A wooden arena with plexiglass walls and white net on top stands in the Student Union. It rests on a platform — a large black table with underlying metal rods for support — for onlookers to see from afar. Students set up cameras, sending a live feed from the arena to the SU’s big-screen TV.
Students walking in the SU slowly gather around, some looking down at the scene from the balcony. Judges, coffees in hand, are waiting at two tables.
“Good morning Buffalo Student Union,” Parker Fields, a UB mechanical engineer alum and emcee for the event, shouts into the microphone, marking the start of the annual Battle Bot Competition.
Last Friday’s event signified the end of UB’s Engineers Week, a time where engineering clubs host various competitions for students to compete in. The first, second and third place winners in each competition rack up points toward winning E-week, with the Battle Bot event offering the highest amount of points to the top three.
Each engineering club makes their own bot in an attempt to beat up and beat out the others’. Their abilities are put to the test in the arena constructed by one of the engineering clubs, with this year’s being made by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Before the first competition, Jesse Orozco, a junior civil engineering major and planner of E-Week as SA engineering council coordinator, explained the rules and safety precautions.
Two teams gathered on opposite sides of the arena, all wearing their matching black E-week shirts. “Dumpster Driver,” the biomedical engineers’ (BME) bot and “Scraps,” Engineers for a Sustainable Worlds’ (ESW) bot, competed first.
BME’s bot sported a spiked wheel in the front with a picture of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taped to the top. The countdown finished and the bots went at it, with “Dumpster Driver” ramming into “Scraps.” ESW’s bot hit back, knocking “Dumpster Driver’s” wheel off.
After four minutes of mechanical melee, “Dumpster Driver” was declared the winner. The teams shook hands and made their way off the arena.
Nico Hadlick, a freshman biomedical engineering major, and Zachary Pike, a freshman environmental engineering major, created “Dumpster Driver.” They stayed up all night making their bot because their original bot wasn’t ready yet.
The two came into the competition with excitement after winning second place in the maze competition, which tests the maneuverability of the bots.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ (IEEE) club also pulled an all-nighter working on their two bots: “Nokia” and the comically-named “Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max Plus XL.” Both bots’ wheel motors weren’t working the day before the competition; IEEE members spent 10 hours fixing them.
This was Gia Germain’s first time being the project lead for her team. The sophomore mechanical engineering major said it’s been fun but also a challenge that comes with a lot of work, as she spent three months welding the bot together.
Their bot put up a good fight and made it to the 11th of 19 rounds.
The judges, rulebooks in hand, continued to watch intently while scribbling down notes.
Abi Kerkezis, a UB mechanical and aerospace engineering alum, participated as a student in the competition last year. But this time she was on the other side as a judge. She said watching the bots is like an adrenaline rush.
“It’s cool to see them flame and fly. Last year there weren’t that many that actually did that,” she said. “To see it happening this year and to see the new bots come into play is pretty cool.”
As the semi-final and final battles approached, Fields kept the energy up by hyping up the crowd of onlookers and dawning a banana costume. Fields says it was the enthusiasm of the emcee from when he was a participant in the competition as an undergraduate that inspired him to take the position himself. He started emceeing for the Battle Bot Competition three years ago and has never looked back.
“Every year it’s only gotten better and more fun,” he said. “To see the same people again and again and see their bots get better or absolutely destroyed, it’s been a blast.”
The semifinal saw “Slayer,” SAE’s bot, take on “Icebox,” the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ (ASME) bot. At first, “Icebox” was able to dodge “Slayer’s” spinning rod, which was designed to hit with the power of a 12-gauge shotgun.
But “Slayer” eventually landed a hit, sending sparks flying. “Slayer,” a rectangle with slants on the front and back and a steel exterior, ended up breaking the entrance to the arena. The competition was put on pause for 10 minutes as students worked to repair the arena. SAE took the win and advanced to the finals.
“Slayer” took on the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in the final. ASCE’s bot, “Snyder Bot’s” main weapon, a swinging chain perched on the bot’s top, got caught in SAE’s rod. After breaking loose, “Snyder Bot’s” side was dented, but both bots continued to land blows.
“Slayer” emerged victorious, winning the Battle Bot Competition for SAE. The driver, Ivan Ristow, a senior mechanical engineering student, and a fellow team member cheered with excitement. ASCE placed second with “Snyder Bot” and ASME placed third with “Icebox.”
SAE’s team spent a couple hours each day for the past two to three weeks assembling their bot. Ristow said there were many little components that had to be made for their specific style of design.
He and his friend designed the exact same bot four years ago, and it didn’t work until this year.
“Finally, we had enough time and enough materials to make it work the way we wanted it to,” Ristow said. “It’s a lot of work gone into trying to get it to win and finally we’re here. This year we went all the way.”
Katie Skoog is a features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org