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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Robots Set to Collide at BattleBots 2015 Championship

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge feature-box-1140x629.jpg
Ray Billings used to teach computer networking at an adult college – now he fights robots.

Billing’s boss was interested in BattleBots, recording the TV show and bringing it to work for the two to watch in-between classes in his office. The duo planned to build a robot together but life got in the way for Billing’s superior.

“But the seed was firmly planted in me,” Billings said. “It’s turned into a really great father-son project between me and my son.”

Billings has built over 50 different combat robots throughout the years, but is most well-known for Last Rights, a heavyweight-classed robot that competed at the RoboGames and ComBots Cup, two events that have been held in the San Francisco area for the last 10 years.

Billings is also a BattleBots veteran, competing at BattleBots 4.0 and 5.0. He also competed at a 2009 BattleBots event on Treasure Island (that never made it to TV) where he won fourth place with a robot named Tombstone.

“Events are always fun, but BattleBots is always special because the glitz and production of it all is considerably bigger than any of the other events,” Billings said. “I expect we’ll do well, it’s hard to say I would win but I think we’ll do well.”

Billings’ 250lb robot he plans to crash into his enemies is fairly close to being ready right now, although it still requires a touch of paint and a little more tinkering. Tombstone has a large horizontal spinning bar in the front and a simple strategy – tear apart its enemies. So how does Billings practice?

“The reality is it’s way too dangerous to turn it on outside of the arena. Something as soft and gooey as a car I could cut up pretty easy with my robot. It’s a great deal of energy and it – quite frankly – scares the crap out of me.”

Robot fighting isn’t a cheap sport. Heavyweight robots run at least $5,000, but go up to $75,000 for the fancier models. Billings could build his robot for $5,000, but because of all the spare parts needed to replace the ones he breaks (even when he’s winning) competing usually runs around $10,000.

“If you haven’t seen of it live, it’s hard to grasp. . .,” Billings said of seeing BattleBots live. “I’ll rip off a tire that weighs 10-15lbs pounds and sling it at the arena walls right in front of you at a couple hundred miles an hour, you can’t really get that sense of power on video, but if you’re in the audience it’s amazing.”

BattleBots returns to the Bay Area for a TV taping May 21-23 in Vallejo. Buy your tickets here.
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About The Author

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome is SF Weekly's former music editor.


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