- "The power of four!"
- — Robot Wars: The Official Handbook
The Swarm is a clusterbot built by Team Big Brother, which competed in Series 10 of Robot Wars, finishing fourth in its heat by collecting a victory over Donald Thump, despite losing its other battles to Apollo, Behemoth and Sabretooth. Included among the unit are Rubber Duck, Pinza, Blenda, and two versions of Skye.
- "The Swarm’s four-part clusterbot design is inspired by bees, who swarm together when under attack."
- — The Robot Wars website
The Swarm was a clusterbot which consisted of a total of five lightweight robots. Due to weight restrictions, and the team only being permitted four members, only four robots of The Swarm can be used in any one battle, so Team Big Brother had to choose the most appropriate for each fight, keeping the other robot in reserve for the future. According to the Robot Wars website, all of the machines used lithium polymer 18.5v batteries, and their drive systems used Saturn 16:1 gearboxes made by Ellis Ware, driven by an RB 775 18V motor, with an additional 1.5:1 chain reduction.
- "The Swarm is a four-part clusterbot, with each part weighing roughly 26kg and each driven by a different member of the team. It includes Duck, a yellow wedge-shaped robot with a rear-hinged flipper. Blenda, with a horizontal bar spinner that can damage even heavyweight robots. Pinza, that is very fast and armed with horizontal pincers. And lastly Skye, that features a huge overhead windmill structure."
- — The Robot Wars website
In order to defeat The Swarm, three of the four clusterbots must be immobilised.
- Blenda was a yellow invertible robot, and was The Swarm’s primary way of inflicting damage, as its horizontal bar spinner could damage even heavyweight robots. Blenda had a high ground clearance around all sides, but its weapon accelerated very quickly. The robot has been stated at weighing 29-33kg.
- Pinza weighed 23.5kg. It used a roughly roll-over shape, although it proved not to roll over when flipped. Its ground clearance was high, but Pinza was very fast, and was armed with horizontal pincers, to match the robot’s insect theme. This type of design was previously used by Team Big Brother as part of their BattleBots entry Creepy Crawlies, which also meant that Pinza was one of the lightest in The Swarm, as Creepy Crawlies was a five-part clusterbot. Pinza uses a camouflage green appearance, and was lined with a row of LEDs.
- Rubber Duck weighed 24.5kg. It was a yellow wedge-shaped robot with a rear-hinged flipper, capable of flipping a motorbike. This flipper also allowed the robot to self-right, as the top of the flipper featured a solid block to keep the robot level when flipped, although this and the steep design of Rubber Duck's wedge hindered its ability to drive under other machines. Rubber Duck was painted entirely yellow, in homage to its name.
- Skye, painted blue, featured an overhead windmill structure, with six protruding pieces of tyre. Skye could use sit-and-spin tactics in an effort to protect itself from all angles, although its primary purpose was to entangle spinning weapons. Skye had no defence against being flipped, and its damage output was very limited, so it was only used in battle against spinners.
- The fifth robot, also named Skye, weighed 27kg. It was a four-wheel-drive invertible parallelogram. With no active weapon, it used its wedge shape and an optional static scoop as a form of offence. Its intention was to wedge under other robots and hold them in place, possibly with the hope of pushing them, although Skye proved incapable of pushing heavyweight robots in practice.
The robot was inspired by the idea of several bees attacking a wasp, a tactic seen by Ian Watts during his childhood, as his father was a beekeeper.
- Main article: Team Big Brother
The Swarm was entered by 57-year old team captain Ian Watts, a veteran of Robot Wars best known for the Series 5 runner-up Bigger Brother. He was joined by his 13-year old son Sam Watts,who had also competed alongside his father with Or Te in Series 8. The two were joined by new teammates for The Swarm, Mike Hamilton-Macy of the Pressure team, and Ian Watts' student Ryan Pratt.
- Angela Scanlon: " The whole thing about the bees and The Swarm, how does that work tactically when you get into the arena?"
