Battlebots: The Intersection of Design, Robotics and Total Destruction

Hours spent in the workshop, the basement, the garage. Home to the do-it-yourselfers, the builders, the dreamers, now they are the chosen few and they come from all walks of life. From plumbers to rocket scientists, everyone can join the battle in the now popular show BattleBots. BattleBots originated from the original combat franchise Robot Wars, is a robot combat competition that includes all these aspects and has been recently added to Netflix for everyone to enjoy. It’s at the intersection of design, robotic engineering, and total destruction, where glory and triumph (and of course a little bit of heartbreak) are thrown in the mix as well. In this elimination style tournament designers build, operate, and battle with their robots in the infamous BattleBox which protects the participants and audience from the flying chaos such as debris and flaming parts or even catapulted robots. This battle is definitely not meant for the faint-hearted but also does not exclude anyone. Everyone can join the arena to participate in the ultimate challenge for their mind and metal, which makes it such a great community for robotic enthusiasts. What is keeping us from joining?


The participants in this battle can choose any design they want while following certain house rules and weight classes. Let your creativity and fierceness crush your opponent, show no mercy, and don’t hold back because your opponent most certainly won’t. Some champions of BattleBots even compete in multiple seasons until they are finally (embarrassingly) dethroned (sometimes you got to know when you have to retire). 

Tombstone, named after the computer networking term “tombstoning” meaning to kill something and have it stay dead, is an example of such a vicious champion from the heavyweight class who chose to have a design where its offense is also its defense. Ray Billings, the creator of Tombstone, started off as a prison guard for 12 years. He was ready to destroy everything in Tombstone’s path exemplified by his famous quote: “YOU WANT MORE?!”. With Tombstone’s two-wheeled box-shaped design with a large horizontally-spinning bar that weighs between 65-75lbs, it went absolutely mayhem against its competition and won most of its fights by immediate knockout.

Video of Bronco vs Tombstone.

Witch Doctor is another middle/heavyweight killer champion in the game which uses a different strategy than Tombstone, namely lots of fire and slicing the opponent in half. It was built by a team called Busted Nut Robotics (please don’t ask us why…) which is captained by husband and wife duo Mike and Andrea Gellatly. They completely smashed the competition by going absolutely crazy in their design choices, as they went for flamethrowers, extra mini bots and huge sharp spinners. It featured small front wedges with combat spinners that functions as the main attacking mechanism. Then for the complete design it is also accompanied by a mini bot equipped with a flamethrower to distract and to toast the underside of the opponent.

Video of Witch Doctor vs Overdrive.

Ready to Duel?

Not only the BattleBots delve into battle, it seems that the players want to enter the BattleBox with each other as well. Going from no handshaking (overhaul vs. lock-jaw) to surprising the enemy with a loophole in the rules (dear ghost raptor, our deepest condolences, love complete control), the players really know how to grind each other’s gears. As the BattleBot community grows more enthusiastic the spicier these battles become where we really start to root for our favorite robot. With this enthusiasm the seriousness in this sports grows too, even though some robot names show otherwise (Evil Con Carne, Krusty Grab, Whambulance and Yabba Dabba Dozer). These moments together with such a community makes this sport grow larger and larger. BattleBots has been distributed to over 150 countries in multiple continents, maybe it’s time for the TU Delft to join the battle?

Video of Ghost raptor vs. complete control – dear ghost raptor, our deepest condolences, love complete control.

Let the bot battle begin

What do you think? Should Asimov join the battle by starting it’s own BattleBot competition? Do you think that you have what it takes to become Asimov’s reigning champion?

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Hello everyone! I’m Leonoor Verbaan and I am a first years masters student in Robotics. I’d like to introduce myself as part of the Media Committee. I like being active next to my studies and I’ve always had an affinity to trying new things. Further, I liked building and designing websites in my projects before, and I would like to make the students from robotics more connected through this committee.

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Hey everyone! I’m Akshay Daptardar and I am a first year master’s student in Robotics. Besides Robotics, I enjoy writing as well as graphic design so I decided to join the Media Committee. I hope to share interesting developments in the Robotics and AI industry that you may have missed! I am personally very passionate about Intelligent Vehicles, so you can expect blogs from me on developments in the Automotive sector as well as others.