In Jarvis Hall’s machine shop, Nico Hadlick cleans off old pipes. Under the fluorescent lights of the shop, he shaves the pipes to remove a toxic metal coating, cleans them and repeats. He plans to use the pipes, salvaged from UB, as support for his “Battle Bot,” a remote-control robot designed to annihilate its opposition.
Hadlick, a freshman biomedical engineering student, is preparing for his team’s participation in E-Week’s Battle Bot Competition by repurposing any junk he can find from his job as a student supervisor in the machine shop.
“SA [Student Association] no longer approves Amazon orders, which has made it really hard [to buy materials],” Hadlick said. “So I have no funding basically for the robot.”
He’s not discouraged by this. In fact, he says that cobbling together enough junk to build a robot is “actually pretty funny.”
E-Week, held from Feb. 19 to 25, is a time for UB’s engineering clubs to bring the clubs and the wider campus community together with a variety of events.
The Battle Bot Competition may be the biggest of the week, but it’s not the only one. Engineering clubs compete in a variety of contests, ranging from paper airplane races to cardboard roller coaster designs.
When a club wins one of those competitions, they gain points toward winning E-Week. The Battle Bot Competition — worth more points than any other event — is a crucial battleground for any club vying for the championship.
The first, second and third place winners who secure the most points will each win a cash prize for their club budgets, Jesse Orozco, a junior civil engineering major who is planning E-Week as SA Engineering Council Coordinator, told The Spectrum.
This year, 19 clubs will be participating in the Battle Bot Competition, which takes place on Friday, Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Union lobby.
Orozco encourages all students to come and watch, even if they’re not a part of an engineering club.
“It’s not every day you can see Battle Bots come and beat each other up,” he said. “I just want it to be a fun time.”
Along with the metal pipes, Hadlick is also using metal handles from a diving board and steel from the bottom of an old grinding machine for the frame of his bot. His motor will be made out of old drills that don’t work anymore.
With this in mind, Hadlick gave his bot the name “Garbage Can.”
Hadlick learned about robotics in high school through a self-taught club, making it to the 2021-22 Vex Robotics World Championship and placing 18th out of over 800 teams.
He finds time to work on the bot during his shifts at the machine shop, helping other students along the way. When another student can’t pay for a part, Hadlick says he tells students what other materials they can use instead for free.
He looks at prior UB competitions to see who won and what their design was, and then compares it to Battle Bot competitions on television. He also uses the program Fusion 360.
“You take real-world objects and you can import them into the software to see how it scales up,” Hadlick said. “You’re trying to make it real, you’re trying to make the sizing right.”
Marcus Yuen, a senior mechanical engineering major, also uses Fusion 360 for his construction process. As the leader of UB’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) battle bot team, he is putting in 20 to 25 hours every week to work on the bot.
With four members on the UB ASME team, they divide up the work in between classes to build at the machine shop in Jarvis.
“I’m kind of learning on the way,” Yuen said. “It’s kind of been my first time, so I hope it goes OK.”
He credits the people at the machine shop for helping him learn more about designing products to be made easily.
ASME’s bot is currently named “Skullcrusher,” though that’s subject to change.
Yuen uses onlinemetals.com to get the materials. This year they are going for a spinner — or a bot that typically has a spinning arm on it that inflicts damage on other bots, while also knocking them away — making it useful for both offense and defense.
UB ASME has won the Battle Bot Competition for the past five years.
“I hope we uphold our title and we bring the heat to the other contestants,” Yuen said, adding that his favorite part of the process is watching the destruction on competition day.
With his bot being made of repurposed materials, Hadlick hopes to bring originality to the competition.
The Battle Bot competition is a highlight of E-Week and a day that many engineering majors have circled on their calendars.
Orozco finds himself in a unique situation as he prepares for the event. Being in charge of organizing a six-hour event featuring 19 clubs comes with pressure, but watching UB’s engineers do what they do best makes it all worth it.
“It’s a pretty nice position just being able to see everyone come together, build a bot, battle it out and kinda just have fun,” he said.
Katie Skoog is an assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org