Alumnus Peter Garnache Helps Combat Robot Enter ‘BattleBots’ Arena

Friday, January 20, 2023
Peter Ganache and Battlebots Team Horizon

The Rose-Hulman Robotics Team inspired mechanical engineering alum Peter Garnache to earn national honors in small-scale combat robotics contests and now contribute to a rookie “BattleBots” team.

Mechanical engineering alumnus Peter Garnache recently used his proficiency in robotics and engineering to provide valuable technical expertise in a clash of ingenuity, fortitude and endurance for humans and machines that’s showcased in the popular “BattleBots” TV show. 

The 2020 graduate was a significant contributor on the rookie Team Horizon that was among the 50 large-scale combat robots that competed in Season 7 of an annual tournament that’s being broadcast on the Discovery Channel. Team Horizon, with Garnache and 10 other members, is scheduled to have its inaugural match broadcast Thursday, January 26, from 8-10 p.m., EST. Broadcasts of the team’s other first-round matchups are set to follow February 16, March 9 and April 20. They will determine if the team advances to eventually compete for the tournament’s grand prize, the Giant Nut. 

Garnache became active in combat robotics as a member of Rose-Hulman’s Robotics Team. In the second year he was designing his first 3-pound combat robot and a year later was the team’s captain.

“The combat robotics team at Rose really jump-started my involvement in the sport,” he reflects about a Rose-Hulman career that saw him earn his mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree in three years. “I learned a ton through trial and error and was able to create tournament-winning robots right out of school. My second post-graduation robot won the first and only event it competed at.”

“BattleBots” is an intense, smash-filled, and crowd-pleasing confrontation between two robust robots that brazenly bash, chomp, claw, and flip in hopes of destroying or disabling the opponent. Add some fire, sparks, and lots of smoke – along with such descriptive names as Mammoth, HyperShock and Whiplash – to set the appropriate competitive tone and texture. If there’s no knockout during each three-minute bout, a panel of judges declare the match winner.

“’BattleBots’ offers the ultimate adrenaline rush – three minutes of pure fun and excitement. I love the challenge of it all,” said Garnache, a professional specialty robotics engineer in the Dallas area. “I really enjoy designing something that’s supposed to be impenetrable, then going out and seeing if that’s true.”

In the competition, each “BattleBot” robot is distinctive, designed and constructed to have technical variations that give it an edge that crushes and tears apart an opponent and makes the mechanical and electrical systems inoperable. 

“There’s no secret winning edge. You’re just trying to stay alive for the three minutes in each match and, hopefully, not incur heavy damage so that you can make the necessary repairs, easily, to be ready for the next match,” remarked Garnache about this year’s “BattleBots” tournament, which was filmed October 18-30 before a live audience in Las Vegas. “The most successful robots are those with components that can be easily changed and protect those technical components so that they don’t withstand severe damage. It’s certainly survival of the fittest.” 

Team Horizon is a horizontal hammersaw-type combat robot, with two spinning steel disks on either end of 7-foot wide arm. In the arm are two completely independent motor drive systems that takes about eight seconds to reach the maximum-allowed 250 miles per hour and is dangerous to an opposing robot within three seconds. That’s quite impressive for a 234-pound robot that was one of the largest in the tournament field.

Garnache knows what makes up a winning combat robot, with 13 of his small-scale 3- and 1-pound technical recreations winning 170 of their 244 bouts, with 11 event victories and 29 top-3 finishes. His 1-pound four-wheel drive wedge-design robot is currently ranked third in the nation for the 2022-23 competition season. Meanwhile, his signature 3-pound vertical spinner robot (with a devastating weapon system spinning at more than 30,000 revolutions per minute) has 39 wins this season and is currently ranked seventh in its class.

Also, Garnache’s entrepreneurial startup, Repeat Robotics, creates custom ultra-light brushless gearmotors and other components that are highly coveted by small-scale and BattleBot competitors and teams. It's that well-earned reputation that had three rookie teams seeking Garnache’s services for this year’s BattleBot tournament.