Robot Cage Fighting Is Still A Thing!


Remember Battlebots? Turns out it is alive and well in Southern California at the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) Robotics League. That’s right — high school students are getting to build remote controlled weaponized robots to battle to the death inside a poly-carbonate octagon arena. Awesome.

[Bradley Hanstad] wrote to us today to inform us of the 2014 Regional Competition — happening tomorrow at 10AM (PDT). We can’t make it there ourselves, but there is a live stream for everyone to see!

The league started just this fall which currently consists of 15 area high schools, community colleges, and technical schools. The goal of the league is to spark an interest in engineering and manufacturing in young students, while at the same-time providing hands-on education on the applied side of the sciences. It’s sometimes tricky to get students engaged in engineering competitions — but as soon as you say fighting robots you will have most peoples’ attention.

To see a teaser trailer for what is to come at these competitions, stick around after the break!


25 thoughts on “Robot Cage Fighting Is Still A Thing!

  1. This is so wrong. Just because we build them DOESN”T mean we have the right to put them in an arena to fight to the death. If you want to see brainless things, just head out to (insert particularly bad neighbourhood near you)

  2. See also:

    URL for UK based stuff, obviously.

    I’m not affiliated with the FRA or the companies who run events, just a big fan of the old Robot Wars show, and the article title seemed to imply surprise. It does still exist, and it’s still great fun, it’s just not on TV any more. Someone should really fix that.

  3. I really love this from the “getting kids into science” aspect, but as far as other robot fighting competitions go the choice to have people in physical proximity to the fight always results in rules that prevent truly interesting robot design choices. Screw saws and flippers; I want a robot with a harpoon gun fighting one that sprays conductive acid, or oxy-acetylene torch vs liquid nitrogen. A robot that lays explosive mines vs one with a flamethrower. Bigass quadcopter loaded with glue trying to immobilize one on the ground. For that matter, controllers should have to fight using exclusively onboard sensors and cameras, enough of this god’s eye view.

    Competitive robot combat is a man sitting at a wacom tablet with the option to create nearly anything who’s chosen to fingerpaint for twenty years now.

    1. Ignoring safety factors would certainly make it more interesting, although youd still want to limit explosives.
      You want still want active robots, imho, not just turrets that chuck granades at eachother.

      1. Every team in the competition vs an obstacle course. Robot teams get to run the course once while it’s inactive and then get twelve hours of prep time per obstacle on the course. Robots then run the course one by one and are judged on how much functionality they retain by the time they reach the end. The possibilities really are endless and I can’t be the only one sick of watching “Flipper Bot mk. 856” trade dents with “I put a spinning shell on top of a Roomba and painted it a weird color in a desperate attempt to be interesting.”

    2. Yeah, the idea for an event with fewer safety restrictions recorded/streamed by camera turrets and operated from a bunker/otherwise offsite sounds like a much more interesting game. For example, if the only thing you ban is explosives, you get a really interesting situation where melee is still viable but you incentivize the railgun enthusiast crowd to develop something auto-loading and a portable power supply for it.

      Play somewhere out in the desert, throw in a few cheap sheds, maybe a mix of areas that are and aren’t paved, and you can see a much more interesting playfield.

      Maybe flying-allowed and flying-disallowed leagues…
      Themed challenges every now and then…
      Get DARPA/etc., corporations, governments, etc. in on it (who wouldn’t want to see Google and Samsung build robots to duke it out every year? Samsung makes actual SENTRY GUNS for heaven’s sake!) , maybe make combined budget-mass classes rather than straight tonnage… Could be a thing. I’d pay big money to watch it on TV or whatever. It would become the only sport ANYONE in my family would watch religiously, that’s for sure.

      Also, a lot of rules are designed to make more interesting fights rather than for safety (though safety is the reason for most of them), like, for example, the no EMP/jamming rule present in pretty much all rulesets. While effective against radio-controlled (read: almost all) machines, it’s pretty boring to watch. The most famous example of a clever but boring weapon I think is back in the days when gas chainsaw/etc. engines were still standard for weapons: someone brought a Halon fire extinguisher! (electric start was not a feature of these engines)

      Although… some looser (obviously a shutdown [or even better, keepalive] frequency is agreed to be sacred) restrictions on Ewar in the ‘big leagues’ would put incentives on autonomy (I can’t hear you over all these microwaves! I’ll just keep shooting!) and robust sensors (I have a camera. You have a laser gun. Well shucks! I have distributed IR sensors and you don’t have enough lasers! Oh dear, flares…)

      Just be interesting seeing what the world could come up with when you put looking good in public up against the trend of classifying any technology that could even remotely have military applications. Countries, corporations, universities, hacker groups and individuals have at least one thing in common: they want to look good in front of everyone. And they will occasionally spend vast sums of money to do so. I can see no awesomer way to do that.

      I just want to see someone blow up the iGladiator. Especially if they’re sponsored in part by the EFF or something ironic like that.

      Picture this: Mecha from Google, Apple, Samsung, DARPA, GM, Honda, etc. walk into a ring on live TV. Regardless of the outcome, SOMEBODY will cheer for every one that gets blown up. And a good time was had by all.

      …I mean, people spend so much money on propaganda to convince saps that they’re totally the most advanced and could CERTAINLY whup the other guy in a fight. Why do that when you could say it with ROBOTIC COMBAT EXHIBITIONS!?

      I think the dark horse winners in corporate classes would be earthmover companies. Especially in high-weight low-ish-price competitions. They’re used to building heavy, computerized equipment that can crush mountains and survives when some idiot drives it off said mountain. Of course, more militaristic organizations would do even better (though Google now owns Boston Dynamics, which is scary now that you think of it).

  4. What?!? I spent the day at the Gulf Coast MakerCon in Tampa, where we had the USF-RIGs battle bot arena and plenty of action all day. While I prefer First style ‘challenges’ rather than fighting, it was still a lot of fun. Tomorrow we have several First teams fresh from the semifinals in San Antonio showing off their bots and more demo fights. Yay robots!

  5. This isn’t anything particularly new. Wisconsin’s been doing since 2007, it’s just been under the name “BotsIQ”. I actually helped to start a BotsIQ club at my high school my freshman year there. It was a ton of fun and I learned so much more useful knowledge there. Anyways, here’s a link:
    Also, here’s a video of one of my favorite battles we ever had. “Vega$” is our first battle bot we ever made, it did quite well.

  6. Robot fighting is the perfect robotic experience in my honest opinion. You can take the skills learned from this to create a bunch of other things, from autonomous robots to do surveying or even wireless hacking or cyber attacks, maybe even defense (depending on what it is defending I guess). All in all, I am happy to see this trend is still going pretty strong.

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