House Robots were about to come out and tear it apart, The Pit can be your friend. Driving into The Pit could save your robot to fight another day.

Q: why was Cassius chrome never alongside Dead metal or Matilda as house robots?

A: 'Cassius Chrome' appeared in fewer than 20 matches in the Seventh Wars. That didn't give it much time to change dance partners. The backstage technical guys just pulled whatever house robot was handy and functional for the next match. No conspiracy involved, just luck of the draw.

Q: If Rammstein was a Super-Heavyweight robot, how did it get to fight in the Heavyweight division in the Robot War of Independence tournament?

A: 'Rammstein' was a superheavyweight, but more by choice than design. For BattleBots 'Rammstein' tipped the scales at 270 pounds - very light for a superheavy. Pull out one of the heavy batteries, remove an armor plate, install a smaller CO2 tank and presto -- instant heavyweight.

Q: What robots had hair/fur that was set on fire?

A: Seriously?

Q: How many heavyweight bots still compete in the US?

A: The 'current rankings' keep a running list of robots by weight class that have fought in the last 18 months. That list (as of November, 2009) shows 16 heavyweight robots -- but that does not include the 25 robots that registered to fight in the heavyweight division at the 2009 BattleBots competition because results from that tournament are still 'secret'.

Q: Hmmm,well i do like to know which bot has the most wins that is a heavyweight.

A: Go browse the heavyweight 'History Score' section at They have win/loss records for all robots from traditional one-on-one combat tournaments. Click on the green 'Score' for a complete fight-by-fight combat record for any specific robot. Hours of fun!

Q: Have there been any robots in Robot Wars to never lose a battle that debuted in Series 4 or onwards?

A: Mark J. here: think about that question for a minute and you can probably answer it yourself.

The robot would have had to win the first tournament it ever entered and then win every subsequent tournament. Assuming that you're talking about the main Robot Wars tournament, only one robot has done that. Not difficult to figure out. [Answer: 'Typhoon']

Q: What are the 5 robots that appeared in every Battlebots? I know Blade Runner and Nightmare but who else?

A: According to Jim Smentowski the five robots that competed in all seven BattleBots tournaments from Long Beach '99 thru Comedy Central Season 5.0 were:

  • BioHazard
  • frenZy
  • Nightmare
  • Tazbot
  • Voltronic
Blade Runner (and 25 other robots) competed at all five of the Comedy Central tournaments, but not at Long Beach '99 or Las Vegas '99.
Q: Is this (top) a photo of 'Medusa Oblongata' or 'Ninjitsu'?

A: The photo you found is a Team-X-Bots shot of 'Medusa Oblongata' from Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 2 before it got its war paint and decorations added. I found a photo (bottom) on the Team Truly Unruly site of their robot after it got decorated. 'Ninjitsu' did have a similar square rotary blade, but it was mounted horizontally. 'Medusa Oblongata' from RWEW1 looked completely different.

Q: Is there a picture of Ninjitsu anywhere?

A: I don't have one.

Q: What did Team Vicious enter in RWEW?

A: Mike Regan showed up at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 1 with his first heavyweight robot -- 'The Brute'. For RWEW2 'The Brute returned with a spinning drum weapon.

Mike also drove one of the Robot Wars 'loanerbots' at RWEW1. The 'bot was called 'Silver Box' and it competed in the Robot Rebellion.

Q: Was Sugar Plum Fairy from Technogames a modified robot wars competitor?

A: Many teams did compete at Techno Games with renamed and thinly disguised Robot Wars entries, but I didn't keep track of who renamed what for Techno Games.

Q: What is this? (Team Litewav photo taken at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 1).

A: We've discussed that photo before. Search this archive for 'Eubank'.

Q: I know there is a list of the six loanerbots in the archives, but which teams were they assigned to and why?

A: As previously mentioned, the 'loanerbots' were loaned to teams at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors who's own robots were lost in transit, damaged beyond repair in the main tournament, or failed to pass technical inspection. Why specific teams were selected over others to receive a loanerbot I can't say.

Tracking the loanerbots isn't easy. Some of the names changed between seasons ('Joker' became 'Humdrum', 'Green House' became 'Vert-I-Go', 'Green Mouse' became 'Squirmin Vermin'), some got a makeover ('Silver Box' got a fur coating to become 'Zanzara'), and some new ones (like 'Hoot') appeared for the second season. I don't have a full list of teams who used the loaners, and it will take more time to sort out than I have right now.

Q: Were there any walkers in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: You have to be either a masochist or an evil genius to build a walker. No walkers at RWEW 1 or 2.

Q: Hi Aaron, I've got some questions about Robot Wars Extreme Warriors Season 2.

1) Was Probophobia a walker? And how did it escape from the pit?

A: Probophobia was a wheeled robot, but it did have a pair of very long lifting arms sprouting from the sides of the machine that could rotate continuously in either direction. They could be used to drag/crawl forward in an emergency. These long lifting arms were able to get a grip on the edge of The Pit and lever Probophobia back onto the main arena surface during the Nickelodeon Robot Wars - the first and only time that a competitor escaped. Unfortunately, the rules say that once you're in The Pit you're out of the match - no reprieve possible.

2) Which robot was thrown out of the arena by Cyclone-Raptor?

A: I believe it was 'Hyperactive' in the second round of the Annihilator, but I'll have to check the tape to be sure. 'Cyclone' was the first spinner to throw an opponent out of the Robot Wars arena.

Q: I previously asked about Probophobia, thanks for the answers. Do you know which battle in Nickelodeon that it got out of the Pit?

A: I recall that it was in the 'Challenge Belt' competition against eventual champion 'TutTut'.

Q: in the first series of Robot Wars USA Championships Final, why didn't panzer mk 2 flip the Revolutionist out of the arena when it was on the arena wall in a CPZ?

A: 'Panzer Mk 2' had a pneumatically adjustable front plow. It could raise or lower over about an 8" range. Although it could be used to provide a little 'boost' to an opponent, it was never intended to be an effective flipper.

Q: Were all the loanerbots in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors and in Nickelodeon Robot Wars made from the same parts like the UK competitors? Because I'm just wondering that's all.

A: Not sure what you mean by "same parts like the UK competitors." The loanerbots had square-tube steel chassis' and were powered by Bosch GPA 750 motors. These were common components used by the Robot Wars tech crew on the House Robots.

Q: Do you think Bill Nye is awsome? I do. (Nice website)

A: Bill Nye is great at what he does. I didn't think he was a good match for BattleBots.

Q: I'm impressed with [old robot #1]'s two heavyweight title win like in 1999 after beating [old robot #2] earlier and 2000 beating [old robot #3], [old robot #4] and [old robot #5]. Are you impressed as well with his career?

A: Mark J. here: we all know that [old robot #1] rocked, but that was eight or ten years ago. It's time to move on and show a little love for the accomplishments of current robot builders that don't have a world-wide TV audience.

Q: Do you know which website I can give a e-mail about robot fights in each events of BattleBots?

A: There isn't much interest in details of each individual fight from BattleBots. We maintain the most complete record of tournament trees and individual match winners: Who Won. You can try to start a discussion at the old BattleBots Forum, but there isn't much action there anymore.

Q: If there were a robot competition for UK and USA, how many robots from USA would be flipped out of the arena and would it possible for british robots to flip american robots out of the arena? I know that's what british robots with pneumatic flippers are known to do.

A: I don't predict the outcome of fantasy matches, but if the event took place in the BattleBots arena no one would be flipped out as the arena floor extends out to the wall. US robots did compete at the Robot Wars world championships and UK flippers have competed at BattleBots.

Q: There's going to be a BB09 tournament!?!? No way!! When is it airing? What network?

A: The BattleBots '09 tournament took place in April at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. It wasn't much like the old tournaments - few classes, few robots. The date of the event slipped several times, and the airing date and network have changed as well.

According to the BattleBots website (September '09) the college student middleweight competition will air sometime in December, 2009 on the hard-to-find CBS College Sports Network.

No plans have been announced to air the Pro Heavyweight tournament, so don't get your hopes up.

Q: I have a question about Robot wars competitor 'The Stag'. How come he failed to compete in series 5?

A: Team Bodgeit tried to qualify for a spot in series 5, but they were just not impressive enough to make the show. The robot went thru an extensive redesign and rebuild to successfully qualify for Series 6 and 7. Trivia: 'The Stag' was originally entered for the series 5 qualifier under the name 'Mr. Hyde'.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Sorry for asking another fight decision that seems 'controversial': 'Nightmare' vs 'Battlerat' in BattleBots 4.0. What's your opinion,Aaron?

A: I agreed with the BattleBots judges (I usually did). 'Battlerat' did no consequential damage while 'Nightmare' tore Battlerat's weapon in half. Both 'bots were equally aggressive: never backing away, always advancing. Battlerat's strategy did allow it to control the match, but there was no 'control' scoring at BattleBots.

Q: Have you ever been on to send questions about what happen of these robot events fights?

A: Team Run Amok provided BotRank with most of their information about the early tournaments. The BotRank database has information only on individual match winners - they have no judges scores or event details.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Some people think that the result of the fight between 'Stealth Terminator' and 'M.O.E.' at BattleBots 5.0 was unfair, but I think the Judges' decision is right because ST showed a lot of agression and pretty good strategy there. Do you think this decision is controversial or not? And in your opinion, who should've won that battle?

A: I went back and watched the match again. In my book, this was no contest - 'Stealth Terminator' clearly won. The judging criteria for BattleBots was damage, aggression, and strategy.

  • The damage done by 'M.O.E.' was limited to tearing away a non-critical drop skirt from 'Stealth Terminator'. A 'hit', no matter how hard, only counts if it does damage.

  • 'Stealth Terminator' was much more aggressive, constantly moving forward on attack. Their aggressive ramming knocked out MOE's weapon for most of the match - a bigger deficit than loss of a drop skirt.

  • Who's strategy worked better? 'Stealth Terminator' was able to control the majority of the match and really took the fight to 'M.O.E.'.
I agree with the vast majority of the decisions by the BattleBots judges. I'm surprised that the scoring was as close as it was. The only people who want to make it controversial are the guys with an irrational love of hitting things with spinning weapons.
Q: Razer have broke downs in Robot Wars I see. But does he have broke downs in Battlebots as well?

A: 'Razer' is a complicated robot. Early in its career it suffered a number of mechanical failures that took it out of tournaments. Team Razer attributed their loss to 'Tazbot' at BattleBots Long Beach 1999 to a failure in their self-righting mechanism, and their second loss at Long Beach against 'Rhino' to a radio switch that flipped off on heavy impact. They made no comment on the cause of their loss to 'Voltarc' in Las Vegas.

Q: [Chinese Forum] A question that has been discussed in our forum for a long time: what caused KillaHurtz's success in Battlebots and what caused its bad fighting results in Robot Wars? I think it's only about luck, because in my opinion KHZ is a powerful, well-driven, and creative bot. What's your opinion, Aaron?

A: Robot Wars and BattleBots were very different competitions. The arenas were different, the judging expectations were different, and the type of competitors were different. I suspect that a good part of KillerHurtz's success at BattleBots was the relative novelty of a pneumatic overhead axe at the time coupled with their aggressive driving style.

Q: Do you think Vlad The Impaler's forklift weren't low enough to get underneath Biohazard's skirts like in 1999?

A: Mark J. here: we've had more than enough discussion of the 1999 Vlad/BioHazard match -- no more.

Q: How on earth did Voltarc beat Razer in 1999 Las Vegas I thought Razer beat him again like he did in Long Beach event.

A: Mark J. here: We do not provide detailed commentary for random fights not involving our own team.
We make exceptions only for particularly controversial or educational matches.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Are there any differences between Surgeon General (BB 5.0 version) and Surgeon General (BB 09 version)?

A: I'm not going to discuss specifics of BattleBots '09 matches or competitors until after the tournament is broadcast. Given the delays in the broadcast already, that may be a while.

Q: [Chinese Forum] Has Devil's Plunger ever lost to a drummer? It's fighting record is so hard to check out in detail so I wanna send this question to you...

A: What's so hard about checking out the record? Go to, find 'Devils Plunger' in the middleweight historic listing, click on the score, and it will show every match. You can click on an opponent and follow a link to the Builder's DB to get details on their weaponry.

If you do that, you'll find that 'Devils Plunger' did lose a match to the drum spinner 'Falcon' at the 2005 Robotic Revolution in New Orleans. Now, go do your own research.

Q: I really desperate to see that 1999 BioHazard/Vlad fight, a thing is I live in England. Is anyway I can get that DVD?

A: If you're sure you can view NTSC video, you could arrange for someone in the US to buy a copy and forward it to you.

Q: How can I buy a DVD of the 1999 Las Vegas tournament from BattleBots and send it to England? I only need some Dollars but I didn't have Dollars.

A: Dollars talk, my man.

Q: Is Karcas 2 a sucessful robot? I think it is! Why didn't Don Hudson take it to Battlebots 09?

A: With a record of 8 wins, 2 losses I think most people would consider Karcas 2 a successful robot. Don didn't take it to BB 6.0 because he had something better

Q: How on earth did Vlad The Impaler beat Biohazard in 1999 Las Vegas because I thought Biohazard too good for Vlad but so easy to beat?

A: Everybody wants to know about that fight. Vlad was a very serious competitor at the time and not at all easy to beat - the fight was the heavyweight final. See a brief description of the fight further down in this archive.

Q: What do you think of Huggy Bear?

A: Unique design, continued development, good fight record (17-5). Last fought in 2003 and likely not competitive against current middleweights. I hear that an updated heavyweight version fought at the spring 2009 BattleBots event.

Q: [Chinese Forum] In Biohazard Combat robot website, robot battles only shown the 1997 battles so is anyway that another battles shown like 1999 Battlebots Las Vegas Pay-per view?

A: You're really desperate to see that 1999 BioHazard/Vlad fight, aren't you? As previously stated, the only source I know for detailed info on that fight is the previously mentioned DVD from the 1999 BattleBots event in Las Vegas.

Q: Many teams (Team Mutant, Inertia Labs, Plumb Crazy...) have made special changes between matches when confronted with a special opponent. Team Tornado was neither the first nor the last to do it, but their match against 'Razer' was the most controversial. Why is that?

A: Tornado's 'anti-crusher web' was designed solely for use against Razer. Team Tornado had deployed a similar chassis extension in the 'International Championships' at RWEW2 months earlier, so the device did not come as a surprise to either the fans or the judges. Razer was ready with a countermeasure - a hook extension for their weapon.

The controversy came when Razer was able to hook Tornado's extension and carry them to 'The Pit'. The chassis extension was so large that Razer could not orient Tornado in a way to fit it into the hole. The best Razer could do was set Tornado down on top of the opening, and there Tornado sat while the last few seconds ran out on the match.

This is the source of the controversy. The judges were in a pickle. They had already ruled that the chassis extension was legal - it was exactly the maximum length and width allowed by the rules (2 meters by 1.4 meters). After deliberating for 45 minutes, they decided that Razer had not succeeded in placing Tornado 'in the pit' and awarded the match decision and the UK Championship to Tornado. Razer fans still hate that decision!

Q: [Chinese Forum] some people in our forum think that there MUST be something wrong with 'Warhead' when it was facing 'Overkill' in the BB 5.0 quarterfinals. Was that true?

A: Warhead certainly didn't look right and wasn't moving well. Team Razer never commented on the fight, so I can't do more than guess.

Q: Were you at RG09? Who did 'The Mortician' lose to beside 'VD5'? What do you think of 'Professor Chaos'?

A: We weren't at the event , but results from RoboGames '09 are up at 'The Mortician' lost to 'VD5' and 'TSA Inspected'.

WPI Combat Robotics have put together one of the most terrifying middleweights in the history of the sport. 'Professor Chaos' dominates the middleweight class with a record of 10 wins and no losses, defeating the number 2 and 3 ranked robots along the way. I don't know who has the capability to stop them!

Q: Does some Battlebot battles have 23-22 split decisions and does 23-22 split decision always what Mark Beiro says on Judges scorecards?

A: Yes, and yes.

Q: Does the SECR still exist? Their site has changed and I can't find a new one.

