Did you catch yesterday’s Scouting family showdown on ABC’s “Battle Bots”? With flames flying in every direction and mechanical shrapnel soaring through the Battle Box, the Bales’ family robot showdown was an explosive tale of victory and defeat.
A resurgence of the hit 2000 TV show with the same name, the competition series “Battle Bots” zeros in on 28 teams as they build and battle robots for the chance at winning the toughest robot competition in the world. But unlike other teams on the show, Team Mohawk and Team Hypershock aren’t just friendly competitors – they are family!
“We figured that way, at least one of us would win,” joked Tom Bales. “You know somebody from our family will win and there will be at least one Eagle Scout on the winning team!”
In Team Mohawk’s corner, Scoutmaster Tom Bales, wife Connie Ryan, and Eagle Scout sons Greg and Max Bales built a machine in the image of a mohawk – a flame emblazoned, metal-piercing mohawk, that is. Taking the lead for Team Hypershock, Eagle Scout son Will Bales and team constructed a robot amped up with hydraulics and robot-crushing arms.
Fusing Scouting with a Passion for Science
How did this family get started in robotics and engineering? Scouting, of course.
“I was in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorers [what Venturing is now] – that more than anything was what got me interested in engineering,” said Tom. “My Explorer advisors were engineers.”
An R&D biomedical engineer and Scoutmaster to Troop 336 of the South Florida Council, Tom has been combining his passion for Scouting and engineering for years. Also a NOVA counselor with his wife, Tom encourages Scouts to explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects.
“I always thought Scouting was an ideal place to do hands-on things and technical kinds of things,” explained Tom.
And just like their dad, the Bales boys have also combined their interests in robotics with Scouting.
“They’re all Eagle Scouts, they all grew up in Scouting and they also all grew up around robotics competitions, so it naturally all fit together,” said Tom.
For a chance at the “the giant nut” award, crafting the most strategic and ferocious robot is imperative. Yet with Scouting, staying up to date with the latest technologies has been easy for this family.
“I think there’s a natural affinity for the traditional Scout things and the more technical things that we learn now,” shared the Mohawk leader. “When Baden Powell started Scouting, he was teaching the high-tech things that a young man needed to know to take care of himself. That was state of the art and Scouting has evolved. It’s always been teaching whatever the state of the art was. And now, we have a whole series of really interesting STEM Merit badges like welding, composite materials, robotics.”
For the aspiring “Battle Bots” engineers out there, Tom says getting involved in Scouting and experimenting with small-scale materials is a good start.
“You don’t have to start with anything as elaborate as a Battle Bot but you can start with little things,” shared Tom. “You never know where things will lead!”
Which Bales Robot Snagged the Win?
Yesterday one Bales team emerged victorious – but we won’t spoil it for you. See for yourself who takes the Bales’ ‘bot win by checking www.battlebots.com for full episodes! Interested in learning more about STEM activities in Scouting? Check out STEM Scouts to get the scoop!