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 News: 2001 Archive

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2001 Highlights:

  • Dr. Inferno Jr. is the BattleBots season 3.0 lightweight champ!
  • Infernolab bots in BattleBots calendar & magazine, & Robot Riots book
  • 12lb Hell on Wheels debuts
  • Towering Inferno heavyweight debuts
  • Itchy & Scratchy compete at LEGO's booth at E3 trade show
  • Towering Inferno on the cover of Design News
  • TBS Movies For Guys Who Like Movies hosting
  • Entered Mini Inferno in TLC's Robotica

11.30.2001: Howdy

Short update this time--I'm still recovering from the last event and have shelved all bot activity for the time being (well, except I ordered some new wheels for Hell on Wheels...). But I just got word that BattleBots is now selling a 2002 calendar & is taking subscriptions for the new BattleBots magazine. The premiere issue debuted earlier this month--get one before they run out! Visit the BattleBots store and get your holiday shopping all done--they've also got toys, videos, and cothes.


11.16.2001: Phew! It's over! BattleBots season 4.0 filming wrapped up on Sunday the 11th. As usual, I can't reveal any match outcomes until after the show airs, but there are a few things I can say:

  1. I had a great pit crew! Thanks so much to Nick, Dave, and Jeffrey for working non-stop, taking my orders, and doing top-notch work. My best pit crew ever.
  2. The event was amazing. Biggest, best, slickest event ever. Lots of cool new bots, lots of familiar bots refreshed & upgraded. The smoothest and most professional production ever. Lots of friendly faces & helpful people, just like every other event. Thanks especially to Jim for lending me his fancy radio gear when I had a frequency conflict.
  3. There was some totally cool new merchandise on sale at the event and about to hit stores. Look out for calendars, magazines, books, remote control toys, t-shirts, etc. etc. My bots & I made it into the BattleBots 2002 calendar & the premiere issue of the BattleBots magazine. I believe they'll go on sale at BattleBots' site shortly.

4 new media appearances to look out for:

  1. Robot Riots: new book by Alison Bing & Erin Conley, 2 gung-ho fans whom I hung out with at the event. A fun read with more than a few Infernolab bot pictures and some input from me here & there! Pick it up at robotbooks.com.
  2. Santa Barbara News-Press: The 11/14/01 paper had a feature on my great sponsor Machine Arts. The story wraps up with a mention of their Infernolab sponsorship.
  3. I'm featured on whitetrashworld.com! (yes, I'm flattered) I got picked for their "dirty dozen" interview, right up there with an adult film star, some punk rock bands, & Riki Rachtman. Heady company!
  4. Well, the last time I pre-announced a media appearance, I jinxed it & it fell through. So, I'll just say that, next month, I'm filming something for an extreme sports show that airs in Japan!


11.04.2001: Less than 48 hours till I depart for BattleBots and just one more thing I've got to fix up on Dr. Inferno Jr. and I'm all set! Towering Inferno's ready to roll, too. New pics of both upgraded bots and action shots from the last event are up. Check out the Dr. Inferno Jr. gallery & the Towering Inferno gallery. New pit crew for this time around includes Jeffrey Sipress (owner of super-helpful sponsor Machine Arts), and Nick Garcia & Dave van Lue (former students of mine who are both Raytheon engineers now).

I also did a phone interview with Pamela Valente from Radio France Internationale. It will be included in her show, Tendências ("Trends"), on Monday night (France time), during their block of programming in Porteguese. If anybody catches this or even records it, please let me know!

That's about it for now--I've got to hit the machine shop to trim up Dr. Inferno Jr.'s saws for more secure mounting, then starting packing up the new Infernomobile!


10.14.2001: Still plugging away on Towering Inferno and Dr. Inferno Jr. . Only a few weeks till BattleBots--yikes! Machine Arts, local machine shop & Infernolab sponsor, has been helping tons with cranking out parts for both bots. Thanks, guys!

Speaking of BattleBots, tickets are on sale now! If you want to see season 4.0 taped live in San Francisco from November 6-11, pick up tickets ASAP--I bet they sell out fast.

Well, Hell on Wheels competed at BotBash last weekend in the lightweight division. Wow ,the quality of bots in that class skyrocketed since the last event. I had no chance of skewering lightly armored plastic bots, as planned. To make matters worse, my bot relied on high acceleration & high speed for ramming attacks, but the floor was just far too slippery to drive well, let alone get any good rams in. Darn. In my first fight, I tangled with Herbie's Tangled Marionette, a solid pusher/poker bot. He had me pinned at one point but let me go, and the judges gave me the win on points despite that pin. Next was Neutrino, who got me hung up in the same way in the same spot but left me for dead. Down to the losers' bracket. Next fight was Sake. I knocked one of his 4 wheels off, but then we got hung up in the corner where I had zero visibility, so the match was paused, the bots were moved to the middle, and Sake managed to push Hell on Wheels into a hole in the side of the unfinished arena, sending me into the gunk under the arena. Oh well, Hell on Wheels worked great. Just need more traction.

Finally, the big news is that I just got a new Infernomobile! Yes, the need for carrying around large robots & toolboxes has prompted me to move up. So, if anybody wants to buy a great Eagle Talon sports car [SOLD!], I'm selling my old car off. Think of it as a little piece of robot history that's carried me & bots to 6 robot competitions. :)


09.26.2001: The main update this time is the new pages for Hell on Wheels, my nearly-done 12lb bot for BotBash next month. Check out the Hell on Wheels gallery. I've got about 3 more minor steps before he's ready--not bad, considering I've got a whole 9 days till the competition!

The French newspaper Le Monde ("The World") did an article on robot combat and BattleBots, including a little interview with me. If you don't read French, I guess you could just skim through & look for key words or something, or you could read the funny computer translation.

Finally, I've got lots more parts for Towering Inferno and Dr. Inferno Jr. They should be together in time for the next BattleBots, which has just been announced to be November 6-11 in San Francisco.


