When I first started making things out of junk metal for fun, I thought it’d be only natural to work on a human-sized scale. Over several years, I created three Titan-Class Astrobots. As long as you have never been seriously injured making art, you can say it’s fun making art that could fall on top of you. Just moving the ones I have (which I do as little as possible) can be a monumental pain.
Titan-Class Astrobot no: TA220607251 designation MOBOT
I borrowed MOBOT’s name from an old robot from the sixties that gave me a chuckle when I read it in an old book about robots–I’ll update this post when I find it.
Constructing MOBOT was full of interesting challenges. I used the Broadway Bicycle School trailer to get from Somerville to Watertown. It was the scariest ride of my life, with all that weight behind me going down and up hills, over uneven terrain, and sand. Building was no less of a challenge: I used ropes slung over the scaffolding to hold the body over the legs as I tack-welded them in place. I recall MOBOT having another head, but it wasn’t right and I broke it apart and made a new one. Back then I was using the weld machines at work, which means it had to be welded at night, since the weld machines weren’t available during the day. The next morning welders came to work to find MOBOT lurking at my weld bench, with me home fast asleep.
Originally MOBOT was extremely cumbersome to move-able—only his arms and head could be removed. I lived on the second floor apartment, and getting him up and down the narrow stair was a feat of strength and strategy. Fortunately I had a couple of housemates that had a surprising amount of strength and patience. I remember new SCUL pilots doing double-takes when they would walk by the room MOBOT lived in when they came the the fort for the first time.
Years later, MOBOT came along with me to Burning Man. I think he had as much fun as I did, guarding our camp Outpost Autosub. His head broke at one point and had to be repaired with the MIG welder we brought along to chop out playa bikes. He’s still got the scar. As he was being loaded on the truck for the trip home his legs broke off: my early welds weren’t as strong as they are now: I wanted to be able to make changes, so I’d keep them light.
After Burning Man MOBOT sat under the porch in pieces (decompression is a real bear sometimes). I didn’t want to put his legs back on permanently, and for me, welding is a lot easier than machining, so I procrastinated for a year or so. I would feel guilty whenever I saw him half covered in snow, waiting for me to save him again. Finally the day came: I used some welding tank caps as hips and came up with a screw-in system for holding his legs on. MOBOT was back!
He went on to Arisia as well as Art Beat. People love getting their picture taken with MOBOT. Ovee the next couple of years the hips wore out, and it was time to rethink the problem.
I had just started making the pose-able smaller robots and me and my friends were thinking how fantastic it would be if MOBOT had a scaled up version. After many sketches I came up with the idea of using two BMX stems to make a faux ball-and-socket joint. Twenty BMX stems and several labor hours later MOBOT evolved. But MOBOT’s joints weren’t up to the weight requirements. We also had to move him out of precious SCUL space.
The following photos were taken by Metoikos.