Almost 20 years ago, I went to London to fight on Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors. I came home with
one poster of the bot Razor. A few
months ago, I competed at the reboot
of BattleBots™ on Discovery and
The Science Channel. I came home
again with one poster, which was of
Warhead. Sensing a theme here?
Team Warhead bots are iconic.
They are art. The team is amazing,
genuine, and fun. They are my
heroes in the sport of robot combat
(second only to Mark Setrakian with
Mechadon), and you know what they
say about meeting your heroes.
Well, I got to meet mine, and
then I had to fight them to the death.
Robotic death, anyway.
I barely got in to BattleBots and
that was as an alternate. This is a
position I highly encourage taking if
you get the opportunity.
My design is, to say the least, “out
there.” It’s a frickin shark with a frickin
laser beam on his head. I love art bots!
Anyway, I was offered “a pit table and
a fight,” and I pounced on it like a
kitten on a new ball of yarn.
We built Sharkoprion in four
weeks, then took a couple days to
rebuild the drive (the center of gravity
was too far back). It was then a couple
more days to get the weapon running
(the teeth were too big). I had a full
hour of driving practice before we
packed up, which is more than a lot of
foam model parts into CAD drawings,
which were then laser cut just as I
finished the last job. So, I was never
without something to do.
As the deadline approached,
we had to make a very important
decision. Our previous robots had
been hand-painted with cans of spray
paint bought from the local vehicle
accessory store. I wanted to continue
this theme as it showed continuity, and
would give a recognizable color match
between all of our robots. April had
As a fan of the American Chopper
TV show, she had always wanted
to send a robot out to powder coat
because the bikes always looked
amazing when they were done this
So, we found a local company
willing to work with April’s crazy
ideas, and we had a custom vibrant
pink color made and a custom clear
coat with four different types of
glitter mixed into it. The results were
The powder coat was so bright
and had so much glitter that the robot
was beautiful. April was absolutely
correct to do this, and I would have —
again — held back the quality of the
robot if we did not subscribe fully to
her being the leader of this project.
April did the final assembly of the
robot herself. She fitted the titanium
pivot shafts, spacers, and bushings.
She bolted in the gear motors, put
thread-lock on all the small bolts
that needed it ( 12 of the 24), and
tightened everything up.
She fitted the speed controllers
and used the crimping tool on the wire
crimps because she cannot solder yet
(I will not teach her until she is older).
So, this was the best way to have her
do the wiring. She did all of the high
power wire connections in this way.
She fitted the receiver and the
control units for switching the valves,
using precisions screwdrivers on the
terminals and then taping the wires
to the control units so they can’t
be pulled out of the terminals. I
supervised in case of mistakes, and I
think I had to intervene only once.
She fitted the lithium batteries
inside the foam packed battery box,
She fitted the activation lights
and the flexible 3D printed panels she
designed and made on her printer at
home. I went through every pneumatic
fitting after she finished connecting
them, just to ensure they were tight. I
armed the robot up for the first time
and every time since, just to be safe.
April can drive the robot — or not. It’s
up to her on the day.
April did more work on this robot
than many adults do on other teams.
That is not an insult to anyone at all;
it’s simply a fact.
Had we chosen to sub-contract
all the steel fabrication — as plenty of
teams have rightfully done in the past
— April could still not have realistically
finished the robot on her own, but it
would not be that far off.
Can a little girl really build fighting
robots? Using her own skill set with
team support to fill in the rest — just
like any adult in the sport — yes she
can. Just look at the robot she built.
22 SERVO 09/10.2018
Meeting your Heroes. Then
fighting them to the death.
By Edward D. Robinson