Monday, April 25, 2011

The Barbie Jeep Apocalypse

When my son and I started building combat robots he was a fifth grader and I an overworked and not particularly technically proficient dad.  It turned out to be a very worthwhile undertaking, I learned a little about building things and my more adaptable son became an accomplished welder and a professional machinist.

But that mostly came later.  Our robots, especially the early ones, were not technological marvels.  And observing the hideous fate that so quickly befell many of our machines proved to be a deterrent towards us going high tech.  And high budget.

No, we specialized in campy stuff, kind of robotic performance art.  And if on occasion we could win a match by smiting a high tech opponant with a hardened Christmas fruit cake (true story), so much the better.

My personal favorites were the Barby Jeep series. 

Here is a picture of Tank Commander Barby.

This was a 12 volt kiddy car placed under remote control, upvolted to 24 volts, converted to four wheel drive, and equipped with a My Size Barbie as a driver.  Oh, and we armed her to the teeth.  On the front is a circular saw blade driven by a starter motor.  The pink object that looks like a cannon is, well, a cannon.

There were of course specific rules against that kind of weaponry.  We evaded these by declaring this an "exhibition robot", then cajoling another team into building a similar opponant machine driven by a "Ken".  Ken in this case was just another My Size Barby with shorn hair, a lumberjack shirt and drawn on stubble.

The message on the barrel reads "Always outnumbered, never outgunned".

The Barbie cannon fired potatoes, or for greater impact, yams.  The kinetic energy was supplied by, oh, I will leave it to your imagination but suffice it to say that the propellant had to be contained in paper cartrages that we made from torn up rules sheets.

Tank Commander Barby was a very successful machine, especially when the event's safety czar forgot that he gave us permission to build this monstrosity.  When the cannon went off it made a very loud bang and vaporized spuds covered the arena panel right in front of this excitable fellow. Alas, we missed Ken by inches.  I should mention that this weapon was a 52mm gun....most tanks at the start of World War Two still carried 37mm weapons.

Of course we could not stop there.  Meet Borg Queen Barby.  Twin Barby guns that can be elevated and depressed.  Having been told that potatoes were too messy we cut down a tree and fashioned projectiles by machining wood cylinders on our lathe.

Yes, I admit, this is kind of creepy

BQ Barby's outfit was made of three rolls of electrical tape

This video (Resistance was Futile) clip shows the Borg Queen in action.  We invited a more serious robot to mix it up with our machine and another Jeep based unit that fired a stream of golf balls as its weapon.  The demise of our Barby did not make it onto the tape, but it was our tradition to intentionally drive these machines directly into a spinning 60 pound arena hazard that reduced them to small colorful bits.  We could then just pick the armored control box (see previous robo goat post) out of the debris field and sweep the rest into the dumpster.

Craven Disclamatory Note.

Tank Commander Barby and Borg Queen Barby bear no relationship whatsover to the beloved and iconic doll named Barbie.  If any patent attorneys for a prominent toy company read this let them rest assured that I am second to none in my esteem for their product, which is rightly regarded as a positive role model for all Americans of both organic and plastic persuasion.  If you really have to go after somebody just google up Barbie parody, and I warn you, it ain't gonna be pretty....

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