09.18.2001: Well, season 3.0 of Comedy Central's BattleBots has come to a close and our very own Dr. Inferno Jr. is the new lightweight champ! It was a tough road to the giant nut and there's really not much of the Doc left, but he'll be back in time for the next BattleBots, but it'll be tough! Probably no updates for a while, what with major work to be done on 3 bots in just a few weeks while still working on my Ph.D. thesis. Phew--it's gonna get ugly around here! I've got some new pics from the last event up in both the Dr. Inferno Jr. gallery and the Towering Inferno gallery.

A quick recap of the final fights: Dr. Inferno Jr. fought SALLAD in the semi-finals. I figured I'd have no trouble getting my scoops under SALLAD's high frame, and that was mostly true, but the flaps were getting so beat that he had me scared a few times when he did some scooping with his versatile arm. I managed to control him for most of the match, pushing him into the spikes, then I got him good & stuck under the spike strip & left him for the last 20 seconds. I wanted to save myself for the finals.

In the finals, once again I met up with Gamma Raptor. I'd already fought Alpha Raptor in season 1.0 & Beta Raptor in a few parking lot fights. The match was extremely tough--neither of us could get ahold of the other & do any real damage or gain much control. After 3 minutes of dancing & weaving, ducking & bobbing, it was over. I couldn't call the match--it seemed to be dead even. I was shocked when the judges gave me an overwhelming 32-13 victory, beating the dinosaur in all 3 categories. Go figure.

I am currently offering sponsorship space on Dr. Inferno Jr. for his next appearances on BattleBots season 4.0. Bringing back the champ should garner some good TV coverage. If you're interested in getting in on the action, contact me.


09.07.2001: This week's episode of Comedy Central's BattleBots covered the lightweight quarter-finals. Dr. Inferno Jr. took on Herr Gepoünden. During the actual match back in May, I thought I had a pretty decisive win, but watching it from my couch, wow! Herr Gepoünden's hammer had a lot of clout to it & swatted me away on almost every attempt to get in and beat him up. I did manage 1 flip & got his tail caught up in my saw a for a full 30-second hold and a loooooong application to the killsaws. You can catch repeats this weekend. Next up, the semi-finals!

Towering Inferno's got all-new lexan armor panels. Thanks to Industrial Forming for supplying & drilling the lexan and to new sponsor Machine Arts in Santa Barbara for doing some milling. Machine Arts is also currently working on the new sprockets, some shaft collars, and the new triangular panels for Towering Inferno. The aluminum for those new triangular panels was supplied by another new sponsor, Alliance Finishing & Manufacturing, who will also supply some aluminum tubing & be doing all the fancy anodizing for the new Towering Inferno. When I say "fancy anodizing", you can check out this example as reference of some of the work they do. Yes, those are anodized aluminum fishing rod reels.

Last but not least, long-time sponsor PTC mailed me a laptop computer this week, loaded with the latest CAD software! Woohoo! Now I can design bots even when I'm travelling. Thanks!

Finally, Hell on Wheels is coming together way faster than I expected. 2 Long days in the shop this past weekend & I've got the armor, frame, chassis, & drivetrain about 90% done. The list of stuff left to do is mercifully short: get batteries, install & wire electronics, make a few more spikes. I'm definitely getting more efficient at this bot-building thing!


08.17.2001: Howdy

Super megabusy so you get short sentence broken English update this time!

Portable Power Systems sent first of Towering Inferno's four new custom 24V 8Ah Hawker Cyclon Monoblock batteries. They take 4 units & hot-melt them together. Will replace the 5Ah versions I used last time, which worked adequately for 3 minute fight but started winding down in 5 minute rumble. Towering Inferno was 10lb underweight @ the last event & the new BattleBots rules upped the heavyweight class by another 10lb, so much room for added goodies! Next BattleBots event ought be in 1st 1/2 of November in San Francisco.

SystiMatic, provider of Dr. Inferno Jr.'s sawblade, made custom blades for Towering Inferno, to be used as chain guards. Me have more future uses for these in mind--heh heh.

G&G Technology donating 2 Thin Gap prototype motors for Hell on Wheels, new 12lb bot. Yes, prototype motors. Not production. Amazing new motor technology unlike any other motor used in a fighting robot. After I learn what's proprietary & what's not, I'll release as many details as I can. Hell on Wheels will compete in next BotBash, just announced. Looks amazing: permanent arena, produced by SRL's producer, added new weight class, 100 bots. Wow! Infernolab continuing to support Bash with kickin' "Music to Bash By" tunes & prizes (music CDs, Vantec covers, batteries, chargers, etc.). October 5-7 in Phoenix--no audience--invite/entry only, so build something & start now!

This week's episode of Comedy Central's BattleBots had small Bill Nye segment where he picked most aggressive bots. Dr. Inferno Jr. was touted as the most aggressive lightweight (something about "attacks like a pack of killer bees wielding a circular saw"...) but superhevy Judge took the cake. Look for repeats this weekend. Running total: 7 out of 8 episodes so far have Infernolab bots (albeit briefly)!

Only 2 shows to go in season 3.0. The doc's on next week in the LW 1/4-finals against Herr Gepounden. Watch on Tuesday 9/4/01!

Holy moly, look at website hits skyrocket!!!! Seems that German Spiegel Online did story on LEGO movies today and linked to my old Ministry stop-motion music video I did back in '92!

Finally, selling some radio equipment on eBay. Bid enormously.


08.17.2001: I jinxed it! I jinxed it! I knew it! Darn it!

I got notification that there was a last-minute change of cover story for the September issue of the IEEE Spectrum magazine from the LEGO Mindstorms story to something else. So, Tesseract won't be on the cover or even in the print magazine story, just in the on-line version. Dang. Oops! I probably just jinxed that now!

