Our BattleBots champion

After a tough season of competition, End Game has brought home the coveted Giant Nut. We caught up to see how things are going with our faculty’s most destructive robot.

When we first met End Game, it was freshly built by the OYES Robotics team — led by several Faculty of Engineering alumni — for their first BattleBots appearance. It quickly became a fan favourite, appeared in the subsequent two seasons, underwent major upgrades and a refresh on battle tactics, and finally fought its way to win the championship Giant Nut in the recent 2020 season. The final episode aired on 13 March this year.

End Game, a 110kg, four-wheeled, orange box of intimidation with a single-toothed vertical flywheel, has been sponsored by the Faculty of Engineering/Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha since it entered the global competition in 2018. It’s powered by four custom lightweight machine motors that notably have never been damaged. During battle, it is operated by two drivers with help from 14 radio receivers.

We interviewed End Game again — who is this time, clearly significantly calmer after years of weary practice and getting to know itself — to discuss some pressing matters.

It’s been almost three years since we’ve first met, End Game. We know you get upgrades and body modifications every competition, but which ones have been your favourite to date?
My favourite upgrade has been my motors. All of the mechanical parts in the brushless motors have been replaced, and they are now to a point where in all eight fights this year, not a single one broke!

If you can have any upgrades you wish applied to your body or brain — with no financial or technological limit — what would you choose?
I would like to have AI drive me to exploit the weaknesses of my opponent better. Human drivers are great, but I would love to have a mind of my own.

What’s something that still excites you after three seasons on a globally-televised show?
After three seasons, what is still really exciting is seeing the developments of the entire field. Every year, robots come with new technology and new ways to make things tougher and more powerful. I especially love the changes that have been made to me to make me more reliable. My electronics have improved so much!

Congratulations on being the winner of the coveted Giant Nut. What’s something unexpected about this trophy that you’re allowed to tell us about?
Thank you!!! The trophy itself is 44lbs and REALLY hard to get through airport security. It is as heavy as my weapon...

End Game's makers, the OYES Robotics team, with the Giant Nut.

Are there any major lessons that you and your makers will keep in mind as you go on to defend the Nut?
My creators learnt lots this year. Every fight — regardless of if we win or lose — things can be improved. This year, we lost a fight against Bloodsport because of a few mechanical reasons, like the tire falling off my wheel. Next year, they will make to stop that happening… and also to stop me from catching on fire like I did in that fight.

Your makers are now seasoned professionals in the BattleBots world. Is there anything they do as humans that stand out as successful or otherwise?
My makers are pretty great! They do a great job of maintaining me between every fight. Maybe they could make me more spares though, to make that process easier.

Do they have any tricks/secrets for keeping a top piece of engineering equipment in good shape?
Their top tip would be to take me apart after every fight and inspect every single part. Sometimes parts break and no one can see it, so they have to be really careful to check everything and not carry damage forward.

End Game (on fire) and Bloodsport

Now that you’ve been tried, tested, and exercised for three years, what’s the most satisfying act of destruction you’ve committed?
Beating Tombstone in eight seconds. We felt the three years of leadup to eight seconds of carnage that no one could have predicted, and it was one of the craziest fights ever.

Hopefully next time it will take longer and I can do more damage to Tombstone, as he is the one everyone wants to destroy...

End Game vs Tombstone

You’ve fought off some iconic robots in the BattleBots scene, including Tombstone who you’ve mentioned, who is a legend in that universe. Which one has been your favourite fight so far and why?
For me, my favorite fight has to be the grand final against Whiplash. Whiplash is a seriously scary opponent, and they are masters of control. Being able to out-manoeuvre and finally send them out of the arena was very special to me, and it all being the fight for the Giant Nut makes it so much more special.

As possibly the first international robot to become a BattleBots champion during its ten-season run, what is it like for you and your makers to be representing Aotearoa New Zealand on this global stage?
It is such an honour to represent Aotearoa, and the University of Auckland overseas. As the first international team to win it, we have made history and will forever be etched in the history books of BattleBots. New Zealand has a can-do attitude which has helped us get to where we are, we don’t stop improving and making changes and are always after the best result, like many Kiwis.

