As far as secret lairs of madcap scientists go, MegaBots’ Fortress One in Hayward, Calif., isn’t oo shabby. Wedged between some nondescript industrial business and a lot that appears to
be a cemetery for semis, this ivy-covered warehouse is
surrounded by perimeter walls tall enough to hide the
seldom-seen 16-ft, 12-ton war machine on the other
side. As an added layer of security, there’s even a Ring
These guys are good.
Standing outside the place, I could only imagine what
crazy antics and experiments were happening within.
After all, 31-year-old co-founders Gui Cavalcanti and
Matt Oehrlein, mechanical and electrical engineers, respectively, actually built their very own Iron Giant—mod-
eled after the piloted mechs of mid ‘90s video games.
Called the Mk. III, it’s the most impressive action figure
ever built, even fitted with an arsenal of interchangeable
accessories like knives, a claw, a ginormous chainsaw,
and a double-barreled cannon.
The MegaBots crew—which has expanded from the
two co-founders to a staff of dozens over the last two
years—”plays” with this $2.5 million toy by pummeling
hybrid cars for sport, cutting up ovens, and generally
finding new ways to create the wanton destruction previ-
ously only possible in daydreams or cartoons like G.I Joe.
This is probably how COBRA got its start.
It’s all for the sake of science, mind you. And to ensure
MegaBots annihilates a 13-ft Japanese mech named
Kuratas. The fight goes down this month, and will be
posted later on You Tube.
The match has been promised and hyped since the
summer of 2015, but it’s definitely worth the wait. For
geeks, this isn’t merely our McGregor vs. Mayweather;
it’s Optimus Prime vs. Voltron. It’s a first-of-its-kind event
and has the support of huge American companies such
as Autodesk and Parker Hannifin, along with several
other niche manufacturers and robotics experts that
keep manufacturing moving. And it has the support of
nearly 8,000 Kickstarter backers who contributed more
Best case, this fight will spawn an entire new interna-
tional sports league. Worst case, it’s still real giant robots
punching each other for our amusement.
And one of them is on the other side of this gate!
Maybe they’ll let me drive it!
This is mid-July, mere weeks away from MegaBots
scheduled fight with Suidobashi Heavy Industries, which
makes Kuratas. Just two months ago, the MegaBots team
revealed its fully-functional Mk. III at Maker Faire in San
Mateo, using a pair of Toyota Prius, or Prii, as punching
bags to demo the hydraulically charged power. Even
at 25% strength (for public safety), the slight electric
Japanese imports crumpled into submission with a few
Those totaled hybrids, by the way, lie lifeless and splat-
tered by paintballs a few feet away from the door, serving
as a savage warning to any other Japanese machine that
dare face MegaBots.
Finally, Cavalcanti opens the door to the covert con-
fines, revealing something I never expected—an ordi-
nary-looking fabrication shop.
Oh, look. A filing cabinet. And here’s a bag of dispos-
able towels. Safety headphones. Welding masks hanging
neatly on the wall. Is this some kind of sick joke?
To make matters worse, Cavalcanti isn’t some half
by John Hitch
Engineering this 16-ft monster
for the robot fight of the
century required the very best
industrial tools and talents.
Here’s our inside look at how
America’s manufacturing elite
came together to create a
machine—and a movement—
even bigger than themselves.
MegaBots co-founders Matt
Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti
who will pilot the Mk. III
against a Japanese mech in
late August, may also steer
the future of manufacturing.