The spectacle that is BattleBots may seem like the perfect fit for a live show in Sin City. There may not be dancing girls, but there’s certainly plenty of action. The live show launched in February and hopes to bring fans an up-close heavy metal experience.
Robots Invade Las Vegas
“Destruct-A-Thon contains all the drama, action, and destruction of the TV series condensed into an intense, fast-moving, 80-minute theater show that features many of the most famous robots that have delighted millions of fans all over the world,” noted the company when the Vegas show was announced.
The Vegas competition also allows more teams to compete. Each television show features 50-70 robots, but more than 900 teams have signed up on the BattleBots website to compete, Roski says. Producers are forced to pick and choose which bots should appear and match up best in the area. Roski worries that some bots like his own La Machine will get overlooked.
More of those competitors can now get in on the action and take their own shots at robot glory. Many audience members are amazed at just how massive the actual machines are. The company has a three-year deal with Caesars Entertainment, and the new BattleBots Arena is located behind the Horseshoe Casino (formerly Bally’s), just off the Las Vegas Strip. Roski says fans can expect plenty of the carnage and mayhem they’ve come to love. And unlike other Vegas spectacles, this show sees part of the cast killed off every night.
Two opponents square off in the middle of the ring. “Fusion,” a compact vehicle looking a bit like a Roomba vacuum cleaner, boasts a horizontally spinning blade and is ready to slice up the next opponent. On the other side, “Huge” features almost the exact opposite design.
It’s larger with a vertically whirling bar hammer and two sizable wheels, making the robot look like a Civil War field cannon. A loud clang suddenly echoes through the arena as Huge plows head-first into Fusion, leaving the vehicle’s drive damaged and loosening some of its armor.
A second shot sends sparks flying, impairing the smaller bot even more. A third hit proves to be the death blow, with Huge’s massive blade slicing right into Fusion, ripping off the bot’s top plate like a can opener. Fusion is left motionless—a quick ending that leaves the robot DOA and has Huge ready for the next fight. This isn’t a scene from the latest Hollywood sci-fi film but one of the latest battles from the new season of BattleBots. The show is now in its seventh season on television and even debuted a Las Vegas competition called BattleBots Destruct-a-Thon this year.
Building a Solid Fan-Base
The show has built a cult following with fans craving the latest carnage in the ring—from twisted metal to fiery finishes and, as Fusion experienced, some pretty powerful weapons. Builders spend plenty of time and thousands of dollars hoping to appear on the show and see their creations cut down the competition. Sometimes, that works out; other times, it does not.
“Every year, you look at the other guy and say, ‘I’m going to hit him right there… and then he’s going to explode, and I’m going to win,’” said Huge team captain and BattleBots veteran Jonathan Schultz after triumphing over Team Fusion. “It doesn’t always go like that.”
The Battle is Born
Remote control cars were ultimately BattleBots co-founder Trey Roski’s foray into robot fighting. As a kid, he and his cousin enjoyed playing with RC cars but soon found that smashing those vehicles into each other was much more fun. When an acquaintance launched Robot Wars in the early 1990s, the two cousins were asked to build a robot. The show would air in the United Kingdom, and Roski wasn’t sure how well he and his cousin would fare but got to work anyway. This was different from the high-tech wizardry seen on BattleBots today.
“We couldn’t afford much,” said Roski. “My mom loaned us $600 to build the robot, and we couldn’t afford a speed controller. We couldn’t even afford a battery. So, we used the battery from one of our other friends’ Honda Civics to power the robot. We couldn’t afford a charger to charge the battery, so we couldn’t run it down all the way. We had to keep it with enough juice to start the car again.”
The team’s creation, the 80-pound La Machine, fought in the middleweight category in 1995 and is considered the pioneer of the “wedge” design. The silvery, boxy robot may not have looked mighty. Still, it won the middleweight division and the “Melee,” a battle royale among all still-functioning bots in all weight classes remaining in the competition.
The Cost to be the Boss
Eventually, Roski became a co-founder of the American version of the show in 1999, retitling the competition as BattleBots. These mechanized warriors have appeared on ABC, Comedy Central, and now Discovery. In the intervening years, the bots have become better and more expensive. Bots like Tombstone, Skorpios, Jackpot, and Ginsu have become fan favorites after unleashing hell on opponents. Teams easily spend as much as $10,000 on a robot, but many even get sponsorships to defray some costs. And as Roski points out, more money doesn’t always equate to success.
“We’ve had people who have spent very little money and ended up winning and doing very well,” said Roski. “We’ve had people that have spent a lot of money and lost very quickly and very badly, so it’s not necessarily about money. This is a sport of the brain and about coming up with a good idea.”
As team captain, owner, builder, and driver for the SubZero team, Logan Davis is made for BattleBots. The 36-year-old from Arlington, Texas, grew up watching the British show Robot Wars with his father, Brady. The twisted metal and sparks flying were captivating, and the youngster asked his dad if they could build a bot of their own.
“He said there was no way we could build a bot and fly it all the way to the UK,” said Davis. “So, with that, I was incredibly excited to find a few years later that there was an event much closer in California. I made sure to print out all of the rules and started doodling designs in my school notebook. It was enough to twist my dad’s arm or melt his heart.”
The pair bought a quadriplegic wheelchair for Davis’ 13th birthday and got to work. They pulled the vehicle completely apart, rebuilding the device into a robot. They’ve now been building together for 23 years. That interest in all things robotic also helped launch Davis’s career path. His first job was at a small animatronics shop in Dallas, building robotic puppets for child safety education. He credits BattleBots with helping him to land a job in product development for small general aviation products.
Creative Beginnings Build Better BattleBots
For the last nine years, Davis has worked in IT with many of the skills from these on-the-job skills, also helping in the battlebot workshop. And when his background doesn’t lend itself to a particular need, some sweat equity helps—including learning skills like TIG welding and plasma cutting. But getting these high-tech machines up to snuff requires more than just a couple of guys with a design and a battery. Each member has their own skills and specialties, hoping those efforts pay off with a win in the arena.
Along with Brady, the SubZero team also includes Brian Bray (designer, weapon operator), Kris Mitchell (designer, computer-aided design) and Mitch Cerroni (electronics specialist, 3D print specialist). SubZero is one of the few remaining air-powered flippers and the first battlebot to throw an opponent out of the ring.
The hobby involves much more than just a passing fancy, and teams spend hours fine-tuning their bots with the hopes of creating the ultimate killing machines. But going from a design to a fully functional heavy metal mercenary doesn’t come without trial and error.
“There are so many challenges with the design and construction, and they’re ultimately unique to the builder and designer’s tools, techniques, and skills,” said Davis. “Just designing and building within the constraints of the 250-pound weight limit is a challenge. You always have to make compromises. Each decision is a compromise.”
The Final Showdown
“This has been my dream for a long time,” said Roski. “The goal with the live show in Vegas is to give everyone who wants to compete a chance to compete and to prove themselves in the arena. Every battle is 100% real. There’s no question that the robots are trying to kill each other. You never know what’s going to happen.”
For more intel on future events, visit battlebots.com.
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Source link: https://www.athlonoutdoors.com/article/battlebots-robot-destruction/ by Skillset Staff at www.athlonoutdoors.com