Towering Inferno is on this week's episode of Comedy Central's BattleBots in the recaps after the 1st fight. FrenZy KO'ed me without too much trouble. I broke a sprocket again (just like in the previous fight against Bad Dog), losing power to one side. Then FrenZy started pounding on Towering Inferno & pieces of Lexan went a-flyin', skewing one of the 2 pods, causing the sprockets to misalign, throwing the other chain. Dead in the water.

Autopsy: my sponsor who provided those parts goofed and gave me plexiglass instead of Lexan. Dang. After beating me, Patrick came by & taught me how to distinguish the two materials so it would never happen again and gave me 2 replacement sprockets so I could run in the losers' rumble. What a swell guy.

Well, Towering Inferno made it to the top 32 bots out of about 120 heavyweights. Not too shabby. I'd love to tell you more about the losers' rumble, since it won't be aired, but I shouldn't reveal who was in it yet-it'll spoil the outcome of some fights that haven't yet aired.

Anyway, TV appearance count: 5 out of 6 episodes so far. No Infernolab bots for the next 2 shows. Look for Dr. Inferno Jr. to fight in the quarterfinals on show #9 on 9/4/01.

One more thing: wiith some more donated Lexan from Industrial Forming, I made some terminal covers for Towering Inferno's Vantec speed controllers. This will prevent any stray pieces of metal from shorting the screw-down terminals while letting me see that everything's still attached properly. Again, this is something that I may consider marketing--please review them if you're interesed & send me a mail that answers the questions on that page.


08.09.2001: Well, this is week 5 out of 10 of season 3.0 of Comedy Central's BattleBots. I was surprised to catch a rather long update of the Dr. Inferno Jr. vs. Bad Habit fight. This was the 2nd time I had to fight my buddy Ray, but this victory was definitely more decisive than the last one. The highlights showing this week include me taking him to the saws, to the piston which flipped him over, then to the hammers which pounded him and sent him flying in a full 360 flip. This means that the Doc is moving on to the quarter-finals! Top 8 lightweights! His next full fight will be aired on show #9 on 9/4/01. You can catch repeats of the highlights of the Dr. Inferno Jr. / Bad Habit fight on Friday at 3PM, Saturday at 2AM or 11:30PM, or Sunday at 10AM. Hey, Infernolab bots have been on 4 out of the 5 episodes aired so far in season 3.0--not bad!

Last week, I talked about some new Lexan protective covers for Towering Inferno's Vantec speed controllers, courtesy of Industrial Forming. Progress on this project is moving along and we're working on another small Lexan cover to protect the row of electrical connectors on the case. BattleBots safety rules require that any exposed electrical contacts be covered, so this will work a little better than a piece of duct tape. Pics will follow. Slight chance of marketing this product too.

While stopping by Specialty Tool & Bolt to get some standoffs & new screws for this terminal cover, the nice folks there agreed to extend their sponsorship of Towering Inferno for another season, replenishing my tab to outfit the bot with all the required nuts, bolts, fasteners, bearings, electrical connectors, hand tools, tape, wire wraps, and all the other million things these guys stock & sell.

In the last bit of news, BattleBots has put up the rotating 360-degree spin pictures of the bots from the last event. Check out: Dr. Inferno Jr. spin, Towering Inferno spin, other spinning bots.


08.01.2001: A few new news items to report in the way of sponsorship & media appearances.

I've got a handful of new sponsors on board for Towering Inferno. As soon as I get some parts in hand, I'll let you know some details. For now, I'll share that Alliance Finishing & Manufacturing will be supplying aluminum stock and anodizing, Check Yourself Paintball & Machining is finishing up the Lexan panels that Industrial Forming made for me and will be doing several other machining operations, and Portable Power Systems will be providing some new batteries.

Industrial Forming also made some sweet Lexan protective covers for Towering Inferno's Vantec speed controllers--I'm thinking of offering these for sale and am trying to determine consumer interest--please let me know if this is a product you might be interested in for your bots.

I gingerly packed up & shipped off Tesseract to the IEEE Spectrum magazine offices in New York for a photo shoot. The September issue's cover story is on consumer robotics, with lots of coverage of the awesome LEGO Mindstorms kits. I've never mailed a 14lb LEGO combat robot before--hope it survives shipping!

Last night on Comedy Central's BattleBots, they gave a review of several fights, including Towering Inferno's victory over Bad Dog. Since this was Towering Inferno's 1st taped fight, it's now safe to discuss it and his previous elimination round fight without violating the NDA I signed.

As luck would have it, the 1st Towering Inferno fight was against Nerd Killer, built by some other UCSB students, led by Casey Bennett. We'd spent many long nights in the shop together in the weeks before BattleBots, and we were disappointed that only 1 of us would make it on to the TV rounds. What was even more of a coincidence was that both of our bots were on the same frequency. Since they were still scrambling to finish fine-tuning their bot, I agreed to change my radio frequency by gutting Dr. Inferno Jr. to pull out his radio receiver crystal (because I forgot to pack my other spare crystals that I'd purchased for just such an occasion...). It was a big pain and I had only a very short time to do the swap, as I got very little advance notice. Many thanks to Team Raptor for dropping their work to help me make the swap.

Nerd Killer (picture available at http://www.robotcombat.com/bbsf01heavy.html) was a strong 4-wheel drive bot with a Biohazard-esque lifting arm. Before the fight, Casey added an extra offset layer of thin Lexan sheet to absorb my hammer blows and lose his ability to drive upside down (since I wouldn't flip him & the arena hazards were turned off for the prelims). We both came out strong, he pushing me around, and I pounding his top. At one point, my hammer got stuck in his on/off switch access hole and he dragged me around for a bit. The refs stopped the match to separate us, but we managed to remotely pull out bots apart before they could get in there. We continued the match, but we were both crippled: Towering Inferno was dead on one side and could only spin in circles, while Nerd Killer was almost out of battery power & could only go straight. The judges gave me the win by one measly point, 23-22.

