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'BattleBots' Mom Sara Spurk Talks Robots and Family

Photograph by Sara Spurk

Sara Spurk knows her way around robots.

The "BattleBots" contestant and member of Team Kraken has been building 'bots for more than 15 years. Together with her rocket scientist husband, Matt Spurk, Sara has been competing in robot events—and even hosting one—since college, and the Florida-based couple is excited to be bringing their two sons, ages 8 and 10, into the national ring.

"Our two boys have been building and competing since they were toddlers," Sara tells Mom.me. "Being invited to compete on 'BattleBots' was a dream come true for our entire family!"

We talked more with Sara about competing on the show, which premiered May 11 on the Discovery Channel, as well as how she's using her marine biology degree and what she's teaching her boys about hard work.

What are the best and most challenging parts about working with a team on a robotics project and show like "BattleBots"?

The best and most challenging parts go hand in hand. The best part was the support we got from all of our friends and family members. Everyone came together and gave it 110 percent. We managed to get Kraken built and ready to ship in six weeks! People came in the evenings after work and spent their entire weekends to make it happen. Watching it all come together in such a short time period was beyond amazing. The most challenging part was working with so many different opinions in the short time period. Everyone had ideas for how things should be done, but there wasn't time to sit down and discuss every option. We had to make decisions based on our very short timeline, even if they weren't optimal and sometimes the whole team wasn't on board.

You're showing serious #girlpower and #mompower. What do you want your kids to take away from your experience?

I want our kids to learn that hard work and dedication really do pay off. We waited over 15 years for this opportunity, then we had six weeks to make it happen! Our kids were amazing during the whole process, even when it got tough. They got to see success and failure. They got to watch as we encountered problems and figured out solutions. They watched us make a plan from the beginning, then execute it, while making changes as we encountered road blocks along the way. They saw us balance work, school and our “BattleBots” dream. They saw us get frustrated, but work through it. They got to interact with people from all over the world! “BattleBots” was a roller-coaster adventure. I hope they will remember how hard we worked to make it all happen and apply that same effort to their own dreams in the future.

What quality makes for a good mom?

Flexibility is a great quality. Every kid is different, every situation is different. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see what happens! I never thought we would actually get on “BattleBots,” but when we did, we needed flexibility in our lives to make that happen. During the build process, we basically lived at the maker space where we built Kraken. I would bring dinner or cook it there in our pressure cooker. I also realized that the kids needed a break sometimes, so I'd stay at home with them some nights and enjoy a quiet evening. Birthdays and holidays were different than usual, so we had to be flexible and realize that everything didn't need to be "perfect" to enjoy the day.

Photograph by Daniel Longmire

What is your favorite quality in a dad?

My favorite quality is a dad who enjoys spending time with his kids. My husband will come home after a long day at work and go play outside with our boys. They just have to ask and he's out there playing soccer, being one of the kids! He always lets them help with our 'bots, and they do as much as they can on their own. He teaches them about all the different robot parts, what they do and how they work. The kids come up with their own designs, and he helps them create it.

What did you think you'd be when you grew up?

I always knew I wanted to be a mom and a marine biologist, and I did both! I went to school for marine biology and worked in education for several years teaching about marine life. After my oldest son was born, I decided to stay home with him, and I've been a stay-at-home mom for 10-plus years. I am now homeschooling both of our boys, and it has been a great decision for our family because of the flexibility it offers us. I still use my marine biology degree, even though I'm not currently working. I volunteer at the Sea Turtle Healing Center at the Brevard Zoo (in Melbourne, Florida), where we rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles. This is truly my dream job! I get to spend lots of time with my kids and I get to help sea turtles.

What trait do you hope your kids inherit from you?

Determination. When we found out we were accepted on “BattleBots,” I was all in. We set a goal and we made it happen. I am a perfectionist, and while I don't want them to worry about having things perfect all the time, I want them to have the determination to make things happen when they really want it. There were so many things that needed to be planned, and everything had to come together for us to get Kraken ready. There were busy days, late nights and extra time focusing on the robot. I hope they have that determination to set a goal and do everything possible to make it happen.

What talent do you wish you had?

I wish I was a better robot driver! Matt always drives Kraken, and our boys have their own small 'bots that they use to compete. I'm pretty sure I'm the worst driver in our family!

What word or phrase do you never want to hear again?

"Next week." This is a bit of an inside joke among the “BattleBots” builders. We were on such a short time schedule, and everything was so rushed, that any time we'd ask the producers a question, the answer would be, "Next week." Everyone on the “BattleBots” team (builders, producers, etc.) was trying to get everything just right, and that takes time. But we didn't have much time! It was definitely a test for our patience. I'm sure there's no one who was involved with the show who wants to hear "next week" ever again.

What is your favorite motto?

"Love the little things in life." “BattleBots” was a BIG thing in our life, but I really try to focus on the little moments that make life special. Snuggling in bed before we start our day, reading stories at bedtime, eating dinner as a family. Just the simple everyday things. These are the moments that will disappear before we realize it, and they are the things I will miss the most when our kids are grown. Life gets busy and we don't always stop to appreciate it. "BattleBots" took over our lives for two crazy months. When we got home, I had the chance to slow down and appreciate the little things. And I love the little things.

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