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April 22, 2003

Students prepare robot for battle

“Keep it simple” is the guiding strategy behind the BattleBot taking shape under the guidance of 25 CSUS students, faculty and staff.

Photo: A film crew from KRCA Channel 3 looks on as mechanical engineering student Graham Ryland demonstrates the destructive capabilities of the Sac State Competitive Robotics team’s “BattleBot” Seismic.The team has built a $6,000 remote-controlled demolition hammer on wheels named “Seismic.”

Of course, getting such a thing to move and respond quickly by remote control wasn’t easy, but the students say it was worth the work. They’re confident that when they put their creation into competition with other BattleBots, they can win the battle. All they have to do is get within striking distance. With the end of the hammer striking away at 100 beats a minute, the theory goes, the other robot won’t have a chance.

“We’re going to put the end of that hammer on opponents and get them vibrating out of control,” says project lead Graham Ryland, a mechanical engineering student. “Then we’ll beat them up while we push them around like well-greased trash.”

That’s the type of competitive spirit the BattleBot competitions have inspired since they began in Long Beach in 1999. Teams are made up of people from all walks of life – university students, professional engineers, weekend hobbyists
The competition is straightforward: Remote-controlled robots fight each other in an arena. Scoring takes into account hits, aggressiveness and visible damage, and it is also possible to win by disabling the opponent. Competitors are broken into lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight and super-heavyweight classes.

After the first Long Beach competition, there was a BattleBots competition in Las Vegas that was on pay-per-view television. The Comedy Central channel then picked up on the growing phenomenon, hosting two tournaments that it turned into a television series.

A new tournament is in the works for this summer, and BattleBots competitors and fans are hoping Comedy Central will come out with another series. In fact, some teams build their BattleBots more to try to get on television than to win – aiming for the funniest, strangest or most human-like design.

The CSUS team – Sac State Competitive Robotics – is out to win. They’re planning to enter the heavyweight class, which includes robots from 121 to 219 pounds.
Members, who come from a variety of majors, have spent hundreds of hours designing and building the project. In addition to being a fun challenge, it has proven a great way to link classroom learning with real-world engineering. They’ve been advised by mechanical engineering professors Akihiko Kumagai, Susan Holl, Patrick Homen and Joseph Harralson.

The team has shown off their BattleBot-in-the-making at schools, community colleges and a variety of University events. Two weeks ago, they demonstrated it for a story on KCRA Channel 3.

The hammer that makes up the body of the robot was donated by Atlas Copco. Two heavy-duty wheelchair motors were donated by The Wheel Chair Center. They received a SolidWorks Program from SolidWorks and some funding has also come from the CSUS College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Additional supplies, as well as store credit or cash donations are still needed to complete construction. All donations will go directly to the robot’s construction and are tax-deductible. For more, e-mail or call (916) 278-6629.

For more on BattleBots, visit For more on the CSUS students’ BattleBot, visit


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