It turns out that, in my haste to swap radios, I didn't plug the speed controller in tightly and it came unplugged from all of the jostling and vibration. A little bit of hot glue kept those connections secure for the rest of the event. And it also turns out that Casey forgot to charge or hook up half his batteries, explaining his shortened run time. Double d'oh!

The second fight, against Bad Dog, went a little better. I came out pounding, landing many blows while getting shoved around. In our scrap in the corner, I once again lost power to one side, but Bad Dog got high-centered on the exit ramp at the same time. I killed time, showing that Towering Inferno was still mobile, and played it safe to take the weak K.O. It turns out that the small sprocket on one motor shaft split in entirely half from the shock of incessant pounding, disconnecting one side's hammer from its motor. Good thing I had a spare sprocket in my toolkit! Thanks to my pal Pete for hand-shaping a brand new woodruff key to secure the replacement sprocket!

You can catch repeats of the (short) highlights of the Towering Inferno / Bad Dog fight on Friday at 3PM, Saturday at 2AM or 11:30PM, or Sunday at 10AM.

On to round two of the TV rounds, I was pitted against another buddy, Patrick and FrenZy, who'd had a bye in round 1. This was going to be a tough fight, especially since Patrick's been running his bot since 1996 & upgrading it every year, turning it into a very solid, refined machine. Yikes!


07.22.2001: Dr. Inferno Jr.'s been on the tube a lot lately. Last week, The Today Show did a feature on BattleBots, including some footage of the doctor beating on Toe Crusher.

Later that evening, that full fight was shown on Comedy Central's BattleBots, where the doc squeaked by with a narrow 23-22 victory. Phew! He moved on to face Bad Habit (again). I don't yet know if that fight will air, but it's a good one with lots of action from the BattleBox pulverizer!

The next day, ABC World News did a great segment on BattleBots. Not only did guests Trey, Christian, & Greg discuss BattleBots, give a fun demo, but they were seated in front a of a giant projection screen showing Dr. Inferno Jr. flipping Toe Crusher.

The 2 news clips mentioned above have been captured by Jim at RobotCombat.com and cataloged in InfernoTV. He was also nice enough to finish capturing the remaining 6 Infernolab robot segments from Movies for Guys Who Like Movies that aired in April. Thanks, Jim!

Other news: a major website revamp is in the works, and I received the rest of Towering Inferno's new rectangular polycarbonate panels from Industrial Forming!


07.13.2001: Friday the 13th! Traditionally an unlucky day, but a good day for the Infernolab!

Yesterday, I picked up the 1st of the batch of the new rectangular body panels for Towering Inferno from new sponsor Industrial Forming. Check out the fancy things they can do with vacuum forming, molding, bending, and other modes of shaping plastics into cool shapes. They're making up some speed controller covers & we're also figuring out how to make some snazzy clear electronics mounts.

If you saw the 1st episode of BattleBots season 3.0 on Comedy Central, you may have seen Dr. Inferno Jr. in 2 short segments, though none of his full fights was aired. During the piece on the upgraded BattleBox, they demonstrated the effectiveness of the upgraded killsaws with a clip of the Doctor holding his opponent over them while they sliced him up. Later, the Doc got in at the very end of the show when they recapped some round 1 fights. Dr. Inferno Jr. beat Blood Dragon in round 1 by slamming him against the spike strip, slicing off most of his antenna (in a beautiful shower of white titanium sparks) then taking him on a tour of pretty much every single arena hazard. His bot held up to the severe beating dished out by the arena and would've been still running strong at the end had I not been lucky enough to snip his antenna, giving him minimal radio control for most of the match. You can catch repeats of this show over the next few days: Fri @ 3PM, Sat @ 2AM, and Sat @ midnight.

Next week, Dr. Inferno Jr. takes on Toe Crusher. Tune in at 10PM on Tuesday the 17th.

Also, I got a couple of beautiful huge prints of Towering Inferno's photo shoot by Steve Jacob. I replaced the polaroid scans in the Towering Inferno gallery with scans of the real prints--the colors came out quite different--very neat emerald green background.


07.10.2001: Howdy. Not a heck of a lot new, hence the long gap between news updates. The biggest news, of course, is that BattleBots season 3.0 on Comedy Central starts tonight! Check your local TV listings, but it seems to be on from 10PM-11PM in most areas, and it will repeat several times during the week if you miss it tonight. I know that Dr. Inferno Jr. will be fighting Toe Crusher on the 2nd show, on July 17, so make sure to tune in then. Other things to look for somewhere in the first 4 episodes: a Bill Nye discussion on wheels that I helped out with and a fashion segment (yes, fashion) that will be featuring the fancy schmancy Infernolab outfits.

In other news, I've got Towering Inferno fully disassembled & have started the upgrades. He'll be a bit leaner, a bit more robust, and look a heck of a lot cooler. New & returning sponsors are getting parts & materials together at this very moment.


06.04.2001: I've added a simple mailing list to the Infernolab. This list will only ever be seen by me. It will remain private and confidential. I will not flood your mailbox with spam or junk mail. This is simply a means of telling interested readers when I update my site or when I will be in the media. This is not a discussion mailing list where others will see your name and be able to write to you. It's one-way only. Simple. And I will remove your e-mail address from the list immediately, if requested.

Oh, almost forgot. I got a bunch of new Infernolab shirts in stock. I now have sizes S, M, L, XL, and XXL. Now without sponsor ads and with a bright orange "infernolab.com" URL across the bottom of the back. Snazzy. Still a paltry $15, including shipping.


