SERVO 09.2016 27
It’s been almost a decade since I’ve been able to go to
a large combat event.
While I love the small
and medium sized
Insect events, there’s
something about the
giant venue/large bot
can’t be explained by
mere words. However,
that’s what I’m going
to attempt to do.
I was scheduled to
go to RoboGames at
the kind invitation of
Dave Calkins — one of
my many supporters
through my recent
medical adventure. Unfortunately, a
once-in-a-lifetime work opportunity
nixed that trip, at least until next year.
I had to settle for teaming up with a
couple of other long-time bot
reprobates via a Facebook spoof page
called “Flat David’s Great Escape.”
Check it out.
Shortly after, I was invited to help
out with a team going to BattleBots™,
as a social media wonk/sponsorship
beggar/general flunky. Frankly, I’d
given up on ever going when the
original show was cancelled back in
2002. I’ve been to quite a few events
since, and love it with the “True
Passion,” but never dreamed I’d get to
The technical and competition
articles will have to wait until after air
time, but for now, some impressions
about mega events, television, and the
fraternity of builders.
First, it was totally weird to see
people in person that I’ve known via
email, forums, and Facebook for 10+
years. Having friends I’ve never met
was just an odd sort of thing for this
Between being in the combat
community since 2002, doing The
Combat Zone since 2006, and stalking
the sport’s celebrities, I “knew” maybe
100 of the 350 or so people there.
Second, one thing that never
changes: Bot people are good people.
Sure, we have a few bitter rivalries,
but 95% of the people would do
anything to help any other competitor.
In my role as flunky, I wound up being
the Borrower In Chief of the whole
Over the first six days of the
event, I borrowed, begged, loaned,
bought, asked to be bought, and
returned maybe 100 items. Granted,
some shipping and last minute
modification problems caused a lot of
it, but it’s unimaginable that in any
other sport, so many people would
tolerate this kind of mooching!
Third, the willingness to help. I
have a picture that might make it into
a future article (after non-disclosure
agreements expire) of people from
four different teams helping a fifth
team fix their bot during a short
turnaround. What’s normal in our
sport should be
legendary and exalted.
Fourth, the smell.
Until you’ve spent a
week in robot pits, you
have no idea. It’s a
mixture of machine oil,
battery smoke, glues
and goos, soldering,
metal shavings, sweat,
paint, grinding, and
All in an un-airconditioned hangar.
I only thought I’d
smelled it, until I
opened my suitcase
when I got home.
Whoa. I mean, whoa.
Fifth, and last, the
fatigue. Being recently convalescent, I
had to limit myself to 12 hour days.
My early bird nature helped our team
a bit since we could run “two shifts”
in the pits or making parts runs. Still,
11 days of travel and bot work was a
Oh, yeah, number six. I got to go
to the actual McMaster-Carr. Not mail
order, the actual building. Check that
one off, and let the rest of you be
Memoirs of a Traveling Bothead
● by Kevin Berry
The author posing with a bot he did little to actually build, but a lot to
promote and buy random parts for.
Living the gearhead dream.