How to Design a BattleBot

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BattleBots is a high-octane robot fighting show with more than 20 years of runtime under its belt! In this post, we will spin and maneuver our way through what it takes to design and build a robot that could make it on the show.

First, as a heads up, it could takes months - or years, in some cases - to build a bot ready for the BattleBox. So with this info, we are taking the first steps toward that goal. 

Design Basics

Designing a BattleBot is no simple task. Most of the time, it involves:

  • Starting with a basic chassis that can be built upon.
  • Constructing with destructible materials like cardboard and paper.
  • Including a variety of mechanical weapon options.

With this, there are a few things to keep in mind when designing, as each bot that makes it to the Battle Box is:

Effective: A bot has to be able to compete with the other bots. So, one that isn't good at battling isn't very fun to watch.

Fabulous: The bot has to look good—a steel box on wheels might be effective, but it won't be very memorable or interesting to watch.

Original: The bot also has to bring something creative and new to the table. BattleBots is all about creativity in engineering, and people want to see fun ideas go head-to-head in the Battle Box.

Let's take a deeper look into each of these factors. 

Design for Effectiveness

Designers should first think about the challenge this new bot will compete in. There will be many ways to approach each objective, so it's best to be creative and flexible!

And like most projects, it can be difficult to tell how well something will work until it is tried out, so creating prototypes is an important part of the design process.

(A prototype is an early build of a machine or invention used to test how effective it is.)

Here are some questions designers should think about when aiming for effectiveness:

  • What is the objective of the game?
  • How can the bot score points?
  • What features would make it easy for the bot to score points?

Design for Fabulousness

Designers should then think about what kind of bot they'd like to see on BattleBots. It may help to come up with a theme!

A bot with a claw weapon could look like a crab, or a bot with a weird new weapon could look like a UFO. A bot could even be inspired by a favorite character from a movie or game!

Here are some questions to think about when designing for fabulousness:

  • What is the theme of the bot?
  • How can the bot be made to look awesome?

Design for Originality

Last, designers should think outside the box, taking a look at some of the popular bot designs out there. Wedges and spinning weapons are common because they're effective, but at this point, they might not be the most original.

Originality requires thinking about how one could blend those existing ideas into something new, or invent a concept completely from scratch.

Here are some questions to think about when designing for originality:

  • What makes a bot unique?
  • How can a new spin be put on an old idea?


Now, with multiple ideas flowing through, it's time to think about the specific features a bot can have. 

Choose a Weapon

What would a BattleBot be without its weapon? That's right, not much! The weapon is one of the most important parts of a BattleBot. Every bot that makes it onto the show has an iconic, identifiable weapon that it uses to take on the competition.

Think about what kind of weapon a bot can have. The decision here will probably be influenced by the theme or game the bot will compete in.

Here are some weapon ideas to get started: 

  • Claw arm
  • Hammer
  • Spinner
  • Jaw
  • Flipper

Destructible Parts

Damage is a big part of scoring a BattleBots match as well, but most of the time we won't have the resources to build multiple bots.

So, explore adding destructible armor to a bot that can be damaged without worrying about the hardware underneath.


Speaking of limited resources, all BattleBots teams operate on a budget. Meaning, building a bot isn't cheap, so teams build the best bot they can with the resources they have.

It's important to consider what materials can be accessed when building a bot as well. Materials might include, but not limited to:

  • The contents of a VEX kit
  • 1ft2 sheet of cardboard
  • 6 sheets of heavy cardstock
  • 10 pipe cleaners
  • 10 popsicle sticks
  • 8 zip ties
  • googly eyes
  • paint pens
  • tape


Once a list of features and materials has been gathered, it's time to head to the drawing board! One doesn't need to be an experienced artist to do draw up a sketch of the bot with all the features it will have—a simple visual representation of ideas is all that's needed. 

Start by drawing the base of the bot, complete with wheels, motors, and robot brain. Then, draw the weapon and any other mechanical elements, followed by the destructible shell of the bot.

Moving Forward

All said, designing and building a robot for BattleBots is a thrilling and challenging endeavor.

We have explored the key factors to consider when embarking on this journey, but let's recap:

Effectiveness is crucial, as the bot must be capable of competing with other robots in the BattleBox. Fabulousness adds an extra layer of excitement, as a visually appealing and memorable design enhances the overall experience. Originality pushes the boundaries of creativity, encouraging designers to bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table.

By embracing these principles and following the steps outlined, aspiring BattleBots designers can strive towards creating formidable, eye-catching, and unique robots worthy of the show's electrifying battles.

Dive into bots and competition this summer at BattleBots camp!

A photo of Ryan

Ryan has been in EdTech and with iD Tech for 13 years—building experience, expertise, and knowledge in all things coding, game development, college prep, STEM, and more. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn

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