06.01.2001: Wow. Put 450 or so robots in one building & fight for 5 days straight & you've got yourself one heck of a BattleBots show. Dr. Inferno Jr. & Towering Inferno fought mightily in the lightweight & heavyweight classes. Because I signed a non-disclosure agreement, I can't reveal the outcome of any fights, and I was too busy to take many pictures, so I just wanted sit back & relax, get over my cold, get back to work, and put together a quick "thank you" list. Season 3.0 supposedly starts on July 10--look out for it! If you dug the flamey shirt that I had Pete wear when helping load up Towering Inferno into the BattleBox, I'm looking into selling them on my site--there was a huge demand for these at the show, and I brought it along just as an afterthought!

  • Lauren for being my main helper & Inferno-babe
  • Pete for helping soooooooo much all-around on Towering Inferno
  • Team Raptor for dropping everything to help me with a last-minute radio swap on Towering Inferno & for a fuse for a key fight & for their big 1/2" power drill
  • Roy & Rob for scoring me some necessary Towering Inferno repair materials
  • Paul for some more help disassembling & assembling Towering Inferno
  • Luke & Jim for lending me hole saws
  • James & Derek for helping to assemble Dr. Inferno Jr. when I was too swamped
  • Erik for the jigsaw & fuse
  • Ray for the other jigsaw
  • Gordon for trading me his Jeep Cherokee for a week to save on car rental fees
  • Nicole and Bill for putting me up for a week, saving me about $1,000 in hotels
  • My pit neighbors for being friendly & giving me room to spread out & be sloppy
  • The whole BattleBots staff
  • My Sponsors for their support and faith


05.21.2001: Much news. Little time.

My LEGO robot collection grows: Itchy & Scratchy were a hit at E3. Both bots achieved the goals I set out for them: to toss ping pong balls into the audience and to make a lot of noise and increase the mayhem quotient by a factor of 6. To promote LEGO Mindstorms, Switzer Communications came up with another great trade show PR idea: Mindstorms Mayhem, where remote-controlled LEGO bots compete to harvest ping pong balls & deliver them to a goal. A seemingly simple task with crazy results. It was a hit at the trade show, drawing visitors away from video games to play with something real and really 3-D, not just another 3-D rendered video game. Thanks to Randy for lendig me his PC to use with the fancy new Mindstorms 2.0 software (my PC was too wussy to handle it).

UCSB had its annual Chancellor's reception/fundraiser to thank people who have donated tons of money to the university & to rope in more people to donate even more. They like to show their investors the results of their generous donations, so, to represent the College of Engineering, they called on me to display Towering Inferno and Dr. Inferno Jr. (even though the school didn't pay for the bots...but I did use the school shop extensively...) I set up Towering Inferno on a lavish table and set the doctor on the ground (rewired to half voltage and with weapons disabled) for the guests to play with. They loved it. I was disappointed that Julia Child didn't show up this time--she really like Missing Link a couple of years ago...

I had 2 photography sessions for Towering Inferno recently. 1st was a quickie by me when I did the final assembly. 2nd was a professional shoot by Steve Jacob, who also did the shots for the recent Independent newspaper article.

Both of the current Infernos, Towering Inferno & Dr. Inferno Jr., are packed & ready to go to San Francisco for the next BattleBots. Towering is ready to rumble with about 80 other new, unranked heavyweights, while the doctor is ranked #14 out of the lightweights. Try to catch the live show this weekend in San Francisco--it's waaay better than watching on TV!


05.08.2001: I finally got a real live copy of the April 23 issue of Design News magazine and scanned it in.

I made a few new parts for Dr. Inferno Jr. He's now got some fancy gearbox mounts to replace his old plexiglass/hoseclamp motor mounts that have been taking a real beating over the last year or so. As soon as I straighten or replace a slightly-bent axle, all he needs is some reassembly & he's ready to roll. Oh, and I seemed to have lost his poker at the TBS taping, so I made a new one.

On Sunday, I got Towering Inferno all back together, with a new chain tensioning scheme and sporting fancy anodized & spray-painted parts. He looks really sharp and runs great--pictures very very soon.

Speaking of my entries for BattleBots,tickets are on sale now. They're likely to sell out quickly, so don't delay if you want to see the event live! Competition schedule. Purchase tickets.

I almost finished building 2 new LEGO Mindstorms robots for next week's trade show. I'm running out of "Inferno" names, so I think these might go as "Itchy & Scratchy". Or, if you can think of a better duo of names for a robot with an overhead rectangular pounder & one with a 1000 rpm spinning claw, let me know. Unfortunately, no Vision Command camera after all--that's ok, I just added 3 new Mindstorms sets, bringing the grand total to seven. If you go to E3, look for me at the LEGO booth on Thursday May 17.

Finally, my friend Jim from Robotcombat.com captured one of the clips from the TBS Superstation Movies For Guys Who Like Movies Judge Dredd show. Check it out here--look for the other ones soon--Jim's pretty busy completing several bots for BattleBots, which is mere days away!


04.17.2001: Tonight's the big night! Tune in to the TBS Superstation from 7:30PM-9:40PM Pacific Time (10:30PM-12:40AM Eastern Time) to watch Judge Dredd on Movies For Guys Who Like Movies and check out the world premiere appearance of Towering Inferno, a couple of rumbles with Dr. Inferno Jr., some fun interviews with me, and some big metal-cutting machines in action at Paradise Machining.

The latest issue (4/23/01) of Design News magazine is out and the cover shot of Towering Inferno chasing me down came out awesome! The article is also big fun, with some good info on heavy-hitters Biohazard & Vlad the Impaler too. Here's a copy of the article. As soon as I get the actual mag in my grubby little hands, I'll do a high-res scan of the cover.

I'll be putting together a new LEGO Mindstorms robot for the LEGO booth at the E3 trade show again this year! This year, the competition is non-violent :( Well, less violent, at least. This will be a 3-way contest between remote-control bots who try to collect ping pong balls and return them to a base. Fortunately, interference with the other bots is allowed. The bots will be much smaller than the behemoths from RoboGladiators in 1999, but I'll bring along Tesseract and the Towering Inferno Prototype for demos anyway. Rick Gallinson, a worthy competitor from 1999's RoboGladiators, will whip up a bot, as well as some official LEGO designers, who will make some modular pre-packaged robots so trade show attendees can click something together to take us on. This year, I'll be incorporating the fancy new Vision Command camera setup. I'll be there on May 17 or 18.