- Ian Watts: "We can choose any four of our machines. We have five here, so if we need a spinner-killer, it's here. We can choose. "
- — Ian Watts explains the concept for The Swarm ahead of its combat debut
The Swarm competed in Heat 1 of Series 10. In its Group Battle, it fought former UK champion Apollo and series newcomer Apocalypse, with Rubber Duck, Blenda, Pinza and the invertible Skye entering the arena.
- "Look at the little clusterbots. Do they have any chance against Apollo?"
- — Jonathan Pearce expresses doubts about the small size of The Swarm's segments
Immediately, the quartet split up, with Skye and Pinza driving away as Apollo flipped Rubber Duck and Blenda over with a single ram. Rubber Duck self-righted immediately, before attempting to flip Apollo over in response as Skye was pushed towards the spark jets by Apocalypse.
- "I don't know how you're supposed to fight those things!"
- — Professor Noel Sharkey watches on
As this happened, Blenda hit Apollo's side, the impact deflecting the former away. Rubber Duck and Pinza were then pushed around the arena by Apocalypse and Apollo respectively; Blenda proceeded to hit Apocalypse's rear and side armour while simultaneously being pushed by the latter, as Skye drove straight into Rubber Duck. Pinza and Blenda both proceeded to drive up Apollo, the latter causing Blenda to cartwheel across the arena before throwing Pinza into Sir Killalot's CPZ.
- "...and The Swarm, bees around a wasp... the honey pot belongs to Apollo and Apocalypse on the evidence thus far!"
- — Jonathan Pearce after Pinza is thrown into a CPZ by Apollo
Rubber Duck was pushed aside by Apocalypse, before again driving into the side of Apollo and dodging its next flip. Meanwhile, Blenda was turned over as it was shoved into the wall by Apocalypse, with Rubber Duck driving underneath Apocalypse as it was in turn thrown into the air by Apollo. Pinza was held over the Flame Pit by Sir Killalot as this happened, but escaped the House Robot's grasp as Apollo threw Apocalypse into him. At the same time, Rubber Duck again rammed into Apollo's side, before all four parts of The Swarm dispersed. Pinza was finally immobilised as it drove over the Floor Flipper and was left unable to self-right, while Rubber Duck and Skye were cornered and pursued by Apollo; seconds later, Apollo threw Rubber Duck over the bulletproof wall panels, before deflecting and pushing Blenda and Skye around the arena.
- "It flew! It literally flew!"
- — Jonathan Pearce as Rubber Duck is thrown out of the arena
Skye was eventually flipped by Apollo, and proceeded to press the Arena Tyre as Apollo cornered Blenda into a CPZ. With Blenda seemingly unable to drive out, Skye drove itself into the opened pit, before Pinza was thrown into the air by Apollo just as 'cease' was called. With this, The Swarm lost the Group Battle along with Apocalypse.
- Jonathan Pearce: "Chase me, chase me, chase me, chase me towards the...ha-ha-ha!"
- Ian Watts: "Oh, who did that?"
- Sam Watts: "Me."
- — Jonathan Pearce struggles to contain his laughter as Skye pits itself
Following its defeat, The Swarm was relegated to the Robot Redemption stage, where it fought fellow first-round loser Donald Thump for a chance to stay in contention and qualify for the Heat Semi-Finals. The Swarm's line-up remained unchanged, and good fortune struck the team, as Donald Thump was forced to fight without its weapon due to radio interference issues.
The four robots split up as before, with Skye being deflected away as it tried to push Donald Thump sideways. Blenda grazed the side of Skye before hitting Donald Thump's front twice; the second hit causing one of the latter's protective inner panels to fall out. All four parts of The Swarm pursued Donald Thump as the latter hit the Arena Tyre, triggering 'Rogue House Robot' mode; Pinza drove up the side of Rubber Duck just as Sir Killalot pursued, pushed and prised them apart.
- "Look at the size, in comparison, of Killalot with those tiny little clusterbots. Now they've got no chance!"