A: To the best of my knowledge, South Eastern Combat Robotics no longer exists. Their website has been down for a couple of years and they are no longer listed in the Robot Fighting League membership roster.

Update: As of 2010, SECR still exists! Although no longer organizing large events, they still hold a couple of insect-class events a year. Their forum can be found at

Q: I have a Dutch Robot Wars question. Do you know what 'Beaverbot' and 'Impact' look like?

A: Photo of 'Beaverbot' here. Try a sarch for video of the Dutch Robot Wars series 2 heat B where 'Beaverbot' and 'Impact' fought each other.

Q: Is that right that Vlad the Impaler drove in deep under the skirt, lifted, and rammed Biohazard into a wall who nearly flipped over, Vlad grip Biohazard on his back and push it backwards and a killsaws does Vlad a favour and Biohazard was flipped over and lost the ability to self-right. Vlad won by KO went on to win the 1999 Las Vegas Pay-per-view event? [Chinese Forum]

A: We do not provide detailed commentary for random fights not involving our own team. We make exceptions only for particularly controversial or educational matches. We also do not confirm the accounts of others.

Q: Does Jonathon Ridder knows about Season 3.0 lightweight rumble which he won alongside three lightweight titles? Ziggo is my favourite bot.

A: I'm sure Jonathan knows all about it. Maybe you should ask him?

Q: I know 'Beta' failed to compete in Battlebots, but has it involed in any other fight, no matter official or not? [Chinese Forum]

A: Not that I know of.

Q: Has Vlad II improved since it appeared in RoboGames 2008? It did pretty crap there and I don't know what happened. [Chinese Forum]

A: You can find 'Vlad the Impaler II's current and complete record at

Q: Which is the oldest UK team that is still competing? Team Hurtz @ 11 years? What do you think of this "team of axe"? [Chinese Forum]

A: Mark J. here: I'm having trouble obtaining competitor lists and results from UK events, so it's difficult for me to define or determine exactly who is 'still competing' there.

John Reid was kind enough to correspond with us while we were building our first combat robot. He gave us some very helpful information. I think that John and Team Hurtz have done a great deal to promote robot combat and that they are key to the continuing success of robot combat in the UK.

Q: Has Voltronic been damaged badly by MOE at BattleBots 4.0? Because I see Stephen rebuild an all new Voltronic in 5.0. [Chinese Forum]

A: Lots of reasons to build a new version of a robot. I don't know why Stephen Felk chose to build new rather than rebuild.

Q: Is 'Frenzy' the oldest axe in Robot Wars US? Is Patrick Campell one of the most experienced drivers/builders in Battlebots? [Chinese Forum]

A: I think 'Thor' was the first robot with a vertical 'hammer' attack (Robot Wars 1995). 'TerMinal frenZy' first appeared at the 1996 Robot Wars. As I'm sure you already know, Patrick has enormous experience - he competed for a long time in a variety of events.

Q: Does Carlo Bettocchini knows what happened and won by a that 23-22 decision? Poor Center Punch's Ann Beaver. [Chinese Forum]

A: I'll be sure to ask the next time I run into Carlo.

Q: What caused some robots like 'X-Terminator S7 version' and 'TerrorHurtz" become 'flipper killer'? [Chinese Forum]

A: Mostly a matter of luck. They each had a run of good fortune against flippers, but they could have equally likely have had a good run against any other weapon type.

Q: What do you think of Team Sharpnel and Team Raptor? [Chinese Forum]

A: I'm not going to give an opinion on every team in combat robotics. I don't think that would be of interest to the intended users of this website.

Q: In Each robots in 1999 battlebots Las Vegas and 2000 San Franciso didn't how they won like knockouts or a judges. So is anywhere how can I find out how those bots won by knockouts or Judges?

A: I suppose you could dig around in an archived copy of the old BattleBots website but for me, a win is a win however it comes.

Q: Where can I find all of the fights in 1999 Battlebots Las Vegas instead of that DVD?

A: The DVD is the only source I know, and I don't believe that all 26 fights are recorded there.

Q: In is anywhere I can find 1999 Las Vegas Pay-per-view, I been on that website but I can not find it?

A: Try archives of the site from different times at The Wayback Machine. You may have to search thru records for each competitor to get specific match scores. Do you really care that much about knockouts versus judges decisions?

Q: 'Biohazard' and 'Center Punch' fight is not televised. But are you got lucky that 'Biohazard' beat 'Center Punch' by 23-22 decision?

A: I didn't see the match, but in my experience BioHazard never 'got lucky' with judging. BioHazard was simply good.

Q: Chinese Forum: who is the most successful team [at BattleBots] that isn't from US: Team Hurtz or Team Automatum?

A: Depends on how you define 'success'. Both teams have 2 'Giant Nut' trophies:

  • Team Automatum won the middleweight class at the 1999 Long Beach event (Son of Smashy) and was the middleweight 'runner-up' at BB 4.0 (Complete Control).

  • Team Hurtz was the heavyweight 'runner up' (KillerHurtz) and John Reid won 'Best Driver' at the 1999 Long Beach event.

Q: Is 'Son Of Smashy' the only robot win a Battlebots championship that isn't from US?

A: 'Son of Smashy' from the Canadian 'Team Automatum Technologies' based in Vancouver, B.C. won the middleweight championship at the 1999 BattleBots Long Beach tournament and is the only tournament class winner from outside the US. However, other 'Giant Nuts' have been awarded to non-US robots:

  • 'KillerHurtz: 2nd place heavyweight - Long Beach 1999
  • John Reid (KillerHurtz): best driver award - Long Beach 1999
  • 'Razer': heavyweight rumble winner - Long Beach 1999
  • "Mortis': most aggressive award - Las Vegas 1999
  • 'Suicidal Tendencies': best newcomer - BB 1.0
  • 'Complete Control': 2nd place middleweight - BB 4.0

There is a more interesting trend amongst the tournament class winners a BattleBots: with a single exception, all of the tournament winners in all of the weight classes lived within 50 miles of the Pacific ocean on the west coast of North America. The exception: BB 3.0 heavyweight winner 'Son of Whyachi' was from Wisconsin, about 120 miles from Lake Michigan. The winner of both Robot Wars Extreme Warriors tournaments (Team Panzer) and 2 of the 3 Robotica tournaments (Team Run Amok and Team Panzer) are also inside the 50 mile pacific limit. Robotica 2 champions 'Robot Dojo' are landlocked in Colorado.

Q: Who is the greatest children driver of Battlebots in your mind? Maybe Andy Sauro? [Chinese Forum]

A: Andy has been very successful, but I'm not sure how to separate his driving skill from other factors that contribute to his success. There is also the question of who qualifies as a 'child'. I don't think I'll comment further on this topic.

Q: Was Team Robot Action League the first team won the MW championship in Robot Wars? [Chinese Forum]

A: Team Robot Action League's 'Tentomushi' won the first UK Robot Wars middleweight title at the Third Wars in 1999, but the middleweight tournament there was just a few robots thrown together to accommodate the filming of a Robot Wars pilot episode for MTV. The focus at the UK Robot Wars has always been on the heavyweights.

The early US Robot Wars competitions had middleweight classes, but the weight limit varied. The winners there were 'X1' (1994, 70 pounds), 'La Machine' (1995, 80 pounds), 'The Agamemnon' (1996, 100 pounds), and 'Vicious-1' (1997, 100 pounds).

Q: Instead Voltronic couldn't self right against Biohazard but is it three times that Voltarc couldn't self-right against Vlad The Impaler? [Chinese Forum]

A: lists 25,966 robot fights from North America. For some odd reason I cannot remember the details of how each one of those fights went Your count of losses to Vlad is correct.

Q: I noticed that in the Nick. robot wars, Joker was a totally different bot than the loaner from Extreme 1. Was that their real bot, or was it another loaner?

A: Team Joker's 'bot for Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 1 was lost in transit, so they fought with a loaned robot. The second time to England they had better luck with shipping and they fought with their own robot at Extreme Warriors 2.

Q: Do you have some video of 'Mortis'? If you do, could you send me some? I really love him! [Chinese Forum]

A: Sorry, we don't distribute video. Your best bet is YouTube.

Q: What happened during the fight between 'Deb Bot' and 'The Killa Gorilla' in Robotica Season 2? [Chinese Forum]

A: File for future reference:

We do not provide detailed commentary for random fights not involving our own team.

We make exceptions only for particularly controversial or educational matches.

Q: Who built the first self-spinner? Jamie "Mythbuster" Hyneman (Blendo), the Tilfords (Mauler), or both of them? [Chinese Forum]

A: The Tilford Clan showed up at the 1994 Robot Wars event with 'South Bay Mauler', the first recorded full-body spinner to compete at an organized robot combat event. 'Blendo' first competed at the 1995 Robot Wars event.

It should be noted that the early records from the Critter Crunch competition which dates back to the 1980's have been lost - if they ever even had records (the 'Mad Scientists' are a loosely organized group) - so it is possible that an earlier 'tuna-can' spinner existed.

Q: Is 'Deadblow' the only middleweight axe? What caused it's failure since BattleBots 2.0? [Chinese Forum]

A: I wouldn't call 'Deadblow' an overhead axe, exactly. The weapon was weak and could do no damage -- it was there to show aggression. Evolution of more powerful weaponry rendered this 'peckerbot' less impressive to the judges.

Overhead axe weapons have never had a lot of favor in North America, but there have been many middleweights. 'BattleDog', 'El Spooky', 'Fusion', and 'Major Punishment' all competed at BattleBots 5.0. None were successful enough to appear on TV.

Q: Who are the most successful bot in HW and SHW? I think Team Diginati's 'Tekka Maki' is pretty good in HW and 'Redrum' is really awesome too. But in SHW, I don't know - maybe Code Breaker? [Chinese Forum]

A: Tekka Maki's record of 5 wins and 2 losses certainly does not qualify it as 'most successful'. Tekka Maki last fought in 2004. 'REDRUM' is also out of the running at 11 wins and 7 losses. Go look thru the fight records at to check on who the 'top dogs' are.

Q: In 'Alien Raptor' vs. 'Smashbox', who will have more possibility to win? I know 'Gamma Raptor' has beaten 'Wedge Of Doom' in BB 3.0 once, but WOD/Smashbox has improved a lot since then. [Chinese Forum]

A: Sorry, we don't predict fantasy matches.

Q: Are there only Panzer series, Juggerbot series, and Jawbreaker had all competed in Robot Wars, BattleBots, and Robotica? [Chinese Forum]

A: I looked this up a while back for a previous question in this archive. By my count, there were eleven twelve teams that competed at all three events:

  1. Team Dark Forces - Russ Barrow
  2. Team Jawbreaker - Tim Berghoefer
  3. Team Minus Zero - Patrick Campbell
  4. Team Suspect - Jeff Cesnik
  5. Litewav Robotics - Chris Hannold
  6. Robot Dojo - Mike Konshak
  7. Team Trigon - Eric Koss
  8. Dream Droid - Walter Martinez
  9. Team Panzer - Todd Mendenhall
  10. Team JuggerBot - Mike Morrow
  11. Team Logicom - Brian Nave
  12. Team Think Tank - Ted Shimoda
Often the teams used very different robots at the three events. Juggerbot, for example, added two extra motors and drive wheels to compete as a superheavyweight at BattleBots.
Q: I've heard that Team Shrapnel's Capitan Robert Lawrence Matzinske said that they are going to get a HW nut in BB 5.0. Do you think it's possible according to Mechavore's ability? [Chinese Forum]

A: I'm starting to catch on. You're just now seeing the BattleBots tournaments in China and haven't seen BB 5.0 yet, right? I'm not sure how much information to give you -- the last BattleBots show aired on TV in the US more than seven years ago. I don't want to spoil your fun.

Q: What is the difference between KO and TKO? What is meaning of FF in the BattleBots fight record at

A: A knock-out (KO)occurs when a robot is disabled and 'counted out'. A technical knock-out (TKO) is scored when a robot 'throws in the towel' and concedes the loss to end the match and prevent additional damage. The 'FF' match result indicates a forfeit -- one robot did not show up for the match.

Q: In Robot Wars, who the winner is depends on Damage, Control, Style and Aggression - but what is the exact meaning of Control and Style here?

A: The four categories are not defined in the Robot Wars Rules. Here is what the rules for the Second Wars say:

In the arena the robots face each other in a timed fight to the death. If within the allotted time one of the robots becomes immobilized, the other robot will be declared the winner. If neither of the robots have been immobilized our panel of expert judges will declare the winner on a points system using four judging criteria as follows:

  1. DAMAGE. (Weight of 4) 1-5 points x 4 = Score for Damage.

  2. AGGRESSION. (Weight of 3) 1-5 points x 3 = Score for Aggression.

  3. CONTROL. (Weight of 2) 1-5 points x 2 = Score for Control.

  4. STYLE. (Weight of 1) 1-5 points x 1 = Score for Style.

The winner will be the robot who has scored the highest number of points if there has been no clear winners. This scoring system gives a fair and unbiased chance for every robot- irrespective of size, weight or power- to win!
In general 'control' refers to how much one robot was able to determine the course and pace of the match, while 'style' refers to the fluidity and ease with which a robot performs it's actions.
Q: Is 'Nasty Attitute' the fastest bot in MW? What do you think of Thomas Petrucelli and his bots? Are they some of the best wedges in this planet? [Chinese Forum]

A: 'Nasty Attitude' is fast, but I think it has more to do with the aggressive driving style adopted by Thomas than the absolute speed of the 'bot. Most drivers will pause and pick their target, but Thomas just keeps the throttle down and slews the 'bot around the arena in big power slides. Team Attitude's robots are always well prepared and thoughtfully designed.

Their winning records qualify 'Nasty Attitude' (14 wins - 5 losses) and smaller sibling 'New Attitude' (17-8) as top rank wedges, although I'd have to give top honors to Team Rotordesign's middleweight 'Max Wedge' (39-8) and the unbelievable lightweight 'Wedge of Doom' (43-5).

Q: It seems that Battlebots is the only contest where roboteers can put advertisement on their bots, am I right?

A: The only widely televised contest, yes. Robotica allowed sponsor banners in the pit area, which received considerable air time, but not on the robots. The BBC was quite sensitive about commercial endorsements on Robot Wars and allowed no sponsor banners anywhere.

Q: Do you know anywhere abouts where I can find that DVD of the 1999 Las Vegas tournament from BattleBots?

A: sells DVDs of the 1999 BattleBots Las Vegas Pay-Per-View tournament and the 1999 BattleBots Long Beach tournament for $24.95 each. [Still available as of November, 2018]

Q: What happened in the fight between 'Vlad The Impaler' and 'BioHazard' at the 1999 BattleBots event in Las Vegas?

A: Story short: Vlad got under BioHazard's drop skirts and flipped him. BioHazard lost the ability to self-right when Carlo B. added the drop skirts in 1997.

Q: After Vlad The Impaler got under Biohazard's skirts how does he flipped him with his forklift because I thought his forklift weren't strength enough and too slip to flip Biohazard because those skirts?

A: Vlad's forklift was plenty strong enough to lift BioHazard, just not high enough for an unassisted turn-over. Vlad got lucky, drove in deep under the skirt, lifted, and rammed BioHazard into a wall to complete the flip.

Q: In 1999 Battlebots Las Vegas which side did Vlad got under BioHazard's drop skirts and flipped him, is it a front, left or right or a back skirts?

Did Biohazard got any flip before Vlad got under Biohazard's skirts and flipped him or Vlad immedially got underneath and flipped him after that fight starts?

Is Vlad in a red and BioHazard in a blue square in that fight?

After Vlad The Impaler beat BioHazard, who you think who might win before that fight begins?

A: Don't make me go looking for my old tape of the event. We generally don't provide blow-by-blow commentary for fights not involving our own team. I will say that BioHazard was the strong favorite before the fight.

Q: In 1999 Battlebots Long Beach how did 'Rhino' beat 'Vlad The Impaler' by a knockout?

