Sunday, April 18, 2004

Rockem-Sockem Robots

So as I was doing other errands today, including research for a book, I stopped in at the Factoria Mall to watch combat robots. One of the guys at my old office, Adam, (who is in the minority in that he is still employed there) was running his 'bots there. A married couple from my poker group also often battles, but their 'bots, "IT" and "THEM" are currently out of action, and they gave this one a pass.

The robots in question are "antweights" - these are battlebots that weigh about a pound and are about the size of a radio-controlled vehicle (they're operated in much the same way). Antweights are pretty handy for live displays in public areas, like malls, because they don't require a lot of protection. The "battle-box" is a five-foot plexiglass cube that rests comfortably on top of a set folding tables, and there was no time that the crowd felt it was in danger.

I stayed for the opening rounds where my Adam's "Defiance", a wedge bot (hard to flip), triumphed over "Mission Control", a lifter bot (that relies on flipping), on points. Then two spinner bots, "Spinner's Rule" and the Klingon-decaled "Bork-TAS" went at it. Spinners are normally high-damage bots, since they are mini-sawblades on wheels. They are also fragile, in that both got their spinners out of action (Bork-TAS won that one). Then a new kid's homebuilt wedge - "Fajita Man" got nailed by Adam's "Mister Twister", another sawblade, on a TKO (Adam had three of his 'bots in the competition, which is permitted, as long as he can keep them running). I had to book out before the semi-final rounds, and they were talking about a round-robin fight for the "Beetleweights" (5 lb combat robots).

The competition attracted a good-size crowd of geeks, other competitors, and mall walkers for an otherwise sparsely attended mall. Watching the robot builders reminded me of model railroaders, as they talked about scale and wiring and patches and fixes. Of course, this is more competitive, but all the builders struck me as being pretty easy-going about their hobby, even though their hobby was building machines of destruction (though again, the destruction is pretty limited for a self-powered device).

Its interesting and fun, their website is here, and I should add that Adam did the thunderbird design for their group.

More later,