First, I must give credit to a youth group that posted this activity on YouTube. Peace Youth Group has some really great ideas for youth activities, and they post a lot of videos of their activities on YoutTube. I contacted them and they were very helpful. They gave me advice and made a few suggestions that were very beneficial. However, I make no apologies in saying that I would not recommend my teens to be part of that group because their "philosophy of ministry" does not line up with what we feel to be God-honoring... but that is for another time, and I really don't mean to belittle anyone, I just want to clarify my stand since I am mentioning their group in this post.
The idea of "Robot Wars" comes from a popular TV series that featured roboteers who custom made their own remote-controlled robots to fight each other in a tournament. So, the basic idea of Robot Wars for youth groups is that everybody takes an old (preferably cheap) remote-controlled car, modifies it using their own creativity, and brings it to the tournament (ours was during one of our Atomic Fridays) to battle it out with other contenders.
We made an arena (about a 12'x12' floor made out of OSB board) with a 2"x4" wall around it which we painted yellow and black (see picture above). The arena rests on top of a few tables. To make things more interesting, you can add obstacles and "hazardous spots" to your table. For example, we used the Peace Youth Group's idea of adding an operatable circular saw (supervised by a youth worker) that comes up through the table. Also, we added some trap doors and a 2x4 "hammer," on hinges, that drops every minute (operated by another youth worker).
You can agree on your own set of rules regarding size, weight, what all the "battle bot" is allowed to do, etc. But keep the following in mind:
1. Frequencies. There are basically two frequencies that store-bought remote controlled cars operate on--27MHz and 49MHz. Both cars battling cannot be on the same frequency or they will interfere with each other. Also, all other cars will need to be shut off. Because of this dilemma, you will have to organize the tournament in such a way that there is plenty of competition. So, you may need to find out in advance what frequencies you will have present on that night.
2. Batteries. Batteries drain very quickly! Some vehicles come with chargeable batteries (which probably run down faster, but usually operate more powerful machines), but you will have to make sure all vehicles are charged...and you'll probably need extra batteries.
3. Participation. You need participation for this to work! We had a fairly good turnout of people, but unfortunately not such a great turnout of vehicles present. Knowing this would probably happen, we had provided several cheap vehicles with no alterations made to them. We let people compete using the vehicles that we provided... BUT THEY WERE BORING!!! The goal was to get people to create their own bots, and we only had a few that took it seriously. Then, because we provided some the first time we did this activity, people showed up the next year expecting the same thing (which we provided again, but this is sort of counterproductive).
4. Preparation Time. Allow yourself plenty of time to promote this and to prepare. Keep encouraging your group to work on their bots (and hopefully get their family and friends involved), because most teens aren't self-motivators!
If you are interested and have any questions, feel free to contact me or comment on this post. I also would be willing to lend our table to your group if you need it.