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Gundam style: Riding in a giant mech with MegaBots

by Mark Burstiner | September 16, 2015September 16, 2015 12:37 pm PST

Giant fighting robots. That might seem like something right out of sci-fi or your favorite anime, but to Gui Cavalcanti and Matt Oehrlein, it’s reality. The Mark II is their 15 foot tall giant mechanical fighting robot, and thanks to their newly tipped Kickstarter, they’ll soon be outfitting it with a flamethrower, chainsaw, new tracks, chaingun, and a sweet paint job. You know, the basics. Oh, did I neglect to mention the cannons on either arm that shoot ublik cannonballs? Yes, those are there, too.

As I boarded my flight to Oakland, I started getting giddy. I mean, riding in a mech is definitely on my bucket list. By the time we arrived to the American Steel Studios, the boys were ready for us. The Mark II was out soaking in the overcast sky. Even without the new paint job, something about it was truly American. Giant robots with guns. What a world we live in.

The two robotics savants set out to achieve their dream about a year ago when they realized they could build super sized versions of the robots they were working on professionally. After taking in a small cash infusion, nearly everything in the Mark II was built in the span of about 5 months. It really is incredible to see in person. Almost every single component in the Mark II was fabricated specifically for the monstrous mech. Once the Mark II was functional, Matt and Gui did what anyone else who owned a giant mech would do: they challenged Japan to a duel.

Now, the gauntlet has been thrown. In roughly one year’s time, MegaBots will be going up against Suidobashi Heavy Industry, creators of the Kuratas. The Kuratas is the only other giant mech in the world right now, but Suidobashi isn’t content to just go toe to toe. They upped the ante by introducing the caveat that melee combat must be involved.

MegaBots is hoping to use their success on Kickstarter to help them outfit the Mark II over the next year. In the meantime, though, why not ride in it? Of course, the Mark II isn’t a run of the mill vehicle, so the safety standards are a little relaxed. As it turns out, hydraulic oil can penetrate the skin, which can be lethal. Luckily, oil was only coursing underneath my seat, so no big deal. I was not allowed to drive the Mark II, but I was able to fire the giant cannon on the machine’s right arm. Gui primed me to get into the Mark II by making sure I understood I should only touch the fire button and to only do so when told.

Each cannonball is made from expanding polyurethane foam and filled with a colored cornstarch and water mixture. Since the mixture is a non-newtonian fluid, it will become rigid upon impact, then splatter all over once the force is released. These cannonballs are loaded into the barrel with a ramrod and then the chamber is pressurized. Don’t walk in front of the barrel once it’s loaded, though. Once you hit 10-15 PSI, that cannonball in there can take your head clean off.

Once inside the cockpit, Gui initiated the countdown, and I fired a hole into a wooden box. As it turns out, wood isn’t very durable when it comes to shooting polyurethane cannonballs at it. Our round went clear through the target. We had a blast hanging out with the MegaBots team. I even got to ride it back into its home inside their studio. It was a nice leisurely ride going 2.5 MPH into oncoming traffic. This stuff truly is what dreams are made of and the Mark II is those dreams made manifest. We can’t wait to tune in next year for the battle of the century.


Mark Burstiner

Mark is a former entrepreneur from New York by way of Chicago. He's a tech enthusiast and heavy gamer. If it's bleeding edge, he wants it. If it's...

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