'Ziggo' is my favourite bot. Did you see his fight against 'Defiant' in 1999 Long Beach where he lost in fight 4 and won in a final by a crowd vote? If you did how does Ziggo lost in a fight 4 and won in a final against Defiant by a crowd vote?

A: As previously noted, we generally don't provide blow-by-blow commentary for random fights not involving our own team. There is a short description of the Rhino-Vlad fight as written by Michael Kaplan for 'Unlimited' magazine posted at the Team Coolrobots Press Release page.

We were not at the Long Beach tournament. The tournament trees for all of the BattleBots tournaments are available at the Team Run Amok tournament winners website.

Q: Three questions in 1999 Battlebots Las Vegas

1. What happened in the fight between Biohazard and Frenzy?

2. What are Biohazard's oppenents after he won a heavyweight rumble?

3. What happened in the fight between Vlad The Impaler and Rhino in the semis and also Vlad The Impaler and Voltarc in a final?

A: Mark J. here: listen very closely this time:

We do not provide detailed commentary for random fights not involving our own team.
We make exceptions only for particularly controversial or educational matches.

We will provide details of specific fights only if they were controversial, particularly important to the history of the sport, or offer an example useful in answering a design question.

The tournament trees for all of the BattleBots tournaments are available at the Team Run Amok tournament winners website. A DVD of the 1999 Las Vegas tournament is available from BattleBots.

Q: Did Biohazard flipped upside down or against the wall after Vlad The Impaler gets under his skirt, lifted and rammed it to the wall?

A: You aren't paying attention.

We do not provide detailed commentary for random fights not involving our own team.
We make exceptions only for particularly controversial or educational matches.

Q: Did 'Razer' got beaten in the Season 2 Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 'War of Independence' by 'Kat3' in round 1 or by 'Tornado' in round 2?

A: Razer lose to Kat III? Not likely. Tornado fought Razer in the second round, revealing their 'anti crusher' defensive web for the first time. There is a discussion thread for that tournament (known in Europe as the 'International Championship') at the Team Tornado Robot Wars Forum.

Q: How on earth did 'Ziggo' lose by a knockout against 'Sallad' at BattleBots 3.0? I thought Ziggo would beat Sallad very easily and go on to win another lightweight title like he did in 1999 and 2000.

A: The lightweight quarter-final fight between Ziggo and Sallad was not televised, so this is something of a mystery. I'm trying to contact people who were at the event and I'll update this post when I have more information. Until then I can only comment that when a fight goes wrong for a full-body spinner it can go very, very wrong.

Ziggo won 3 BattleBots lightweight championships: 1999 Long Beach, 2000 Season 2.0, and 2001 Season 4.0. Ziggo also won the lightweight rumble at the 2002 BattleBots 3.0 event and is a member of the Combat Robot Hall of Fame.

UPDATE - my dad wrote to Jonathan Ridder of Team Ziggy and asked him what happened. Here is Jonathan's reply:

"Before the fight I forgot to tape down my radio receiver battery. Clearances in Ziggo were pretty tight so after my first hit, the battery bounced a little and got ripped off by the inside of the spinning shell. Ziggo was dead and the fight was over pretty quick."

Thank you, Jonathan!

Q: Where can I get 'Robotica' clips?

A: I have no current source for clips, tapes, or DVDs from any of the three seasons of 'Robotica'.

Q: Do you know why 'Beta' didn't compete in any match?

A: Mark J. here: Team Hurtz is famous for their overhead axe robots (KillerHurtz, TerrorHurtz) with which they competed in Robot Wars and BattleBots. Attempting to rapidly accelerate an overhead exe weapon causes an equal and opposite reaction which can actually flip the robot itself over.

Team Hurtz experimented with several methods of generating downforce to hold the body of the robot steady. 'Beta' attempted to use large electromagnets to hold the robot down to the steel BattleBots arena floor when the weapon was fired. Unfortunately the steel arena plates are held down only by their own weight; when 'Beta' energized the electromagnets it pulled the arena flooring up and disrupted its own movement.

BattleBots reasonably forbade the use of the electromagnets, and without them Beta was not able to use the overhead weapon. Team Hurtz withdrew from the tournament without fighting a single match at BattleBots 5.0.

Q: In the Robot Wars 'Robot Rampage' event (Robot Wars Extreme II) were there any featherweight qualifiers?

A: The Robot Rampage event had middeweight, lightweight, featherweight, and antweight divisions. The two featherweight qualifying rounds were not shown and I haven't been able to track down the competitors. The televised featherweight final featured 'Aargh', 'Bernard', 'Cutlet', 'Gladiator', 'Katnip', and 'Micromute'.

Q: How far did new Hexy D go in RG06? Is it retired? Are 'Smashbox' (aka 'Wedge Of Doom') and 'Nasty Attitude' retired since RG05?

A: You can find full combat records for North and South American robots at Look up the robot and click on its score. Complete tournament match results are at the BotRank events listing.

  • Heavyweight 'Hexadecimator' made it to the semifinals in the losers bracket at RoboGames 2006 where it lost to 'SJ'. Hexy D has not fought since.

  • 'Wedge of Doom' last fought at RoboGames 2005 as 'Smashbox', where it won the lightweight class.

  • Middleweight 'Nasty Attitude' last fought at the 2005 RFL Nationals.

Q: From what I have seen and heard at RoboGames 2009 I think that the problem with robot combat is spinners, because beginners don't want to have their robot shredded in its first fight. So do you think making the sportsman class more prevalent would be a good Idea to increase the size of robotic combat?

A: Mark J. here: this is the hottest, most divisive topic in robot combat. Partisan groups each have their own arguments:

  • The Spinner Faction believes that massive destruction adds excitement that will attract large audiences to watch robot combat events. Larger audiences, they say, will create greater interest for robot combat with the public and will result in the growth of the sport. The current RFL judging guidelines reward only damage and aggression, encouraging destructive spinners.

  • The Sportsman Faction argues that hyper-destructive robots scare away builders and make arena costs so high that the sport cannot support itself. There was a much greater variety of robot design in the popular 'golden age' of combat robots and they believe that the lack of this variety has caused the audiences to lose interest. Although the RFL recognizes a 30 pound sportsman class, the judging guidelines have not been adjusted to reflect the needs of this class.

  • The Wedge Hater Alliance blames the loss of interest in combat robotics on 'boring wedges' and will actively confront wedge builders at tournaments to tell them that wedges are destroying the sport.

  • The Wedge Builders Cartel likes to think that their robots are entirely 'active weapons' and stubbornly go right on winning a higher percentage of their matches than do spinners.

  • The Major Televised Event Producers all eventually required active weapons in an effort to add excitement. The rules for the most recent BattleBots tournament required an 'effective' active weapon, which set off a new storm of controversy with the spinner fetishists decrying the way the rule was enforced, questioning what qualifies as 'effective', and arguing about whether a weapon must be used during a match.
Where does that leave us? Spinner weapons are more destructive than ever, but crowds are not flocking to watch combat robot tournaments. The judging guidelines established by the RFL that reward damage are also not adding to the popularity of the sport. The sportsman class is an interesting experiment, but popularity amongst the builders has been limited by design constraints and reliance on the subjective discretion of the event organizer to interpret the rules.

IMHO, the solution to the problem is not in additional restrictions or special classes; you have to change the underlying structure of the competition to make mega-destruction unworkable and boring wedges unthinkable. No one dared to enter a high-energy spinner at Robotica, and wedges simply had no advantage at BotBash.

The time for putting two robots in a flat-floored plastic box and having them fight for three minutes has passed. Take a look at some alternative ideas I put together: Questioning Robot Combat Paradigms.

Q: Here's a Robot Wars question I thought of: were all six loaner bots given to the teams that built their own robots?

A: I'm not sure I understand the question. All of the loanerbots were used by teams whose own robots were destroyed in early combat, were lost in transit, or were unable to pass technical inspection. The loaner robots were returned to the Robot Wars technical staff at the end of the tournament.

Search this archive for more information on the loanerbots.

Q: Is it true that the BattleBots competition happened a month ago?

A: A BattleBots tournament took place April 20-26, 2009 at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. It wasn't much like the old tournaments. There were three classes: a 120-pound class for college teams, another 120-pound class for high school teams, and a 220-pound class open to everyone. There weren't a lot of robots.

BattleBots says the college tournament will be shown on the hard-to-find CBS College Sports Network sometime in autumn, 2009. [Update - the show never aired.]

Q: How come none of the loner bots were in the US championship in RWEWS1?

A: Loaners were used to 'fill' the side events at RWEW. The Championship was restricted to real competitors.

Q: Was 'Shuriken' one of the loaner bots in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: There is a complete list and explanation of the loaner robots from RWEW 1 in this archive: search for 'loanerbots'.

None of the robots in the main tournament were loaners. 'Shuriken' was a real competitor robot built by Evan White. After 'Shuriken' was destroyed in the main tournament, Evan was loaned 'The Green Mouse' to compete in the 'Robot Rebellion' event.

Q: Was there a special event in Heat I of Robot Wars Series 7?

A: There was no 'special event' in the Seventh Wars Heat I broadcast, but something interesting did happen. In the first round, 'Storm II' teamed up with a disabled 'Supernova' to rip the right-side track completely off 'Sir Killalot'. Details are at the Team Storm webpage.

Q: Would you think that the intervention by Mentorn in the Robot Wars Seventh Wars as described by Team Storm would happen at events? I'm not sure if producers just want money or if Storm is embellishing a little.

A: Mark J. here: the job of the television producer is to make entertaining television. The job of the tournament director is to assure a fair tournament. The Robot Wars tournaments had a panel of independent judges, but Mentorn both produced the television show and ran the tournaments. This created a conflict of interest.

I wasn't at the Seventh Wars, but I have seen Robot Wars fights that were edited for television in a way that masked the actual events of the match, much as described by Team Storm. I tend to believe their story.

Production interference is not confined to Robot Wars. The producers of BattleBots tampered with events by having well-known robots from previous competitions 'skip over' the first several rounds of the tournament. This gave these 'seeded' robots a great advantage and assured the producers of fan favorites in the final rounds. Only 4 of the 63 televised fights in Season 5.0 were between two non-seeded robots.

I have also personally seen strong favoritism and tampering at non-televised robot combat events. At one melee event where the audience was acting as the judge, the event organizer refused to put forward one of the robots for consideration even though it may well have won the decision. The builder had flown 2000 miles to participate in the event and support the tournament, but the organizer apparently wanted a local robot to win.

Q: In Robot Wars, couldn't anyone flip 'Sir Killalot'?

A: Sir K was the only house bot that avoided being flipped. His 'official' weight was listed at 616 pounds, but his true weight was nearly twice that. Even so, many of the high-powered flippers had the capacity to toss Sir K but they were never in the right place at the right time.

'Mr. Psycho', considerably heavier than Sir K, was toppled by 'Firestorm 4' in Robot Wars Extreme Series 2.

Q: Did you knew that Bill Nye the science guy was a technical expert in battlebots?

A: Yes, Bill Nye was the on-screen 'technical expert' for the show. He had a short segment in the show where he would explain some aspect of robot combat. Best I can tell, Bill Nye never built a combat robot.

Q: How old was Nancy Rodriguez when she was on Nickelodeon Robot Wars?

A: I don't know, and I don't know why you would want to know.

Q: Do you know why 'Shunt' And 'Dead Metal' keep being with each other in every Robot Wars battle?

A: You exaggerate. I checked the episode guide forRobot Wars Season 5 at and got the following number of appearances for the House Robots:

  • Sir Killalot: 16
  • Dead Metal: 15
  • Matilda: 15
  • Shunt: 14
  • Sgt. Bash: 10
Of Dead Metal's 15 appearances:
  • 5 were with Sir Killalot
  • 5 were with Shunt
  • 4 were with Matilda
  • 1 was with Sgt. Bash
Of 30 total pairings of House Robots listed for Season 5, only 5 were 'Shunt and Dead Metal'.
Q: Haven't you seen dutch robot wars in england? And do you even know the dutch robots?

A: As mentioned previously, I do not live in England. I have only seen internet clips of the Dutch Robot Wars, yet my knowledge of the Dutch robots appears to exceed your knowledge of courtesy and good manners.

Q: Was the US Series of Robot Wars scripted?

A: None of the robot competitions were scripted.

Q: Who built 'Thor's Hammer'? And who built 'Spectre's Revenge' in the second Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 'Annihilator'? Do you know what 'Thunder Pants' looked like when he broke down?

A: I stopped answering generic 'who built' and 'where from' questions about a year ago, and I'm not going to start in on 'describe the damage' questions. If you're interested in builders of lesser-known robots, buy a copy of Fighting Robots by Michael Benson.

Mark J. here: I'll take part of that question. 'Thor's Hammer' was built by Team Truly Unruly who also campaigned 'Medusa Oblongata' at both Robot Wars Extreme Warriors events, and who ran middleweight 'Timmy' and lightweight 'Ack-Ack' at BattleBots.

'Spectre's Revenge' was built by the Hollywood special effects pro Valek Sykes who also campaigned 'Darkness' in the main tournament at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 2 and who deployed heavyweight 'License to Kill' at BattleBots.

Q: What were those clusterbots on either side of the replica of 'Eubank the Mouse' in the Team Litewav RWEW pictures?

A: I'm not so sure I should tell you to whom those chassis belonged. I'll give you a couple of hints: they aren't clusterbots and that isn't a replica of Eubank. I'll check with Chris Hannold at Litewav before I say any more...

UPDATE: I checked with Chris. He can't verify my identification of those chassis, so I'll just tell you what I know for sure. The photo was taken in the Robot Wars technical area, used by the backstage crew. That's the real 'Eubank' ('Skeletron' was nearby) and there were plenty of spares for the house robots lying around.

Q: How did 'Snake Bite' and 'Snookums' fair against 'Dead Metal', 'Shunt' and 'Sir Killalot' in the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors Season 2 'House Robot Rebellion'? I know they lost, but did they put up any fight whatsoever?

A: The house robots were still afraid of the US 'bots after 'Tricerabot' shoved 'Sir Killalot' into The Pit in RWEW Season 1. They would only take on two robots at Season 2, and certainly not the most powerful amongst those who were willing to fight. It was no fight at all. 'Snake Bite' ended up disabled in the 'Drop Zone' and had (I think) a piano dropped on him.

Q: How did 'Snake Bite' and 'Snookums' lose so terribly in the house robot rebellion? Please tell me the story.

A: There is very little story to tell. Neither 'Snake Bite' nor 'Snookums' had any particularly strong offense. They were simply overpowered by the larger robots and disabled. Quite dull, except for the 'Drop Zone'.

Q: I am thinking about starting my own event, and I was wondering what the safety requirements are for a 30 pound arena? Thanks.

A: Mark J. here: unfortunately there are no simple requirements or guidelines for assuring that an arena is safe for a particular weightclass. The Robot Fighting League arena 'standards' are simply a consistent nomenclature to describe arena capability. They leave the determination of this capability to the event organizer's "knowledge and experience".

From an engineering perspective, there are a lot of variables involved in determining arena strength: thickness of polycarbonate, attachment method, framing material, spacing of supports, height of internal curbing, distance of internal curbing to arena wall, ect.

Building a 30 pound arena from scratch is going to eat thru several thousand dollars. Your best bet for design guidance is to talk with event organizers who work with a 30 pound rated arena. Try asking at the Western Allied Robotics forum. The Robot Fighting League forum is another possible source.

Q: I read in a book that many UK Robot Wars competitors were overweight. Can you confirm this? Thanks for answering some questions that have been nagging at me.

A: No, I can't confirm. At the events we attended the weigh-in happened in an area adjacent to the pits and could be witnessed by any interested competitor. I saw one U.S. competitor who was considerably overweight and who was not allowed to compete until the excess weight was shed. I suppose additional weight could have been added following the technical inspection, but I would not question the sportsmanship of any of the teams -- US or UK.

Q: I looked at the Roaming Robots website the other day, and I was wondering if their house robots are related to Mr. Psycho or Growler?

A: The Roaming Robots housebots 'Major Damage' and 'Gripper' certainly do resemble the Robot Wars housebots 'Mr. Psycho' and 'Growler', but the relationship ends with the resemblance.