The next BattleBots competition has changed venues because of an overwhelming 652 registered bot entries! Way too many for Fort Mason Center, the event is now scheduled to be held on Treasure Island. Contestants show up on Tuesday May 22 to start registration, preliminary competition of new & low-ranked bots starts on Thursday May 24, and the Comedy Central-taped fights will be from Saturday the 26th to Monday the 28th.

So, you ask, how can I take time to do a trade show just a few days before BattleBots? Things are looking good for Towering Inferno & Dr. Inferno Jr. I tore Towering Inferno down to his base components, cleaned him up, and am just about ready to reassemble. I just got back lots of red anodized aluminum parts from Bell-Everman today (fenders, outer triangles, shoulder clamps, and shaft collars). And Urethane Rubber just finished pouring new wheel tread into the custom mold I made up. Just got them in the mail--they look great! Specialty Tool & Warren at Paradise Machining helped me out with the replacement of the badly-bent chromoly rectangular tube hammer arms with some solid Titanium 6Al-4V arms. Titanium's amazing--the arms are only 0.5lb heavier each, but they're soooo much more durable. I'll keep the old, bent arms as spares. All that's really left is to trim the urethane tread, bend some bolts, reassemble, and practice my driving.

Dr. Inferno Jr.'s got a fresh replacement set of motors & gearboxes (I burnt out 3 of the 4 motors on the TBS shoot--I guess I really worked that set of motors in Mini Inferno at Robotica!), and I'm partially done making some new gearbox mounts to replace the cheesy motor mounts. These should be much more reliable and easy to service. Then, he too will get rewired & reassembled & he's ready! It's nice to be on the ball & ahead of the curve for once!

Finally, last bit of news is that Eric Simons, campus editor for the UCSB Daily Nexus placed 3rd at the California Intercollegiate Press Awards with the article he wrote about me! He says it's roughly the equivalent of a college-level Pulitzer prize. Happy to oblige!


04.17.2001: Well, the big cable TV taping went down as planned & will be aired very soon! A crew from the TBS Superstation came up to Santa Barbara and met me at Warren Johnson's Paradise Machining shop. They taped for the Movies For Guys Who Like Movies airing of Stallone's sci-fi stinker Judge Dredd. Because there's a killer bot in the flick, they wanted to host from a location with heavy machinery & killer bots. I was happy to oblige. Towering Inferno gave an ultra-messy demo and Dr. Inferno Jr. scrapped with some toys & some real bots. The filming went great & should make for a super show. Tune in to TBS on Thursday 4/26/01, at 7:30PM Pacific Time, 7:30PM Eastern Time for big big fun.

After getting Towering Inferno thoroughly messy with mayonnaise and other goo, I did a complete teardown & am making several upgrades. I removed the bonded-on & screwed-on urethane tread and created a mold to have some custom tread poured & molded directly to the wheels by Urethane Rubber Inc. And I started mounting up the aluminum sheet metal fenders from Begneaud Manufacturing that will reinforce the wheel sections, add protection, and stiffen up the bot in general.

Other Towering Inferno upgrades include replacing the choromoly rectangular tubing arms with solid Titanium arms, being machined by Paradise Machining, and I'm taking in almost every single piece of aluminum for red anodization via Bell-Everman.

I hit the local news again when Robotica aired. The Independent ran a semi-accurate semi-article way up in the corner of the April 5 paper. Photographer Steve Jacob took some sweet photos for the paper & was kind enough to supply me with huge prints.


04.05.2001: Quick little update for today:

Last night was the premiere of the new TLC show Robotica. Mini Inferno put in a good performance but got edged out by the impressive Killer B. Tune in for the next 3 weeks to see the other bots.

BattleBots added a plethora of videos to their site, with clips from nearly every single fight at the Novemeber 2000 Vegas event. So, if you want to see what Comedy Central skipped over, go to battlebots.com. I put direct links to the videos for Dr. Inferno Jr.'s fights in InfernoTV and grabbed a few still images in the Dr. Inferno Jr. gallery. Thanks to BattleBots for posting these & allowing me to link.


04.02.2001: Some good press for the Infernolab lately!

I updated the Towering Inferno gallery with some new pictures from a photo shoot by Kim Kulish for the cover of Design News magazine. Make sure to check out the cover story of the April 20 issue for a fun technical article on BattleBots. Also new to the Towering Inferno gallery are a few nicer pictures of the assembled bot.

2 days to go till Mini Inferno makes his TV debut (not counting the many commercials showing Mini Inferno catching serious air by launching off of his opponent, Killer B). The Learning Channel has put up their Robotica pages, where you can learn more about the competition and the other competitors. Mini Inferno will be in the premiere episode! Tune in to TLC on Wed April 4 from 9PM-10PM, and stay glued to your set for another Robotica episode right after.

If all goes as planned, a scant 20 days after the TLC show, Dr. Inferno Jr., Towering Inferno, and I will be hitting another cable channel. We're scheduled to film all day (aaaallll day) Monday the 9th. This is going to be a fun appearance. I won't say more till the filming's gone down & things are a little more concrete (don't want to jinx it!). Check back in a couple of weeks for the details.


03.15.2001: A few new updates to share:

I put up a quick little Mini Inferno gallery with Robotica event pictures from my pit crew buddy Christian & my non-pit crew buddy Donald. TLC will be airing my episode of Robotica on Wednesday April 4, from 9-10PM, followed directly by another Robotica episode. Check your local TV listings for details. The show will continue to air on Wednesdays from 9-11PM for the 4 weeks of April.

