Oceanside ‘BattleBots’ team taking a Gigabyte out of the competition


Oceanside “BattleBots” team Gigabyte, led by John Mladenik (center right), started as a hobby project 20 years ago and has grown into a major contender in the televised sport on the Discovery Channel. (BattleBots photo)


By Clark Fahrenthold:

Oceanside CA— San Diego County, as we all know, is home to a multitude of sports teams. The Padres, the San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave FC, the Soccers, the Seals. But perhaps the region’s most unique and thrilling resides in Oceanside in the professional “BattleBots” team Gigabyte.
Founded 20 years ago by team Captain and Engineer John Mladenik, the once hobby has now turned into one of the most successful and well recognized “BattleBots” teams in the country.
The 2021 “BattleBots” broadcast season wrapped up on the Discovery Channel on April 7. Gigabyte is part of Mladenik’s Oceanside-based Robotic Death Company.
“For me, it started in the early 2000s when a show ‘BattleBots’ aired on Comedy Central and me and my friends became obsessed,” Mladenik said. “We were all mechanical engineers, building things all by hand. We had no idea what we were doing at the time, but we just started to build, and as time went on, we improved and mastered the craft.”

John Mladenik of Oceanside leads team Gigabyte in “BattleBots” competition. (BattleBots photo)
John Mladenik of Oceanside leads team Gigabyte in “BattleBots” competition. (BattleBots photo)

Yet, even in the early days, Mladenik and his team’s work still stood head and shoulders above the rest. Their original robot, RamByte, a 60-pound shell spinner, won its first four fights on “BattleBots,” earning them two televised fights and vaulting the team into the spotlight within the BattleBots community.
With their early and continued success, Mladenik and the Gigabyte team quickly became regulars on the popular show, currently on the Discovery Channel, competing on the network’s version of the program from its third season until its most recent. But the notability of the team also carried to the international level as Gigabyte has competed in multiple events in China.
“The competitions in China are spectacular, as for we’ve had over a billion total viewers tune in for our battles over there,” Mladenik said. “We would go into the crowds and be mobbed. It’s more of a reality show, but it was huge for our growth as a team. It’s not quite that large here in the United States, but it is growing in popularity. You can see it at the battles and in the fans, and I think in all my years of competing and building this is the best group of new robots I’ve seen.”
But it is not just the fans or the large BattleBots community that has grown, but the size of the Gigabyte team. While the team’s early days consisted of Mladenik and some friends, the group now consists of 13 members working collectively to keep Gigabyte and their other bot, Cobalt, running at their peak.
“A lot of the times, new members of those who want to join the team reach out to us,” Mladenik said. “I originally recruited two team members, Brent (Rieker) Mike (Lindberg), but since then this team has grown from people who want to be involved and share the same passion.”
And it’s a team that could be growing in size in the future thanks to Mladenik’s outreach in the Oceanside area, as for the past few years he has taken the time to show off the robots and the engineering behind them to local schools. In fact, at the end of March, Mladenik did two one-hour sessions showing and explaining the details and magic behind the bots.
With a group this large and successful, Mladenik said he and the rest of the Gigabyte team have understandably lofty expectations moving forward in 2022, and he feels as if his robot is just minor tweaks away from finding new heights and championship aspirations.
“If we make the improvements we want … then we can be in championship contention,” Mladenik said. “In our last fight, we barely lost to Tantrum, who is one of the finest robots out there. So the fact that we are so tight with them really excites me for the future.”
With the community and interest in “BattleBots” continuing to rise, it appears the hobby that John Mladenik started in a garage with some friends two decades ago will continue long into the future.
“It’s just been fun,” he said. “I love learning things, and ‘BattleBots’ and building the robots is just a whole feedback mechanism to continue to learn and grow, and I can’t wait for what will come next.”

Clark Fahrenthold is a local freelance writer.

Gigabyte battles Uppercut during the 2021 season of “BattleBots.” The team that built and maintains Gigabyte is based in Oceanside. (BattleBots photo by Jon C.R. Bennett)
Gigabyte battles Uppercut during the 2021 season of “BattleBots.” The team that built and maintains Gigabyte is based in Oceanside. (BattleBots photo by Jon C.R. Bennett)