- "We are a creative company that brings ideas to life for our clients ambitious PR campaigns and exciting TV shows. For the last decade our teams unique expertise have helped pull in some serious global media attention while achieving amazing results for our clients."
- — Robo Challenge website
Robo Challenge are a Birmingham-based creative engineering company, producing ambitious projects for clients, including televised appearances. Owned by brothers James and Grant Cooper and father Nick Cooper, Robo Challenge are directly linked to the reboot of Robot Wars.
Robo Challenge were heavily involved with both the pre-production and operation of each rebooted series of Robot Wars. Prior to Series 8 being filmed, it was the responsibility of Robo Challenge to design the tournament's format, set the build rules, and the health and safety rules. Changes made to the Robot Wars ruleset decided by Robo Challenge include the increase of a robot's maximum weight from 100kg to 110kg.
During this time, Robo Challenge built all four House Robots used in the reboot, and were responsible for their repairs and maintenance throughout filming. Three different members of Robo Challenge decided upon their favourite House Robot and took on that project for themselves, resulting in the creation of Shunt, Matilda, and Dead Metal. The collective group then built Sir Killalot. The new Robot Wars Arena was also designed by Robo Challenge, including the idea of restricted trenches for throwing robots out of the arena, based upon the group's knowledge of robotic combat. Robo Challenge's members, including James and Grant Cooper, and Paul Streeter, also drove the House Robots in battle.
Basher, a competitor in the pilot episode for Series 8, was built by Grant Cooper and John Reid. Grant Cooper was the driver and sole team member for Basher in this episode. However, it lost in the first round to Ka-Pow! and Turbulence when it pitted itself in an attempt to push Tanto into the pit. Although Robo Challenge did not build the machine, Monte (built by Team MAD) was also loaned to Robo Challenge employee Paul Streeter to compete in the pilot episode, where it lost in the first round. Paul Streeter was otherwise a House Robot driver on the TV show.
In preparation for Robot Wars: Battle of the Stars, Robo Challenge were also commissioned to build eight heavyweight robots using similar components in each, to the design specifications of the celebrities involved with the show, and these robots would then be presented to viewers as the creations of the celebrities. For this purpose, Robo Challenge built Arena Cleaner, Dee, Interstellar: MML, JAR, Kadeena Machina, Robo Savage, Soldier Ant, and The Cat, and entrusted their repairs to the eight selected mentors.
James Cooper took on a presenting role for How to Build a Robot, a five-part series released on Facebook, where Cooper would explain the safety precautions relevant to each weapon type in short videos. James Cooper also personally appeared in an episode of Series 9, discussing health and safety while the arena floor was being repaired.
The official Haynes manual Robot Wars: Build Your Own Robot was also written by the Cooper brothers, offering their advice on how to build a 'challenger', and contains all information relevant to the creation of a functioning combat robot. The limited edition release of the book, sold through the Robo Challenge website, was signed by the Cooper brothers, and contained extra blueprints.
|Basher||Heavyweight||Series 8 (Pilot only)|
|Monte||Heavyweight||Series 8 (Pilot only)|
NOTE: Team Robo Challenge could not participate in any main series of Robot Wars due to their position as producers, with Grant Cooper and Paul Streeter respectively entering Basher and Monte into the untelevised pilot episode.
Outside Robot WarsEdit
Robo Challenge are known for hosting the UK Featherweight Championships each year, at the Insomnia gaming convention. Robo Challenge designed the combat arena, and oversee the tournament process. In place of a traditional 2018 UK Championship, Robo Challenge co-hosted the inaugural King of Bots UK International Championships in August 2018, which also saw Robo Challenge provide live streams of the event on their official YouTube channel.
Grant Cooper's very first robot was a featherweight called Ploughbot, which enjoyed reasonable success. Robo Challenge have also built two featherweights directly replicating heavyweight designs made by Team Razer, Venom (a miniature Razer), and Predator (a miniature Warhead).
As individual roboteers, Grant Cooper is listed as the primary builder of Beta, having rebuilt the robot from John Reid's original design over a decade prior. He initially intended to enter the first season of BattleBots on ABC, but withdrew due to the delay of his son's birth, and Beta entered the competition under John Reid and Dave Moulds. Grant Cooper and John Reid competed in ABC's second season of BattleBots with Beta, where they reached the top eight of the competition by defeating Lucky, Overhaul and Nightmare before falling to the eventual champion Tombstone.
- "John built the very first Beta alone, but when B.B. came back he wanted to enter THz as there was a huge amount of work to do on Beta. He offered it to me if I wanted to get it running and enter it. THz didn’t make it into B.B. so he joined my team with Beta again. We worked together and did a major redesign and build to get it ready. Then our baby was late so I couldn’t make it!"
- — Grant Cooper on his involvement with Beta
James Cooper had initially competed in the first season of ABC's BattleBots with Warhead, as part of Team Razer. Warhead lost its first battle to the eventual champion Bite Force, but earned a wildcard and advanced to the second round, where it was eliminated by Stinger: The Killer Bee. In the second season, James Cooper joined Team Carbide to compete with Cobalt, and defeated Overhaul in the first round before being eliminated by the eventual runner-up, Bombshell.
