Vancouver Area Robot Combat

I’m still figuring this site out, I came here from a google search for Robot Combat in Vancouver and saw that @Tobifernay posted about a year ago about getting something going. Since that thread is dead, here’s a new one.

If you’re unfamiliar with Robot Combat, here’s a good compilation video from a recent event at Norwalk Havoc Robot League MACHINE MARCH MADNESS - from the archives, March 21 event recap - YouTube

I started competing in Seattle about five years ago with the intent of getting something started in Vancouver eventually. So far I’ve built a half-dozen bots and I have a pretty good grasp on what it takes. If others out there want advice on how to build your own bots, where to find kits, etc. I’d be more than happy to help get you going.

I’m prepared to build an arena on the back of a trailer over the summer if I can get the money together (to build a safe arena it will cost $1,500-$2,000 which would eventually be covered by club dues and event entry fees).

What I need is to find a dozen or so like-minded people who are interested in building, competing, and helping get a club set up by finding venues, volunteering at events, and getting the word out.

I just purchased the URL (Vancouver Area Robot Combat) and I’ll start putting some content up there over the next few days starting with some links to important resources.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in building bots, I suggest checking the subreddit /r/battlebots for lots of advice and a thriving community or just ask me. If you want to see more video, check out the NHRL homepage on youtube and Bugglebots:

I hope it’s not inappropriate for me to @ some of the users who showed interest in the thread from a year ago on this subject. @Jarrett @packetbob @yeungx @rsim @elizabot

Short FAQ

How does a match work?

  • Normally a match lasts for up to three minutes. During that time if one bot becomes incapable of controlled movement it will be given a ten second count, if it still cannot move the opposing bot will be declared the winner by knockout. Matches that go the full three minutes will be decided by a panel of judges who score each bot on damage, control, and aggression during the match and pick a winner.

Is Robot Combat expensive?

  • It can be, but competitive bots can be built or purchased as a kit for around $350 including battery charger and remote, if you have some of your own gear already the cost could be significantly less.

Doesn’t it take a bunch of specialized knowledge to build a functioning combat robot?

  • Not at all, a wide variety of kits are available, most of which assemble as easily as Ikea furniture and bots in these weight classes most commonly use 3d printed or Polyethylene bodies (HDPE or UHMWPE) which can be shaped by simple woodworking tools. The electronics are mostly off the shelf RC parts which can be assembled with terminal blocks (though soldering is better and pretty easy to learn).

What kinds of bots are competitive?

  • In lighter weight classes there are essentially four types of competitive bot. Horizontal Spinners, which build up kinetic energy in a spinning blade, somewhat like a lawnmower (in fact I actually have used a lawnmower blade in one of my designs), Vertical Spinners which swing a blade upwards to throw the opposing bot in the air, Wedge Bots which have no active weapon and attempt to use superior drive power and armour to bully other bots around the arena and score points through control and aggression, and Lifters which usually use a servo motor to lift and pin the opposing bot.

What if I want to build a crappy bot for other people to destroy with no real chance of winning?

  • That is actively encouraged. By all means buy a $25 RC car and decorate it any way you choose. One of the beautiful things about the sport is you don’t have to be there to win. Building things simply to be destroyed, trying out new ideas, or just creating something wild and crazy are all important parts of the sport. Winning is important to some people, but any reason you come up with to build a bot is a good reason.

How often would you hold events?

  • Ideally every month or two. It might take a while to get there, but hopefully by next spring we’ll have enough people involved and some regular venues.

Is it dangerous?

  • As long as you follow basic safety precautions it is very safe. I’ve never been hurt by anything other than the tools I use to build the bots and that’s never required more than a band-aid. I’ve talked extensively with dozens of builders and I’ve never heard of someone getting seriously injured when proper safety protocols were followed.

That’s it for now! Please contact me if you have any questions, offers of assistance or words of encouragement.

  • Mark

Here’s the old thread, for reference:

VHS could certainly host an event, particularly if it doesn’t have to store an arena. If you haven’t come by on an open house night yet, I’d encourage it.

I’d be into competing with (currently) extremely hacky designs at lower weight classes, and I’d be willing to help out with arena build, and maybe throw some bucks into a fund to build one.

Also, would be willing to help out with others building beginner bots. I think I have a good idea of what goes into them.

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That’s awesome, thanks for offering up the space, time, and potentially money. I’d like to at least look at the option of forming a non-profit so any donated funds could be tax deductible, but certainly you guys have some of the expertise and machinery required to make an excellent arena.

I haven’t been there for an open house, I’ve been tempted several times to join, but life keeps getting in the way and I have a pretty good collection of tools at home.

Hacked together bots are great! One of the things I really enjoy about robot combat is there’s no pressure to come in with ‘winning’ designs. Breaking toys is half the fun!

These are my current crop of bots BTW, so far all are unbloodied (Covid and a border crossing) and I’m eager to get them in an arena.

