Meet Ellis Ware. As a disillusioned 15-year-old, he dropped out of education. Four years later, he is a self-taught engineer, who builds advanced fighting robots using cutting edge technology.
Later this month, Ware will compete in BBC’s cult series “Robot Wars”, which has been revived after a 12-year hiatus from British television.
His creation is so dangerous, it is one of the reasons the show’s producers have had to encase the battle arena in bulletproof glass to protect the studio audience.
“I’ve always had an interest in mechanical things. I used to take apart remote control cars and didn’t necessarily put them back the same way again,” Ware tells Business Insider. “My Dad has always been practical and I’ve got a Great Uncle who worked on Radar, so it’s kind of in my blood.”
Ware grew up in Spain and in a parochial oasis of “lemon trees and swimming pools” lost his way, dropping out of school. He rediscovered his spark for engineering after revisiting his childhood passion for “Robot Wars” by watching old online videos and clips of other robot battle competitions.
By 2011, Ware made the decision to build his first bot and, with the support of his parents, began the project that would ultimately shape his late teenage years.
His first machine was primitive. Made with chopping boards from the local corner shop, Ware drove from southern Spain to the UK to take part in his first competition. The brittle armour disintegrated within minutes of entering the battle ring, but Ware was undeterred.
“It snowballed from there,” he reflects. Now living in Shropshire, Ware has designed and built around 10 robots at different weights. He competes in a network of underground UK robot fighting competitions, including “Robots Live” and “Roaming Robots,” while he has also emerged victorious from Germany’s “Mad Metal Machines.”
YouTube tutorials, online forums and ‘fixing things at all costs’: Ware’s engineering secrets
YouTube tutorials, online forums and networking within the “healthy, but small” robot community have all been invaluable to Ware as he has honed his skills at home. Ultimately, however, practice makes perfect.
“Websites and information are extremely useful but you’ve got to put that understanding into practice. It takes building a few not very good robots to learn how to build better ones. You’ve got to be hands on and trying things. If it doesn’t work, always find out why at all costs, and then fix it. It’s an accelerated learning process.”
“Robot Wars” contestants were given around nine weeks to design and build their fighting machines before competition. Ware’s challenge was all the greater because he had never built a 100kg robot before, but he says it was “never an option to not try.”
His parents’ garage became a workshop, complete with pillar drill and soldering station, but the real technical work was done in Ware’s bedroom. Here, he designed the full robot in 3D using CAD software Autodesk Inventor.
Pulsar’s steel armour plating was water jet cut, while it uses the latest lithium battery technology and brushless motors. Ware claims that some of these techniques are at the cutting-edge of fighting robot design.
Pulsar’s biggest crowd pleaser is its weapon. A toothed drum flywheel that rotates at 220mph and is “absolutely deafening” when it gets up to speed (listen to the weapon in action here).
“Robot Wars” executive producer Andrew Robertson has seen weapons designs of all shapes and sizes, but it was Pulsar that lodged in his memory. “It’s the most incredible noise that sends shivers up your back,” he says.
Robertson says the shrapnel created from Pulsar’s teeth eating into the armour of other robots can travel at a speed faster than a bullet. It is a major reason for the fighting arena being encased in special protective glass.
Ware admits that it is an “expensive hobby.” Pulsar cost around £6,000 ($8,000) to build, more than half of which Ware funded himself, with the balance being made up by sponsors in his local area.
Meeting the “Robot Wars” deadline was costly for other reasons: He slept just nine out of 75 hours in the days leading up to filming.
Ware just made the cut. He will appear in the fifth episode of “Robot Wars,” which airs on BBC2 at 8pm on 21 August. You will have to watch the episode to see if he is successful.
For Ware though, the competition is almost secondary. “I prefer the building process. The competition is great fun, but it’s immensely stressful,” he laughs.