Combat-worn robot legion prepares to stand down


In the market for a highly destructive remote-control robot ? Mike Konshak has a deal for you.

There's "Full Frontal Fulcrum," a 120-pound cheese-wedge-on-wheels that flipped competing bots en route to winning BotBash 2002. It's "a steal" at $2,000 plus shipping and handling.

Or how about the 320-pound Pro-Am, driven by four wheelchair motors and featuring a 35-

Mike Konshak
Mike Konshak holds up a spinning cutter that was damaged in a robot competition. For the last two years, Konshak entered and won robot demolition contests. Now, he is retired and looking for a new hobby. Paul Aiken/Daily Camera

pound heat-treated rotating blade whose tips whir at 120 mph? Great for impromptu household remodeling and voted "Scariest Bot" at MechWars 5, it can be yours for $3,500.

After two years of wild success on the battling- robot circuit, Konshak is hanging up his radio control.

It's for sale, along with stacks of tires, electric motors, sprockets, batteries, gear boxes and most everything else in the " Robot Dojo," otherwise known as the cluttered second garage of Konshak's and wife Becky's home.

Konshak, 56, is a Vietnam veteran and senior StorageTek engineer who designs corporate disk drive systems. He holds 16 patents and has 10 more pending.

He is also an intense hobbyist with a two-year attention span which, once breached, seems to be unrecoverable.

"When you get to the point you've given it your best shot, you move up to something else and get good at that," said Konshak.

For two years, he flew his own plane before selling it without remorse. Another two years, he and wife Becky built a cabin in Fairplay. For two years, there was wine-making, hunting and fishing, bicycle racing, martial arts, tennis, and golf.

Konshak was into his second year as a competitive vintage motorcycle racer when he channel-surfed upon a Comedy Central "BattleBots Marathon" in late 2000.

A gifted mechanical engineer with a serious competitive streak and a welding torch in his garage, Konshak seemed born to build killer bots. And he entered the game at what was probably its cable-television apex: In 2001, there was "BattleBots" on Comedy Central, "Robotica" on The Learning Channel and " Robot Wars" on TNT and, on occasion, Nickelodeon.

Today, only Robot Wars -- remains, and it has moved to lower-exposure TechTV.

Konshak won regularly. On a garage shelf are trophies from victories throughout 2001 and 2002: BotBash, MechWars, Robotica and Robot Wars, among others.

Konshak estimates he won over $20,000 and spent $40,000 building more than 20 robots .

The Konshaks' GMC truck became the Bot-Mobile; his wife Becky, Bot-Mom.

"I don't think that was ever a favorite term of mine," said Becky, Konshak's patient wife of 23 years and a Denver Seminary student.

But her support has been unwavering. It was her husband who, early this year, abruptly lost interest in robots and decided to put the contents of the Robot Dojo up for sale.

"I have to finance my next activity with my last activity," he said.

What's next? Konshak said he's taking classes on coastal navigation for a potential year-long yacht trip, and has considered Corvette racing. But he's also been playing a lot of tennis with his wife.

"This year, I don't want to be extreme at anything," he said.

Becky remains skeptical.

"He'll get restless and he'll be irritable and find a project he can be up all night with," she said.