Greenwood’s Emmanuel Carrillo works as an industrial designer for Microsoft by day, but in his spare time builds combat robots, a hobby he got into four years ago when he moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Carrillo and his robot, Big Dill, make it into the combat robotics spotlight in episodes of “BattleBots: Bounty Hunters” that debut on streaming service discovery+ on Thursday, March 18.
After watching an ABC version of “BattleBots” in 2015-16, Carrillo researched fighting robots and found local group Western Allied Robotics. He started by constructing a small robot that competed at a Seattle event. Then Carrillo began building up to the heavyweight scale: the 250-pound robots seen on TV.
“I watched [‘BattleBots’] growing up and thought it was super awesome in terms of a sport, and it dovetails with my skill sets,” says Carrillo, who notes industrial design work can involve creating anything physical, from phones to computer keyboards. “It lets me learn and grow my engineering skills a little bit and at the same time it’s a fun, competitive sport.”
Although his upcoming “BattleBots” appearance marks his first time as a team captain who gets the spotlight, he’s appeared on the show as a driver or in the pit crew for the past two years.
Carrillo says it’s imperative that teams impress the “BattleBots” selection committee — with the robot and/or the team itself — to get picked to appear on the show, which filmed during the first week of October in Long Beach, California.
“What are you bringing to it to make it unique and different from a television standpoint? Which could be the robot, it could be the team,” he says. “You throw everything at it in hopes you have a good enough package for television.”
Carrillo describes Big Dill as a combination of many robots he’s worked on over the years, taking the drive from one robot and the weapons from another.
“Everybody wants to build a high-kinetic-energy weapon that really destroys and we’re a control bot,” Carillo says. “We’re more strategy. We’re not gonna break you apart. We’re gonna be able to spar a little more tactically with our approach. People don’t build those as much because they’re harder to win with.”
Carillo says his unique personal story may have been a factor in getting selected for “BattleBots,” although the show doesn’t dwell on it.
“I [was born] a below-the-right-elbow amputee, so I do all of this with one hand,” he says, adding that because he’s accustomed to working with one hand, he doesn’t find it particularly challenging.
“The reality is it probably does limit what I do, but I don’t see it,” he says. “The nature of building a robot is a lot of it is done in a workshop. If I need a special tool, I just make it, or I bring people in if I need to do something like welding, although that’s less about the fact that I can’t weld, it’s more the fact that they weld better.
“Combat robotics is a little bit forgiving in terms of your abilities,” he continues. “If you can’t do it, you can find someone who can help you build that part of the robot. It’s not required for you to do everything. That’s why you put together a team of experts in different areas.”
Whatever happens with Big Dill in the upcoming episodes, Carrillo is already planning for the future.
“We’re working on the version two of Big Dill that’s gonna be bigger, better, stronger, more competitive,” he says. “We’ll just try to make a better robot for next season.”