BattleBot teams for teens?
March 30, 2022 7:27 AM   Subscribe

My soon-to-be 14yo kid loves BattleBots and associated shows. Lately he's been watching the Norfolk Havoc competition and has expressed an interest in joining a team. He doesn't have a ton of experience with robots aside from the occasional summer camp. He really likes the destructive aspect and is less interested in other aspects. How can he get involved?

We're in Seattle. Haven't hit on the ideal search terms for the sport.
posted by rouftop to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
Start at FIRST Robotics and go from there.
posted by Etrigan at 8:11 AM on March 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

It doesn't meet the "BattleBots" aspect of your question (while you can block, deliberate combat is penalized), I would check out the FIRST program. At 14, with no prior experience, they'd likely start in an FTC program, and move on to FRC. Every team/community program is a little different, though. In our last season, our FRC team which was exclusively high schoolers had a couple really talented 8th graders join the programming team, and they did great. If the "Find a team" feature on the FIRST website doesn't show any hits, I'd ask your local middle schools and high schools if they have teams.

The last couple years have been problematic, and many communities shelved their programs during the pandemic. In the Before Times, I was a community mentor for our FRC and, to a lesser degree, FTC teams, and greatly enjoyed the experience. The overall theme of the FIRST program is "Gracious Professionalism", which encourages kids to be competitive, but also gracious toward one another. What impressed me most about the program is that at one of the first events I attended as a mentor, our teams was in their pit area making last-minute repairs and adjustments. Another team, who we were about to compete against, approached us and asked if we had a spare motor they could borrow. Our kids not only said "Yes, absolutely!" but also helped them replace the Anderson PowerPole connectors we were using with the XT30 connectors they were using, so the motor could connect to their robot. Here we were, about to compete against this team, and our kids were like "Yes, let's get you all fixed up and have a great match!"

I'm just north of you, in Anacortes. (FRC 3238, FTC 7198) Teams in the area seem cautiously optimistic about the '22-'23 season. It won't scratch the BattleBots/combat itch, but your kid will learn team-building, responsibility, and a lot of skills. We have kids on our FRC team that never touch the robot, but are graphic artists responsible for the team website, merch, shooting photos and video, etc. Some kids are PR specialists and fundraise in the community or give presentations to philanthropic and corporate donors. Some kids focus on a specific subsystem like chassis, or electronics, or programming, or do a little of everything. No matter what your kid's skill set, there is likely a way they can contribute and have a great time.
posted by xedrik at 8:15 AM on March 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are lucky to live where you live.
posted by flimflam at 8:44 AM on March 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting that FIRST, while good in a lot of ways, is not at all about the destructive aspect of things — it's not a combat competition. If that's what interests your son specifically, it's unlikely that FRC will be a very good outlet for it.
posted by wesleyac at 9:01 AM on March 30, 2022

My friend's son is in 8th grade and is deeply involved in the Battle Bots world. I just watched him compete at an event in Norwalk, CT last weekend and it's got an incredibly diverse group of participants. My friend's son isn't on a team so he builds his own bots (from kits and with lots of family support) but has found the whole community incredibly supportive and helpful. This page from the Norwalk CT Battlebots page suggests searching using the term "Combat Robotics". Let me know if you'd like to talk to the mom and dad about how their son got started and I can work to connect you.
posted by victoriab at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2022

I was going to suggest he could get into the R/C (Radio Control) bit rather easily maybe... Y'know the antennae box with two little joysticks for throttle and steering and maybe another button for something else. Take it apart and start messing with it. Frankenstein two of them together. Sorta the basics are hooking up servos and motors and things to the control. Then you just have to hook up one of those things to a flamethrower or something.

Fourteen year old me would have ended up on some watch list of some sort.......

Best of luck, I wholeheartedly approve of wanting to make destructive robots.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2022

The robot combat scene is astonishingly welcoming. It's unfortunate the RoboGames aren't going on any more, because they drew teams of adults and students from all over the world. Maybe post-pandemic something like that will spring up. There's an outstanding 300 page Combat Robot Tutorial from a Brazilian team probably dated by now but the basics don't change that quickly. I'm sure you can find a local group. We found one in the SF Bay Area that even did robot combat birthday parties, that was fun!
posted by wnissen at 10:07 AM on March 31, 2022

Response by poster: Western Allied Robotics had a competition this past weekend! We went and checked it out. Everybody was incredibly friendly and gave us a lot of advice about how to get started. When there was a lull between matches, they let him and another kid fight each other using stock BotKit bots in the big arena. He is totally hooked now. Guess I know what to get him for his birthday!
posted by rouftop at 10:05 AM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

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