The following story appeared on Saturday Night Online during the week of January 20, 2001:
THIS WEEK: ATTACK OF THE KILLER ROBOTS
Rampaging robots battle to the death in thrilling, gladiatorial combat. Science fiction? No, cable television. Battlebots, an American game show that features remote-controlled mechanical combatants, debuts on the Comedy Network on February 2. How exactly do you build the ultimate robotic warrior? Saturday Night asked Derek Young, a twenty-three-year-old Simon Fraser University student and two-time veteran of the show, to dissect his new robot, Complete Control, and share his Battlebot strategies.
Tools: Complete Control's outer shell is made of Lexan, a polycarbonate used in police riot shields. The shell is augmented by two aluminum flour scoops that serve as the robot's front fenders.
Strategy: Robots compete in four weight categories, from lightweight to super heavyweight. (Complete Control, weighing in at 113 pounds, is a middlewieght.) Young eschews heavy shielding in favour of speed and mobility: "Putting weight into armour takes it away from motors and batteries and the things that make your robot good and fast."
Tools: robot's armed with a "lift-and-grab" system consisting of two Chromoly lifting forks and an aluminum grabbing arm, powered by a twenty-four-volt winch and a 175 psi pneumatic cylinder.
Strategy: Battlebots are restricted in the armaments they can carry. Knives, axes, and saw blades are allowed, but electrified cattle prods, smokescreens, and lasers are forbidden. Young's last robot featured a pick-axe to hack at competitors. But he explains that this time he has devised a new strategy: "I want to take advantage of the arena, which features built-in obstacles like rotating saw blades and sledgehammers. With this system, I can grab the other robot and pick it up. And once I do, then Complete Control has, well, complete control."
Tools: The robot is powered by two twelve-volt motors and two twelve-volt batteries.
Strategy: The Battlebots tournament pits the robots against each other in sudden-death elimination rounds. These battles end after three minutes or when one robot is incapacitated, which often results when a robot loses a wheel or is cut by its opponent's spinning blades. Young, however, explains that it's usually an internal failure that precipitates a robot's downfall. "You can't tell that just by watching on TV because the robot will just stop moving."
Tools: Complete Control features a differential steering system with tank-style treads.
Strategy: Young's last robot, Pressure Drop, walked on four legs, but Young now considers wheels to be a more tactically sound option: "A walking robot puts you at a huge disadvantage. There are more components, the robot is more fragile, and it's generally a lot slower."