Fighting Robots

Somewhere around 1995 I read an article in Wired Magazine about a new type of radio-controlled competition called "Robot Wars", which pitted home build radio controlled machines against each other in battles to the death. It piqued my interest so much that the first time I had access to the internet at the local library was the first url I typed into the address bar. It was apparent to me that this was something I had to do, and from these early beginnings I began scheming. In time I would conceive a great number of fighting robot ideas. Sadly, all these ideas were not getting me any closer to San Francisco -- the only place where competitions were held. Flash forwards a couple of years and I found myself at Simon Fraser University, on the correct side of the continent. I also had a small group of friends who also wanted to make attending and competing at Robot Wars 1998 a reality. We managed to build a robot and were ready to go, but due to intense legal debacles the 1998 event never happened. This nearly spelt the end of my involvement with fighting robots.

As luck would have it, in 1999 a new competition evolved to supplant Robot Wars -- it was called Battlebots, and its organizers had a plan much more grand than the original underground Robot Wars events. Good timing on my part produced a robot, and some very good luck had me come away champion at my very first event. This would become the start of me taking fighting robots very seriously. Three and a half years, 11 Battlebots episodes appearances, tens of interviews, thousands of hours expended, and tens of thousands of dollars won and reinvested saw my career as a builder of fighting robots end in tandem with the canceling of the Battlebots television show, and in turn the prospect for financial returns vanishing. I felt that I managed to take part in something truly unique during its golden age, and it was time to move on to other things.

Complete Control (2000-2003)
My most highly developed robot, which saw four distinct revisions across four seasons of Battlebots. Ranked 10th in the all-time (but totally unofficial) Combat Robot Hall of Fame, it was a fan favorite and the design I am most proud of. This was the robot that I ended my career with, at a time where its technical fighting methods were out paced by more and more powerful rotational inertia weapons (spinners). A separate page has been devoted to Complete Control, where you can find information on all the revisions and much of my old web content about the robot.

Complete Control Version 1 (2000)

Complete Control Version 2 (2001)

Complete Control Version 3 (2001)

Complete Control Version 4 (2002)

Hoser'd (2002)
Easily my most successful, and smallest fighting robot ever. This 2lb "Antweight" class terror was never once defeated, racking up a record of approximately 16-0 over two events. It was built as a reaction to the ludicrously open walker rules put in place by the then newly formed Western Allied Robotics organization. I exploited the rules to the letter, and cleaned up at their premier "First Act of War" event in Seattle. Hoser'd would see action again at an Antweight sideshow during the season 5 filming of Battlebots, where it carved through the competition to again take first prize. Not surprisingly, the rulebooks were re-written, and I sold the robot off to an east coast builder to see that their rules were re-written as well.

9-turn Trinity weapon motor and 4:1 right angle gearbox

Finished robot weighs in
742KB video of Hoser'd walking on my desk

Hoser'd undressed.

The first victim
137KB video of this match

Mr Smashy 2001 (2001)
Paying homage to my original robot Mr Smashy, this version was built to fight in the 2001 version of the old featherweight class. Capitalizing on cheap post-9/11 flights, I built this robot over a few days using parts of Complete Control, and flew with it to Phoenix where I took first place in the 30lb class at Botbash 2001. All photos link through to my 2001 web page about the robot and event.

Laying out the parts

Ready to go


Botbash 2001 Champion!

Pressure Drop (2000)
Built after my big 1999 Battlebots win, this robot was one of the more ambitious mechanical projects I have ever taken on. Especially when you consider the lack of tools at my disposal when I started on it! It featured a more powerful version of Son of Smashy's spring-loaded axe on a rotating turret atop a 6 legged walking platform. While it was a sight to see in combat, it proved not particularly effective and was retired after its first event. I maintained a very thorough build journal that also covers my experiences at the very first televised Battlebot event in June 2000. Here is a 875KB video of Bill Nye "the science guy" giving you the low-down on Pressure Drop. Official Battlebots page about Pressure Drop.

My very detailed build journal from 2000

816KB video of the infamous late hit that earned me the label of "most hated driver" according to the Comedy Central sportscasters

306KB video detail of the walking mechanism

637KB video of Pressure Drop succumbing to Grant Imahara's Deadblow

Son of Smashy (1999)
Hastily assembled in the summer of 1999, this would be my first robot to see competition and the first ever Battlebots Middleweight (then "Megabot") champion. Using proceeds from the sale of my first Datsun 510 and left over parts from Mr Smashy it proved to be an effective fighter and just robust enough to stand up to the competition of the day. All photos link through to my thorough 1999 website all about Son of Smashy including a build journal and coverage from the event. Official Battlebots page about Son of Smashy.

Mid construction

Finished robot in Long Beach

C.C. DeVille

Battlebots 1999 Megabot champion!

Mr Smashy (1997-1998)
It all started here. This was a group project that I took on with friends of mine from Simon Fraser University's School of Engineering Science. Through some generous sponsorship and a lot of time in the engineering machine shop, we managed to build a fully functioning fighting robot. Alas, it wasn't to be as the competition that year was cancelled due to legal issues. Mr Smashy was later recycled into Son of Smashy. During the construction of Mr Smashy, I kept a fairly detailed build journal, that is quite funny to read is retrospect. All pictures link through to this page for your enjoyment.

Custom cut gears

Finished frame

Weapon end

In action!

Big Thanks
To the following people/organizations who sponsored my fighting robot efforts with either funds or product. You all deserve a prize.

Relic Entertainment
BlueStar Batteries
Delta Dynamics
SFU School of Engineering Science
Dave Brown Products
The New Democratic Party of Canada
NTN Bearing
The Sports Alternative
Kory Kline
White Monkey Design
Pittman Motors
IFI Robotics
Interactive Toy
Pathway Design
Something Awful Forum Goons
Ramsey Electronics
What's Up
To the following people who I use to see at these competitions or related events, but don't see anymore. Feel free to drop me a line, especially if you are in Vancouver, we'll go get a pint. I specifically included this so you could find my page when Googling your own name and Battlebots.

Ilya Polyakov and the TCR crew
Danny Haeg
Donald Hudson
Jason Bardis
Christian Carlberg & Luke Khanlian
John McKenzie
Dan Danknick
Jerome Miles
Chuck (and BOB) Pitzer
Michael Harry
Jascha Little
Jonathon Ridder
Curt Meyers & Amy Sun
Grant Imahara
Andy Miller
Jon Autry
Robot Action League
Jim Snook
Jim Smentowski
Mark Setrakian
Superfan Jeremy Guillory
Zack Bieber
Eric Stoliker
Paul Mathus
Glen Callender UFA
Scott Henderson

Derek Young Home - Fighting Robots

© Derek Young 1997-2005