Robotics Technology
BattleBots Is Back, But Fighting Robots Never Went Away



BattleBots will be returning to television this summer, to the delight of all who have sorely missed the show for the past 12 years.

The six-episode reboot moves to ABC to get us back into the world of fighting robot mayhem. BattleBots originally aired from 2000-2005 on Comedy Central, bringing fame to a number of destructive robots and their builders. It also featured various celebrities including Bill Nye, Carmen Elektra, Sean Salisbury, Adam Savage, and Jamie Hynamen. The show was a nerd-paradise of all things destructive, functional, and educational. I believe this relaunch is a direct response to the rise in technology being reflected in mainstream culture, especially Hollywood: Big Hero 6, Iron Man, Chappie, and several others. We also can’t forget the obvious accessibility of tools and STEAM/STEM education in the Maker community, the rise of FIRST robotics, and beyond.

While we’re deeply excited for BattleBots to come back, the reality is that robot combat never really went away when it the Comedy Central series ended.

After the first era of BattleBots went off the air, it continued as a live event and via internet broadcasts. We’ve even been on the front lines of robot battles at Maker Faire. Last year we were lucky to have MIT hold their own Maker Faire with their own version of Robot Wars on the pint size. This was not the only Maker Faire to join in the fun last year and beyond.

The history of televised robot fights also includes Robot Wars, launched as a live event in San Francisco in 1994 and then a British TV show in 1998. Robot Wars was the influence for BattleBots, and continues today. Currently, over 30 countries are battling it out in various competitions. The Robot Wars UK tour is just about to begin with starting show, March 21st and 22nd in Newport. The tour continues on through November. That’s a whole lot of robot mayhem!

We can’t talk about fighting robots without talking about RoboGames (formerly RoboOlympics). RoboGames started in 2004 as a way to keep people interested in fighting as well as spreading the word and talent pool. The event runs like our human-based Olympics, and has been a great success all over the world. Even though the business operates on a tight budget, it continues to thrive and grow. The next metal crushing tournament to look forward to is on April 3-5th of this year in San Mateo, California, hosted by Grant Imahara. Grant has a rich history in all areas of robot fighting — you may know him by his robot, “Deadblow” if you don’t know him from his Mythbusting. This will be an exciting event you won’t want to miss.

For the less-commited robot fighter, there are a number of groups that also offer easy combat events you can try out for a few hours. Two we’re fond of, Bot Bash and Rolling Robots in northern and southern California, respectively, have arenas (or will bring one to you) with enough robots and controllers for you and your friends to go aggro. These packed events continues the thriving and much loved sport.

I tip my hat to those who have continued creating these awesome fighting machines and battling them all around the world. This movement has done nothing but grow since its final days on mainstream television. I can’t wait to see the advancement in technology and the diversity in the fighters.

And if you want to get started in robotics (either for fighting or for peaceful purposes), there are a lot of great kits Maker Shed . My personal favorite for learning and hacking is the Propeller bot.

Now get to making your own robot. See you in the Battle Box!


Emily Coker is a "multipotentialite" who is passionate about empowering herself and others through hands-on learning and making. When not creating projects for the masses, she can be spotted tinkering around in her shop futzing with electronics, robotics and the latest in tech and craft. She currently works at Google X.

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