News and updates from Combat Robot Team Run Amok.

TLC Robotica Grand Champions Team Run Amok.

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Aaron Joerger, 2010
Aaron Joerger, 2010
In Memoriam: Aaron Joerger, 1991 - 2013

Aaron was the heart and soul of Team Run Amok, and I continue the site in his memory. Thank you for the many kind messages of sympathy and support that have found their way to me. Aaron's obituary.   - Mark Joerger

Team Run Amok
 20 23 Years in Combat Robotics
March 4th, 2024 marks the 23rd anniversary of Team Run Amok's victory at Robotica. The final fight took place at about 2:50 AM and it had been a very long day. Since that time, we've won a few more championships and we've been on the podium at more than half the events we've entered. We've organized three Antbotica competitions, traveled to compete in England twice, and answered 7500 questions about combat robotics at the Ask Aaron page. We're still at it, albeit with a heavy heart.

Robotica Logo

I want to thank the combat robot community and our fans for their continuing interest and support. Stay tuned for new features and surprises in the coming years.

A Special Anniversary Video

Team Run Amok's top fan 'Iceywave' sent us a video to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of our March 4th, 2001 victory at Robotica. Iceywave recreated the "Fight to the Finish" in Robot Arena 2, with beautiful virutual versions of finalists 'Run Amok', 'JuggerBot', and 'Ram Force'. People tell me that the final battle was a fluke and that it couldn't come out the same way again in a thousand tries. Let's see what happens in the virtual version...

How is Robot Combat Doing?

The data for the chart comes from combat event registrations at Builders Database. The site reports robot events world-wide. A 2020 format change at BuildersDB removed access to the numbers of registered robots -- they are no longer updated on the chart. Not all events register with BuildersDB -- take the data with a grain of salt.

 First Pakistani Combat Robot: 2004

I was going thru an archive of very old robot emails when I ran across a message I had completely forgotten. The sender was a Pakistani engineer who had formed a group called "Operation Badar: an Educational Movement" for the purpose of building a "world class" combat robot to inspire universities in Pakistan to teach a curriculum in robotics.

Pakistani robot 'Badar 1'

I have built a small webpage around that email that includes the robot's specs, a couple of photos, and the interesting story of the eight-month build of 'Badar 1' (pictured above). I think you'll find the story both interesting and entertaining.

The Story of Operation Badar

Combat Robot Hall of Fame

Literally thousands of combat robots have fought since the first Robot Wars in 1994. Which do you think were the absolute best? Team Run Amok founded the Combat Robot Hall of Fame in 2003. We polled members of the robot community to select the initial 25 inductees. Robots from both sides of the Atlantic gained membership based on:

Detail from the 1996 Robot Wars poster - color modified.

  • Dominating success in combat;
  • Pioneering or perfecting influential designs;
  • Having great fan or entertainment appeal; or
  • Otherwise making a lasting impact on the sport.
The 2023 inductions raised the full member count to 45, with 43 robots attaining Honorable Mention. Notification and balloting instructions appear in combat robot forums world-wide in August of odd-numbered years. Your next chance to vote will come in about:

Take a tour of The Combat Robot Hall of Fame.

 The Oregon Clandestine Street Fight

It was a hot July afternoon in 2002 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 from Battlebots 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.
This set of videos has been available ONLY as a bonus when purchasing a Team Run Amok cap thru my web store, but I've run out of caps and the store is closed. For the first time ever I've uploaded them to YouTube and created a playlist that you can access here:

Oregon Clandestine Street Fight.

Ask Aaron banner image 'Ask Aaron' Website Answers 7300th Question!

When my son Aaron and I started the 'Ask Aaron' website, we didn't even know there WERE 7300 questions about combat robots. Aaron started the site in 2003 to discuss robots and learn more about robotics by researching answers he didn't already know. I took over the answering duties in late 2013.

Got a question about combat robotics? Why not Ask Aaron?

 Maybe I Should Retire

Team Run Amok's question and answer site Ask Aaron has answered over 7300 combat robot questions over the last 20 years, but artificial intelligence systems are starting to take over question answering duties in all areas of the internet. Is it time for us to stop answering robotics questions?