Q: Where did Zanzara come from?

A: 'Zanzara' was one of several 'loaner' robots supplied by the Robot Wars production company and loaned out to teams having trouble with their own robot. They were all built by the Robot Wars technical crew.

Date marker: April 2009
Q: Do you have any Dutch Robot Wars photos?

A: Dozens: try a web search for videos and images.

Q: What did 'The Lethal Swan', 'Reflex', 'Namuzu', 'Project Two:Hex Em', 'The Black Beast', 'Trazmaniac' and 'Shapeshifter' look like?

A: I'm not interested in describing robots you can find with a Google search. Here's a start: Lethal Swan photos.

Q: Did the winners of a BattleBots event get to keep the giant nut trophys? Did the runners-up get any trophys?

A: Yes, BattleBots winners in each weight class were awarded their own personal 'giant nut' trophies to keep. Other 'giant nuts' were awarded to runners-up, winners of the rumbles, and for several other categories that sometimes changed from event to event: 'Best Driver', 'Most Aggressive', 'Coolest Robot', 'Funniest Robot', and 'Best Newcomer'. I show a total of 94 giant nuts awarded.

Q: With BattleBots possibly returning, do you think some of the old Battlebot teams will also return?

A: I would be surprised if the old crews are not well represented.

Q: Do you think BattleBots will go down as scheduled this April [2009]? I hope the event becomes a success.

A: Mark J. here: beats me. I've stopped believing any information that comes out of BattleBots because so much of it proves false. Their actions over the last several years have not, in my opinion, been good for the sport. I wish them well, but will not become involved.

Q: I read that Razer, Panic Attack, and Mortis competed at BattleBots. How did they do?

A: Six UK Robot Wars teams entered a total of eight heavyweight robots in BattleBots competitions:

  • Long Beach 1999: Killerhurtz and Razer
  • 1999 Pay-per-view: Killerhurtz, Razer, and Mortis
  • BattleBots 1.0: Suicidal Tendancies and Killerhurtz
  • BattleBots 2.0: Bigger Brother, Suicidal Tendancies, Panic Attack, and Killerhurtz
  • BattleBots 3.0: Little Sister and Killerhurtz
  • BattleBots 4.0: Little Sister and Killerhurtz
  • BattleBots 5.0: Little Sister and Warhead
They had an overall record of 28 wins and 19 losses. You can trace the progress of individual robots thru the tournaments in our collection of complete tournament trees for BattleBots and other major tournaments.
Q: Why did Son of Whyachi do so poorly in the SHW division?

A: Beating up a 220 pound robot is a lot easier than beating up a 340 pound robot. Most people don't remember that at the same tournament where 'Son of Whyachi' won the heavyweight championship, stablemate 'Whyachi' competed in the superheavyweight division and had only a 1 win 1 loss record in spite of it's 'shufflebot' weight advantage. Spinners never did all that well in the SHW BattleBots class.

Mark J. here: the following set of questions was sent to me in a personal email. I think the answers might be of general interest so I've reprinted my responses here, with permission from the author of the questions:

Q: First off, I got to say you have nice website. Do you know of any pictures of Scott LaValley's 'Dolittle'? I know it competed in US Robot Wars 1994.

A: Thanks for the appreciation. I did a lot of research on the early robot wars, and photos of the robots from the 1994 event are hard to come by. I don't have a photo of 'Dolittle', but I do have a photo of Scott's 1995 entry 'Domore'.

Q: On YouTube there are several videos from the early Robot Wars events. Do you wish the UK version stayed truer to the original US version?

A: The very early UK Robot Wars really were pretty close to the spirit of the US Robot Wars. The show producers had to adapt to what their television audience wanted, and they seem to have wanted direct combat. Some of the Techno Games events went back toward the original Robot Wars idea, but that show just wasn't as popular as the all-combat format. Personally, I really enjoy some of the non-combat events. I tried to emphasize that in the Antbotica events that Team Run Amok put on.

Q: Did any teams that competed in Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors compete in the early US Robot Wars? The only one I think did was Mike Regan.

A: There were three US Robot Wars competitors at RWEW:

  • As you note, Mike Regan (1997 'Vicious-1') was at RWEW1 with 'The Brute';

  • Patrick Campbell (1994 'TMZ', 1995 'Cyberknight', 1996 'Terminal Frenzy', 1997 'Frenzy') was at RWEW2 with 'The Bat';

  • Dan Danknick (1996 'The Agamemnon') was at both of the RWEW series, not competing but working technical support for the event;

There were some other interesting tie-ins between US Robot Wars and later UK Robot Wars events:
  • The Tilford Clan (1996 'South Bay Mauler', 1997 'Mauler') entered a Robot Wars tournament filmed in 2000 in England as a pilot for a show for MTV. The deal didn't fly and the footage was never shown. Andrew Lindsey (1996 'Spike', 1997 'Spike II'), Patrick Campbell, and Dan Danknick were also there.

  • Eric Dickerson (1996 'WYSIWYG') became involved with the UK Robot Wars productions. 'WYSIWYG' appeared in the 1997 UK Robot Wars driven by Michelle Wheeley.

That's all I can think of, but I may have missed someone.

Q: Why did the Bigger Brother team change the bot's name for BattleBots? 'Killerhurtz' was still competing with it's original name until season 5.0 when he entered his new robot 'Beta'.

A: There was considerable confusion about legal rights to robot names between events. The contracts signed by competitors at BattleBots and Robot Wars events appeared to transfer certain rights to use of the names to the producers of the shows. Some competitors chose to avoid any possible conflicts by changing robot names and appearances when competing in different events, and some chose to ignore the whole issue.

Q: What UK Robot Wars team would have done good in Battlebots?

A: Robot Wars and BattleBots were very different events. Many Robot Wars competitors built flippers designed to throw their competitors out of the arena -- something not possible at BattleBots. Other Robot Wars competitors would suffer badly if they went up against destructive spinner weapons -- odd how 'Razer' never had to fight such a robot, isn't it? I don't like to play 'fantasy match prediction' with robots, but I suppose 'Tornado' would be a good pick to have done well at BattleBots.

Q: BattleBots registration is open on Builders DB What do you think? Are you gonna enter 'Run Amok'?

A: Mark J. here: I'm always pleased to see another robot combat competition added to the calendar. However, there have been many false starts and a great deal of misinformation circulated about the return of BattleBots, and many builders have been alienated by the actions of the organizers. I wish the event well, but we will not be entering a robot.

Q: If Robotica came back, what would be the best Robot Wars full-body spinner to enter?

A: Terrible idea! 'Robotica' and 'Full-body Spinner' go together like 'Ice Cream' and 'Anchovies'. In three seasons of 'Robotica' nobody entered a full-body spinner and no sane competitor would. Even die-hard spinner builders like Brian Nave and Terry Ewert built non-spinners for 'Robotica'.

Q: What were the most controversial robot battles?

A: Two pop to mind:

  • Tornado vs. Razer in the Sixth Wars final: Tornado won by use of a special 'anti-crusher' framework added to their robot to keep Razer's piercing crusher away from vital parts. The device was pre-cleared with the technical crew, but many fans were outraged.

  • Biohazard vs. Son of Whyachi in the BattleBots 3.0 heavyweight final: SoW used a rule-shaving 'shufflebot' propusion system to gain the additional 'walker' weight allowance for their monster spinner. The fight was tremendously destructive with both robots taking major damage. The judges' decision went to SoW, but a lot of fans saw it differently.

Q: I remember watching the USA Robot Wars series and seeing 'Matilda' with her chainsaw tail that she stopped using after UK 4. I understand that it is interchangable, but how come she kept using it in parts of the US series and never in the later British series?

A: Once Matilda switched to the very effective flywheel weapon in the late summer of 2001, the weapon was never changed out for the old chainsaw.

The first series of 'Robot Wars Extreme Warriors' for US competitors was filmed in June/July, 2001 and Matilda was still using the chainsaw tail. This was after the UK 'Fourth Wars' and before the 'Fifth Wars' filming in August 2001 where Matilda appeared with the flywheel weapon.

The second series of 'Robot Wars Extreme Warriors' for US competitors was filmed in January, 2002. Matilda was still using the chainsaw weapon here, so the chainsaw was used in RWES series 1 and the flywheel was used in RWEW series 2.

Q: Is there any pictures of the 'Robotica Rats' I could look up?

A: I can't find any and don't have any.

Q: How long (hours, days, weeks, months) did Robot Wars, Battlebots and Robotica last?

A: The first US Robot Wars was held in August, 1994. The last UK Robot Wars was filmed in August, 2003. In between came all the BattleBots and Robotica events, so the 'golden age' of robot combat lasted just about an even nine years.

Q: Is Robot Wars house robot 'Sir Killalot' famous for his Sir Killalot vs Robo Babe CD?

A: No, he's famous for kicking butt in the Robot Wars arena. The CD is just a novelty.

Quick tip: if you haven't seen the video on the Northeast Robotics Club (NERC) homepage, turn up the volume and go have a look!

Q: Why did't anyone show Stefan Frank, announcer for Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Announcers don't generally get their face on the show. Usually they aren't even at the filming. They do their work in a studio, 'post-production'.

Q: Aaron, I've been watching the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 'House Robot Rebellion' and I'm confused here. Why does 'Green House' look like 'Vert-I-Go'? Is he his Twin?

A: As I recall, 'Green House' was a loaner robot built by the Robot Wars tech staff for use by teams having trouble with their own robots. The full list of 'loaner' robots from RWEW1 is in this archive: search for 'loanerbots'. It was a simple design with a pneumatic lifter.

'Vert-I-Go' fought in the Nickelodeon Robot Wars 'Mayhem' event. I don't recall the robot, but I do know that several loanerbots were used there. It may have simply been a re-named version of 'Green House'.

Q: I've got a crazy Robot Wars question. Were there two different UFO robots and teams in Robot Wars series 6 and 7, or was it just the same team?

A: Officially, they were the same team. They had the same name, the same logo, and they were from Wales -- but the robot and the team members who appeared on camera were different for the Seventh Wars.

Q: What was the Robot Wars University Challenge?

A: The 'University Challenge' was a tournament within the second series of Robot Wars Extreme (2003). Six robots loosely associated with specific universities fought in a special tournament -- any excuse for a tournament in the Extreme shows. The robots were Behemoth, Infernal Contraption, CV, Tiberius III, Fluffy, and Infinity. Tiberius III was the winner.

Q: I'm really interested in combat robots but the last time I checked the nearest competion was a several hour drive that my parents didn't want to do. Help?

A: It only takes two robots for combat -- so build two robots, get some friends over, and have at it! Team JuggerBot got their start as a few guys who modified R/C cars and fought in a back yard. Your friends will get hooked, they'll start building their own robots, and you're on your way.

Stay away from crazy rotary weapons and dangerously sharp edges and you can have real fun and learn about combat robots without leaving your house. We've had some great antweight fights on the round coffee table in our own living room. Search this archive for 'informal tournament' to get some tips on organizing your own small event.

Q: Was the 'British Bulldogs' trial event at the first UK Robot Wars like a 'House Robot Challenge' from the later Wars?

A: Only a little. British Bulldogs is a schoolyard game where a line of players try to run past two 'bulldog' players without being caught. It's a bit like 'Red Rover'. The Robot Wars version had the competitors line up at one end of the arena and try to dash past the four House Robots and reach the other end. Last robot thru was eliminated.

You can see video of the British Bulldogs trial on YouTube.

Q: What was the biggest bot ever built for a competition?

A: Combat robots compete in weight classes that range from the 150 gram 'fairyweight' class to the special 390 pound 'superheavyweight' class at the MechWars events. More than thirty robots have competed at this highest weight level.

Q: On the new BattleBots website there is no section that shows you the bots. Is there anyway I can find that section?

A: Try the Wayback Machine for for older versions of their website.

Q: What would be the best UK Robot Wars robot 'Psycho Chicken' could easily damage up?

A: Sorry, we don't predict 'fantasy matches' here.

Q: Are you a fan of the Critter Crunch tournament? What makes a good remote controlled sumo bot?

A: I admire the Critter Crunch for their long history and pioneering efforts on behalf of robot combat. I also think it's great that they have been able to keep the tournament so informal and not wring all the fun out of it with complicated rules.

See previous Q&A in the archive for R/C sumo tips.

Q: Is there a picture of 'The Sentinel' anywhere?

A: There's a picture of this short-lived Robot Wars house robot at Robots Rule, but it's not very good.

Q: Are you mad about how the dates for the televised BattleBots event was changed from November 2008 to spring 2009?

A: Mark J. here: Aaron doesn't like to say negative things about people, so I'll take this one.

The BattleBots organizers are a continuing disappointment to the combat robot community. There is a long history of false starts, withheld information, and fumbled opportunities on their part. Their interests appear to me to be entirely focused on their own promotion with no sign of respect or concern for the builders. I am long past being angered by the actions of the BattleBots organization -- I am now simply disgusted.

Q: Thank you for the heads up about the BattleBots organizers. If the tournament does work out, what do you think about the 'no rules' class?

A: The 'no rules' class is a sham. There may be no official rules, but each individual 'bot must be approved by the organizers. I doubt that the class will happen, but if it does there will be very few competitors.

Q: Dear Aaron, I am British and over here, only Season 1 of Robotica has ever been aired. Although most of Season 3 is now on YouTube, I cannot find any clips and/or episodes of Season 2, despite searching everywhere on the internet. Do you know of any sites where I can find Season 2 clips and/or episodes?

A: Season 2 has largely been ignored. It aired only once in the US, which is a pity because it had some interesting robots. Sorry to say that I don't have an on-line source for Season 2 video.

Q: Do combat robot weight classes have maximum dimensions in the U.S.?

A: Not in the U.S. -- if you can fit it thru the arena door it's legal. Sumo robots are the exception.

Q: Can you get the Robot Wars 'House Robot' theme songs on CD?

A: No -- but a web search will get you sound files for most of the Robot Wars music.

Q: Were there really obstacle courses and little mazes in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Not in RWEW -- "The Gauntlet" and "The Trial" were elimination rounds leading up to "The Arena" in the first two UK Robot Wars. See our 'Second Wars' results page for more information on these events.

Q: Was 'The Sentinel' a House Robot in Robot Wars or was it just a hazard in 'The Gauntlet'?

A: 'The Sentinel' was a converted backhoe that appeared in a few episodes in the Second Wars. It was not mobile -- it sat near 'The Pit' in 'The Gauntlet' and blocked or shoved robots that came near. It is considered to be one of the House Robots even though it had a very limited role.

Q: Sorry to interrupt but I have another Robot Wars question. Who was that black robot that had two saws and two wheels in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors? And who was that weird crazy robot that mad look was that Spike? Was that Sobek in the pits of Robot Wars? What was that tall robot that almost looked like a building in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors? What is that weird robot in Robot Wars? Was that Drillzilla in Robot Wars? Was that wierd green bot Medusa Oblongotta? In case if your wondering I'm looking at the team litewav robotics robot pictures.

A: Questions like this make me wish I was old enough to drink hard liquor. I did my best to match up your descriptions to the Team Litewav RWEW pictures and identify the robots:

You've used up your RWEW questions for the rest of the year.
Q: In Robot Wars did the pit trigger and the disc trigger got places on each wall?

A: There was one wall trigger for The Pit of Oblivion (series 5 onward) and one wall trigger for the spinning Disc of Doom (series 6 only).

Q: Is their a way to get Robot Wars Extreme Warriors back on TV or isn't there?

A: Sure - buy your own TV network and you can put on anything you like.

Q: What was that robot with the claws near Mechadroid's pit?

A: You've got to give me more info than that -- I haven't seen the show lately.

Q: What did 'King Of Diamonds' look like?

A: 'King of Diamonds' fought at the second Robot Wars Extreme Warriors event in England and went on to compete at the 2003 Robocide and Battle Beach 1 events. It was a diamond-shaped robot with a spinning blade weapon at the leading point. Photo at

Q: What do you think 'Corkscrew' looked like? I thought he looked like a hammerhead shark.

A: I hate to say it, but I think the Scottish Robot Wars spinner looked like a corkscrew sticking out of a cork.

