TWO hunks of twisted plastic and metal stare at each other across a battle-torn arena as the countdown begins.
A barking crowd bends over the whirr of electric motors as an announcer yells, “Three, two, one… activate.”
This isn’t the opening scene of a Hollywood sci-fi flick, but a typical Sunday afternoon for members of Britain’s leading robot fighting ring.
Once a month, hobbyist engineers from the Bristol Bot Builders (BBB) gather in the city’s pubs to battle home-made robots over a pint of beer.
Fight Club meets Robot Wars, the popular BBC show of the late ’90s and 2010s this inspired many members of the group.
That’s what prompted Joe Brown, who runs the BBB, to tinker with machines himself almost ten years ago.
“I was a student at the University of Bristol and I was helping run an engineering company,” the 29-year-old told The Sun.
“We were looking for a way to offer students a social environment that builds practical skills and is also fun.”
While reminiscing about Robot Wars – a show Joe and his friends loved growing up – they had the brilliant idea to create their own version.
“We realized that Robot Wars isn’t just a TV show, it’s a hobby, and that people are building smaller and cheaper bots at home,” Joe said.
“We combined beer, pizza and little robots for a bit of fun and it’s continued ever since.”
Robot building has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to the increasing availability of suitable tools, parts and know-how.
Many enthusiasts start out by making small 150-gram machines that fight in plexiglass boxes the size of dishwashers.
Over time, they move up into larger weight classes, with the top bots weighing in at 110kg – the same size as Robot Wars.
Contestants have two or three minutes to either immobilize their opponent or knock them into a hole in the arena floor known as a “pit”.
Robots can be loaded with fins, axes, rotating weapons and more to give them an edge over their opponents.
And while the process undoubtedly has a competitive edge, it’s the zany side and camaraderie that draws dozens of entrants to each tournament.
“What I love about it is that people like to help each other solve problems,” Joe said.
“Even if your enemy – a robot you want to compete with – isn’t working, you’ll probably help take it down because you just want to put on the best fight.”
“We build stupid things”
Joe’s comments were echoed by competitors at the BBB’s recent event, held at a Bristol cider bar last week.
“We build stupid things and we fight them,” Rory Mangles, a regular competitor who has starred in three seasons of Robot Wars, told The Sun.
“It’s just nice to make things and test them against other people to see how good your skills are.”
Bristol has emerged as Britain’s hotbed for robotic combat, but groups have established cities like Liverpool and York in recent years.
Not only are competitions fun, they’re also an opportunity to show off your technical skills—and even get you a job.
“We have a shortage of engineers,” said Joe. “There are more engineering jobs than people studying it.”
“Things like robot battles are a great way to give people a taste for technology and problem-solving.”
Joe says a friend of his recently got into robot building and recently offered him a job at an engineering firm through a competition.
“Last month a company came to our event and my friend just started chatting with them and demonstrating his robot. They hired him immediately.”
You can learn more about Bristol Bot Builders on their website website.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8528434/inside-uk-robot-fighting-rings-amateur-bot-builders/ In Britain’s robot battle rings, where amateur bot builders battle insane contraptions in pubs