Battle bot makers test their metal

MONROE – A metal-on-metal clang erupted in the square arena as the two warring robots slammed head-on into each other.

One of the robots used its wedge-shaped front end to flip the other on its back. But then the other machine rotated its long arms to right itself.

At the end of three minutes, the wedge-shaped bot – named Unsportsmanlike Conduct – was deemed the winner of the bout, much to the delight of the crowd surrounding the small arena.

The two men in control of the robots shook hands and then went to work repairing their battered machines.

“We’re just a bunch of good old boys getting together,” said Greg Schwartz, 54, of Carnation, who owns Unsportsmanlike Conduct. “We fight, we break, we repair and then we fight again.”

Members of Western Allied Robotics, a group of battle-bot enthusiasts, competed at the Northwest Model Hobby Expo in Monroe on Saturday. The bots went to war in a small enclosure built from wood, steel and bulletproof glass.

The bots are scheduled to return to the expo today; it will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rental bots are available for people who want to try them out.

The large crowd, the noises and the occasional burst of flying sparks stood in stark contrast to the rows of model boats and airplanes sitting quietly nearby.

“The crowd attraction is the big bang,” said Adam Conus of Renton, a member of Western Allied Robotics. “The crowd appreciates when there’s a lot of action and commotion going on.”

Some people shape their robots like wedges to flip their opponents. Others take a more brutal approach – they equip their bots with sharp, fast-spinning blades.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct lost a wheel and a few other parts in a later bout versus Fiasco, a robot equipped with what resembled a small lawnmower blade.

Fortunately, many battle botters enjoy building – and rebuilding – their machines. Most machines cost between $200 and $300 to build, but replacement parts are usually cheap.

“When you do a repair, and then you go back in and get a win, that’s a very satisfying feeling,” Conus said.

Reid Jonker, 13, of Snohomish watched the robot battles with his father. He’d seen battle bots on television, but never up close and personal, he said.

“It’s really cool, seeing all the pieces go everywhere,” Reid said. “It’s better like this.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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