The following article appeared in the August 28, 2001 Arizona Republic Newspaper:

Bill Goodykoontz
The Arizona Republic

If you've sampled the inspired lunacy of BattleBots - and if you haven't, then what's your problem, pal? - you know that the real reason to watch isn't the angry little machines locked in a fight to the metallic death.

Though admittedly, that's close.

But the best part is the obsessive passion of the card-carrying geeks who design and build the 'bots, as they invariably call them. Tempe's Robert Lawrence, whose MechaVore ("a loosely translated Latin term for 'machine eater' ") competed in the heavyweight division finals held last May and airing tonight on Comedy Central, has that passion aplenty.

Though he's hesitant to admit to it.

"I wish I could be" obsessed, the affable Lawrence says. "It's kind of a contradiction in terms - I'm a full-time artist and stay way too busy to get obsessed with robots."

Dude, you spent hundreds of hours and about $4,000. On a fighting robot.

"We were competing with people who had upwards of $25,000 in their robots," Lawrence says.

Noted. But come on. After a little prodding, he cops to the obsessive tag.

"It's basically just an evil nerd sport," Lawrence says. "These aren't people who watch baseball and football, and sit in a chair. These are people in their basement who build cosmic death rays.

"These aren't people who just think outside the box. They build the box."

Mind you, Lawrence is a serious artist who sculpts in metal and is married to an engineer, no less.

"She's more into the logical concept of thinking," he says. "I'm a little over the edge."

Proof? He and his team of friends worked on MechaVore (I don't feel close enough to the 'bot to call it "Mechie," as Lawrence does) after work every day for six months. I don't write the dictionary, but that sounds like obsession to me. Necessary obsession.

"To build a robot, it's almost like you have to build an Indy car that could win the Indy 500 and run a monster-truck race," Lawrence says.

It wouldn't be sporting to reveal how MechaVore finished in the battle, which took place in San Francisco, but it gives away nothing to say that Lawrence plans to continue competing.

"It takes you over," he says, and I'm not a bit surprised to hear it.
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