* No one reminiscing about BattleBots can forget Ziggo, a lightweight spinner that was practically invincible. Ziggo was about the size of an upside-down wok with sharp titanium chunks on opposite sides of the dish. Ziggo spun at unbelievably fast speeds, fast enough to sometimes overheat the motor and actually catch fire. If you could last more than thirty seconds against Ziggo, you stood a chance. But most of the knockouts happened that quickly.
* Geeks everywhere remember Deadblow, designed by Grant Imahara from MythBusters. But real geeks also remember that Jamie Heyneman and Adam Savage were co-drivers of Blendo. Will Wright, the creator of the Sim City game franchise, also competed with various robots covered in chia plants. Mark Setrakian, the driver of Snake and Mechadon, is a Hollywood special effects wiz who worked on Men In Black (in fact, you can see Mechadon in one of the scenes in the MiB headquarters in the second film). Setrakian also designed and built The Master, a heavyweight that won the US Robot Wars in 1995. Jay Leno tried to get in on the action with a liftbot called Chin-Killa. However, this robot only competed in exhibition matches, as it did not conform to the weight class restrictions.
* People learned quick not to let their egos get in the way. Toro was a flipbot created by a very self-satisfied team led by Alex Rose. The body was a box with a pneumatic flipper dead center in the front. It only lifted a tiny bit, using the speed and momentum to flip opponents onto their backs. And then, they went up against Christian Carlberg, a longtime vet who had been fighting in tournaments before BattleBots with his creation, Minion. Minion was a six-wheeled long boxy bot with skirting on the front that protected from wedges and formed its own wedge and a buzz saw mounted on the back. For the match against Toro, he decided to drive the robot backwards, so the anti-wedge skirting (and the best protection from Toro's flipper) was in the back and the saw was in the front. Carlberg knew exactly what he was doing -- he charged at Toro and hesitated just before he got to the bot, tricking Rose into activating the flipper early. Before the flipper reset, Minion's buzz saw went right in the gap where the arm mounted to the chassis. In doing so, he ruptured the air tank that powered the pneumatic flipper. I remember the match vividly because Toro was a one trick pony, and it was quickly obvious he couldn't do his trick anymore, and my jaw dropped. Minion then started hammering Toro, racking up aggression and damage points before winning a judges' decision. The next year, Rose was back with two robots, Toro and Matador, and talking a lot more modestly when Matador won the middleweight division.
* Gage Cauchois, an interior lighting designer, was the man behind Vlad The Impaler. A very nice and wonderful guy (I got to talk to him), Cauchois eventually designed the superheavyweight Vladiator. Vladiotor was designed to be flipped and still be drivable, and it turns out Cauchois and I thought a lot alike. One thing I had observed was that drivers would design their robots to run while upside down, but would have trouble with the controls because they were now backwards. I thought to myself, why not just make a switch on the controller to reverse the controls when you need to? Well, guess what, Cauchois did just that with Vladiator (no, I didn't give him the idea, I was just tickled that I was thinking like an engineer).
* Voltrarc was a wedgebot made without any welding whatsoever. Over 1,000 screws held him together.
* One of the legends was Carlo Bertocchini, the designed and driver of the legendary Biohazard (his wife was codriver. Yes, his wife was a fighting robot enthusiast, too). Biohazard was a marvel of engineering, even defeating my fav rave Vlad The Impaler. Three things made Biohazard formidable. First, it was only four inches high on wheels, rendering the saws of Minion and Ronin useless. Second, Biohazard was ringed with anti-wedge skirting, making it almost impossible to flip. And even if you did, Biohazard could right himself with his primary weapon, an electric four-bar lifting arm. Biohazard was there for one of the most controversial matches in BattleBots history, going up against rookie Terry Ewert and his bot, Son Of Whyachi (the original Whyachi was a superheavyweight, Son was a heavyweight). The Whyachis were technically stomp bots (a walker, although it was technically more of a shuffle because of the extra feet than a walk) with a central post that spun a series of metal blocks around. It was actually a very ingenious design, with Ewert triangulating the hell out of the arms so that they wouldn't break. Ewert planned ahead and made sure the height of the blocks could be adjusted. It was a spectacular battle, with Son actually damaging Biohazard, knocking away part of the skirting and exposing the wheels underneath. Biohazard went for aggression and strategy points, trying to use its lifter with the spin of the metal blocks to rack up points. And then, the match was stopped. No one knows why -- I was corresponding by email with a few of the drivers, including Gage Cauchois, at the time. From down in the pits, no one understood exactly what was going on. Rather than play out the match, they went to a judges' decision, and Son was declared the winner. Not one single person in the pits agreed with that outcome, and while Ewert was thrilled to be the winner, he also felt Bertocchini deserved to win. It remains the most puzzling event in the history of the tournament.
* Ewert was actually a fun guy. Remember what I said about humility? With Son Of Whyachi as the defending champ, Ewert continued to be a regular guy, cracking jokes and having fun. His first match of the next tournament, he screwed up -- he didn't balance the structure of Son's spinning weights correctly, and Son actually destroyed himself before he could get out of the starting box. Ewert looked right at the camera on his side of the box and said so everyone could hear, "Well, THAT didn't work too well!" and started laughing. Great guy.
I can't wait to see what happens next....