The Return of RoboGames

The Mortician robot by Ray Billings

Organizer David Calkins and combat robot legend Ray Billings talk about RoboGames.

After a four-year hiatus, RoboGames returns on April 6th through the 9th to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, California. RoboGames is the world’s largest robot competition with over 54 different events — everything from tiny little Rubik’s cube-sized Sumo robots that act autonomously to humanoids that play soccer. The big thing is always the 250-pound robots in our 40 foot by 40 foot, 130,000 pound arena.

Tickets are $45 at Use the Maker Faire discount code, which is “Maker” to save $5 off every ticket.

When I asked David Calkins, towards the end of this interview, how he was able to bring back RoboGames after a four-year absence, he said first that his arena was so badly damaged in 2018 that he couldn’t afford to rebuild it. An anonymous contestant offered him 1 million dollars to bring back RoboGames. (If there’s anyone out there who would like to bring back Maker Faire Bay Area, and can offer that kind of support, please let me know!)

David is also joined by Ray Billings who has been competing in combat robot events for 22 years. His robot “Last Rites” was a previous winner at RoboGames, and this year he’ll be featuring “The Mortician” (shown above), which is another variation of the offset horizontal spinner. Ray gives some great advice to those thinking about competing in combat robots: “Start small.” However, no one seems to follow that advice.

David is proud 22 different countries will be represented at RoboGames this year.



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Even More on Combat Robots from Make:

David Calkins wrote “How To Win at Robot Combat” for Make: Volume 81 — a set of rules for winning at combat robotics.

Maker ShedMaker Shed

Make: Magazine, Volume 81- Print

Make: Volume, 81 – Robot Rumble! Put your bot-building skills to the test by going head-to-head with your best pals in radio-controlled, weapon-laden robot combat … It’s Robot Rumble time! From antweight to heavyweight and much more! 

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty


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