- — Jonathan Pearce observes the size difference between Sir Killalot and The Swarm quartets
Rubber Duck and Skye drove head-on into Donald Thump, the former briefly lifting it off the arena floor. Blenda tore Donald Thump's remaining front panel off, the impact resulting in Blenda spinning and being flipped violently by Dead Metal. Another few hits on Donald Thump disrupted Blenda's movement, allowing Dead Metal to catch, drag and slice into its top panel as she held it over the Flame Pit. As soon as Blenda was released, Pinza was deflected into Skye by a shove from Donald Thump, with Blenda accidentally hitting and sending Skye hurtling into Dead Metal. Dead Metal proceeded to attack Skye and Pinza together as Blenda immobilised Donald Thump with a few more hits.
- Sam Watts: "Keep driving, someone."
- Ian Watts: "I'm going!"
- Sam Watts: "As long as we've got two moving, we win."
- — Survival tactics from the Swarm team
Three of the Swarm segments spun round in celebration, before Pinza grabbed and Skye rammed the motionless Donald Thump until the klaxon sounded. With this, The Swarm emerged victorious, and secured its place in the Heat Semi-Finals.
- "We're getting better at it, but a win's a win, and I'll take it."
- — Ian Watts following The Swarm's victory
- — Sam Watts' command as The Swarm disperses at the start of its Heat Semi-Final
Once again, all four parts separated, with Skye immediately bumping into Behemoth, Pinza clipping its scoop and Rubber Duck getting pushed back as it attempted to drive head-on into the Team Make Robotics machine. Behemoth drove over Skye as the clusterbots gathered round, before Rubber Duck rammed into the side of Behemoth and was pushed back again towards an empty CPZ. Seconds later, Blenda hit Behemoth's scoop, the collision sending sparks flying and causing Blenda to flip over.
As Blenda lingered in the corner, Pinza was turned over by a shove from Behemoth, smoke pouring from the robot's batteries as it attempt to lift its pincers in vain. Rubber Duck dodged a few shoves and flips from Behemoth, before Blenda hit its scoop again as Behemoth deflected and flipped it towards Matilda. Blenda proceeded to damage Matilda's head as it escaped, weaving around the arena as Behemoth threw Rubber Duck towards the House Robot's corner. It was again turned on its side through another shove from Behemoth, again hitting the latter's scoop, and survived more attacks before Behemoth turned Skye over and threw it out of the arena. The same attack also resulted in Pinza being flipped against the wall and re-righted.
- "One machine left... one little worker bee out there. Ooh, is the other yellow one there? The little yellow peril, is that okay?"
- — Jonathan Pearce notices Blenda's lack of movement as Pinza is rammed by Behemoth
Rubber Duck was then turned over again by Behemoth, whose shove resulted in it sliding upside-down into Sir Killalot. Sir Killalot proceeded to attack Rubber Duck as Pinza was violently rammed into the wall by Behemoth, with Pinza catching fire as it drove away from the CPZ and met Behemoth again. With Blenda struggling for mobility and Pinza being attacked by Matilda, Rubber Duck was again pushed by Behemoth, before the latter threw Pinza over again. A head-on collision with Behemoth ruptured the CO2 system for Rubber Duck's flipper, leaving it stuck open as it steered towards - and was grabbed by - Sir Killalot. Sir Killalot lifted Rubber Duck off the arena floor and held it over the Flame Pit before spinning and throwing it across the arena after 'cease' had been called.
- "I think that's just about it for The Swarm. Back to the hive, boys."
- — Jonathan Pearce as Sir Killalot finishes Rubber Duck off
- Ian Watts: "Sabretooth... we reckon we've got a good chance against them."
- Sam Watts: "No we don't."
- Ian Watts: "...Sam has turned thirteen."
