Friday, August 27, 2010

Dragon*Con countdown: Kelly Lockhart, ref for robots

Posted By on Fri, Aug 27, 2010 at 8:24 AM

Kelly Lockhart, ready for a robot rodeo
  • Courtesy of Kelly Lockhart
  • Kelly Lockhart, ready for a robot rodeo
Dragon*Con’s celebrity guest list includes more than TV/movie actors with cult followings. Culture Surfing counts down to the Labor Day fantasy convention with a series of short profiles of Dragon*Con guests who specialize in more surprising disciplines.

What's your day job?:
Editor and senior staff writer for the alternative weekly newspaper The Pulse in Chattanooga, Tenn.

What will you be doing at Dragon*Con?
I've been attending Dragon*Con since 1989, and have been staging the Robot Battles competition at the convention annually since 1991. It is one of four annual Robot Battles competitions I host around the Southeast, but is by far the largest and most heavily attended.

How did you get interested in robots?
I first got interested in robots by reading Isaac Asimov's robot stories back in high school. In the late 80's, I got involved with a group of Denver engineers who liked building robots and fighting them. I founded Robot Battles 20 years ago as a way to combine engineering with competitive mayhem. This was well before "Battle Bots" and "Robot Wars," in fact, and is now the second oldest running robotic competition in the world.

Can you sum it up the appeal of robot battles in a sentence?
It is the natural evolution of gladiatorial single combat, only with high technology and no actual blood.

Do you build robots yourself?
Even though I've been directly involved with robotic combat for over 20 years, I have never actually built or competed myself. I am more of an organizer by nature, and am as much in awe of what the competitors build and bring to the competitions as anyone else in the audience. My advantage is that I end up with the best seat in the house for each event.

What do you like about Dragon*Con?

The biggest draw of fandom in general, and Dragon*Con specifically, is the passion that the fans bring to their genre of choice. One has to merely walk around any of the hotels any time of day or night to see amazing costumes, learn about all sorts of interesting groups, and almost literally fall into some of the most fascinating conversations you'll ever have. Anyone who has any interest in anything beyond the basic day-to-day grind will enjoy the energy and spectacle that is Dragon*Con. And, to quote Bill Cosby, "If you're not careful, you just might learn something."

What's your web site?

Robot Battles

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