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So This is How You Destroy a Giant Robot

Practical engineering meets up with science fiction in MegaBots' first episode of its series providing a behind-the-scenes look at making the world's toughest, safest giant fighting robot.

With the new web series launched on Wednesday, MegaBots, Inc., the upstart engineering team building a 16-ft tall, 10-ton fighting mech to fight a giant Japanese piloted robot, we finally get to see what these mad mechatronic scientists been doing this past year.

After releasing a video in June 2015 challenging Suidobashi Heavy Industries' Kuratas to a fight, and then another asking Kickstarter backers for money in August 2015, not much info had come out of MegaBots' Oakland headquarters, now dubbed Fortress One.

After that point and until now, pictures and video of the Mk. II have been sparse, about as common as civil discourse in this presidential election or warmth in a Zack Snyder movie.

This had been troubling for any giant robot combat fan because the success of MegaBots and its plan to turn an exhibition match into a sustainable giant fighting robot league hinges on the public seeing a giant fighting robot, though. And now we have that.

In less than 24 hours, the video has been viewed more than 400,000 times on the YouTube channel and Facebook page.

MegaBots hired an Emmy-nominated production team to capture and edit the video, and the polished final product is on par with what you might see on Mythbusters or Top Gear.  In the first episode, which you can view below, the team is gathering data on what will happen to the two pilots when Kuratas punches the cockpit with its 1,000-lb arm. They simulate this with a wrecking ball.

This series –produced by co-founders and co-pilots Gui Cavalcanti and Matt Oehrlein— follows the entire engineering and design cycle for the Mk. III, the mech that will meet Kuratas at a battlefield yet to be determined.

"With Mythbusters, what you’re seeing is fabrication and design that is constrained by traditional production schedules," says Cavacanti, mechanical systems lead and driver. "We want to give people the behind-the-scenes of what it's actually like to work on a complex product over the course of a year. That’s something we haven’t seen before and something we’re trying really hard to make entertaining."

Oehrlein, the controls expert and former electrical engineer for Eaton, agrees.

"It's something for engineers and scientists to identify with," he says, mentioning that they have been underserved, while the medical field has series such as Scrubs and even pawn brokers have Pawn Stars. "They can enjoy and relate to the things that happen."

Ultimately, the duo hopes this web series, and the hypothetical robot fighting league, will not only entertain their industrial-minded colleagues, but also inspire the next generation to explore a job in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

"When you have kids who see fighting robots on TV, they realize they can go to engineering school, they can become a fabricator, and work on these machines just like their heroes," says Cavalvanti, who started out as a CNC machinist after high school and went on to work for Boston Dynamics. "That what sets into the culture."

The first episode, titled "How to destroy a Giant Robot," is certainly entertaining and informative, and tackles the most pressing concern for Cavalcanti and Oehrlein: safety.

The fearless, eccentric duo are to gonzo engineering what Hunter S. Thompson was to writing. Ultimately, it's their bodies on the line, and they take great pleasure in lining up giant paintball crotch shots now, while their crash test dummy is in the driver's seat, as opposed to them.

It seems they take even more pleasure in explaining the physics behind the impact tests, and how the g-forces affect their accelerometer-laden stand-in.

And if the punishment the rather crude and unrefined Mk. II can take is any indication, the Mk. III, and America's chances at winning the Giant Robot Duel are pretty good. And the best thing is, we are now along for the ride.

Watch the first episode below!

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