Mechanical smackdown

Engineering students compete, UB American Society for Mechanical Engineers wins annual Bot Wars in Student Union


UB hosts an annual fight club. 

But it isn’t an underground ring pitting students against each other for Dining Dollar prizes.

It’s engineering students battling with handmade, remote-controlled robots.

The Student Union turned into a battlefield Friday as UB Engineers Week came to a close with the annual Bot Wars –– a competition between engineering clubs where student-built machines battle. Sixteen teams entered this year’s competition, some with multiple bots. Students must build their robots in accordance with certain specifications including a 50-lbs weight limit and 24-volt power limit. Students can reuse bots up to four years in a row.

During this year’s showdown, the UB American Society for Mechanical Engineers took both first and second place, with bots named Doorstop and Ankle Biter, respectively. Battlebots always draws a crowd and this year was no exception with roughly 70 students gathering around the stage during each round to watch. The five-hour event was also streamed on the SU TVs for spectators to get a better view. 


Josh Hulbert smirks as his team's robot pulls ahead to solidify a win in their first round.

Jon Sitter, UBASME vice president and junior aerospace engineering major, was excited to see all the bots that entered the competition and was pleased with his team’s performance.

“I am very happy with how the competition went this year,” Sitter said. “[There were] lots of cool designs and the most bots I have seen entered into this competition. I look forward to next year to see what the engineering clubs come up with.”

Each robot has a different tactic for how it attacks the enemy.

Matthew Aungst, a senior geographic information science major, won the competition last year and said a robot’s weight is important for its performance.

“We are able to push all the other bots,” Aungst said. “Our tactic is that we’re a wedge, so we want to push the other robot into the wall and maintain control of the center of the ring.”

Senior aerospace engineering major Adib Ahmed’s team’s tactic was more violent. He said he’s less worried about maneuverability because he hopes to damage the other robots before they have a chance to strike. 

“We made a watch track with spikes. Our damage is going to be the spikes with momentum,” Ahmed said. “Our goal is to go fast before the other robot can charge up its weapon and then damage them or push them to the spikes.”

Teams spend anywhere from weeks to years building their bots. Senior electrical engineering major Eric Johnson’s team spent a year building each of their two robots, but teams like senior mechanical engineering major Michael Zhina’s spent significantly less time.


Michael Zhina focuses in as his team's robot stops functioning in the middle of their first round.

“My team has been working on this robot for a couple weeks now,” Zhina said. “So we’re glad we could get it up there.”

With such fierce competition, the teams needed to make adjustments between each battle. They could be seen, screwdrivers in hand, tinkering with wires trying to improve their bots’ performance and survive to the next round.

“The first round didn’t go so well. We had some connection issues,” said sophomore industrial engineering major Joshua Hulburt. “But in the second round we were able to improvise. It’s not something too serious, we’re all just trying to have fun.”

Reilly Mullen is the asst. news editor and can be reached at or on Twitter @ReillyMMullen.


Reilly Mullen is the managing editor for The Spectrum. She double majors in English and political science. She enjoys arguing with frat boys and buying cool shoes.