Q: Was there a German Robot Wars filmed in Germany?

A: Germany didn't have it's own televised Robot Wars production like Holland did, but they did stage non-televised tournaments with the winners going to the world championships in England. Many European countries saw Robot Wars dubbed in their own language.

Q: Hey, why did Chris Harriman fight against 'Probophobia', and 'Spin Doctor' with 'Cyclone' instead of 'Tut Tut'?

A: At the first Robot Wars Extreme Warriors event in London (2001), Chris showed up with his fearsome vertical spinner 'Cyclone'. The robot was damaged beyond on-site repair in the first round of the main knock-out tournament. The production company had several 'loaner' robots on hand that were available to teams with robot problems. Chris drove one those loaners ('Tut Tut') in the Tag Team tournament.

At the second Robot Wars Extreme Warriors event (2002), Chris brought an improved version of 'Cyclone'. Although defeated by 'Probophobia' and 'Spin Doctor' in the opening round of the main knock-out tournament, Chris was able to win 'The Annihilator' tournament later in the event with 'Cyclone'. No need for a loaner that year!

Q: What was that terrible noise coming out of the SHW 'Black Knight'?

A: That wasn't a terrible noise. 'The Black Knight' was powered by an internal combustion engine -- that was the exhaust note! See the video.

Q: Did the house robot Shunt realy use a cold-fusion engine? Or was it an ICE?

A: You shouldn't believe any of the info broadcast about the Robot Wars house robots. Shunt weighed a good bit more than 105 kg, the axe was not 'diamond edged', and there is no such thing as a cold-fusion engine. The axe was pneumatic and motive power came from a pair of Bosch GPA 750 electric motors.

Q: Three questions:
  1. How did the seeds work in Robot Wars?

  2. What Robot Combat video games do you recommend, beside Robot Arena 2?

  3. What happened to the arena after each battle of Robot Wars? Did they exchange the House Robots? Did someone clean up the pieces of the bots?

A: Three answers:

  1. The seeds were the top-ranked robots based on their performance at the previous Wars. The seeds were each assigned to their own heat so that they would not face another top-ranked robot in the first or second rounds of the tournament.

  2. The only robot combat video game I play beside RA2 is 'Robot Wars Advanced Destruction' for the Game Boy Advance.

  3. People didn't normally enter the Robot Wars arena between matches. The house robots and competitors left via the main entrance. Broken robots were pushed out by Refbot, who also rounded up stray pieces.

Q: Which was the coolest robot you saw at Robot Wars?

A: I really liked 'Pussycat'. It didn't even look like a combat robot, but it could sure fight!

Q: Has any robot taken on the Robotica Rats in the Ladyrinth? Also, what were the weapons 'Fat Boy Tin' had? [Nate Franklin]

A: There wasn't much time to waste on the Rats, Nate. I believe that 'Ultra Violence' did spin up its rotary weapon and turn to face a Rat, but the Rat ran for it.

What's with all the interest in obscure Robot Wars entrants lately? 'Fat Boy Tin' lost its only fight in the first round of the Fourth Wars against 'Vercingetorix' and 'Plunderbird'. It had a pair of pneumatic spikes for weaponry.

Q: Alright what do you think of this idea for a robot combat battle type, I thought of this from playing this Robot Wars game on the GBA (Gameboy advance). So one robot (the target bot) starts fighting a number of bots, one comes in after another is immobilized (like 10 or more) if the targets bot is immobilized, the bot that immobilized that bot is now the target bot. this goes on until all the bots are immobilized. the bot who immobilized the most bots wins or the last one standing. What do you think?

A: I've got that same GBA game: Robot Wars Advanced Destruction. They actually had that event at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors and Robot Wars Extreme. They called it the 'Challenge Belt'. The winner was the last 'bot standing. Never seemed quite fair to me; if you're the first 'bot up, you have to beat everybody, but if you're last up you only have to beat one 'bot that's probably already kinda beat up.

Q: Where is 'Direct Action' from again?

A: What is this -- test the robot geek? That's the only reason I can see for a question about the utterly obscure 'Direct Action'. Best I can tell, 'Direct Action' fought only once: in the Robot Wars Extreme Series 2 New Blood tournament. It was badly beaten up, then opened The Pit and drove itself in. I'll assume that it was from the UK, like most other New Blood robots.

No more "where is [insert robot name here] from" questions. If you're that interested, buy a copy of "Fighting Robots" by Michael Benson.

Q: What home country was 'Tiger Cat' from?

A: 'Tiger Cat' fought in the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors series for a team based in New York, USA.

Q: Where in New York was 'Tiger Cat' from? If you say Syracuse I swear I'm gonna explode.

A: You're safe. The 'Tiger Cat' team was from Shirley, New York -- on Long Island.

Q: What was the difference between Robot Wars Extreme and Nickelodeon Robot Wars? [Nate Franklin]

P.S. You, your Dad and your robots are awesome!!

A: Thanks, Nate. The different Robot Wars competitions can be tough to keep straight:

  • Robot Wars Extreme: two seasons of shows filmed in England featuring special challenges and tournaments outside the scope of the regular Robot Wars tournament. Most of the robots were from Europe. Craig Charles hosted. Events included the the All-Stars Tournament, Tag Team Terror, Annihilator, and Challenge Belt.

  • Robot Wars Extreme Warriors: two seasons of shows filmed in England in mid 2001 and early 2002 for American television. The robots and teams were Americans who were flown to England for the tournament. Retired professional wrestler Mick Foley hosted. Events included the U.S. Championship, Tag Team Terror, Annihilator, and House Robot Rebellion.

  • Nickelodeon Robot Wars: a single short season of six half-hour shows with kids behind the controls of the robots. This was filmed in England in early 2002 -- at the same time as the second season of Robot Wars Extreme Warriors. Most of the kids were American. Dave Aizer hosted. No flame hazards were used in the arena and aggressive language was toned down.
More information on the various Robot Wars competitions can be found at Robots Rule.
Q: For a beetle weight, how many spare parts should you have? I'm thinking around 30 of each part plus 5 chassis.

A: At our last national beetle event our spares box held:

  • two drive motors;
  • a drive gearbox;
  • a weapon motor;
  • a speed controller;
  • a set of wheels; and
  • a full set of replacement armor panels.
We fought thru seven rounds and didn't need any of the spares. We also carried plenty of emergency repair supplies (wire, epoxy, various tapes, solder, screws, bolts, nuts) plus the usual tools, chargers, and test equipment. In the insect classes you don't have a lot of time between matches, so major rebuilds are generally not an option. If you build your 'bot well you won't need a truck full of spares.
Q: Who was that strange black robot near Hannibal in the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors pits... or was that a just a black coat? Was there another robot behind the Bunny Attack bench in the pits as well? What was that robot that was near Sir Killalot that looked like a six wheel robot... was it Snake Bite?

A: Sorry, I'll have to save these questions until the next time I watch the tapes. It would help if you could tell me which episode you were watching. Just guessing, the strange black robot could be Patrick Campbell's 'The Bat'.

Q: What weapon did 'The Bat' have? Do you have any links to more pictures of 'The Bat'?

A: I guess it's a little hard to see in the photo, but that's a huge rotary blade hanging off the front of the robot. The weapon was powered by four EV Warrior motors and spun at 2500 RPM. The photo came from an archived Team Minus Zero website and is the only one I could find.

Q: How much did the 'Robotica Rats' weigh?

A: The Robotica Labyrinth had two 'rat' robots roaming the maze to annoy or sometimes help the competitor robots if they got stuck. I'd guess the rats were about 70 pounds.

Q: What was that pink robot in the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors pits?

A: If it was season 1, probably 'Diotoir'. The first season of RWEW filmed at the same time as the second world championships and many British robots can be seen in the pits.

Q: Where can we acquire video of the 1994 and 1995 Robot Wars competition in San Francisco? We're Phil and Sam -- our robot was 'ZOMO', which was luckily featured in the September 1994 Newsweek magazine.

A: Mark J. here: Nice to hear from you guys! The official video from the 1994 event disappeared in all the litigation and has not re-surfaced. There is video of the 1995 event, shot from the stands by another competitor. I've seen a several-generation removed copy of the original tape and it's great! Send me your contact info and I'll put you in touch with the owner of the tape.

Do you have a scan of the Newsweek article you'd be willing to share?

Q: Why didn't 'Jawbreakers Revenge' have a glass breaker in the Robotica season three 'Labryinth'? He would have lost if he hadn't 'eaten' Panzer.

A: 'The Labyrinth' event required Robotica season 2 and 3 competitors to get past various obstacles and break an elevated strip of glass to score points. Most competitors fitted some type of vertical rod to strike and break the glass strip, but several invertible robots left off the 'glass breaker' to remain invertible.

Jawbreaker's Revenge was capable of lifting the nose of the 'bot in a 'wheelie'. They planned to use that technique to shatter the glass strips. Early in the first round Labyrinth, they managed to grip their much smaller opponent 'Buzz Bomb' (not 'Panzer') in their powerful jaws. They dragged 'Buzz Bomb' thru the course and used its glass breaker to score 85 points for the win.

In the second round, 'Panzer' disabled 'Jawbreaker' at the start of 'The Labyrinth', so we never got to see how successful the 'wheelie' technique would have been.

Q: Was 'Hoot' from Nickelodeon Robot Wars the same robot that was in the Dutch Robot Wars?

A: Yes. 'Hoot' was one of the robots built by the Robot Wars technical crew to loan out to teams having trouble with their own robot. They were used to fill in empty tournament slots when there were not enough 'real' competitors. The teams at Nick Robot Wars and the Dutch Robot Wars were different.

Q: What is your favorite fight of all time? One of my favorites was the 'Big Bee' vs 'Texas Heat' (RoboGames 2008), or the super heavyweight rumble of Battlebots 2.0 were 'Toro' flips everyone.

A: See previous post in this archive. Search for 'best robot fight'.

I'm certain that our good friend Dan Danknick will appreciate it if I point out that 'Toro' flipped everyone in that BattleBots rumble except Dan's 'War Machine'.

Q: What was that yellow and black striped robot that Sergeant Bash was grabbing in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Mark J. here: that was no robot, that was my wife.

Q: Is there a Robot Wars Extreme Warriors DVD set?

A: No DVDs, no VHS.

Q: Did 'Mad Cow Bot' look like the same design in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors season 2? If he isn't, can you show me a photo?

A: All of the Team Boltz robots ('Psycho Chicken', 'Mad Cow', 'Boltz') were of the same basic design. You can find some photos at their archived website.

Q: Where does SozBots take place?

A: SozBots organized many antweight competitions in California and Arizona, but there has not been a Sozbots event for several years.

Q: Would the robotica rats be house robots guard the corner patrol zones in robot wars?

A: The Robotica Rats were there more to assist or annoy competitors than to tear them into chunks like the Robot Wars House Robots.

Q: What's up with the Robotica Rats?

A: The Rats were cool. The second event at Robotica 2 and 3 was 'The Labyrinth', a multi-path maze wherein both 'bots could roam to choose from six scoring obstacles. Also roaming the labyrinth were two small 'Rat' robots that could interfere with or help the competitors. If a competitor got stuck in one of the obstacles, one or both of the Rats could provide a little help getting them unstuck and keep the event moving. The Rats had small rotary saws for weapons, but couldn't do any real damage. I'd guess that the Rats weighed about 40 pounds each.

Q: Where is 'Green Mouse' from again?

A: The Robot Wars production company had several 'loaner' robots available to teams who's own robots were destroyed in combat, got lost in transit, or suffered some other major breakdown. These loanerbots were built by the technical support team at Robot Wars. They were there as insurance, to make sure they had enough robots available to complete the full schedule of events. For Robot Wars Extreme Warriors Season 1 there were six loaners:

  • Green House
  • The Green Mouse
  • Joker
  • Rot Box
  • Silver Box
  • Tut Tut
These robots were all functional but -- with the exception of 'Tut Tut' -- not competitive. 'The Green Mouse' was driven by Evan White after his own robot 'Shuriken' was destroyed in the brutal U.S Championships.

Q: And where does 'The Bat' live?

A: Robot Wars Extreme Warriors competitor 'The Bat' was from Patrick Cambell's Team Minus Zero. Patrick built many successful and well-known robots, including BattleBots veteran 'frenZy' and Robotica competitor 'Wendingo'. Team Minus Zero is based in California.

Q: When 'Bunny Attack' took on 'Tyranabot', were the house bots getting yellow cards for destroying 'Tyranabot'? Did any one used the drop zone in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors? Is Robot Wars Extreme Warriors gonna be on this summer? Where can I find the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors recordings? Wasn't 'Tornado' like 'Tricerabot 3.0', and 'Rosie The Riveter 2'? Would 'Storm 2' ram 'Run Away' out? Could 'Tut Tut' destroy 'Diotoir' or 'Ruf Ruf Dougal'? Do any of the US Robot Wars Robots got SRiMech's? Has 'G-Force' look like 'The Tick'? Is there gonna be any Robot Wars Extreme Warriors recordings on The Science Channel this summer? Does 'Sobek' have a saw? Did 'Tiger Cat's axe go the same as 'Terrorhurtz's axe? Would 'Xylon' flip out 'Major Tom'? In Robot Wars, did the battling songs came from a live rock and roll band? What were the songs called?

A: No; yes - several; not that I know of; none are commerically available; kinda; maybe; unlikely; yes - our own 'The Gap' could self-right; sorta; don't think so; not that I remember; not at all - Tiger Cat's was electric and ineffective; possibly; no; I have no idea.

Q: If there was a Robot Wars American civil war, would it feature: Sir Forcealot, Joker, NightStalker, Ninjitsu, Green Mouse, Squirmin Vermin, The Bat, and Probophobia?

If there was a Robot Wars US Annihilator in England, would it feature Rosie The Riveter, Spin Doctor, Bunny Attack, Brute, Trackzilla and Snookums?

A: There was an American Civil War event at the first Robot Wars Extreme Warriors, and there were Annihilator events at both RWEW events and at the Nickelodeon Robot Wars. Competitor lists and results can be found at RWEW and Nickelodeon Robot Wars.

Q: Was Will Tatman with the Manta guys (Team Suspect) at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Will Tatman and Team In-Theory are from Virginia, not far from Team Suspect's HQ. Will was at RWEW and hung out with Team Suspect, but he was there to compete in the Nickelodeon Robot Wars with his own robot 'Hannibal'. Will and Bill Tatman won 'The Annihilator' competition, defeating 'Bunny Attack" in the final round.

Q: If you could pick any two robots for a Robotica 'Fight to the Finish' who would they be? Why?

A: There are several fantasy 'Fight to the Finish' pairings I'd like to see:

  • JuggerBot 3.0 vs. Whyatica -- big power versus too much power.

  • Jaw Breaker's Revenge vs. Ram Force -- it was Team Force upon whom JBR sought revenge.

  • Viper vs. Armorgeddon -- would Armorgeddon's suction fan hold up to the best pusher from season 1?

  • Mechacidal Maniac vs. Ultra Violence -- a big tower of aluminum for UV's weapon to dig into.
But if I got only one fight, I'd like to see Flexi Flier vs. Panzer Mk. III. Pairing the season 2 and season 3 champions would settle a lot of arguements about the best 'bot on the tall table. Panzer had huge power and impressive traction, while Flexi's special low-rider configuration wasn't really tested in the matches against Scarab or Botzilla.
Q: Two Questions about the Robotica re-runs on the Science Channel:
  1. How long is the finale; one hour or two?

  2. About the 'Mystery Bot' at the bottom of the Robotica series 3 photo gallery -- have you asked the Ultraviolence team? Their robot is in the background.

A: The schedule for reruns of Robotica series 3 on The Science Channel has been kinda spotty. One or two shows ran in the US in May, 2008 and more appeared in the schedule, but have now dropped off. I don't know what the deal is, but keep an eye out for more showings.

The finale for each of the three seasons was a two-hour program. The extra time was needed for the six robots in the finals, compared to the four robots in each of the preliminary one-hour shows.