I asked Chat GPT a simple combat robotics question I had recently answered at 'Ask Aaron' to see if it could supply a workable answer. You can read the question, my answer, and three different answers from ChatGPT here:

Why Not Ask ChatGPT?

 Robotica Trading Cards

Back in the days of the TLC Robotica competition, a few of the teams had some trading cards printed up to hand out to fans. I pulled out a set of those cards and scanned the fronts and backs into a handy and compact PDF document.

There are cards from Run Amok, JuggerBot, Silverback, and Death By Monkeys. Each card has a robot photo on the front and robot/team info on the back. I hope you like them.

Robotica Competitor Trading Cards (PDF)

 Twenty-One Years of Ask Aaron
Ask Aaron banner image
Team Run Amok started Ask Aaron in March of 2003 to answer the robot combat questions sent to our team. Twenty years and 7300 questions later we're still fielding a very broad range of practical, theoretical, arcane, obscure, and sometimes just plain silly questions.
There's a TON of information on this site and it's worth spending several dozen hours looking through all the information. If you can't find an answer to your question here, it's either not relevant, the wrong question to ask, or you aren't looking hard enough!
- Robert Cowan  
  • 2013: Aaron was appending haiku onto the ends of his answers on his namesake webpage. That lead us to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 'Ask Aaron' with a Robot Haiku Contest.
  • 2018: I was answering inquiries about little-known combat robots with Aaron's beloved 'Obscure Robot Mad Lib'. Our celebration of Ask Aaron's 15th anniversary included a Combat Robot Mad Lib Contest.
  • 2023: The hot topic is Artificial Intelligence out on the web. We've just finished up our Ask Aaron 20th anniversary celebration with our Secret Identity Puzzle Contest with photos of famous combat robots altered by an A.I. graphics program. Go see how well you can do!

Robotica Video Game?

It isn't exactly a Robotica video game, but a fan recently pointed me to the video below that shows a Windows PC game called MetalMania. Yes, that is Run Amok running a combined version of the Robotica season 1 Maze and Gauntlet!

The video was released in 2018 and since that time the game has undergone further development and changed its name to Robot Rumble 2.0 -- a much more complex robot combat simulator. It looks great, but Run Amok does not come with the new version and there is currently no add-in file for her. If you want to jump into driving a virtual Run Amok thru the Robotica Gauntlet, download download MetalMania for Windows.

Variations on a Theme

I've been playing with websites that use an artificial intelligence driven graphics engine to create an image based on text inputs and an optional starting image. On a whim I fed Hotkoin's sketch of our champion robot 'Run Amok' into the Stable Diffusion engine at Night Cafe Studio, gave a text prompt "Battlebot photorealistic", and asked for 16 images. Thirty seconds later it spit out these variations:

The next time you need to kick-start your creative juices you might want to give this a try. Night Cafe Studio
Rise of the Robots Podcast

I don't listen to many combat robot podcasts, but I stumbled across 'Rise of the Robots' and I'm a fan. Alan and The Griz rewatch (mostly) old episodes of televised robot combat shows and talk about whatever comes to mind.

Rise of the Robots Logo

They aren't trying to be controversial and they don't have an agenda; they're just a couple of fans enjoying the shows. Robot Wars, BattleBots, Robotica, Techno Games... they watch them all -- and once in a while they interview a builder. Over 170 episodes and counting!

Rise of the Robots Podcast

ROTR on Facebook

Robotica Competitors Gallery Update

I put together the original Robotica Competitors Gallery twenty years ago to provide a source of photos and descriptions of the robots that fought it out in the three seasons of the unique Discovery Network robotics tournament. The format was crude, the competitor listing was incomplete, and the photos needed work. No more:

Robotica Competitors Gallery
Robotica on the Internet Archive

It has been difficult to find a complete set of the TLC Roboticia episodes out on the 'net, but a sharp-eyed fan spotted nice crisp copies of all three seasons of the Robotica TV series on the Internet Archive! Available now to view, cast, and download:

Season 1 Complete

Seasons 2 and 3 Complete

See also: Team Run Amok's Robotica Journal

Mechanical Principles video Mechanical Inspiration

This short video is more than ninety years old, but I turn to it frequently when my mind is stuck on a mechanical problem and I need inspiration. I've queued it up to my favorite section about half-way thru, but you'll likely want to rewind and watch it again from the beginning.

