Imagine your favorite scene from the Transformers movies or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Did it involve a giant robot bulldozing through skyscrapers or combating a mechanized counterpart? What if that was possible in real life?
Nathaniel Hunter ‘09 is part of a team trying to turn Hollywood fantasy into a reality with Megabots - 15-foot human-driven vehicle robots made to combat other robots in an entertainment arena.
“One of the biggest problems that we’ve faced is getting across the message is that this isn’t make believe. We are trying to do this for real,” Hunter said. “It’s gonna be like monster trucks mixed with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). It should be an amazing combat sport.”
This latest effort is one Hunter’s many entrepreneurial pursuits driven by his family history and personal passion to create something large.
From Kettering to Creating
Hunter graduated from Kettering with a degree in Mechanical Engineering while completing his co-op at Pollak and Factory Five Racing in Massachusetts. He joined Pollak, a parts designer and producers for transportation vehicles, after graduating but quickly discovered that it wasn’t the right environment for him.
“It was a large corporate atmosphere. There were a lot of opportunities but knowing myself, that sort of atmosphere isn’t the best fit,” Hunter said. “I like variation, I like intensity and I like all aspects of the startup lifestyle. I’m a much better sprinter than an endurance runner when it comes to work.”
The sprinter’s mentality was developed and influenced by the entrepreneurial pursuits of both his parents and most of his friends. Like them, Hunter wanted to work hard and design and produce products that he could call his own.
“I like to work very hard,” Hunter said. “At the end of the day, I like to be able to reap the benefits of my hard work. I like working for myself. You feel like what you do matters.”
Since leaving Pollak, Hunter has designed a machine to help clear tree stumps and an industrial snow plow intended to be used by airports. He’s also currently prototyping a salt spreader that will assist with efficiently combating winter conditions. Hunter specializes in designing and engineering heavy equipment which was a qualification desired by the founders of Megabots.
Converting Fantasy into Reality
Hunter stores his products in a rented yard and a Makerspace in Boston. While working in the Makerspace he met Matt Oehrlein, Gui Cavalcanti and Andrew Stroup - the three founders of Megabots. Hunter’s background working with large machines complemented the efforts of Megabots and he was asked to join the team to help create giant fighting robots. Hunter’s excitement for the project was overwhelming.
“One thing I learned at my last job, I worked very hard, got great results but at the end of the day, I wasn’t very happy,” Hunter said. “It wasn’t why I became an engineer. I wanted to build cool stuff. Big robots are really fun to work on.”
The robots are intended to be driven by two individuals - a pilot who drives and a gunner who fires the two different types of paintball ammunition. Each bot has has destructible and detachable body panels so damage to the robot can be measured during combat in order to declare a winner of the battle.
“We’ve proven that we have the technical expertise to make it happen,” Hunter said. “It’s really just a matter of time before the first two are complete and then we can have actual combat.”
Megabots currently has seed funding for their project but their recent Kickstarter campaign fell short of its goal. However, that’s not stopping the team from continuing construction on the robots because in addition to being a fun project to work on, they feel that there’s market potential for this form of live entertainment.
“It’s something that’s proven to be entertaining,” Hunter said. “If you look at similar industries, the amount of money that can be made from live action entertainment - there’s a lot to kick around there.”
Hunter has embarked on a variety of jobs and projects early in his career and possesses an imaginative entrepreneurial spirit that believes anything is possible. He credits this relentless optimism and pursuit to solve problems to his engineering education and degree.
“The tools you learn when you become engineer are the tools that will help you succeed in life,” Hunter said. “The ability to pick up patterns and mathematically model things – these put me head and shoulders above others.”