Originally created 10/26/01

Robot gears up to compete



Savannah River Site employees have spawned a fearsome new weapon.

Its code name: the "Jabberwock."

Named after the mythical dragon of a Lewis Carroll poem, this metal beast was engineered to wreak havoc among the denizens of the cable-television show Battlebots.

The Comedy Central show pits remote-controlled machines against each other in battles to a mechanical death. The gladiators fight in a 40-foot-square arena booby-trapped with spiked walls, a pneumatic pickax and "killsaws" that pop from the floor.

The program's next competition, to be aired in January, will be taped Nov. 4-11 on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.

The CSRA Robot Warriors - the team of SRS engineers, students and others who created Jabberwock - hope their weapon will wear the heavyweight crown when the fog of war clears from the isle.

Four team members will leave next week for California. But first, Jabberwock has to meet weight limits. The monster is an estimated five pounds too heavy for its 220-pound weight class.

"We have to go on a diet," said Don Green, an SRS manager and engineer who helped build Jabberwock. "We haven't figured out how to do that, either. But we have a week, and you can do a lot in a week."

Jabberwock's creators should know. They have spent countless hours and more than $13,000 to build the robot since the idea was hatched last year at a Christmas luncheon.

The effort began in earnest in July after the team was able to scare up funding from sponsors Washington Group International, Bechtel and StillWalter Tool & Manufacturing Co.

Armed with that infusion and their own inspiration, the engineers designed a lowslung, wedge-shaped tank forged from aircraft-grade aluminum. Jabberwock can operate even if flipped over, speed along at 7 mph on the power of its twin wheelchair motors, and pneumatically fire a spike into opponents with more than 750 pounds of force.

It also has a few more diabolical devices its creators aren't ready to divulge publicly.

"I think we can do well against most of the other bots," said Bill Wabbersen, an SRS engineer who designed Jabberwock's weaponry. "I have really high hopes of getting to the quarterfinals."

Such a finish would earn a spot on television, which Jabberwock's creators said would be satisfying enough - for their first try.

"We're going to stick around," said Clyde Ward, a senior advisory engineer at SRS and Jabberwock's chief designer. "Win or lose, we want to go back to the next competition in May."

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.