Yes, that is Team Suspect with Ultraviolence in the background, but neither they nor any other team I've questioned can remember anything specific about the Mystery Bot. The qualifying rounds for Robotica went on for several days, with new teams arriving each day and attempting to qualify while production of the show was already underway. The process was chaotic, and teams were just too busy to pay much attention to robots that were still trying to qualify.

Q: Have you saw the uk robot wars? If you were in the robot wars world championships qualifier, would you take out 'Spartacus' (which you fought against) along with 'Flippa'? Was 'Lightning Tracks' made from scrap? Did 'Psycho Chicken' cought fire from 'The Revolutionist' and 'Sgt. Bash' in robot wars extreme warriors heat D, battle 2? When 'Psycho Chicken' fought against 'Snookums' and 'Propeller Head' at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors, was there weapons on the side backs of the crazy hen? Would 'Zanzara' take revenge on you if robot wars was back? Weren't 'Rotbox'and 'Bang' alike? Wasn't 'Marauder' a body spinner? Was the fight to the finish like a Sumo Basho? Wasn't Dan Danknick with you in robot wars extreme warriors season 1? Do you miss Robot Wars?

A: In order:

  • Every episode, many times.
  • 'Flippa' was built by a friend here in Oregon, so we'd go after someone else.
  • 'Lightning Tracks' was very noisy and kept me from taking a nap in the pits, but was not made of scrap.
  • Yes. The scorched fur was torn up and thrown out to fans in the audience.
  • No, not that I recall.
  • 'Zanzara' was our team mate for the Tag Team Challenge at RWEW2. Why would they want revenge?
  • Yes, they were the same robot. -- one of several 'loaner' robots ('Glass House', 'Green Mouse', "Zanzara', 'Tut Tut') supplied by the production company to teams having trouble with their own.
  • Yes, Marauder was a full-body spinner at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 2, but not a powerful one.
  • Yes, but higher up and with flames.
  • Our very good friend Dan Danknick worked for the Robot Wars technical staff at both RWEW events, but not for our team.
  • No, not after these questions.

We're gonna take a break from Robot Wars questions for a while.

Q: Did the Robot Wars teams built other robots instead of the same ones?

A: Would you like to re-word that question?

Q: I'll ask the question again and i'll ask it pacificlly. Did the robot wars extreme warriors teams built other robots instead of the same ones?

A: I didn't understand the question the first time, but now that you've asked it again I understand it perfectly.

Most of the teams ate two and saved the third one for later. Some ate one and saved two. A few didn't even know it was lunch time.

Q: if you were in g4 tech tv robot wars uk couldn't Psycho Chicken be a replacement for Terror hurtz and your robot Run Away be a replacement for Thunder pants?

A: See answer to previous question.

Q: What were some of the Robot Wars Extreme Warriors season 1 and 2 looked like?

A: I don't know of any photo collections from RWEW on the web. I'll consider putting some of my own photos up. Quite a few of the robots were simply disguised versions of robots recycled from Robotica and BattleBots, but many were built from scratch for the event.

Q: Did you saw what happened to 'Psycho Chicken' and 'Propeller Head' when 'The Revolutionist' was being like 'Typhoon 2' the Robot Wars grand final champion from Endinburgh, Scotland?

A: Yes, but take a deep breath first -- you're already way too excited about the whole thing.

Psycho Chicken laid an egg that hatched into a small independent robot (I'm not making this up). The Revolutionist trashed the minibot, then entirely destroyed Psycho Chicken -- wheels ripped away and feathers everywhere.

Propeller Head was more maneuverable and more powerful than The Revolutionist and was able to stay on top of the fill-body spinner to keep him from getting the weapon fully up to speed. Late in the match Propeller Head ejected it's own spinning weapon like a helicopter blade, but continued to push The Revolutionist around the arena and took the win.

Q: Did 'The Revolutionist' get disqualified in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Nope, just got beat.

Q: Was 'Psycho Chicken' and his robotic egg kind of like a cluster-bot?

A: Technically yes, I suppose that qualifies as a cluster-bot.

Q: Have you ever thought of being in the Robot Wars international inferno?

A: If you were invited to compete at Robot Wars, the producers picked the events in which you would compete. You could ask to be considered for an event, but the decision was theirs. We were ready and willing able to compete in any event they would throw at us.

Q: What happened to 'Lightning Tracks', 'Trackzilla', and the other robots you faced at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Full tournament tree results of Robot Wars Extreme Warriors, as well as all other televised tournaments and U.S. national championships are available thru our Who Won page. Click on the purple 'Full Results' button for the event.

Q: Would you be suprise to see 'Mr.Psycho', 'Growler', and 'Cassius Chrome' in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors and Nickelodeon Robot Wars? I saw 'Mr.Psycho' and 'Growler' in Robot Wars series 6, and I saw 'Cassius Chrome' in series 7.

A: I'd be very surprised, because they were not built at the time RWEW and Nick RW were filmed.

Q: Why are featherweights seemingly unpopular in the US combat robot scene? In other countries like the UK and Australia they seem to be the most popular weight class.

A: The 12 KG class (about 26 pounds) in the UK is very popular, and 30 pound 'bots are the elite class in Australia. In Brazil all they fight are 12 and 120 pound 'bots.

The main reason for their lack of popularity in the US is that the number of arenas rated for 30 pound and heavier robots is pretty small compared to the number of arenas available to fight 12 pound hobbyweights. You'll get more and better fights building for the hobbywight class than you will building a featherweight.

Q: This is more informational than a question, but I think the FRA UK featherweight rules now specify a 30 pound (13.6kg) weight limit in the UK, since January 2008.

A: Thanks. I still get questions from the UK about 12 kilo 'bots and assumed they were still sticking to that weightclass. Here are the current Fighting Robot Association weightclasses:

  • Antweight: 0 to 150 grams
  • Featherweight: 1kg to 13.6kgs [2.2lbs to 30lbs]
  • Lightweight: 12kgs to 27.5kgs [26lbs to 60lbs]
  • Middleweight: 27.5kgs to 55kgs [60lbs to 120lbs]
  • Heavyweight: 55kgs to 100kgs [120lbs to 220lbs]
  • Super heavyweight: 100kgs to 145kgs [220Ibs to 320Ibs]

Q: What did 'Lightning Tracks' and 'Snookums' look like at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 2?

A: The Robot Wars event in England filmed just a couple of months after Robotica seqasons 2 and 3 filmed in California. Many of the robots at RWEW2 were Robotica robots with just a few quick changes to alter their appearance.

Russ Barrow's 'Lightning Tracks' was a redressed version of his Robotica series 3 robot 'Dark Track'. The only visible change was the addition of a decorative tank turret to the top of the 'bot.

Ed Robinson's 'Snookums' was likewise a cosmetic update of his Robotica series 2 robot 'Fintastic'. The major visible change was a different paint scheme.

Q: On it says that ESPN will be showing a BattleBots tournament!!!

A: Announcements like this have been on their site for years.

Q: BattleBots announced this only a few days ago (February, 2008). This is what all the talk on the RFL forum is about now.

A: Mark J. here: about once a year BattleBots announces some new television deal, usually involving Disney/ABC/ESPN. None of these have gone anywhere.

You have to read these announcements carefully. The current BattleBots announcement describes a "Collegiate BattleBots Championship" competition limited to a single 160 pound (??) weightclass that may be shown on ESPN2 and ESPNU. A heavyweight "professional" class will also potentially be staged and filmed, but the proposed broadcast deal is for the college teams only. It also doesn't say anywhere that BattleBots has accepted, only that ESPN has offered.

Q: Which 'bot has the most wins in robot history?

A: According to (February, 2008), antweight 'Jimmy Crack Corn' has won 85 of 123 fights, making it the 'bot with the most wins and the greatest number of fights. In the classic weight classes, middleweight 'Devil's Plunger' has won 53 of 68 fights for most wins.

The best record of all 'bots with more than 30 fights belongs to lightweight 'Wedge of Doom' -- 43 wins, 5 losses.

Q: Has there ever been a combat robot class bigger than 340 pound super heavyweight?

A: Not much bigger. The MechWars tournaments have fought 390 pound robots since 2001. The class is not recognized by the Robot Fighting League.

Q: Has enyone ever built a bot bigger than the 390 pound MechWars class other than Jay Leno's exhibition 'bot "ChinKilla"?

A: Some of the Robot Wars house robots were very heavy. 'Sir Killalot' weighed about 1100 pounds, although the show claimed he was lighter. 'Mr. Psycho' may have been even heavier!

Also, there was an episode of 'Junkyard Wars' where the teams converted automobiles into jumbo R/C combat machines that fought each other. Those could qualify as 'bots.

Q: What advice do you have for starting your own tournament?

A: Running your own tournament is a lot of work, even for insect-class robots. I'd suggest that you volunteer to work at someone else's tournament to gain knowledge about what all is involved. The next thing to do is to find out if there are enough competitors willing to attend your proposed event. It isn't much of a tournament if nobody shows up.

See our comments in two previous posts in this archive -- search this page for 'enthusiasm'.

Date marker: March 2008
Q: Will Robotica have a fourth season?

A: The 2nd and 3rd seasons were made in late 2001 -- a 4th season seems unlikely at this point.

Q: Can you post some videos of 'bot fights here?

A: No -- not enough server space. There are plenty of 'bot fights on 'You Tube' and other video warehouses.

Q: Where can I find pictures of the arena Robogames uses?

A: For large 'bots, Robogames uses the Combots/Steel Conflict arena. I don't have links to good photos, but full specifications are at the archived Steel Conflict site.

Correction: Oops, I forgot -- Combots sold the Steel Conflict arena after they purchased the MMER 'MechWars' arena in 2007. You can find pictures and specs for the new arena at the MechWars website.

Q: Do you know much about Australian robot combat competitions? What can you tell me about them?

A: Everything you need to know about robot combat in Australia can be found at There are robot photos, video, rankings, event reports, a wiki, and a chat forum. I've chatted with a number of Australian competitors and they're having a great time with their robots. They use the RFL ruleset and 30-pound featherweights seem to be the elite weightclass.

There is also some interesting robot combat going on in Brazil. They also use the RFL rules, but they fight mostly 12-pound hobbyweights and 120-pound middleweights. The central website is

Q: I saw an older question in the Robot Events archive that said the house bots were given to charity. I also saw that someone on YouTube said they have Dead Metal in their garage. Is that true?

A: I have no idea what happened to the HouseBots following their donation to charity. I suppose they must be stored somewhere -- just like I store the Holy Grail and the Mona Lisa under my bed.

Q: What happened to Robot Wars?

A: As eventually happens to all television shows, it was cancelled. Scroll down to the third question from the bottom of this page.

Q: Are there any battles with HouseBots going on today?

A: Mark J. here: HouseBots were for the benefit of the television audience. They were there to prolong a match that was over too quickly or to add excitement to a dull match. Few of the competitors liked the idea of HouseBots or exotic arena hazards that could interfere with combat. Since most current tournaments are run by and for the competitors, HouseBots are extinct.

Q: Who won the 'JuggerBot 3.0' versus 'The Gap' match at the Oregon Clandestine Street Fight?

A: The Gap had a good day, defeating both 'JuggerBot 3.0' and 'SJ'.

Q: What were the results of the 2007 RFL Nationals?

A: There was no 2007 RFL national championship event. No one with a suitable arena was willing to stage the tournament.

Q: Are there any robot battles in CA?

A: Yes. Please read #12 for info on how to find robot combat events.

Q: What happened to the robot 'Whyatica' at Robotica 2?

A: Mark J. here: Robotica was all about a balance between power and control. Team Whyachi built a robot with huge power (24 horsepower to the wheels) and very little control. Whyatica flipped itself onto its back in a power-mad charge thru 'The Gauntlet', and then barely showed any motion at all before stalling completely right in the starting gate of 'The Labyrinth'.

I got out my tape of the show and took a careful look. Whyatica's behavior in 'The Labyrinth' looks like a classic discharged battery array. The word from other teams in the pits was that Terry Ewert wasn't happy with the slow pace in filming Robotica: too much sitting around while the sets were changed. When you get bored you start making mistakes, like forgetting to charge your batteries. Still, the 4 big Hawker batteries should have had some juice left from 'The Gauntlet'.

'Whyatica' was later renamed 'Warrior' and had an 8 win / 7 loss career as a combat heavyweight.

Q: When is the BattleBots Online Store open?

A: They were last open in mid 2005, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

Q: Are the 'Marin Ant Wars' still happening?

A: The last 'Marin Ant War' I know about was held in the summer of 2006. They had been hosting events twice a year, but nothing in 2007. You could drop a line to Bill Sauro to get the full story.

Q: Do you know who the team was for a bot named 'Green Mouse' that competed in Robot Wars Extreme Warriors season 1? I think they also entered Robot Wars Extreme Warriors season 2, but the mouse was orange.

A: Mark J. here: Robot Wars staff had several 'loaner robots' available to teams that had trouble with their own 'bots at the Extreme Warriors series. 'Green Mouse' was one of those robots. I don't recall the team that used it at RWEW1. Other loaner robots that I remember were 'Tut Tut', 'Glass House', 'Joker', and 'Zanzara'. There may have been one or two more. I don't know what happened to them after the series ended.

The orange robot you recall from RWEW2 was a different robot: 'The Six Million Dollar Mouse' from Chris Hannold's Team Litewav. They also competed at Robotica season 1 [Hands Off], season 3 [Mini Rip], and BattleBots 2.0 [RipOff 2000].

Q: Is 'Rambot' from Robotica series 3 a 'Run Amok 2'? [Fan from Poland]

A. Team Run Amok had no connection to Tom Sweeney's Rambot, but it's obvious that he was paying attention to our design from Robotica series 1. It has a similar graphic design, the tall front wedge, and the high ground clearance that made our 'Run Amok' distinctive and successful. It paid off for him -- his was the only non-veteran robot to make the series 3 finals.

I'd heard that 'Robotica' was still showing on television in Europe. I'm glad to know the show is still being enjoyed.

Q: Was JuggerBot the winner of Robotica season 3?

A. Panzer Mk. 3 was the winner, defeating JuggerBot in the final match. Full results here.

Q: Who is the oldest active bot?

A: Combat robots 'evolve' and names get re-used, so it can be tricky to figure out a specific robot's history. Using the criteria for 'active' [fought in the last 18 months], there are five robots from BattleBots 3.0 [May, 2001] on the active list as of October '07:

  • Death by Monkeys - lightweight
  • Ice Cube - middleweight
  • Hexadecimator - heavyweight
  • SJ (formerly Slam Job) - heavyweight
  • Vladiator - superheavyweight
Team Blackroot's 'SJ' has been the most active of this group with 51 fights in twelve events, holding the #7 current heavyweight ranking and the #5 historic heavyweight ranking. All five of these 'bots took extended leave from combat and fell off the active list at some point, returning to active status later.

Who is the oldest continuously active 'bot? John Neilson's 'AGSMA' has fought in at least one tournament every year since its debut as a lightweight at BattleBots 4.0 [November, 2001] and has never fallen off the active list. The current version of AGSMA retains only the general layout of the 'bot that fought in '01 -- I don't think many pieces of the original remain.

Who is the oldest 'bot to ever fight? 'BioHazard' at the 2005 ComBots Cup: 9 years, 2 months, 27 days after its first fight at the 1996 Robot Wars.

Q: Which is the oldest active team?

A. Depends on what you call 'active'. November 2007: I can't find any teams that fought in the last 18 months that pre-date the teams from BattleBots 3.0 (May, 2001) mentioned in the question above. Of those five teams, three still fight under the same name and with the same core members:

  • Team Blackroot (SJ)
  • Team Toad (Ice Cube)
  • Team WhoopAss (Hexadecimator)
Team Run Amok first fought in March, 2001 at Robotica -- an event not covered by the records. We consider ourselves 'active', although it has been more than 18 months since our last Robot Fighting League sanctioned event.
Q: Who is the fastest true walker?

A: Using the current definition, you could count all the 'true walker' combat robots on the fingers of one hand -- and none of them are active. They were all agonizingly slow.

Q: OK, who was the fastest true walker?