End Game taking down Whiplash

How do your makers divide time and upgrades between you and your brother, the Krusty Grab? Do they feel a little bit neglected? Do you sometimes wish that you have your own cheeseburger cheerleader buddy?
I clearly am the favourite child ;)

But generally, the technology used in me and The Krusty Grab is similar, so R&D efforts can be shared. I am yet to meet the cheeseburger but I am sure we will be best buds when I do this year!!

You’ve been featured in a Discovery Channel TikTok with a Celine Dion soundtrack, which is quite different to your musical preference three years ago. What’s on your playlist these days?
My makers have also been featured DANCING on a BattleBots TikTok that has over 1.5 million views. I am so embarrassed of them. 

My music taste has changed a bit. I love Taylor Swift. Some of my makers don’t though, much to my dismay. Also on the playlist is some Rise Against, as they also have a song named End Game.

Last time we hung out, you chose the Terminator as your pick to play you in a movie. This time, we’d like to branch out to animation and ask: if someone made an animated series about End Game, who would you like to voice you?
Morgan Freeman would be the person of choice. He would show my cool, calm and collected stance in fights and how I like to be patient and wait for a good hit. No one benefits from rushing in a robot battle!

You’re the only character from our faculty with their own licensed VEX Robotics toy. What’s it like knowing that there are humans in the world who own a little piece of you, and what would you like people to do with their End Game action figure (we hope it’s not to destroy all the other robot toys)?
Being turned into a toy is a dream come true. Me and my team see countless posts on social media of kids building their toys and learning about engineering with them. It isn’t just about demolishing other robots, part of the reason I exist is to inspire the younger generation of engineers to learn and be excited about physics and engineering. To have a toy means I can have even more influence in that area.

The End Game VEX Robotics toy

The only thing you’re missing now is a celebrity endorsement deal. As a New Zealand celebrity, what product would you be totally keen to be the face of?
I think I would be a great face for a sunglasses manufacturer in New Zealand. My makers like to wear them and rock them on TV, and I’m sure I could be convinced to wear a fitted pair myself.

You must be an inspiration to many other robots. Who is/are some of your heroes in the world of robots and/or robot-builders?
Biteforce, a three time BattleBots champion, is a hero for me. But also the team who used to be on Mythbusters – they all built battle robots initially too! They do a great job of educating about engineering and I hope to be as influential one day.

The OYES Robotics team in their sunglasses bought with their own money

You’ve had to be quarantined alongside your human makers upon your return to Auckland. What’s the toughest part about being a robot trapped in a hotel room for weeks?
Thankfully, I did not have to quarantine on the way in. I think my makers had trouble in isolation though and I get that it can be pretty tough, but they said that having the Giant Nut made it all worth it. Not being able to see people for two weeks was difficult, and at times seemed a little crazy for them. They said that Steven went so mad that he ended up cooking some food on a clothes iron.

What’s next in store for you, End Game? Are you allowed any days off to unwheel?
I am hoping to go back to California in August to defend my title. There are lots of improvements to be done in the meantime, so there won’t be any breaks for me. It will be back to the drawing board and heading to the workshop for some serious upgrades.

Do you have any advice for humans who are looking into building one of your future competitors? What’s the most important trait in a killer robot maker?
Reliability is the most important trait. A robot that can’t be killed is the first step to success! Also, to start with a smaller robot. Our friends at AURA run events for 3lb robots here in New Zealand, which is a great starting point for anyone who wants to get involved.

Aside from being a champion in the world’s most important sport, what else about End Game should make our faculty proud?
End Game is using cutting edge technology that no one else has won with before. I have more powerful motors and control systems than anyone else in the team. My team members learnt the skills to give me these advantages at the University of Auckland which is pretty special.

End Game’s makers, OYES Robotics, is led by Mechatronics Engineering graduate Nick Mabey, who works closely alongside Software Engineering graduate Jack Barker, his brother Steven, Shane de Rijk, Devin Jerram, and Emma McMillan. Find out more about End Game.