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Livermore resident David Rush (standing fourth from left) recently appeared on "BattleBots." (Photo - BattleBots)

Livermore resident David Rush is fulfilling a long-held dream as a fighting-robot developer and competitor on the popular television series “BattleBots,” where sparks fly and robots die.

A blend of science and entertainment, the program features weaponized remote-controlled robots that square off in an arena surrounded by bulletproof glass with the goal of disabling their opponents. Aggression and the infliction of maximum damage are encouraged, and ingenuity is rewarded.

With Rush at the controls for Team Malice, its 250-pound horizontal drum spinner robot left the competition — a machine from Florida called Axe Backwards — completely immobilized and literally in flames in just over a minute. The debut match for Team Malice was featured on the Discovery program’s season premiere last week. Nearly a million people tuned in according to ratings published by ShowBuzzDaily.

Rush called it a “textbook definition of knockout.”

“I couldn’t be happier about the way that it went,” he said.

Upon reflection, Rush acknowledged he would have enjoyed more time fighting in the ring.

Rush is bound by a nondisclosure agreement with BattleBots and cannot reveal any spoilers, but he can say his team will return to the BattleBox later this season. More than 60 teams from around the world will compete for the Giant Nut championship trophy in this year’s elimination tournament.

Filming was set to take place in Long Beach in April with a May premiere. However, production was delayed until October due to COVID-19, and the first episode of the new season aired Dec. 3. Filming involved strict health and safety protocols, including regular testing. Instead of a live audience, spectators were the teams themselves, watching the action from specially constructed glassed-in “opera boxes” placed around the arena.

Rush credits his team captain Adrian “Bunny” Sauriol and team owner and builder David Liaw, as driving forces behind Team Malice.

Rush is no slouch himself. Despite lacking a formal background in engineering or electronics, the 2007 graduate of Granada High School, who studied music composition in college, immersed himself in the world of combat robotics in recent years. He designed various robots that have performed admirably in smaller weight class competitions.

In fact, Malice is a scaled-up fighting machine based on three robots designed by Rush Odium, Animus and Miserius. Malice incorporates the horizontal spinner weapon that Rush developed — a first of its kind in the BattleBots heavyweight division. The team has two different horizontal spinner weapons.

Its main weapon, a heavy 20-inch diameter disk dubbed, Big Red, which is made from billet aluminum. The teeth, the part that makes contact with other robots, is fashioned from hardened tool steel. The disk can spin at up to around 185 miles per hour measured from the tip. Its lighter alternate weapon Purple Pain is made of abrasion-resistant steel plates compressed against aluminum spacers.

The lighter weapon allows the team to add additional armor to protect the robot’s components. The maximum weight allowed in the heavyweight division is 250 pounds.

Rush was an early fan of the arena combat elimination tournament when it originally aired on Comedy Central in 2000. His father, Ken Rush, said he vividly remembers the first time he watched the show with his then 11-year-old son and thinking “this is goofy.”

After learning it was filmed on Treasure Island, the elder Rush bought tickets and took his son to several live tapings of the program.

“That’s when he got hooked,” Ken said.

The original run ended in 2002. When the series was rebooted in 2015, Rush attended a live taping. Soon after he started building his own robots, learning from other builders and making the leap from spectator to participant.

“It rekindled my desire to step foot into the sport,” he said.

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