A: Mark J. here: rules keep changing about what makes a 'true walker'. If you want to use a strict definition (independent control of vertical and horizontal motion for each leg, no rolling or dragging parts in contact with the floor, no continuous rotary motion in the drive train) then I suppose the only 'true walker' ever to compete as a combat robot was 'Mechadon'. With nothing to compare him to, you can't really call him 'fastest', just 'only'.

Q: What happened to the robot 'Noll' in Series 1 of Robotica?

A: Noll was the Robotica entry from students at California State Polytechnic University at San Louis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO). They showed up with a big pile of parts and an unfinished robot. Their design was very complex with an overhead spike and adjustable pneumatic suspension, all crammed very tightly under enclosing armor.

The team got the robot together and qualified for the competition, but in their first match against 'JuggerBot' a bolt backed out and jammed the drive train on one side, frying the motor. While hurrying to install their spare motor, two of their team were injured by slipping tools and sharp metal and were sent for medical attention. Remaining team members did get the new motor installed but failed to notice that the bolt holding the wheel onto the drive shaft was too long to allow free rotation. That fried their only spare motor while testing in the pits. The robot was never seen again in competition.

Lessons: keep your 'bot simple, finish and test early, work safely.

Q: Can you point me to an antweight competition in Charlotte, N.C.?

A: As mentioned in #12, the best places to look for U.S. combat robot event notices are the Robot Fighting League event calendar and the Builders Database. There are no combat robot events currently scheduled for the Carolinas -- feel free to start one.

Q: I love the idea of starting a competition in Charlotte, but I could use some help (lots) in designing an antweight arena. I would like to style it after Robot Wars with house 'bots and a pit and flames, but it sounds kinda complicated to build. Any suggestions?

A: You have ambitious plans! I do have a few suggestions:

  • The best arena is useless without people willing to build robots and compete. Find those people first. Get their input and their help to build the arena. Think about starting with a simple arena and adding new 'features' that your builders can agree upon. Many robot builders prefer a simple enclosure without 'hazards'.

  • Arena flames are a no-go. Many places you might like to hold your event (shopping malls, conference halls, technology fairs) are going to balk at anything involving flames because of fire codes and insurance restrictions. You'd also have extra expenses for fireproof arena materials and commercial fire extinguishers.

  • The standard enclosure material for an antweight arena is 1/8" thick polycarbonate (Lexan) plastic. You can find polycarbonate at many glass and window shops, or on the internet. Do not substitute acrylic plastic that is commonly available at hardware and home centers -- it is brittle and nowhere near as strong as polycarbonate.

  • A typical antweight arena is 4' by 4' by 3' tall. Budget $300 for the polycarbonate needed to enclose the sides and top of an arena this size.

  • Browse the Delphi Antweight Forum. You'll be able to ask for specific advice from people who have built and maintained small arenas, and you can publicize your event.

  • Most of the member organizations of the Robot Fighting League have antweight arenas. Get in touch with them for tips on arena construction and running events. Consider joining the RFL.

Q: Is there any relationship between the 'bots 'Polly Pushy Pants' and 'New Cruelty'? They seem very similar.

A: Both 'bots were built and fought by team Killerbotics and have many common features.

  • The 8-wheeled superheavyweight 'New Cruelty' last fought in May of 2002 at BattleBots 5.0.

  • The 4-wheeled heavyweight 'Polly Prissy Pants' (also known as 'Polly Pushy Pants' and 'Corporal Punishment') first fought in August of 2003 at Robot Assault.
I suspect that PPP was built from parts donated from the retired 'New Cruelty', but cannot confirm.
Q: Were there any teams that competed at all three of the big televised events: BattleBots, Robotica, and Robot Wars?

A: By my count, there were eleven twelve teams that competed at all three events:

  1. Team Dark Forces - Russ Barrow
  2. Team Jawbreaker - Tim Berghoefer
  3. Team Minus Zero - Patrick Campbell
  4. Team Suspect - Jeff Cesnik
  5. Litewav Robotics - Chris Hannold
  6. Robot Dojo - Mike Konshak
  7. Team Trigon - Eric Koss
  8. Dream Droid - Walter Martinez
  9. Team Panzer - Todd Mendenhall
  10. Team JuggerBot - Mike Morrow
  11. Team Logicom - Brian Nave
  12. Team Think Tank - Ted Shimoda
There was quite a bit of bad blood between the core U.S. BattleBots competitors and U.K. Robot Wars owners that kept down the cross-atlantic mixing.
Q: What's the difference between a 'featherweight' and a 'sportsman'?

A: In 2006 the Northeast Robotics Club (NERC) came up with a 30-pound combat robot class with a set of restrictions on weapons to limit the amount of damage done to the competitors and to encourage creative designs. This 'sportsman' class prohibits wedges and high-power spinners but does require some active weapon like a lifter, clamper, or flipper.

Section 2.2 of the 2007 Robot Fighting League Rules include specifications for this 30-pound sportsman class. There is still some vague wording to the class rules, but the idea seems to be catching on.

Q: Who do you think would win a BattleBots fight between 'Slam Job' and 'Son of Whyachi'?

A: If it were five years ago I'd care.

Under current rules, Son of Whyachi would be a superheavyweight since shufflebots no longer get a weight bonus. SOW won all of it's fights as a heavyweight and won the BB 3.0 heavyweight tournament, but had only a 1 win/2 loss record as a superheavy.

Team Blackroot has kept active in the sport and has continued to upgrade 'Slam Job', now renamed 'SJ'. They won the 2004 RFL National Championships, and hold the current #7 and historic #5 heavyweight rankings at

Q: Did 'Ziggo' ever loose a battle?

A: BattleBots uber-spinner and Combat Robot Hall of Fame member Ziggo has a great record. I count 17 head-to-head wins (16 by knockout), one rumble win, three lightweight championships, and four losses. The losses were to:

  • 'Defiant' - Long Beach '99 (Ziggo came back to defeat Defiant in double-elimination)
  • 'Das Bot' - BB 1.0
  • 'Sallad' - BB 3.0
  • 'Code Black' - BB 5.0

Q: Do you think Antbotica could be any more lame? (Doofus Wannabe in rural Michigan)

A: Gosh, Doofus -- we've put on three successful Antbotica competitions, but I'm sure the robot competition you put on in Michigan is ever so much better. Oh, wait - there aren't any robot competitions in Michigan, are there? Write back after you've done something constructive.

Q: I built a 'bot but there aren't any tournaments nearby. What should I do?

A: Double points for enthusiasm, but no points for planning ahead.

Think about running your own informal tournament. Team Juggerbot started out as a group of friends building small robots and fighting them at each other's homes. Show your 'bot to your friends and get them interested in building their own. You might talk to a 'local interest' reporter at your newspaper to get some more interest thru publicity.

Most important: keep your tournament safe! You must provide suitable protection for your drivers and spectators. The level of protection depends on the size of your robots and the types of weapons you will allow. Get creative -- you probably don't need a bulletproof plastic box. You might fight insect-class 'bots in your back yard with the drivers inside the house looking out thru a sliding glass door or window. Consult the Robot Fighting League standards for guidance.

Q: Do you need insurance for a tournament?

A: Mark J. here: If you put on a real tournament with entry fees and prizes and all -- yes, you will need insurance. If you have an informal tournament that's just a group of friends having some fun with their small robots under safe conditions, standard homeowner insurance will likely cover your liability. If you're worried, check with your insurance agent.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to have their own 'bot tournament?

A: Mark J. here: I've learned a few things about small-scale events from organizing three Antbotica events:

The most important thing is safety. Make sure your arena and rules provide a safe environment for spectators and participants. The event organizer is going to be very busy, so assign a safety monitor in the pit area to enforce regulations and keep spectators out.

The second most important thing is fun. If everybody, including you, is having fun then it's a successful event. Don't get so hung-up on event details and regulations that you squash the fun.

Finally, make sure that full information on rules, schedule, and event details are available to participants well in advance of the event. Event turn-out will likely be less than you expect -- don't be disappointed.

Q: What happened in the fight between Ginsu and Mechadon at the 1999 BattleBots event in Las Vegas?

A: I've misplaced my tape of the 1999 pay-per-view event, but I remember that at the end of the match, the true-walker Mechadon had a couple of it's six legs inoperative and it was tangled up against the rail. The saw-wheeled Ginsu was tipped over on it's side and couldn't move. Ginsu had done a lot of damage, but the judges apparently decided that it was incapacitated at the end of the match while Mechadon could still kinda move a little.

The match decision went to Mechadon, but Team Sinister couldn't repair the damage in time for the next match and they had to forfeit.

Q: Does the Central Illinois Robot Club (CIRC) let you use AM R/C radios?

A: CIRC is a member of the Robot Fighting League, and there is a table of RFL minimum radio requirements in the FAQ (#18). However, the event organizer has the final call on variations to the RFL rules. Try asking CIRC president Bruce Stott:

Q: In your opinion, what was the most destructive robot fight of all time?

A: I'm not a big fan of destruction for its own sake. I think destruction is an over-rated factor in robot combat. I'd rather see a fight won by crafty driving and strategy any day. Wouldn't you rather ask about the 'best' fight of all time?

That said, there are plenty of 'bot fights where one machine tears the other a new oil hole (like 'Ultra Violence' vs. 'Tiger Wood' at Robotica III), but not many where both 'bots get really well shredded.

For being both mega destructive and a great overall battle, I'd nominate the heavyweight final of BattleBots 3.0 at Treasure Island. 'Son of Whyachi' and 'Biohazard' beat the bolts out of each other! Armor is ripped away, weaponry is mangled and snapped, systems fail and recover, and still the fight goes the distance.

As an aside, I don't agree with the judges' decision in this fight -- I score it in favor of Biohazard.

Q: OK, so what do you think was the best robot fight of all time?

A: San Francisco, Robot Wars 1995, heavyweight final: 'Thor' vs. 'The Master'. There is a video of the '95 event shot from the stands that circulates in the combat robot underground. Find a copy if you can!

1995 Robot Wars Competitor Photos

Q: Are reruns of Robot Wars still on?

A: Nickelodeon GAS sometimes reruns the Nickelodeon Robot Wars series with kids driving the robots. That's the only current showing of Robot Wars I know about. Check their website for times.

Q: I saw the daVinci Days tournament video, but I didn't see your 'Mini Maxbot'. Why not?

A: There were more than 20 matches at that tournament and they didn't all get recorded. I think you can spot 'Mini Maxbot' in the 'rumble' footage if you look carefully. Most of the 'Rat Amok' fights are included.

Q: My bot is a modified R/C car that has a manual switch that turns off the car. I'm thinking of putting on a saw on the front. Will they let me turn off the saw with my switch or do I have to get another switch?

A: Active weapons must be turned on and off remotely -- no 'turn it on and set it in the arena' allowed. Further, an active weapon must turn itself off automatically if the radio transmitter is turned off. Finally, active weapons are not allowed with toy/AM radios. Sounds like you'd better stick to a passive weapon with your 'bot, or upgrade to a failsafe FM R/C system.

Q: Did you see the Second Robot Wars World Championship final match? I thought it was rigged so that 'Razer' would win. Sir Killalot only went after the American 'Drillzilla'.

A: We were at that match in London. By the time Sir K got involved, Drillzilla had already lost the match. The housebot operators are carefully instructed to not influence the results of any 'final' match. None of the teams we talked with thought the match was less than fair.

Q: Who is 'General Chompsalot' fighting in the pictures on the Team Toad Stickers in London page [expired link removed]?

A: Those pics are from the first round of the Tag Team Terror match: 'Run Away' and 'General Chompsalot' vs. 'Falcon' and 'Joker'. General C. is shown fighting Falcon, and you can see Run Away in the background of picture #3. Joker was a full-body 'tuna can' spinner.

Q: What happend when there was a tie on the Robotica Speedway?

A: 'The Speedway' challenge used in the first season of Robotica was a figure-8 race with two robots traveling in opposite directions. Robots scored 10 points for each lap (up to 8) completed within the time limit with a 20 point bonus to the winner of the race.

There never was a tie in 'The Speedway'. If two 'bots had completed the same number of laps, the winner would have been the 'bot that completed their final lap first. The closest finish was between Run Amok and Kritical Mass. Run Amok crossed the line to finish her 6th lap just feet ahead of Kritical Mass and defended the line long enough for the clock to run out, holding Kritical Mass to 5 laps.

Q: Will there be an Oregon Clandestine Street Fight this year?

A: If I told you, it wouldn't be 'clandestine'.

Q: Will you be adding BattleBots IQ tournament trees to your on-line library? How about Robot Fighting League Nationals trees?

A: Our library of tournament trees contains major televised tournaments (Robot Wars, BattleBots, Robotica) that developed big followings, and the earlier versions of those same tournaments that weren't televised. Those tournament trees are the most popular feature of our website!

We have recently added the RFL National Championship trees to the site, but there just isn't enough interest in the BBIQ tournaments to justify digging up the data needed for the trees.

Q: How long did it take to do a 'Fight to the Finish' at Robotica?

A: About ten o'clock on each of the first three mornings of the competition, all of the robots on hand would gather and go thru the qualifying tests. The top eight qualifying teams would divide into two groups of four 'bots and film two shows that day.

All eight teams would compete in 'The Speedway', then the big 'Maze' set had to be moved into place. After 'The Maze', that set had to be moved out and and 'The Gauntlet' moved into position. Finally, 'The Gauntlet' could be cleaned up and moved out and the platform for the 'Fight to the Finish' could be rolled in. Every set change took a couple of hours -- longer if there was a mechanical problem. Each day wrapped up about three in the morning.

For the 'Fight to the Finish', each 'bot had to be lifted up onto the entry gantry to drive onto the platform. After the match, the winner had to be lowered back down, if they were still on the platform! Each 'Fight to the Finish' took about 40 minutes, once the platform was ready to go.

Q: Are the BattleBots summaries at the 'Robotic Combat Fan Site' (archived) accurate?

A: Opinion: the summaries I sampled were not good reading. I'd rather not check them all against the tapes for accuracy.

Q: Could you post your video library on the internet?

A: Last time - NO! We don't hold copyright to the material and cannot legally do anything with it but watch it in our own home.

Q: Some of the 'bots at Robotica were very light. Why didn't all the teams build to the 210 pound weight limit?

A: Robotica presented a number of different challenges. For some of those challenges, weight and bulk were a disadvantage. It was much easier to slip thru the barrier walls in 'The Gauntlet' with a small 'bot than by banging a big 'bot against all those bricks and blocks, and you didn't need to be big to be fast in 'The Speedway'. Run Amok herself was almost 40 pounds under the weight limit to get an edge in maneuverability.

Q: Was there a 'Fight to the Finish' for the 4th, 5th, and 6th place robots at Robotica?

A: No. It was 3:00 AM when we finished the 'Fight to the Finish". Nobody wanted to load up the other 'bots for another fight.

Q: Who do you think would have won the consolation 'Fight to the Finish' at Robotica if it had happened?

A: The 'bots involved would have been 'Kritical Mass', 'Jawbreaker', and 'Viper'. Of the three, Viper had by far the best traction and pushing power. They took 'Panzer Mk I' off the platform in the preliminaries in an incredible pushing match. My vote would go to Viper.

The consolation match in Robotica II would have had 'Deb Bot' against 'Ill Tempered Mutt'. Deb Bot was quick and powerful, but much lighter than ITM. My vote goes to the Mutt.

The third-place fight at Robotica III would have been 'Ultra Violence' (an evolved version of Kritical Mass) versus 'Jawbreaker's Revenge'. Two experienced teams, crushing jaws versus a powerful spinning weapon, too close to call!

Q: What event offered a prize bigger than the $12,000 Robotica grand prize?

A: The Robot Wars Second World Championship in England paid $25,000 to the winner. We were there, but 'Panzer' took us out in the qualifying round.

Q: Ticket prices for the 2006 RFL national championships in Minneapolis this August haven't been released yet. How much have they been in the past?

A: The 2005 event had 3-day adult tickets for $50, kids 7-17 for $40, 6 and under free. Single day tickets were $20/$15/free.

Update: spectator admission to the 2006 national championships in Minneapolis was free!