- — The Watts differ over their prospects against Sabretooth
For this battle, Pinza was replaced by the anti-spinner version of Skye, while the invertible Skye was fitted with its larger static scoop. Both versions of Skye immediately drove towards Sabretooth, with all robots hesitating before the anti-spinner Skye used its tyre sections to steer Sabretooth around and allow Blenda to hit its side. The invertible Skye was promptly thrown across the arena by Sabretooth's drum, before Sabretooth hit Rubber Duck and catapulted Blenda into a CPZ with two more hits. Rubber Duck and both Skye machines surrounded Sabretooth, before Blenda was again flipped over after trying to hit Sabretooth's drum with its bar spinner. Blenda landed on the Flame Pit, but escaped, while Rubber Duck momentarily succeeded in throwing Sabretooth off the floor. Another collision with Sabretooth caused Blenda to deflect towards the far wall; the invertible Skye and Rubber Duck bumped into each other as Sabretooth drove over the arena spikes.
- "Take on the arena hazards at your peril! First Sabretooth, then Ian Watts' Blenda, up up and away!"
- — Jonathan Pearce
All five robots eventually converged, with Sabretooth pushing both the anti-spinner Skye and Blenda away - the latter onto the Floor Flipper. Blenda escaped once again as it and Sabretooth were thrown into the air together; seconds later, Rubber Duck spun itself onto the Flipper and was thrown onto its back, with CO2 leaking from its flipper. As Blenda clipped the wall and sustained an axe blow from Shunt, Sabretooth pushed the anti-spinner Skye over the arena spike area and resumed its attacks on the former, while the invertible Skye pushed Rubber Duck onto the Floor Flipper to re-right its fellow teammate. In spite of this, the anti-spinner Skye was rammed against the wall by Sabretooth, leaving it stranded on its tyre sections, while Blenda was damaged and pushed over the Flame Pit by Dead Metal. Eventually, Blenda was left immobilised, and was soon joined by Rubber Duck, which had its flipper sliced into by Dead Metal. With seconds to go, the invertible Skye was rammed against the wall by Sabretooth, leaving it stranded on its scoop just before the klaxon sounded; Shunt pushed and flipped Rubber Duck into the pit after time had run out. Although the battle went to a Judges' decision, the Judges ruled that all parts of The Swarm had become immobilised, resulting in it losing the decision by default. With this, The Swarm was eliminated from Series 10, ultimately finishing fourth in its heat.
|THE SWARM - RESULTS|
|Series 10 - UK Championship|
Heat, Fourth Place
|Heat 1, Group Battle||vs. Apocalypse, Apollo||Lost|
|Heat 1, Robot Redemption||vs. Donald Thump||Won|
|Heat 1, Semi-Final||vs. Behemoth||Lost|
|Heat 1, Third Place Playoff||vs. Sabretooth||Lost|
- Wins: 1
- Losses: 3
|Main Series||The Swarm Series Record|
|The First Wars||Did not enter|
|The Second Wars||Did not enter|
|The Third Wars||Entered with Big Brother|
|The Fourth Wars||Entered with Bigger Brother|
|The Fifth Wars||Entered with Bigger Brother|
|The Sixth Wars||Entered with Bigger Brother|
|The Seventh Wars||Entered with Bigger Brother|
|Series 8||Entered with Or Te|
|Series 9||Not selected with Or Te|
|Series 10||Heat, Fourth Place|
|Robot Wars Extreme||Appearances|
|Series 1||Entered with Bigger Brother|
|Series 2||Entered with Bigger Brother|
NOTE: Mike Hamilton-Macy entered the second series of Extreme with Pressure, which also attempted to qualify for Series 7.
Outside Robot Wars
The Swarm was not the first clusterbot that Ian and Sam Watts entered into a televised competition, as they had previously competed in Season 2 of ABC’s BattleBots with the five-part clusterbot, Creepy Crawlies. All five parts of Creepy Crawlies were identical to Pinza, with John Frizell of Team Terror Turtle also becoming part of the team. Creepy Crawlies had to enter BattleBots: The Gears Awaken in order to earn a place in the main bracket, but it was drawn against former champion Son of Whyachi, as well as Ultraviolent. Although Creepy Crawlies remained mobile for longer than Ultraviolent, Son of Whyachi’s spinner immobilised all of its segments, eliminating Creepy Crawlies from the competition.
