‘Bots High’ Brings Back the Battle Bots

The 120-pound robots charged each other, and as they crashed the sound of grinding metal echoed through the arena. Spinning discs of a bot dubbed “Witch Doctor” buzzed as they tore off the front of the other bot, “Grasshopper,” sending a large metal wedge flying into the air.

Witch Doctor waited while Grasshopper charged, only to again meet the buzzing discs that sent it soaring upward where it smashed against the clear walls of the arena. A cheering crowd stood outside the walls of the small arena, and even while the bots are tossed, torn, and smashed, there is surprising good sportsmanship among the high school teams.

“Lately the ones that have won are the ones that have these very fast spinning disk,” said documentary filmmaker Joey Daoud, who captured the battle bot match in his new documentary, “Bots High.”

“I hope that with the film, more people can see it and realize that there are programs like this out there, and it may inspire them to get involved with robotics and other programs,” Daoud said in a phone interview.

There used to be a popular TV show about the contests, “Battle Bots,” but when the show went off the air, public attention also waned. But the matches are far from over, and have carried on in school gymnasiums throughout the country, where young minds have carried the torch of arena robot combat.

Daoud said that after “Battle Bots” stopped, “I thought robot fighting ended.” Yet during his last year in college he came across a newspaper clipping for a high school battle bot championship in Miami.

“I thought it was fascinating that not only was this still happening, but that it was high school and college kids building these robots that were really intense and big—and just as good as the professional robots,” Daoud said.

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(Image courtesy of Joey Daoud)