Q: Do you have any pictures of the Steel Conflict / Combots arena?

A: Try the archived Steel Conflict site.

Q: Wasn't Robotica scripted? [Alex Udanis]

A: Mark J. here: Very funny, Alex.

Technically, Robotica may have been the fairest and least-scripted of all the televised competitions. Competitors went thru a qualifying trial to test their maneuverability, precision, and power. The preliminary round match-ups were based entirely on the scores from the qualifying trial, and matches in the championship were based on tournament scores from the preliminary round. Nobody got a 'bye' for the early rounds, and the show producers had no hand in the tournament matches.

The outcome of the first Robotica competition certainly played like a Hollywood script, but none of the interviews or matches were coached or scripted. I once joked that we had to film the final 'Fight to the Finish" three times before it came out right, but I was kidding!

Q: Are there any Robot Fighting League tournaments that happen twice a year?

A: Yes, some more than twice. Check the RFL Events Calendar.

Q: Do you have the tournament trees for the 'War of Independence' and 'American Civil War' competitons at Robot Wars Extreme Warriors?

A: Sorry - our collection of tournament trees doesn't include the 'extra' events at RWEW. The Robots Rule site lists the robots that fought in the extra events and notes the winners. Both of the events you mention were simple single elimination tournaments with eight 'bots.

Q: Have you ever posted videos on youtube or Google video?

A: Yep. Search Google Video for "Robot Combat" and you'll find the first half of the match between 'The Gap' and 'JuggerBot 3.0' at the Oregon Clandestine Street Fight.

Q: Is it true that you get a free kit from if you win a Robot Fighting League tournament?

A: Not exactly. If you win an RFL sanctioned tournament using a full BattleKit within one year of purchase from an authorized dealer, you are eligible for a refund of the cost of the basic BattleKit you purchased. Details are at the BattleKits website.

[Note: the BattleKit refund offer is no longer available]

Q: Where can I download 'BattleBots' videos?

A: The official BattleBots webpage has battle clips, but I don't know of any source for full episodes.

Q: Can projectile weapons like paintball guns be used in robot battles?

A: Some events allow projectile weapons if they have a restraining device to stop the projectile in 8 feet or less. Untethered projectiles are prohibited, so paintball guns are right out. Projectile weapons have never been popular.

Check the current Robot Fighting League rules for details on allowable weapons.

Q: Do any tournaments give out Robot Marketplace gift cards for prizes?

A: Gift certificates from various robotics suppliers are common prizes at tournaments. Robot Marketplace has been a prize sponsor at the BattleBots IQ competitions.

Q: Have you considered having your own tournament?

A: We have our own tournament: see Antbotica.

Q: What was the prize at Robotica? How about daVinci Days?

A: Robotica paid the largest top prize in American robot combat: $12,000 cash. Second thru sixth paid $2000 each. DaVinci Days paid out quite a bit less -- about $100.

Q: Did you tape any of the BattleBots episodes?

A: The Run Amok video library has tapes of all five seasons of Comedy Central 'BattleBots', all three seasons of TLC 'Robotica', both seasons of TNN 'Robot Wars Extreme Warriors', and the BBC 'Robot Wars' episodes from the 4th Wars onward. Wish I had the earlier Robot Wars!

Q: Is there any way I can buy stuff from the video library?

A: Sorry - we don't have rights to sell any of those commercial videos.

Q: Where did you get the robot combat videos for your library?

A: They were recorded off-air, for personal use only.

Q: Where did the heavyweight spinner 'Tillah' come from?

A: Tillah was built by Oregon's 'Team Tillah', headed by Team JuggerBot weapon designer Ron Ender. The design is essentially the back half of the basic JuggerBot chassis with a large and nasty square drum spinner weapon hanging off the front. The robot was 'entropically retired' at the 'Steel Conflict 4' tournament by the combat robot hall of fame spinner 'Megabyte'.

You can see Tillah in action in the Oregon Clandestine Street Fight.

Q: Why do builders make robots flammable if they know there will be fire traps?

A: Part of competing at Robot Wars was the challenge of putting on exciting matches. If you had an entertaining 'bot you would be invited to participate in some of the 'extra' events like the House Robot Challenge, the Annihilator, and Tag Team Terror.

As mentioned in a previous post, the American competitor 'Tricerabot' was 'JuggerBot 3.0' in a cardboard disguise. The team had several replacement costumes. The burning costume did no harm to the titanium armor underneath, but added excitement to their matches.

Q: The Wikipedia page on Housebots says that Growler's tail could shoot fire. The 'Robots Rule' page says nothing about that! Is it true?

A: The Wikipedia is correct; Growler did have a rear-mounted flamethrower. The flame didn't come from the end of the tail, but from underneath -- more like a flame farter.

Q: How much is the shipping on the Robotica video? Does it have combat matches? Do you have all of the episodes?

A: Mark J. here: I have no connection to the sale of the Robotica videos.

I'm told that the video offered by has episodes five and six, plus the double-length final episode. Please contact InetVideo with any further questions. For info on the Robotica competition format, see the Robotica Wikipedia page.

Q: Do you have any photos of the robot wars house bots?

A: Sorry, no. Try Robots Rule - Housebot page for photos and stats.

Q: Are there any American multi-bots?

A: I don't know of any purpose-built American multi-bots, but it is not uncommon for a couple of 'bots from one weight class to 'team up' and enter a higher weight class just to get more arena time. In general, multi-bots don't do very well.

Q: Is there any relationship between 'Logoseye' from Robotica and 'Rosie the Riveter 2' from Robot Wars? How about 'Juggerbot 3.0' and 'Tricerabot' from those same series?

A: Very observant! The TV robot shows didn't want 'bots with the same name or appearance as other shows, so builders often disguised and re-named their 'bots to compete in different televised events. There is actually a relationship between all four of the 'bots you mentioned:

  • Tricerabot actually was JuggerBot 3.0 in a cardboard costume.
  • Rosie the Riveter 2 was a disguised Logoseye.
  • Team Logoseye was a group of builders that split-off from Team JuggerBot after the first Robotica season -- the underlying designs of 'bots from both teams were very similar.
There were several other Robotica 'bots disguised to compete at Robot Wars. I'll let you try to find them.
Q: In your opinon, which was the best 'bot ever at BattleBots?

A: Biohazard, hands down. Ziggo and Hazard are tied for second, in my opinion.

Q: Where can you buy BattleBot videos?

A: has DVDs from the pre-Comedy Central tournaments.

Q: How did 'Voltarc' defeat 'Biohazard' in BattleBots season 1.0?

A: Best I remember, the match went to the judges. Voltarc got under the skirts of Biohazard and managed to look more aggressive all thru the match.

Q: Can Carlo Bertocchini's heavyweight champion 'Biohazard' self-right?

A: The very early versions of Biohazard could self-right, but that ability was lost in 1997 when Carlo added the large titanium side skirts. 'Vlad the Impaler' managed to get under those skirts and flip Biohazard at the 1999 BattleBots 'Pay-Per-View' event in Las Vegas and Biohazard couldn't recover. Vlad went on to win the championship at that event.

Q: Did 'Toro' and 'Diesector' ever fight each other?

A: They may have bounced off each other in one or more of the superheavyweight 'rumbles', but they never met 'head-to-head'. Toro and Diesector somehow always ended up on opposite ends of the BattleBots superheavyweight tournament tree and never met in the final:

  • Season 2.0 - Toro lost to 'Atomic Wedgie' in a quarter-final match. Diesector beat Atomic Wedgie in the final.
  • Season 3.0 - Both 'bots lost in the quarter-finals: Toro to 'Minion', and Diesector to eventual champion 'Vladiator'.
  • Season 4.0 - 'New Cruelty' defeated Diesector in the semi-finals, then lost to Toro in the final.
  • Season 5.0 - 'Phrizbee Ultimate' took out Toro in the third round. Diesector won the championship.

Q: What happened to robots that weigh more than 30 pounds?

A: Arenas built to contain heavier robots are very expensive to build, costly to transport and assemble, and big bucks to maintain. Without major sponsorship, big arenas just aren't cost effective. Without big arenas, there isn't anyplace to fight big 'bots.

Q: I'm new to the building combat robots thing. What weightclass do you recommend? [Chris Marnati]

A: Find out what weight classes are popular at the tournaments you plan to enter. It won't do much good to build a 'bot for a class that isn't supported. Beyond that, it's largely a matter of your budget and level of mechanical experience. Start simple.

Q: Do you know of any robot tournaments that allow AM radio systems?

A: The standard Robot Fighting League rules allow AM radios in weight classes up to the 12-pound 'hobbyweight' class, with some restrictions on weaponry. Most RFL member tournaments follow these guidelines.

Q: I am thinking about entering the MechWars tournament. I'd like to enter the antweight class with a 'Fly Wheels' toy with armor and a wedge. Can I use the R/C gear that comes with the toy?

A: MechWars is a member of the Robot Fighting League, but they have modified the RFL rule set for their events. Section 4.4.6 of the MechWars ruleset has been altered to require FM radio systems for all weight classes and weapon types. The AM radio in your 'Fly Wheels' wouldn't comply.

I'd suggest emailing Jon Vandervelde ( to make sure this applies to antweights. At big events it's common for another organization to handle the insect class competition -- they might have different rules.

Q: Did 'Rat Amok' fight 'Robo Rat' at the da Vinci Days tournament? That would be a cool match!

A: I think 'Robo Rat' (picture here was built just to fight 'Rat Amok', but the match never happened. Rat versus Rat Trap -- who do you think would'a won?

Q: Where is 'da Vinci Days' held?

A: The da Vinci Days technology festival happens each July on the campus of Oregon State University in in Corvallis, Oregon. No robot tournament there this year (2006).

Q: What was the biggest 'bot tournament you've been to?

A: We've been to a few 'big' competitions like Robotica and Robot Wars. Robotica had the biggest prize of any robot combat event ever held in the US. Robot Wars Extreme Warriors 2 had more than 50 heavyweights from the U.S. plus quite a few from Europe.

Q: How much was the grand prize at Robotica?

A: $12,000 -- we won!

Q: Where did 'Robotica' take place?

A: All three seasons of Robotica were filmed on a large sound stage at the old ABC studios in Hollywood, California.

Q: Are the Robot Wars 'House Bots' self controlled?

A: The show gave the impression that the housebots were autonomous, but each of them had a R/C operator down at arena level that you never got to see.

Q: Do you know of any robot tournament games that people play online?

A: Yep, see

Date marker: February 2006
Q: What is the most popular weight class?

A: For builders, antweights. For spectators, heavyweights.

Q: What is the least popular weight class?

A: The 6-pound 'mantisweight' class is not popular with builders, and the 50-gram 'fleaweight' class isn't getting much action, either.

Q: Where can I find inexpensive robot combat videos?

A: Try the Robot Marketplace Video Store [expired link removed] -- I don't think any of the videos there are over $20, and some are under $15.

Q: Were there robot matches at the "Robotica" competition, or was it just races?

A: There were races, obstacle courses, barrier destructions, head-to-head push-offs -- all sorts of matches. Take a look at the Robotica page at Wikipedia for a full listing of events in all three seasons of Robotica.

Q: Aaron, how old do you have to be to do combat robots?

A: I drove my dad's 'bot at Robot Wars when I was ten. Most events don't have an age limit, but they may require adult supervision in the pits. Check with the event organizer.

Q: Aaron, What TV channels are still showing robot combat?

A: I think the Nickelodeon version of Robot Wars with kids driving the 'bots is still on the Nick Games & Sports network -- watch for me driving 'Run Away' in that series!

Q: Dear Aaron, my friend told me about a robot from Robot Wars, doesn't remember the season. He said it was a multibot that was held together by magnets and could connect and disconnect at will. The name was something along the line of twin something. Do you know what he is talking about? [Ted J.]

A: Yes, Ted. The robot's name was 'Gemini'. It competed in the Fourth and Fifth Wars. It won the 'Best Design' and 'Most Original Entry' awards at the Forth Wars. I think I remember that both halves of the multibot were identical CO2 flippers. It did OK, winning the first round fight both times, but didn't get any farther.

Robot Wars rules said a multibot had to enter the arena as a single unit. Gemini used magnets, but broke apart prior to fighting.

Q: Dear Aaron -- I've heard about autonomous ant-weight combat tournaments. What do you think about fully autonomous robot combat? [Ted J.]

A: Building a robot that can fight and win without an operator is quite a challenge. This is real 'cutting edge' stuff, and you're pretty much on your own trying to build an autonomous navigation and attack system.

Some tournaments give a weight advantage to autonomous 'bots and let them fight the R/C 'bots. I like to drive my 'bots. Letting them fight with me just standing there sounds like less fun. Besides, the autonomous 'bots I've seen fight weren't very good at it. My dad has offered a $100 prize to the first autonomous 'bot to take him out of a tournament. I think his money is safe.

Q: Did I see you at Combots last weekend? (November, 2005)

A: Nope - I was at the RFL nationals last year, but not this time. Must be an impersonator.

Q: Do you know of any in-depth books on the history of the robots that fought in the early U.S. Robot Wars -- besides "Gearheads"?

A: Literary question - Mark J. here: Brad Stone's Gearheads is a great book on the history and politics of the early days of robot combat. Unfortunately, it is also the only book published on the subject. If you have an interest in the topic, you might enjoy reading thru the archive of the original U.S. Robot Wars forum on the Delphi site.

Q: Which of the house robots on robot wars is your favorite?

A: I've always liked Dead Metal. His design is cool and the weapon is very effective.

Q: Do girls build robots?

A: Heck yea! I don't know of a competition that hasn't had at least one female competitor. Robotica, Robot Wars, and BattleBots all had female teams, and the local competitions I go to have plenty. Don't let anyone tell you that girls don't build 'bots.

Mark J. here: Team Run Amok is back from the 2004 Robot Fighting League national championships in San Francisco. Aaron drove his beetleweight to third place overall! His loss in the semi-final was due to an electronics failure in the 'bot -- Aaron's driving was great! Nice job, Aaron.
Q: Aaron, when is Robot Wars going to be this year?

A: I'm sorry to be the one to give you the bad news, but the final season of Robot Wars -- the Seventh Wars -- was filmed in late 2003. The house robots were given to charity, and the arena was sold to the Fighting Robot Association in England. No more Robot Wars.

The good news is that there are plenty of robot combat tournaments both in the U.S. and England. For information on U.S. events, try The Robot Fighting League. For British events, try The Fighting Robot Association.

I wrote a free-verse poem for my English class today:


not like TV, being there
seeing all of it,
even behind the scenes

the pits, machines laid out
on tables, waiting to be fixed again
for battle

crowds in stands, shouting
screaming, chanting, stomping
wanting mayhem

smoke and ozone
oil and graphite
metal dust, robots fighting

Mark J. here: I wanted to take a second and congratulate Aaron for his great robot driving at the daVinci Days robot competition (July 17th & 18th, 2004). Aaron won the first ever Antbotica competition with his veteran robot 'Mini Max Bot' and came back the next day to win the beetleweight combat competition with his new robot 'Zpatula'! He has qualified for the Robot Fighting League national championships in San Francisco in October. Great work, Aaron!
Q: What is a robot war competition? How do you win?

A: Never seen Robot Wars? It's pretty simple -- two big (220 pound) remote controlled robots enter a sealed box about the size of a basketball court. Destroy the other robot and you win. You can crush, smash, pierce, saw, or flip the other 'bot. You can throw them over the arena rail. You can push them into the pit, or roast them over the flames. Just do NOT turn your back on the 'house robots' that patrol the edges of the arena.

Q: What were the best parts about being in the pit area at Robot Wars? (Lance D. - Azusa, CA)

A: I liked being able to see all the other robots close-up. I especially liked the British robots "Tornado" and "Razer". The American robot "Tricerabot" was very impressive at the first Robot Wars Extreme Warriors -- he almost pushed Sir Killalot into the pit! My friend Jerome had an impressive robot named "Unibite" that was pretty strong. It was the first robot to go into the "drop zone". Being in the pits was awesome!

Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Mark Joerger -- all rights reserved.