Ralph Steiner Mechanical Principles 1930

If you have an interest in exotic mechanisms, I can also recommend the Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook by Neil Sclater. I found and purchased a used copy of an earlier edition at a good price online. A great book just to browse for ideas.

'Deadblow' Awarded Honorary HoF Membership

Deadblow robot Combat robotics lost one of its most prominent faces in 2020. Grant Imahara first entered the public eye as a BattleBots competitor with his middleweight robot 'Deadblow' -- competing in the inaugural 1999 Long Beach tournament and all five seasons of the televised BattleBots series on Comedy Central. Together they won 'giant nut' trophies for rumble wins at Long Beach and Season 2.0, and for a runner up tournament finish at Season 1.0 behind Hall of Fame member 'Hazard'.

In recognition of Grant's contributions to combat robotics, 'Deadblow' has been inducted into the Combat Robot Hall of Fame as a unique Honorary Member. Grant will be remembered for his bright personality and achievements in many fields, but please also remember that he built and operated a fine combat robot. He will be greatly missed in the combat robot community.

Early Robot Wars logo Who Invented Robot Combat?

Most robot historians cite Marc Thorp's 1994 'Robot Wars' event in San Francisco as the origin of robot combat as we know it today. Modern combat robots can all trace their roots back to the sixteen robots that competed in the 'Face Off' tournament at that event. However there are records of earlier fighting robot events that failed to ignite public interest -- and a couple of those tournaments survive to this day like lost islands of prehistoric reptiles.

  • The earliest documented public combat tournament took place in 1989 (some undocumented claims say 1987) at the 21st Annual MileHiCon Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention in Denver, Colorado. The inaugural 'Critter Crunch' tournament 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 'Robot Battles' using a ruleset derived from the Critter Crunch. Robot Battles is a continuing event at the convention, and has spread to other venues as well.

Anyone interested in the early history of robot combat should obtain a copy of 'Gearheads' by Brad Stone. It's a fascinating read.

See also: Combat Robots in 1988?.

Heavyweight combat robot 'Nelly the Ellybot' BattleBots: An Honest Build Log

Do you want to know what it's really like to build a heavyweight combat robot for a big time televised tournament? Sarah Malyan has written an honest and gritty log covering her team's build of an elephant-themed hammerbot to compete at Discovery BattleBots. She covers it all: doubting design choices, dwindling resources, all-night sessions, time-eating details, compromises, anger, frustration, last-minute on-site fabrication, jet-lag, googly eyes, and the terror of tech inspection.

This is the real stuff. If you've ever thought about applying to compete at a big event you owe it to yourself to read and believe every word in this log. Sarah has promised more posts covering the team's experiences in the tournament as the episodes are broadcast, so be sure to check back for the updates.

Nelly the Ellybot Build Diary

Spring Powered Flipper Weapons

Pneumatic flipper weapons are awesome but their complexity can be troublesome, particularly in smaller combat robots. Flippers powered by mechanical energy stored in springs or elastic bands could offer attractive alternatives to pneumatics if designs that use electric gearmotors to trigger and reset spring flippers were better known to builders. I've put together animations and discussion of four poorly known spring flipper designs and wrapped them up in a new webpage. Take a look; it might light a fire in your imagination.

Ask Aaron: Four Spring Flipper Mechanisms
Slip gear spring flipper animation
Robert Cowan YouTube Channel

Robert Cowan logo There once were a great many combat robot build logs out on the 'net. A new builder could learn from the experiences of other builders and find answers to questions they didn't even know they had. Now there are very few builders that even maintain websites, and fewer still who are willing to share their build secrets.

Fortunately, builder Rober Cowan has taken on the task of providing well produced videos of the intimate details of building a combat robot, as well as other tech projects he undertakes. His YouTube channel page is here. You might want to start with his video series on his antweight robot 'Sgt. Cuddles'.

