Labman heads stateside for Battlebots

Labman team compete in American robot fighting TV show, Battlebots.
Labman culture 14 min read

Katie SimpsonPublished 19th Jun 2019

Battlebots is an American TV show where large, remotely-controlled robots fight it out in a bid to become champion. Could that champion be a robot from Labman this year? Quite possibly.

Those aware of the classic British TV show Robot Wars will be familiar with the premise of the competition: robots weighing up to 250lbs compete to immobilise their opponents by any means necessary in a bulletproof arena. As you can imagine, it produces quite a spectacle.

Furthermore, the American approach to the sport is far flashier and more polished than the British one. Battlebots can easily be compared to boxing or wrestling, with big personalities, human drama and overexcited commentators.

In late 2018, it was announced that the show would be returning for a 9th season. Having competed in Battlebots season 8 while at university, Labman Project Leader Jonathan Atkinson enthusiastically entered the competition once more alongside a team of friends and engineers from the US. Their design was accepted onto the show in January 2019, leaving the Labman sponsored team only a few months to complete the robot before filming started in April.

The robot was a “front hinged flipper” design with a powerful drivetrain christened P1. The design and styling were inspired by a Le Mans prototype race car, an area close to the hearts of the team and especially to Luke, the team captain, who is a licensed racing driver. Labman’s extensive resources in computer aided design helped the process a lot, as components and modules of the robot could be drawn up and shared amongst the team with ease.

Alongside P1, a smaller “minibot” called Burnout was entered to fight alongside it and to provide more options for strategy during the battles, a fairly common practice in Battlebots. As the team wanted to put on a show, the design of the minibot was based around a flamethrower system, hopefully to fill opponents with fire from beneath and impress the judges.

The plan was to manufacture the minibot exclusively at Labman while the main robot was built at Clemson University in South Carolina. This made great use of Labman’s machine tools and mechanical workshop, allowing most of the minibot’s components to be manufactured on the CNC mills and for the building and testing of the flamethrower system to be conducted professionally and safely.

Also manufactured at Labman was a sub-assembly of the main robot for generating a stream of sparks from under the machine to emulate the titanium skid plates of a F1 car. This should look spectacular on TV!

On the 8th of April, the team and robots converged on Long Beach, California, where the filming took place. Two weeks of jaw dropping fights, frantic repairs and incredibly creative engineering ensued, the details of which are a sworn secret until the show airs from the 7th of June on the Discovery channel. Be sure to watch the show if you can and expect more fighting robot related shenanigans from Labman in the future!

If you missed the write up of Labman’s trip to the Leeds Robot Fighting League in March and how sponsorship has brought Labman new opportunities for recruitment, then check out the video below, edited by and starring year-intern Matt Fitzgerald. The Leeds robots weigh only 5kg as opposed the 110kg robots competing in Battlebots, but that didn’t stop them putting on one hell of a show!