cyborg villain, but a thoughtful, friendly, and extremely
knowledgeable tour guide wearing glasses and a charcoal
He even acknowledges how low tech this supposed
advanced giant fighting robot headquarters is as we pass
by a Lincoln-Electric Precision Aspect 375 TIG Welder
and a Kent CNC machine, the type of totally normal new
equipment we write about all the time.
“We look like we’re welding a wheel loader together,”
the MegaBots CEO says. “The difference here is this is a
prototyping shop, whereas Caterpillar would have giant
jigs for making 10,000 wheel loaders. This is more of
a one off.”
So they are definitely not building a giant mech army
to take over Silicon Valley. Damnit.
As Cavalcanti takes us upstairs, we see a regular office
with several workstations to the left, fairly basic save for the
impressive robot noir art hanging on the walls. A kitchen
and conference room are on the other side of the catwalk.
We head to the totally corporate conference room, replete
with a huge monitor, board room table and chairs.
As Oehrlein—also just a regular guy with slightly
mussed hair, glasses and a t-shirt—takes over, I wonder
if this is all some crazy ruse. Building a giant fighting
robot can’t be this mundane.
So I ask what’s going on today, expecting they are
about to practice some robo jiu jitsu takedowns, or test
some sort of EMP punch.
“It’s a lot of logistical stuff,” Oehrlein says plainly.
“These are big robots; they’re difficult to move around.
On the corporate side, it’s a lot of creative planning,
getting the right partners involved.”
There is a trick here, and it’s been hiding in plain sight .
This MegaBots team, portrayed on You Tube as eccentric
Millennial engineers (millengineers?) who take wicked
delight using science to smash nice things, have a bigger
secret here than a giant robot, (which I still haven’t seen
yet). They are in fact serious, practical entrepreneurs.
These rogue, irreverant makers turned out to be
“Transformers: Grownups in Disguise.”
The matters the MegaBots team cares about—from developing a supply chain to meeting deadlines to safety—
are all things any project manager or high-level executive
worries about in manufacturing. And they’ve brought
together the best of the best to complete this ultimate
warrior in the same way any successful manufacturer
we have covered would.
The colossal ambitions to make a science-fiction mech
real makes the story more compelling than most, but
Cavalcanti and Oehrlein are dead-set on the same goals
your company has: making something people want better
than anyone else.
Like a cross between Harry Houdini and Chuck Yeager,
Cavalcanti and Oehrlein are putting their lives on the
line to test something that is equally entertaining and
“We’re doing something completely new,” Oehrlein
For that reason alone, the somber approach at this
says before a long, thoughtful pause. “There is an ele-
ment of danger.”
It’s easy to forget in all the overwhelming awesome-
ness of seeing a clash between two piloted mechs as tall
as a Tyrannosaurus rex and twice its weight will require
living, breathing humans inside. Kuratas is expected to
have one pilot, while the Mk. III will have Cavalcanti at
the helm and Oehrlein on weapons.
stage in development is understandable.
Oehrlein assures that every possible precaution has
been considered, including wearing five-point harnesses,
neck braces and flame retardant coveralls.
MegaBots has meticulously chronicled its prototyping
The cockpit design was based on a monster truck
process, especially the safety parts because that usually
involves smashing things, such as their previous giant
robot Mk. II with a wrecking ball. A sensor-laden crash
test dummy sat in place of the pilots, collecting vital
roll cage. Oehrlein reasons that those drivers endure
trucks landing upside down from 35-ft drops and walk
“And in NASCAR, they slam into walls at 200 mph,”
“What people really want is epic giant robot combat
he adds, as this is probably an argument he made to
his family and friends several times. “The speeds and
heights we’re talking about are nowhere close to that.”
“Ultimately the goal is to create an international sports
league,” Oehrlein states. “The worst thing that could
happen to us is we both build robots that are as effective
as possible. If we wanted the most effective combat
robot, we would just bring a bulldozer. It’s heavy, it’s
low, you would just ram the other robot and the fight
would be over.”
That’s not the must-see TV MegaBots has in mind.
and destruction,” Oehrlein says. “It’s got to be authentic
at the same time. There’s got to be a balance.”
The Mk. III is certainly a balanced fighter, with a low
center of gravity. Geoff Howe, of Howe and Howe Tech-
nologies in Maine, designed the treaded mobile base
with the same ruggedness and agility as a U.S. military
vehicle, or a futuristic Road Warrior.
“All of our designs have a twist of Mad Max to them,
because that’s what we grew up with,” Howe says.
Although Oehrlein wants a competitive fight, Howe may
have made the 430-hp Corvette (LS3) motor-powered
base a bit too well.
“If the Mk. III wanted to, it could just bulldoze right
through that machine and Kuratas can’t do anything
about it,” Howe says. “The machine is not going to have
the purchase and the coefficient friction on the ground
to be able to stop that. It’s like a sumo wrestler getting
up against a 135-lb. featherweight.”
MegaBots’ rapid evolution is readily apparant when comparing the 15-ft, 6-ton Mk. II (left) and newer,
infnitely more combat ready Mk. III (right), which stands a foot taller and weighs twice as much.
A digital look at the Mk. III’s cockpit, designed on
Autodesk’s Inventor Professional CAD software.