Combat Robots in 1988?

battling toys Six years before the first Robot Wars, a group of toymakers got together to melt each others' creations in a battlefield filled with road flares and flaming lighter fluid. It looks a lot like robot combat to me!

1988 Terminator Tournament

The contests continued irregularly for many years. Here's video from the 2009 event:

2009 Terminator Tournament

T.i. Combat Robotics Website Goes Dark

T.i Combat Robotics logo The resource-packed website provided by Total insanity Combat Robotics shut down in October of 2015. Most of the content is still accessible from the Internet Archive: Archived T.i. Combat Robotics. However, the Archive does not have a copy of the popular T.i. Four Bar Lifter Simulator.

With the permission of the simulator's author Adam Wrigley, Team Run Amok has created a 'mirror' of the Four Bar page where you can download the simulator software. We are also working with Adam to update the software to run on current Windows computers, but for the moment you will need to install the simulator and the required .NET Framework 1.1 on a pre-Windows 7 machine.

T.i. Four Bar Simulator

UPDATE: Another of the T.i. technical pages was in need of salvage. Adam Wrigley's 'Designing Around the Gyroscopic Effect' page has an understandable analysis of the math behind the 'gyro dance' many vertical spinner 'bots fight. A javascript calculator at the bottom of the page lets builders model the gyro effect of specific weapons on their robot design. I've organized the analysis into sections, cleaned up the javascript, and ported it to our website.

Designing Around the Gyroscopic Effect

Robotica Sounds Page Update

Someone on Reddit noted that our 'Robotica Sound Clips' page was showing it's age and had unpredictable behavior in sound playback. Given that I hadn't looked at the page in fifteen years was a miracle that it worked at all! I took a few minutes to update the code to something that modern browsers can appreciate. Same classic Robotica sounds, shiny new sound console players. Go retro and give a listen!

Robotica Sound Clips

BattleBots Allows Complete Spare 'Bots in their 'Tournament'

Two 'Bronco' robots in the pits at ABC BattleBots This was first confirmed at ABC BattleBots 2016 where several teams had duplicate robots, complete and ready to fight, waiting in the pits if needed. See the actual pit photo of the twin 'Broncos' at right. At least one team swapped in a 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; bringing in a whole new robot has never been allowed in robot combat -- until now.

Why the big change?

I suppose it helps if you don't think of 'BattleBots' as an actual robot tournament. Think of it instead as a major network TV reality show with huge production costs. The producers don't want to wait around with the clock running while a team struggles to repair a badly damaged robot. Pretty much anything goes to keep the filming on schedule.

I'm told that the selection of teams that received a 'second chance' slot after a defeat was based largely on who was ready to fight. That makes having a complete spare 'bot an appealing - if expensive - option. This practice throws a strong advantage to better financed teams.

BattleBots has long made 'sporting compromises' to favor television. Starting in Season 3 of the original Comedy Central 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.

What Weapons Win? Updated!

Do spinning weapons win more robot combat matches than wedges? Are active weapons better than passive rammers?

In 2006 I ran a statistical analysis of combat robot tournaments for the prior year to compare the performance of robots with kinetic energy spinning weapons to other 'active' weapons and to robots with passive weapons. The results surprised many builders!

There have been significant changes to spinner weapons in the last ten years -- brushless weapon motors, exotic single-tooth impactors, much higher energy storage -- so I decided to re-do my analysis with current data. Once again, the results are surprising:

Spinner vs. Wedge -- 2016 Update

Combat Robotics on the Rise in Russia!

While nobody was watching there has been a surge of interest in robot combat in Russia. There were two tournaments in 2015: 'ArmorBot' in Moscow (100kg and 50 kg classes), and 'Rise of the Machines' in Perm (60kg class). Lots of new builders making new builder mistakes, but the matches are fun.

Here's a page of competitor photos: Imgur: Rise of the Machines 2015 bots gallery 1 -- gallery 2. Most of the 'bots look like they came from the same shop -- look carefully at the construction details. I think all the armor is painted foamcore that rips away to make a better show. The event sponsors put on robot events for hire, and I suspect they build all the 'bots as well.

Robot Combat on Television is Alive and Well -- in Korea?

