RoboGames

By Robert Cong

Imagine you're right in front of the ramp leading to the stage to begin battle live in front of thousands of people, and possibly millions watching on television. The crowd is thunderous as they surround the steel reinforced cage, the nervousness sinks in, the excitement is at its peak, and it's time to put it all on the line. This is the moment you've been preparing for. This is RoboGames.

Robogames is the most intense robot competition in the world. With over 50 different events and a wide variety of robots, this is the Olympics of robotics (although that word is trademarked). Many people may think that robots are just toys to be played with, but anyone who's ever been to one of these competitions knows that there is so much more to it. I have seen participants put their blood, sweat and tears into their robots. That's not just a phrase; I have literally seen blood, sweat and tears because of this competition. This is no game serious business, and it's all in the name of science and engineering.

RobotGames 2011 was held in San Mateo, CA and brought together participants from over 30 different countries. Grant Imahara of Mythbusters was the guest host of the show. There were combat-fighting robots, soccer-playing robots, drink-making robots and so much more. People of all ages gathered to witness the ingeniousness that is RoboGames. This was my first time attending RoboGames, and I can now tell you there is no comparison to watching the event on television and experiencing the event live in person. I spoke with some competitors about their experiences with robots and they all seemed to have a few things in common. They had an interest in science starting at a relatively young age, they spent quite a lot of time working on their robots, and they all have loads of fun.

The Battle Stage
The Battle Stage


Grant Imahara of Mythbusters
Guest host Grant Imahara in front of the battle stage

This event is more than just watching robots dance and robots fight. This event is also about molding young minds and providing them with an interest in science rather than pop stars and television. I have found that children these days have a stronger understanding of what renewable energy is, especially solar power. They have been exposed to enough information on solar energy that they now understand that light can be a source of power. This is the kind of exposure kids can get on robotics and science through events such as Robogames. An event like this can prove to be invaluable in a young kid's life.

Combat Robot
Hundreds of people gather around the stage to watch the combat robots

During some of the rare down-time at the Jameco booth, I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes. I watched as teams furiously rushed to salvage their robots from the last fight in order to be ready for the upcoming one. I saw the headache and frustration that some participants went through trying the figure out how to troubleshoot their problems. Times like these are the most memorable for teams because of the struggles they go through together. These are the kinds of moments you cannot experience from your couch at home.

Repair the Robots and get ready for the next battle
The scramble to repair the robots for the next battle

I heard every roar from the audience when a robot went flying across the air after a huge collision, as well as every excited gasp that enveloped when a bright cloud of fire broke out in the middle of the arena. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Robogames 2011 and encourage everyone to go experience the next one, but until then, you can catch the show on the Science Channel on May 30th. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make this entire event come to life, so to everyone who put this together as well as everyone who participated, I raise my glass to you and say congratulations on a great event.

Beer2D2 Robot
Beer2D2 (In case you're wondering, no beer was actually inside)
Steve Nelson of Team K.I.S.S. built Beer2D2

Robert is a graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in Electrical Engineering. His interests include sports, movies, music and playing with cool, new gadgets.