Robo-battle royale

January 23, 2023
Crash! Clang! Bang!

Words: Angela Skujins

Pictures: Emerald

Sparks fly. Lights flash. Metal clangs.

Wheels, screws and other bits of machinery go airborne as an army of kids press their noses against the Perspex boundary of a miniature arena, lapping up the mayhem of remote-controlled robots ramming and pushing each other to the point of destruction.

This is a meeting of Adelaide Robot Combat (ARC), a community founded in 2015 and whose 1200 members regularly keep in contact via a Facebook group.

There are two fighting categories at each meet: antweight (bots weighing up to 150 grams) and beetleweight (1.36 kilograms and above). Some of the remote-controlled bots are entry-level, with names that suggest owners who have no capacity for fear or remorse: Run For It, Swordid History.

Chris Bycroft, an engineer by day, is a co-founder of ARC and the host of today’s proceedings. We ask whether he would like us to refer to him as Doctor Frankenstein – he affectionally crafts and cobbles his robot back together after each match – but he prefers the term “maker”. Chris holds in his hand a tartan-clad robot called Lumberjack. Its name refers to the powerful steel axe at its centre. Lumberjack will compete in the beetleweight category.

The room is full of young kids and their parents. Many are holding cardboard boxes full of deep-fried chips – human fuel for all the day’s activities.

As two antweight bots battle, Marcus Read, father of eight-year-old Samuel, tells CityMag he loves the inclusivity of the sport. “In the past, my son could get quite overwhelmed and break things,” Marcus says. “But here is a place where it can be rewarded.” Samuel’s antweight invention is called Pushover.

Today, Leon Jong is battling his beetleweight robot, Grabby. Grabby isn’t a destroyer, but instead, as the name suggests, it has the ability to pick up its foe and carry it to the elimination zone. If Grabby is to be smashed to smithereens today, Leon isn’t fazed. There are fates worse than robot death. “When it doesn’t work the way you think it should, that’s the worst,” he says.

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