James and Grant Cooper, alongside their father Nick, and Robot Wars producer Henry Imbert emerged as champions of the Chinese TV competition King of Bots with their championship-winning robot Spectre. Their robot was equipped with a crushing beak weapon, with two large teeth, on top of a sleek four-wheel driven wedge-shaped chassis. The robot was highly manoeuvrable, and could control other robots or crush them. Spectre was dominant in its first battle, crushing into, ramming and eventually causing Red from the Flames to catch fire for an immediate knockout win. It then achieved a second dominant knockout against the overhead spinner of Whirlwind by trapping it behind the arena Grinder. In the third round, Team Robo Challenge were fearful of the drum spinner used by Spectre's opponent, Wild Beast, but while Spectre's jaw was severely damaged by the spinning weapon, Spectre proceeded to dominate its opponent around the arena. Towards the end of the battle, both robots became immobile simultaneously, but Spectre won the battle on a Judges' decision based on the battle up to that point. In the fourth round, Spectre fought another vertical spinner, Two BBQ, negating and damaging the latter's anti-crusher armour by continuously clamping and ramming it into the spikes, walls and Grinders. It eventually won via knockout, after its attacks caused Two BBQ to lose mobility within the closing seconds. In the semi-final, Spectre defeated the clusterbot Thunder and Lightning by ramming one half into the wall to remove its wheel, before flipping it over. In the Grand Final, Spectre defeated the Chinese drum spinner Chiyung Jinlun by biting through its armour to pierce a lithium polymer battery, causing the robot to catch fire dramatically. Spectre was declared the champion once Chiyung Jinlun's wheels no longer made contact with the floor.
A rebuilt Spectre competed in This is Fighting Robots, a Chinese show heavily associated with King of Bots. Spectre was considered visually impressive by Zheng Shuang, who selected it to join her team of robots, which included several other British machines, and Spectre advanced to the main competition. There, it fought White Tiger Guardian in a head-to-head battle, but Spectre's front wedge was buckled by the vertical spinner. Spectre also lost a drive belt, but staged a late attack by grabbing the Chinese opponent after it was deflected by a Grinder, and took the battle to a Judges' decision, which Spectre won. Spectre also emerged victorious in a Tag Team battle, where it was partnered with ORBY Blade to defeat Lieutenant Bam and Switch. In the head-to-head round, Spectre fought another British entry, Formula, and ultimately suffered its first combat loss here, after proving unable to breach the wedge of Formula, and Spectre was eventually flipped over for a win by KO, late into the battle. Spectre was also immobilised during the Eight-robot Rumble, after biting down on the vertical spinner of Two BBQ.
Spectre made a further appearance in the King of Bots 2019 Opening Battle, held to promote the upcoming second season. There, it fought one head-to-head battle against a significantly upgraded Two BBQ. After taking hefty damage from the bar spinner of Two BBQ, Spectre was flipped over and immobilised, losing the battle by knockout.
After being absent from the 2018 season of BattleBots due to filming clashes with This is Fighting Robots, Team Robo Challenge competed in the 2019 season of BattleBots with Quantum, a heavyweight similar in design to Spectre, using the same design for its crusher weapon, but differed through its chassis constructed using generative design. In its first battle, Quantum was drawn against Blacksmith. Quantum comfortably pierced through the top armour of Blacksmith, causing internal damage and dominating the match, although Quantum could not release Blacksmith from its grip within the 20 second time limit, forcing the robots to be separated manually. With both robots smoking, Quantum and Blacksmith could not be separated safely, and the battle was ended prematurely and sent to a Judges' decision, which Quantum won unanimously.
Robo Challenge employee Paul Streeter also competed in This is Fighting Robots with his own machine, Ninja. The robot was an invertible thwackbot using a large overhead sword, after Paul Streeter drove a thwackbot in the Robot Wars 2016 pilot episode. Ninja was selected for Sa Beining's team during its preliminary battle with 008, Saturn and Xiake. In the main competition, Ninja fought Blue, Bonfire and Griffin Mk II in a four-way rumble, and survived until the end of the battle with Blue, but narrowly lost the Judges' decision. Under the controls of its celebrity captain, Ninja fought Thunder and Lightning, but the inexperience of its new driver led to a loss via Judges' decision, after Ninja's wheel hubs sustained damage. Ninja's place on Sa Beining's team was challenged by the American entry Wrecker, but Ninja managed to defend its place in the competition by defeating Wrecker on a Judges' decision. However, in a four-way battle against Tungsten, Vulcan and Thunder and Lightning, Ninja survived to a Judges' decision but lost the fight to Tungsten, earning its team one point out of an available three. After Ninja's celebrity captain Sa Beining lost the round overall, he was required to cut two of his three robots, and Ninja was eliminated at this stage, just prior to the Top 8.
Robo Challenge's Andrew "Kenny" Kenworthy, driver of Dead Metal, competes in the featherweight division with Cobalt, a vertical crusher. At the King of Bots UK championship, its battle with Straddle 2 resulted in a double knockout, and Cobalt lost the decision. Cobalt would earn one victory in its final qualification round, however, wedging Furious George and Raving Luna-Tic against the wall and crushing the latter's top armour. Cobalt qualified for the eight-way battle for the final place in the Top 20, but was promptly immobilised. Andrew Kenworthy was also part of Team Carbide at BattleBots in 2019, with their vertical spinner of the same name, Cobalt.
Grant and James Cooper made a one-off appearance on Inside the Bot, robotics podcast hosted by Will Sedgwick and Gabriel Stroud. They used the show to publicly reveal the changes to the rules they had implemented into Series 10 of Robot Wars, and state the types of design they wanted to see from competitors, including 'Complete Control-style control bots' and pneumatic spikes, directly referencing Point Blank.
Robo Challenge have created robots for various television programmes, including The Gadget Show, Dick & Dom's Absolute Genius, Reverse Engineers, and Blue Peter. Their consultancy and engineering skills were also required for sales promotions connected to video games, including Skylanders Superchargers, Titanfall 2 and ReCore.
- Robo Challenge website
- Robo Challenge Facebook page
- Interview with James Cooper about his involvement with Robot Wars
- Spectre - KOB Facebook page