Robots cut, push and flip their way to victory at the University of Saskatchewan

Today is the last day over the next three years to catch hourly robot fights, happening at the University of Saskatchewan campus.

Combat Robotics Club to end event with all-bot rumble fight at 5 p.m.

Sparks and electricity flare up as two robots battle it out at a science expo at the University of Saskatchewan on Jan. 16, 2016. (Albert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

Fancy a fight today? How about a mechanical fight involving wheels, spinning blades and titanium? 

Today is the last day over the next three years to catch such a bout, and it's happening at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dubbed Kilobots, and put on as part of a triennial science expo hosted by the school's engineering college, the event is a robotics fighting tournament that pits robot builders against each other — whether young or old, experienced or newbie.

Think of a saw blade, but mounted any orientation and put a pair of wheels on it.- Ethan  McKibben

"So far the tournament has been a lot of fun. There's been some very destructive matches. We've had to do a few repairs to our arena," said coordinator Ethan McKibben. 

The arena is bullet-proof, he added.

Saturday was the preliminary round or the tournament; Sunday will see the robots that advanced into the A group fight each other to make it to the finals, set to go at 4 p.m. CST. 

The robots will fight against one opponent, every hour, for 15 minutes, said McKibben. The remaining time is used for repairs. 

"There has been a lot of damage," he said. 

There have been a lot spinning weapons this year, including one that McKibben described like this: "Think of a saw blade, but mounted [in] any orientation, and put a pair of wheels on it."

Another design that's been doing well, he said, is much simpler: a "plate of titanium on the front and some drive wheels, just to get around. And they just try to push the other person outside of the arena."

A roboticist tries to gain the upper hand against his competitor in a robot battle at the University of Saskatchewan. (Albrert Couillard/Radio-Canada)

To win, a robot need not completely mangle its opponent. A robot can win by pushing its opponent outside the arena, flipping it over or simply immobilizing it — "really similar to wrestling rules," McKibben said.

He also noted that at 5 p.m., after the final, they'll hold the rumble fight. "We take all the robots that are still functioning, put 'em in the arena at the same time, run the fight for five minutes and see who's left after that time."

McKibben encouraged everyone to come out, and even get involved with robotics, emphasizing no experience or expertise is required. 

"We've had builders from elementary-school-aged girls who are interested in retired guys who get into robots and then their whole family joins up," he said. "There's lots of community and support."

The day's events are all happening at the U of S Engineering building.


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