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Dave Calkins is a roboticist and former university professor who served as a judge throughout Seasons 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 of Comedy Central BattleBots.

He is known to have judged the inaugural BattleAnts event, held during filming for Season 5.0, as well as the first ever BattleBots IQ event held in 2002 alongside Jim Smentowski and Joanne Pransky.

Outside BattleBots[]

Calkins worked as a robotics and computer engineering professor at San Francisco State University, prior to his involvement with combat robotics. He also hosted the show Systm for the multi-channel network Revsion3[1] and was a safety officer for Survival Research Laboratories.

Spin doctor team KOB

Dave Calkins (second from right) and the Spin Doctor team during King of Bots.

Dave Calkins is best known for founding RoboGames (formerly ROBOlympics), the most prominent heavyweight live event on the US circuit. He has also judged for events such as Steel Conflict and Robot StreetFight as president of the Robotics Society of America and a founding RFL member. He had also hosted ComBots Cup events following the conclusion of BattleBots on Comedy Central.

Alongside then-member of Hardcore Robotics Rick Russ, as well as Jim and Forrest Yeh of Team Special Delivery and the RoboGames entry Ragin Scotsman, Dave Calkins entered King of Bots with Spin Doctor. It was defeated in the first round by Australian entry Great White but received a wildcard and took down the British robot Crossfire before falling in the tournament to a fellow US entry in Megabyte in the quarter-finals.


Calkins spearheaded the revival of RoboGames in 2023, five years after it went into hiatus. However, the competition saw serious controversy in the heavyweight division as the arena was breached during the fight between Manta and Terrortops, leading to one of Terrortops' forks being launched through the roof and landing beside the live audience. The contentious decision was made to continue the event following this breach and not long after, the arena was compromised for a second time when White Rabbit was thrown into the roof by Manta and popped an entire panel out of place. Battery fires were notably also tended to by crew without sufficient PPE.[2]

An apparent lack of attention given to resolving safety issues led to a boycotting ahead of RoboGames 2024, with numerous BattleBots teams taking a stance and condemning the attitude towards improving safety standards. This came about as suggestions by competitors of a lower, strongly-enforced tip speed limit were snubbed by Calkins, though would ultimately be abided by eventual champions Team Tanto Robotics and Manta. In February 20, 2024, Team Malice took to social media to publicly denounce RoboGames 2024 due to unsatisfactory changes made following the previous year's safety breaches, stating they would not be competing in any of its weight divisions as a result. Calkins posted to update that a second layer had been added to the roof - a change also publicized by Bunny Liaw.[3] It was later announced that the event would not be livestreamed as Calkins refused to pay Union laborers for the work, and went as far as to blacklist a member for contacting representatives of the venue to discuss a deal to have insectweight fights livestreamed, which were organized by Robot Combat League at the venue.[4]

During the event, another serious breach occurred in the loser's bracket fight between Terrortops and BlackJack. A piece of plastic from Terrortops was sent careening across the arena and flew into the Lexan wall. This caused the panel to bow roughly two inches out of place, resulting in an open gap in the arena.[5] BattleBots: Destruct-A-Thon crew member Ralph Hanson, Team Malice's Bunny Liaw and Team Terrortops member Sophia Perry were struck by debris.[6] Despite photos of markings provided by Bunny herself, Calkins later took to the BattleBots Group on Facebook to downplay the breach, stating "nothing left the arena" and called reaction to criticism against RoboGames "senseless rumor mongering".[7] In the aftermath of the same fight, Jeff Waters of Vegas Combat Robotics stated he was instructed not to turn BlackJack off as crew entered the smoke-filled arena without ventilation masks, meaning the robot was still active and crew were unprotected from the battery fire's toxic smoke.[8] Claims have also come that Calkins was drinking alcohol on-site across the weekend.[9] Post-event, builders such as Dustin Esswein and Diana Tarlson have issued public statements, with Esswein encouraging more people to boycott future events until changes are implemented. Bunny herself stated she would no longer return to RoboGames in any capacity due to Calkins' negligence and denial of any breaches.