BattleBots is a Discovery Channel TV show that has been running since the 90s on various networks and airs in over 150 countries; it’s the highest level of combat robotics, in which 250lb robots rip each other apart for a chance to win the coveted Golden Bolt. Just over two years ago, a few incoming UC Berkeley freshmen decided to design and build one of these heavyweight combat robots from scratch, and with it go straight for the bolt. They had high school experience with FIRST robotics, VEX, and 15lb combat robotics, but had never attempted anything on this scale. So they started a new club, Combat Robotics at Berkeley (CRB) and got to work. Since the Fall 2020 semester was entirely remote, they recruited team members over Discord and collaborated on design without actually meeting each other in person. Over the course of many months and many iterations, an omni-wheeled drum-beater robot started to take shape, evolving into the bot now known as Glitch.
They were ecstatic when Discovery Channel accepted them for season 6 filming, but now they only had a few short months to turn a folder of CAD files into a driving, fighting robot. By the end of the Spring 2021 semester, design was finalized and parts were ordered, but there was nowhere to actually integrate and assemble the final robot. Thankfully, while CalSol (The UC Berkeley Solar Car team) was racing in the American Solar Challenge for two weeks, they let CRB borrow their workspace at the Richmond Field Station (RFS). The CRB team spent day and night for two weeks at the RFS integrating Glitch.
They arrived at the competition in Las Vegas already short on sleep, and raced to solder some last-minute wires and bolt the bot together for the first match. To read more detail about each match straight from the Team Captain here’s a link to the blog: https://www.crberkeley.org/blog/fight-1-ghost-raptor. Long story short, Glitch racked up win after win, surprising the audience, the competitors, and most importantly, themselves.
There were only three teams out of the 64 that won all three of their qualifying matches, and miraculously Glitch, a rookie team, was one of them (beating Ghost Raptor, Kraken, and Hydra). Being overachievers, however, right before their first elimination match they changed their pulley diameter to make their weapon spin up even faster. Unfortunately, the higher start-up torque meant the weapon now didn’t spin up at all, and despite their efforts the clock eventually ran out. Due to the tight production schedule, they were kicked out of the main tournament before they even got in the ring.
The team was crestfallen that they would have to go home before they really saw what their bot was capable of, but thankfully a few days later they were placed in the Rotator Bounty Bracket (a mini competition to face a previous champion). By this time the Berkeley semester had already started, so on top of long days in the pits and arena, they now had to also complete homework assignments on their hotel floor before passing out and readying up for the next day. The team raced to integrate their second frame, since the first had taken quite a beating, and got ready to face down a new opponent. One after another they took down Gruff, Retrograde, Uppercut, and finally Rotator in a decisive knockout.
Winning 7 matches in a row as a rookie is practically unheard of, it’s happened only once before in the 30+ year history of BattleBots by Bite Force, considered one of the best bots of all time. In utter shock and the depths of exhaustion, they readied for their next match in the championship bracket, against Witch Doctor which will air this Thursday Sept. 8th.
Returning to Berkeley, two weeks into the Fall 2021 semester, the team had one main goal: to take everything they had learned from the competition and apply it to the new design to come back even stronger. They’ve spent the year improving their drive system, armor mounting, weapon tensioning, and more; and are now in the middle of manufacturing, getting ready to compete once more in Season 7 of BattleBots.