Tonight should be the inaugural running of Towering Inferno, if all goes as planned. Gotta get him running for a special TV appearance next week, and get some good pictures together for an upcoming magazine article. Details to follow.


03.09.2001: So much new news! It's been an ultra-busy month, hence the lack of updates. Where to start?

Even though Towering Inferno is looking nearly done, he didn't quite come together in time for The Learning Channel's Robotica, so I decided to put him on hold. He'll be fighting in the next BattleBots in San Francisco at the end of May. I didn't want to compete with a barely-finished robot whose bugs hadn't yet been ironed out, so I decided to save him for BattleBots so that I'll have plenty of time to finish, test, refine, and upgrade. Check out his current build status in the Towering Inferno Gallery.

So, I put together a new robot for Robotica: Mini Inferno. Weighing in at a svelte 37lb and topping out at a scant 4" tall, he threw the competition and the event staff for a loop, being by far the smallest bot in a field of beasts, most of which weighed in at about 200lb. He did great in the event & he definitely won the heart of the audience and everybody else, who grossly underestimated his mighty powers. Thanks again to my great pit crew, Christian Carlberg & Lauren Herold, who helped out with repairs, strategy, & general support. Look for the show to start airing on TLC on April 4 at 9PM and continue for the next 6 Wednesdays. The event itself was typical of a first-time event: slow, disorganized, confusing, behind schedule, etc. But the staff tried hard & went all out on the set and the lighting and visuals (this was after all, a TV show that had competing robots, not a robot competition that was being filmed for a TV show--there's a huge difference) and I know it's going to be a really slick knock-out show once it's all edited together. I can definitely say that going with Mini Inferno turned out to be an excellent decision. Phew!

Speaking of Towering Inferno, there's a new sponsor on board. Urethane Rubber (714-731-1325) provided excellent tread made of urethane rubber (surprise!). Rodney Sewell poured up some special tread that I bonded and screwed down to Towering Inferno's wheels for Robotica. But, since Towering Inferno didn't compete & since I have a couple of months to get him together for BattleBots, we'll remove that tread, machine a custom mold, and mold some tread directly onto the wheels themselves for a super duper strong hold.

I've updated the Dr. Inferno Jr. gallery with some long overdue pictures. Fist, I put up several sketchy screen grabs from a night-time parking lot scuffle between Dr. Inferno Jr. and Beta Raptor on my birthday in December 2000. That was probably one of the more fun birthday presents I got--thanks, Chuck! We dueled again a while later, behind a KFC in LA. Footage should show up here sometime...Also, there are some shots of the Infernolab's adventure at BattleBots Las Vegas in November 2000.

Speaking of BattleBots in Vegas, this week Comedy Central is airing the lightweight rumble. Look for Dr. Inferno Jr. zipping back & forth across the screen a few times. An added bonus was, after this season 2.0 wrap-up show, they aired the old season 1.0 show with the Missing Link vs. Ziggo slaughter. Check out your local TV listings--mine says that these shows are repeating at 5PM & 11PM on Saturday 3/10/01 and again at 10AM Sunday 3/11/01.

Finally, I've got a fan named Marc who put together a LEGO model of Missing Link. Check out "Mini Link". And here's a picture of Backlash that he sent to Jim Smentowski. What a coincidence!


02.11.2001: A few new parts that I made for Towering Inferno are in the Towering Inferno gallery. The deadline for TLC's Robotica is looming ever closer. It'll be a pretty tight squeeze to finish up in time. I also spent some time this weekend putting noise-suppression capacitors on my motors & doing some preparation work on the Vantec speed controllers. On the Vantecs, I did some wiring and constructed some lightweight styrene covers (with some material donated by the nice folks at Industrial Forming) in preparation for the waterfall portion of the maze contest.


02.06.2001: I've got more parts for Towering Inferno in hand, and thanks to Mike and Greg for help in the machine shop, things are moving along. Initial assembly should be by this weekend. Here are some of the funky wheel sections in progress, courtesy of Bell-Everman and their sweet CNC equipment.

I also made a new & improved working LEGO prototype of Towering Inferno. Pictures are in the Towering Inferno gallery and some video clips are on InfernoTV.


02.04.2001: I uploaded & organized some of my recent publications on my research projects on composite materials materials.

Towering Inferno's really coming together. I've got a handful of simple parts to machine, and I should be getting all of the fancy CNC parts from Bell-Everman and UCSB this week. Then it's time for assembly. I've done a few more Pro/Engineer drawings and added these pictures to the Towering Inferno gallery.

Finally, a good fight on Comedy Central's BattleBots this week vs. Diesector & Rammstein. My pit crew buddy Mike did a play-by-play commentary of the fight that's up on the Comedy Central website.


01.24.2001: The biggest new news is an awesome field trip I took through the UCSB chapter of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers). We flew out on a helicopter to an offshore oil rig, stayed there the whole day, then flew back. Here's my Platform Irene trip report. Man, flying on a helicopter is fun.

Towering Inferno's still coming along nicely. I just spent some time in the machine shop removing handles from hammers, shortening some vibration mounts (from Specialty Tool & Bolt), and refining the Pro/Engineer drawing of the shoulder part that will attach the hammer arms to the bot. I also did a few repairs on Dr. Inferno Jr. after a scuffle with Beta Raptor behind an Arby's in Santa Monica. This round went to the doctor, but he needed to have his poker re-sharpened & re-hardened, and I cut some new hinge skirts, which got pretty bent up.

I've also been invited to teach a class next quarter here at UCSB. A class about LEGO robots. What a perfect match, eh? I'm still debating whether or not I can afford the time--if I teach the class, I'll probably have to put my robots on hold from April to June...


01.16.2001: Towering Inferno is taking shape rapidly (well, at least on the computer, it is). I've got several new CAD drawings in the Towering Inferno gallery. Speaking of CAD drawings, I now have PTC, producers of Pro/Engineer, as a new sponsor. They were supplying BattleBots Vegas competitors with licenses of their engineering software. Since I've been working with Bell-Everman and their CNC equipment, I've had to really get immersed in Pro/Engineer & the final product will be much influenced by this product. Very powerful software, also used extensively on those slick bots from Raptor Robotics.

