Combat robots from around the world will once again make the annual pilgrimage to California to fight for the glory of the ComBots Cup, a giant trophy coveted by builders the way baseball players covet a World Series ring. The robots are about the size of a red wagon, but zoom at speeds of 40 mph with electric drives, and are equipped with weapons like flame-throwers, 80 pound spinning blades, pneumatic flippers, and other assorted nasty implements.
If you cross all the explosions and crashes of NASCAR with the one-on-one ferocity of a martial arts fight, you end up with the technological terrors that is ComBots (“Combat Robots.”) Safely shielded by a steel and Lexan bulletproof (and bot-proof) combat arena, the audience gets close to the destruction without getting sprayed with shrapnel or errant robots.
The thirteen competing robots may have odd names like ‘Original Sin’, ‘Sewer Snake’, ‘Death & Taxes’, ‘Last Rites’, and ‘Vlad the Impaler 2’, but kids and adults alike love the robots and the mad scientists who build them. Teams even have their own trading cards, with fans lining up around the repair pits to get autographs from their favorite engineers.
The event is organized by ComBots, one of the companies behind the annual International RoboGames. RoboGames is the “olympics of robots,” recognized by Guinness as the world’s largest robot competition. The ComBots Cup however, focuses on just combat robots.
“We’re really looking forward to this year’s event,” says Simone Davalos, president of ComBots and co-founder of the International RoboGames. “We have a great roster of robots coming from all over the US and as far away as Brazil. We’re anticipating a record audience turnout as well. Combat robots as a sport is growing so dramatically – for the kids it’s a great way to learn science and engineering, and for the adults it’s a lot of fun to watch and participate.”
Well-lubricated sprockets and gears will keep the robots fighting for this year’s ComBots Cup, 220 pounds of trophy-shaped stainless steel sex appeal which makes the Stanley Cup look like a Dixie cup. Last year’s winner, Gary Gin of Team Late Night Racing, will be facing off against twelve other well-known combat robot champions like Ray Billings of Team Hardcore, and Matt and Wendy Maxham of Team Plumb Crazy. Gin and his robot ‘Original Sin’ will try to retake the Cup, but competition will be tough.
“I think the fights for the Cup will be pretty darned awesome this year, we have a lot fresh metal in the mix,” said Gin. “There is still one thing that hasn’t happened yet, though – there’s never been a repeat Cup winner. It’s good, though, because it shows that the Cup is a tough thing to win. Our aim this year is to be the first-ever repeat Cup winner. Of course, two of the other three previous winners are returning, and they’re aiming for this too, so it’ll be a very interesting tournament.”
Ray Billings, who won ComBots Cup II in 2008 with the notorious blade-spinner ‘Last Rites,’ says, “We all know it’s going to be awesome, there’s a pretty good field this year – more robots make everything more intense. However, I’m going to be the first guy to win the ComBots Cup twice. Last Rites and my smaller 120-pound bot ‘The Mortician’ are going to make sure everything’s going to be in serious pain – including the arena. We’ve upgraded the weapons systems on the bots with higher horsepower ratings and a whole bunch more torque. Less burnout, more mashing!”
Matt Maxham of Team Plumb Crazy, winner of ComBots Cup I, chimes in: “We have a better chance of beating Original Sin this year than last year. Although I hope that Ray fights Original Sin first, so if Ray breaks stuff, it’ll be Gary’s bot – not mine! Nothing against Gary, we love him. Except in the arena. We built a new secret weapon, especially for Original Sin this year, and I’m hoping it will bring the Cup back to us!”
Of course, there will be ten other teams with robots who’ve never won the Championship, who aren’t planning on making things easy for the veteran winners. Adding to the excitement of the ComBots Cup is the newly-minted, multi-year sponsorship and partnership between ComBots and Royal Purple Synthetic Lubricants.
“We’ve found that the hands-on (robotics) builder cares just as much about their projects as the hands-on automotive enthusiast”, say Royal Purple’s vice-president Mark McFann. “ComBots events are the perfect venue to share our message about the advantage of upgrading lubricants.”
Ray Billings adds “We recently switched to Royal Purple MaxFilm for our chain and sprocket lube on our heavyweight weapons – I need things to run as smoothly as possible there, obviously. I used to just use motor oil and I had to take everything apart and clean it all down after every match! It was messy and painful! Royal Purple is as good if not better than anything I have used before, and it’s not slinging stuff everywhere like the oil would.”
Facts at a Glance:
Dates: Saturday October 23rd and Sunday October 24th
Time: 2pm-7pm both days
Where: San Mateo Expo Center San Mateo, California
Costs: Adults $20 | kids 7-17 $15 | kids >7 are free