Team Big Brother also brought a clusterbot, The Grubs, to the Chinese TV show King of Bots, where three of the interchangeable clusterbots - Mash, Mince and Chop - used the same basic design as Blenda. Due to weight restrictions, only three robots would fight at one time. In their debut appearance, The Grubs reached the second round, after initially defeating Crossfire via knockout. However, there it was defeated by the flipper of Saber. The Grubs also fought in an end-of-season Rumble and an unaired Tag Team battle, the latter while paired with American entry Blue. However, both robots lost these battles under various circumstances.
In the Chinese show This is Fighting Robots, successor to King of Bots, the same members of Team Big Brother competed with a new robot named Eater, which saw a larger invertible robot armed with two bar spinners, paired with an invertible wedge identical to Banger. Eater was selected by celebrity captain Wu Chun to become part of the Red team, and fought Fango, Hunting Wind and Shrederator Tiger Claw in its first rumble. However, it was eliminated via knockout after both halves became immobilised by attacks from Shrederator Tiger Claw, and was the first to fall within the rumble. As a result, Eater was subsequently eliminated from the Red team after the first round.
The invertible bar spinner design used by Blenda of The Swarm, and most components of The Grubs, was used by Ian Watts in the 2018 season of BattleBots, aired on Discovery Channel and Science Channel. The team entered The Four Horsemen, a robot functionally identical to The Grubs, with the individual robots with bar spinners named Famine, War and Pestilence, with the invertible wedge being named Butter Cup. Even in spite of the higher weight limit at BattleBots, only three components of The Four Horsemen could fight at any one time. The Four Horsemen first fought in a rumble against Double Jeopardy and Gamma 9, and the bar spinners of War and Pestilence were able to immobilise Double Jeopardy during the battle. War stopped working during the battle, and Pestilence also started smoking at the end of the fight, but Butter Cup continued to wedge under Gamma 9, which lost mobility around the same time as Pestilence. On a split decision, the judges awarded The Four Horsemen its first victory. The Four Horsemen then fought Blacksmith in a head-to-head battle, and accrued an early lead through repeated hits from the clusterbot's bar spinners. However, one segment of The Four Horsemen immobilised Butter Cup by removing its wheels, and the remaining two segments of The Four Horsemen were immobilised by Blacksmith. In its final competition fight, The Four Horsemen fought a fellow clusterbot in Gemini, where two of its three segments were disabled, while Gemini was also reduced to one active machine, but ultimately the unanimous decision was awarded to Gemini, ending The Four Horsemen's campaign with a 1-2 record. The Four Horsemen also represented the United Kingdom during an untelevised battle in the USA vs The World special, which did not count towards the robot's competition record. There, The Four Horsemen lost a Judges' decision to Hypothermia.
The Four Horsemen also returned for the 2019 season, with John Frizell and JME Anderson rejoining the returning team of Ian Watts, Sam Watts and Ann Gribble. For this season, Famine and War were redesigned, Butter Cup returned with minimal changes, and three new units were added: horizontal disc spinner Pizza, invertible wedge Daisy, and the entanglement version of Skye from The Swarm. Its first battle was a three-way melee, where it once again faced Double Jeopardy, alongside Lucky, losing the battle to Lucky. However, it redeemed itself by earning back-to-back wins against SubZero and Extinguisher, before finally losing to Bloodsport at the end of its season campaign. The Four Horsemen also collected an untelevised rumble victory over P1 and Extinguisher after the main competition had concluded.
- With four parts in the arena, and five altogether, The Swarm features the most segments out of any clusterbot in Robot Wars, along with Nuts 2 and its three minibots.
- One version of Skye was unintentionally revealed by Noel Sharkey and the Official Robot Wars Facebook page, during a clip they posted showcasing a new on-board camera fitted onto Dead Metal.
- Rubber Duck's original name was Mother Ducker, but the idea was vetoed.
- Alongside fellow clusterbot Crackers 'n' Smash, The Swarm has been thrown out of the arena in two seperate battles without having the full machine thrown out; both Rubber Duck and Skye were thrown out in Series 10. Unlike Crackers 'n' Smash, however, The Swarm never had 100% of the machine thrown out in a single battle.