Also on the Infernolab bandwagon is Specialty Tool & Bolt, a local supplier of nuts, bolts, washers, hand tools, power tools, materials, electrical connectors, and so much more. I got a tour of their store today & was shocked by the sheer volume of stuff they have. They'll be supplying the fasteners, vibration isolation mounts, electrical connectors, shaft collars, etc. that will hold Towering Inferno together. Check them out for all your fastener needs.

Finally, the BattleBots site has been updated, with all of the new robots from the Vegas event in November. Here's the entry for Dr. Inferno Jr. Check out my mean game face!


01.11.2001: Work on Towering Inferno has been moving along rapidly. I've got most of the Pro/Engineer drawings done. Bell-Everman has delivered the first set of parts, the 12 brackets that hold the bot together. I've started assembling the bot on the computer and it's looking pretty sweet. Check out the Towering Inferno gallery for the latest pictures.

Well, this week's episode of Comedy Central's BattleBots revealed the results of the BattleBots Vegas fights in all weight classes, to bring the field to 8 bots per class. Alas, Dr. Inferno Jr. made it to the top 16. So, it's safe to reveal his Vegas fights now.

On Friday, night, since he was a returning bot, Dr. Inferno Jr. got a bye. The next day, he faced off against Ray Alderman's solid wedge, Bad Habit, which had a drivetrain nearly identical to the doctor's, so they were closely matched. Bad Habit was in charge for the first portion of the match, and I noticed the doc's maneuverability was starting to suffer. In a lucky break, I out-pushed my opponent & got him hung up on the spike strip curb. At this point, Dr. Inferno Jr. wasn't very mobile, so I decided to leave him hung up--not very sportsmanlike perhaps, but strategically a wise move. The doctor broke a few of his cotter pins that held the axles onto the gearboxes, so the axles started to unscrew and bind. Ray, the very guy I beat, was nice enough to give me some super hardened roll pins to do the job. They held perfectly & are still holding. What a nice guy.

The next fight was against the veteran wedge The Crusher (the very bot that beat Missing Link a year and a half ago), piloted by Thomas Petruccelli instead of his young grandson. The fight started well and Dr. Inferno Jr. was outwedging The Crusher more often than not, but then The Crusher got a good long scoop & rammed Inferno into the wall, where the spike strip impaled one of the side flaps, and he flipped over onto his head. I was yelling over to Thomas to continue battering my bot, in hopes of getting him back on his wheels, but he played it safe and did one token ram at the buzzer. So, my karma was been balanced out. Thomas was very nice & apologetic afterward--he felt really guilty, but he was totally justified, so no problem.

So, let's hope that Comedy Central shows the lightweight rumble. Dr. Inferno Jr. got some good action in on that fight.


01.08.2001: A couple of new goodies for the Infernolab media and video pages.

An article by Thomas Kreczmar appeared in the December 2000 issue of Odkrywca magazine. There are lots of pictures from BattleBots and LEGO Mindstorms RoboGladiators, but I can't really tell you much more. It's written in Polish. I'm working on getting a translation to English. Then I can figure out what the heck the article's about--I'm pretty clueless when it comes to Polish.

I noticed on Jim's extensive media page a link to BreakTV.com, where you can watch a video clip of the BattleBots Comedy Central TV show, including some of the Missing Link vs. Ziggo fight.

The Comedy Central camera crews were filming lots of competitors doing play-by-play of fights as they happened. These seem to be just starting to make it to the official web site. Mike & I called the play-by-play shots for the Toro vs. Tripulta Raptor fight. Think we can replace Bil Dwyer & Sean Salisbury?

Last but not least, work on Towering Inferno has been accelerated to a superfast pace to make the March 1 deadline for The Learning Channel Robot Challenge. Shouldn't be too terribly tough to finish on time. I can always fall back on good ol' reliable Dr. Inferno Jr. if I don't finish the new bot. I've got some sneak preview CAD drawings on the Towering Inferno page, made with PTC's Pro/Engineer software that they gave out at BattleBots in Vegas last year. I've been sending drawings and files over to Bell-Everman for them to crank out parts for me. Score!


01.02.2001: Lots of Infernolab news for the new year:

In the interest of brilliant marketing, all Infernolab robots will now have Inferno-ish names. Armed Forces has been redubbed Towering Inferno (at about 3ft tall, it should tower over most heavyweights). Temper Tantrum, a 12lb ramming bot for BotBash, has been renamed Hell on Wheels. And in the works are middleweight Disco Inferno and heavyweight Ream-O Inferno.

I've been invited to participate in The Learning Channel's Robot Challenge show, which should be filming in March in LA. I'll be hustling the remaining work on Towering Inferno to have him done in time--shouldn't be too tough.

The BattleBots show on Comedy Central continues to be a huge hit. Jim Smentowski at Robotcombat.com has been archiving the commercials on his video page. Here are a few links to some his commercial captures--see his site for many more.

  • From season 2, here's a commercial with a few shots of my radio transmitter.
  • This season 1 commercial has a snippet from the Missing Link/Ziggo fight.
  • A super duper short snippet from the same fight is in this commercial.
  • A shot of Missing Link before his Ziggo battle is in this commercial.

Did you catch the solar eclipse on Christmas? We had a great view of it in Toledo, OH, where the moon covered about half of the sun. We put together an impromptu pinhole camera, and, fortunately, we had a window facing the right direction so we didn't have to go outside in the 5 degree cold to see it. Look here for the bunches of little crescent-shaped suns (the moon was eclipsing the bottom of the sun): eclipse1.jpg, eclipse2.jpg

2000: archived 2000 News page

1999: archived 1999 News page

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