by Nick F.
The fight begins, and sparks fly like fireflies released from hell. The timer ticks down. Suddenly Witch Doctor, the BattleBots National Champion, speeds up its weapon. Dual steel-toothed titanium discs spin toward us at 120 miles per hour.
I’d been preparing for this moment for over a year. Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, I’d work on the design of my robot. I couldn’t compete under the school name because of the danger involved, but with the help of my two friends (Alex and another Nick), and my coach Mr. De Zulueta, we built the Mutt. We called him that because we had used various parts from old battlebots. To get a picture in your mind, the Mutt is 117 pounds, has a front weapon that rotates at exactly 54.2 miles per hour and an extremely sturdy 1.5”-thick aluminum body.
The day of the competition finally arrived. They announced our competitor: the legendary Witch Doctor. I was scared. Who wouldn’t be? They spent a decade perfecting his design. All battlebot fans have seen Witch Doctor hurl robots into the air with ease. What would be so different about our robot? The difference, I decided, would be the fact that we would end their reign of tyranny.
We walked up the ramp into the arena, which is made of 5-inch layers of Plexiglas to shield spectators from explosions, shrapnel, and fire. It was really, really hard to put the Mutt down in the ring. I took in one last glimpse of perfection. But then I looked at Witch Doctor, and reassured myself. We had some great advantages. It was the classic strength versus speed battle: our brawn against Witch Doctor’s swift drums of doom.
The starting buzzer sounded. The match unfolded in slow motion. Just when I thought we had the upper hand, Witch Doctor rammed us, and 117 pounds of metal and electronics went flying. We landed on our motor, and just like that, the match was over.
Sticky dark red motor oil pooled around Mutt’s lifeless body. You could see the pain in the robot. My mind instinctively kept repeating, “We have to fix the Mutt!” Out of frustration, Nick slapped his hands down hard on Mutt, but I said we weren’t going to give up yet. I told Nick to toss me the emergency kit. The schedule had put us back to back with our next two matches. We had five minutes and only one option. Our motor was busted. We would have to replace the whole thing.
My focus was completely transformed. I shoved all distractions aside, my eyes zoomed in on this motor. The housing takes eight screws. They wouldn’t come out, but we ripped it off by sheer brute force. Then I cramped in the new motor, got some replacement metal to screw on, and the Mutt was ready to play again. We decimated the next three robots we competed against. The Mutt ended up in sixth place, but I was happy anyways.
In the end I knew that no matter how this day turned out, I loved the metal, the challenge, the batteries, the wiring, the motors, and the tools, but mostly I loved creating this robot from the scraps of old forgotten battlebots. In fact here was no difference really between this robot and my school team’s Vex robot, my three homemade computers, my homemade electric guitar, or even my programming competition code. I love engineering. Competition is just a bonus. No matter what parts you have, you can create something amazing, and that is the feeling that I get when I tinker in my garage in my spare time, when I jot down ideas in my engineering notebooks, when I weld metal together just for fun, or when I work on Mutt for next year’s competition. Engineering is my passion, and not even a Witch Doctor can change that.