One niight, a gaggle of robot builders were posing questiions lliike
“how can we get robot combat — with all its associated cultural and educational
benefits — back into the public eye?” Another question that came up was “how
can I get paid to blow things up, and yet stay out of jail?”
by Jonathan Vandervelde
Needless to say, with the sheer,
concentrated weight of genius
crammed into that tiny, bamboo
paneled Tiki bar, answers to these
questions and many more besides were
soon flowing thick and fast. And from
these ramblings MechBash was born.
Mechwars Robot Combat in
Minneapolis (which has been holding
both combat tournaments and
entertainment events since 1999) and
BotBash LLC in Arizona (holding
combat tourneys since the misty days of
antiquity) decided to team up and put
together a traveling show to push the
idea of robot combat, and emphasize
the educational aspect of the activity.
This new entity — the MechBash
Robot Combat Show — would be
expensive to operate, but not as expensive as an actual robot tournament,
and the entertainment and educational content could be more reliably
managed. It would be attractive
mostly to large clients like state fairs
and big trade-shows.
A format was hammered out and
after knocking on many doors, a
booking agency was finally willing to
take a flier on the idea.
However, after weeks of frantic
tap-dancing and heroic efforts on the
part of myself, Bob Pitzer, and our long-suffering agent, we had one single,
magical, this-either-turns-the-tap-of-success-or-buries-our-efforts forever booking — the 2007 South Carolina State
Fair in Columbia, SC. We all bore down
and got working to make it a success.
One of the problems that a robot
combat promoter faces is the sheer
weight and sophistication of the infrastructure required to stay one step ahead
of the builders in the arms-race between
the robots and the containment system.
And in terms of doing live shows, there
is the added complication of time.
The cage has to go up and come
down in about a day, and the economics of a show (or tournament) simply
don’t work out. It’s all very well to build
a super massive mega-cage, but if it
takes five days to set up, the promoter
has to pay four more days of Staples
Center level rent, and consequently
loses $80,000 on the show. The result
is either a quick bankruptcy for the
promoter or — if outside sources of
income can be found to delay the
inevitable — a slow and ugly death.
The Mechwars cage — rated to handle even mega-weight combat robots
(390 lbs) — goes up in about 10 hours
Newton launches a washer.
SERVO 02.2008 39