The twins who co-founded Howe & Howe Technologies in Waterboro say their contribution to a 16-foot-tall, chainsaw-wielding, cigar-chomping battle robot will help the United States achieve a glorious victory in its first-ever clash with a metal monster from Japan.

In the summer of 2015, a California startup called MegaBots Inc. announced that it had challenged a Japanese robotics firm, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, to a one-on-one robot battle, and that Suidobashi had accepted the challenge.

MegaBots built a prototype called the Mk. II, but decided that the robot wasn’t as fast, agile or strong as it needed it to be in order to crush the Japanese firm’s powerful Kuratas robot.

It decided to raise money through a Kickstarter campaign for a complete redesign that would involve some of the country’s best robotics engineers. The campaign was a success, raising about $555,000. That’s when Howe & Howe got involved.

“We knew that we needed at least an order of magnitude more power than we had,” said Gui Cavalcanti, co-founder and CEO of MegaBots.

Cavalcanti said he and the other co-founders had been aware of Howe & Howe through its many high-profile tracked-vehicle projects including the Ripsaw, a light tank that can achieve speeds approaching 100 mph.

“We wanted to bring that energy and that mobility (to the Mk. II),” Cavalcanti said.


The original MegaBots robot, which is 15 feet tall and weighs about 12,000 pounds, tops out at a speed of 2.5 mph and is built for long-range paintball combat. However, the Japanese firm said that in order for it to accept the challenge, the battle must also involve close-quarters combat.

That means adding weaponry, such as a chainsaw arm, and heavy armor plating in addition to higher-powered hydraulics, more speed and greater stability. To build the required upgrades, MegaBots estimated that it would need about $1.5 million, which it has raised from private investors and Kickstarter backers. When completed, the robot will stand 16 feet tall, weigh about 16,000 pounds and seat two people, a pilot and a paintball gunner, Cavalcanti said.

Technically, neither Mk. II nor Kuratas is a robot, because both are being manned by humans. Megabots refers to its machine as a “piloted robot.”

Howe & Howe is responsible for building the new Mk. II’s track base, which resembles a small tank. Its frame is made of steel I-beams and is outfitted with 10 pairs of 20-inch wheels, five on each side, surrounded by two 26-foot lengths of tank tread. The track base is powered by a 400-horsepower V8 engine.

“We chose an American V8,” said Howe & Howe President and Chief Engineer Michael Howe, who runs the company with his twin, Geoffrey. “It’s going to sound American-made. It’s going to sound like a monster truck.”

Geoffrey Howe, the company’s CEO and manager, said he and his brother jumped at the chance to work with MegaBots. Howe & Howe has designed and built many vehicles for the military, Hollywood studios and private individuals, but it has never worked on a human-piloted battle robot. Two or three of the company’s 20 employees are involved in the project.

Howe & Howe used to focus more heavily on military contracts, he said, but after losing some of that business to budget cuts, the company shifted its attention toward entertainment and recreation. Last year, one of its vehicles, dubbed The Peacemaker, appeared in the Mad Max: Fury Road movie. In 2010 and 2011, the Howes starred in their own Discovery Channel reality show, called “Black Ops Brothers: Howe & Howe Tech.”

“Mike and I have always wanted to build this style robot, which is not really a robot,” Geoffrey Howe said. “It’s a human-controlled monster.”


The track base is on schedule to be completed in June, at which time it will be shipped to California to be combined with the robot’s torso, arms, legs and cockpit “head.” The Howe brothers said they are doing the project at cost and are sparing no expense to provide the best possible speed and stability.

“We’re going to give them a base that’s going to outperform anything they could get anywhere else,” Michael Howe said. “We’re not using junkyard parts. The hydraulics alone are in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

When completed, the Mk. II will be capable of speeds up to 15 mph, he said. “For a robot this huge, that’s hauling ass.”

Cavalcanti said MegaBots plans to stage its inaugural robot battle sometime this year, although he would not provide specifics. He said his ultimate goal is to turn giant robot fighting into an international sport.

“You will be able to watch it,” Cavalcanti said. “We will let people know (how and when) as soon as we know.”

Cavalcanti provided an artist’s rendering of the completed Mk. II redesign that is rife with symbols of American patriotism and bravado, including a red, white and blue paint job, bald eagle heads with Gatling guns sticking out of their mouths, and a pair of bull’s horns atop the robot’s head. It even has a flame-spewing “cigar” between its “teeth.”

“There’s more going into this robot than just form and function,” Geoffrey Howe said. “It’s also showmanship.”


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