Left to Right, White Wind - horizontal spinner Antweight (1 pound), Blunt Force Trauma - vertical drum spinner Beetleweight (3 pound), and Wedgie - Antweight wedge bot (name subject to change as this one belongs to my 9 y/o daughter).


you might also be able to apply for a neighborhood rant of about $500 if the even itself will be open to public.

Count me in - exactly what @Jarrett said goes for me too.

Not in Canada unfortunately - VHS is a non-profit, but we cannot issue receipts for tax purposes. You have to be a charity to do that. Boo.


I’ll ask my work if they can include one of these in the next donation


@xquared Whenever possible events will be open to the public for free. I’d thought about a community grant when I was planning all this pre-COVID but I’d since forgotten so thanks for reminding me!

@rsim Thanks! Wow, I’m surprised at how fast the interest is appearing. I’d really love to get the first event going some time this summer with 20+ teams, at first I figured that was unrealistic, but given the response in just a few hours, maybe not. Very excited about all this. :smile:


Any particular reason why VHS can’t be a charity?

Because paperwork and structure is our kryptonite. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’ve always wanted to build a bot with a certain control mechanism to give it a strong advantage. And when that inevitably fails leaves me as a sitting duck :slight_smile:
I’m interested!!!


You mentioned fighting robots. That’s like crack for this group


@retro_bot as Rob says - you had us at “Robot Combat”. You’ve definitely come to the right nerds. :smiley:


VARC Website is coming along (I haven’t made a website in 20 years, so don’t expect too much). So far it’s just a rough main page and a page of links to helpful resources.

I’m glad I finally found the right nerds. I’ve been kicking this idea around for a few years now but haven’t found a crowd of like-minded builders until now. I figure we need at least a dozen teams and 3-5 people willing to help out for a first event to get things going. Hopefully if we get enough public interest, things will take off once people see how much fun it is.


Definitely interested in Combat Robots. Please keep me in the loop.

Will do. I hope to get the first event together for mid-late August if everything goes smoothly. To begin with the box will be suitable for 1 and 3 pound bots, so if you want to start building with those targets in mind…

There isn’t much on the VARC website yet, but one of the first things I’ve done is to gather a collection of useful links. Also, if you haven’t already seen them, the videos over on the NHRL youtube page are a great place to start getting familiar with the Beetleweight class. They have the most competitive environment in the world for Beetles and do a great job of filming, editing etc. No flamethrowers here though (the top video on their youtube right now is an amazing flamethrower bot literally lighting their opponent on fire).

I’m also happy to answer any questions or provide feedback on designs. I won’t claim to be a master builder, but we did go 5 and 2 for a 4th place finish in Seattle against some of the best in the world (all but one opposing team was from the BattleBots TV show, and one of our losses was to a Giant Nut winner).

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Posted a workshop that can be a start to getting into this.

As-is, it certainly wouldn’t be competitive if you want to win, but it could be fun as hell, and will certainly whet the appetite


Hey, winning isn’t everything. Lots of serious battlebots competitors will bring a ‘joke’ bot to some competitions just for fun. Ray Billings, who runs Tombstone, probably the most destructive battlebot of all time runs a smaller bot called The Great Pumpkin, which is basically a plastic pumpkin with wheels. Its only purpose is to get destroyed and provide some entertainment for the audience.

There’s also the famous Norwalk Havoc competitor, Milk Tank, the team wears cow costumes and the bot is decorated in a cowhide pattern. The main weapon on Milk Tank lately has been balloons filled with glitter. In the past it’s also brought a bubble blowing machine as its main weapon. It’s very rare that it wins any matches, in fact it had a streak of four fights in a row where it burst into flames, but it’s a fan favourite and the team seems to have great fun with it.

Here’s a great Milk Tank fight to give you an idea.


So… as a practical SPFX technician, and former theatre nerd, I have some fire performance expertise, including how to get the appropriate permits for fire at public events. I’m also certified to load propane cannons by Technical Safety BC. (Kind of an inside joke… TSBC just brought in a new mandatory certification course for the film industry, and the instructor got eviscerated by the students, all of whom knew more than he did.)

If people are interested in involving fire, involve me in the early stages of your planning, please.


Sorry, I should have been clear, it’s very unusual for an event of this type to allow fire. NHRL is really the exception here. They’re the first real semi-professional league for combat robotics in the world as far as I know (BattleBots hands out money, but even with sponsors teams inevitably spend more than they get in return). We also won’t be handing out $10,000 cheques to the winners of the annual finals either (maybe one day, but that’s a long way off).

I just posted some NHRL videos because they’re the best quality examples I can find of robot combat in these weight classes.

Thanks for the offer though. We absolutely do need volunteers to help with safety inspections and such so if you’re not competing your expertise would be most welcome! It sounds like your experience would be a great asset if you want to build your own bots as well.


Copy that. I would imagine that you’re going to want a fire fighting plan regardless, given the possibility of a battery puncture, and I can help out with that.

I definitely don’t have the bandwidth to field a robot this year, but I’ll think about it for future. Robot fire beaver, anyone?