It seems that Korean television has been hiding a robot combat competition called 'Robot Power' for the last decade or so. Best I can tell the show started in 2005 and ended in 2011 There are quite a few episodes available for viewing on YouTube: here's the first episode (I think).

The show is rich in computer graphics depicting fanciful robots on other-worldly arenas, but the competition itself is mostly wedge robots wandering around an arena and sometimes bumping into each other. There are races, arena combat, and even some small humanoid walkers in later episodes.

A Tribute Video from a Fan - Run Amok at Robotica!

Wow, I've never had a tribute video before. It took thirteen years, but I'm terribly grateful. Music by Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa.

The First Self-Righting Robot?

Early on in the history of combat robots, builders discovered that an overturned robot was toast. The number of robots designed to overturn their opponent began to increase and countermeasures were needed. Invertible robots, able to continue operating when flipped over, are immune to an overturning attack -- but designing for invertibility will either limit or complicate weapon and armor choices. A better solution might result from an active mechanical means of returning an incapacitated overturned 'bot to correct 'wheels down' orientation.

So, who was the first immobilized robot to save itself by self-righting? Several claims have been made for assorted robots under differing conditions, often relying on arena walls or intervention by another robot. Here are the best candidates, in my opinion, for first true self-righting:

  • US Robot Wars 1996: Carlo Bertocchini's 'Biohazard' had just won a match against rival 'Vlad the Impaler' by pinning Vlad against the wall for 30 seconds. The match was called and Biohazard backed away. Vlad, apparently disappointed at the loss, turned and used its pneumatic lifter on Biohazard to flip and immobilize it. Biohazard was able to self-right by use of its electric lifting arm. This is generally believed to be the first display of self-righting at a tournament, but it took place after the conclusion of a match and had no bearing on the outcome.

  • US Robot Wars 1997: Gage Cauchois' 'Vlad the Impaler' had a dedicated pneumatic device that could quickly and repeatedly pop Vlad back upright from an inverted orientation. The device was successfully used to self-right from an immobilized position in an early round match against Biohazard, but Vlad lost the match in a judge's decision.

  • UK Robot Wars 1998: Rex Garrod's 'Cassius' was immobilized when it was turned upside-down by a House Robot during 'The Gauntlet' phase of the competition. Cassius used its pneumatic flipping arm to jump back upright and complete the Gauntlet. Cassius avoided elimination and went on place second overall in the tournament.
There you have it. Biohazard was the first to demonstrate reliable self-righting in a tournament setting, Vlad the Impaler was the first immobilized robot to right without assistance in a tournament match, and Cassius was the first immobilized combat robot to use a self-righting mechanism to save itself and continue in a tournament. Take your pick; they are all great robots and all members of The Combat Robot Hall of Fame.
The Robot That Never Was

Here's the untold story of a mock-up robot that just may have been the key to Team Run Amok's acceptance into the Robotica competition. The robot never had a name and it never was fully operational, but without it our whole robot combat career may never have made it off the ground.

The Robot That Never Was

Robotica Ring Tone?

I've had several Robotica sound clips available for a while in .WAV format, but I just recently converted them to .MP3 to make them a better match for portable applications. The "Robots Ready" clip makes a great ring tone.

Visit the Sound Clip Page and turn up your speakers.


Growing just a little tired of the usual robot combat scenario? Looking for something a little more challenging? Why just trash a field of robot competitors when you can out-think, out-maneuver, and just plain out run them?

Antbotica logo
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 and start building for the next event.

robot warrior You Be The Judge

Working as a judge at a combat robot tournament is no picnic! Get the match right and everybody nods, but if the crowd doesn't like your call they let you know. Try scoring the five example matches given here and you can see just how tough it can be.

What counts more, a flip or a bash? How many points for smoke? Rip off a wheel - does that win the match for you? Is it better to do damage early or late in the battle? What counts as 'aggression'?

You Be The Judge.

Battbotica Wars

Think that robot combat is all guts and glory? You may want to think again after you read this list of things that actually happened to Team Run Amok and our friends on journeys to robot combat tournaments in the U.S. and England.

  • Did you know that laundromats are illegal some places?
  • Why do my socks smell like spray lube?
  • How do you feel about french beer?

Battbotica Wars.