From the Society for Creative Anachronism to Self-Propelled Electronic Armored Racks, Simon Rohrich is a True Renaissance Man

Simon Rohrich stands in his laboratory in east Mesa, talking about his latest invention: a 700-pound, 27-inch-wide blue aluminum box with blinking lights called the S.P.E.A.R.

He's excited. Rohrich walks around the machine, opening and closing panels to show the features — here's the hookup for cellular phones, here are the plugs for multiple computers, here are the power outlets, equipped for both U.S. and European electrical currents. This sleek, silvery-blue metal on the outer shell is "the threat level one aluminum armor plating."

Rohrich opens the main panel of the box to show all the shelf space inside. A Kryptonite-green glow illuminates his face as he bends down. "The S.P.E.A.R. also has electromagnetic shielding," he says proudly.

Jamie Peachey
Simon Rohrich and Bill Woodbury II look through the shell of the S.P.E.A.R. they created with the team at Elliptical Mobile Solutions.
Jamie Peachey
Simon Rohrich and Bill Woodbury II look through the shell of the S.P.E.A.R. they created with the team at Elliptical Mobile Solutions.

S.P.E.A.R. stands for Self-Propelled Electronic Armored Rack and, very simply put, it's a compact data center on wheels, capable of storing up to 1,000 pounds of computer equipment and built to withstand the worst weather — from floods to fires — as well as "a 70,000-pound crush," Rohrich says. "You could drop it off a two-story building."

So, the inventor continues, if a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast and knocks out all the power in the region (including external power for emergency buildings and data centers), you could theoretically wheel the S.P.E.A.R. into the heart of the storm and, all the while, the computers and communications equipment will be safe and running on their own power conductors inside the hermetically sealed box.

The box, not quite five feet tall, is completely mobile. There's a steering wheel on the top with a red button that propels the S.P.E.A.R. when pressed. "Yeah, you basically drive it," Rohrich says, "and anyone can transport it. It's got automatic regenerative breaking, so it stops when you take your hand off the button."

S.P.E.A.R. made its public debut last year on an episode of the Discovery Channel show Smash Lab. It also earned accolades from the prestigious Uptime Institute in New York, and the City of Avondale in Maricopa County recently bought one for its emergency operations center. The idea is that it will be the breakthrough invention for Elliptical Mobile Solutions, the Mesa-based technology inventions company where Rohrich works.

Rohrich talks like a nerdy Ph.D. candidate, or one of those pencil-necked geeks from Silicon Valley, but really, only the nerdy part is accurate. And if you think his day job is geeky, check out the guy's hobby.

Among the stacks of circuit boards, rolls of blueprints, and bundles of electrical wires laying about the lab, there's a pile of medieval body armor, complete with a five-pound, brass and steel carbon bronze helmet. Rohrich picks up the archaic-looking armor. He made that, too, and in a few hours, he'll be wearing it and thumping on other people in armor with a big stick, as a member of the Phoenix branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

By day, Rohrich is a self-professed "mad scientist," inventing futuristic data centers and computer accessories. It's a cerebral job, to put it mildly, so Rohrich says he offsets the stress by becoming a battling baron from the 15th century at night.

"I get into fights with armored baseball bats for fun," he says. "At the end of a long day in the lab, nothing beats a melee."

At 6-foot-3 and nearly 300 pounds, Simon Rohrich is (literally) a big nerd. He's proud of being the prototypical geek — digs the SCA and Renaissance Faire, loves science and computers, wears glasses, grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons. But he has tons of friends — and girlfriends. Some might call him an example of the new "geek chic."

"I feel like I'm changing the paradigm of what it is to be nerdy," Rohrich says. "From a lifestyle standpoint, I exist in a very un-nerdy way. I have no problem finding female companionship. That's not very nerdy. Being popular is not very nerdy."

"But I've never really changed," he adds. "I've stayed geeky, and I'm watching the world change around me, to where being nerdy is cool, which is very Ayn Rand-ian, you know — being the perfect man and seeing the whole planet align with you, rather than the other way around. It's been very satisfying."


Every Wednesday night, the Society for Creative Anachronism has a war in central Phoenix. The battlefield is Encanto Park, off 15th Avenue, and the warriors are everyday Phoenicians with an obsession for the history and culture of pre-17th-century Europe. Their "swords" are blunted rattan sticks, similar to those used for the Filipino martial art of escrima (stick fighting). Those swords can leave two-foot-long crimson bruises, especially when wielded by Rohrich, a.k.a. "Baron Josef Donnerbauch."

Rohrich, 34, has been active in the SCA since he was 19. With his helmet (complete with imposing face grille and horsehair ponytail), layers of red leather and bronze buckles, and five-foot-long stick sword, he strikes an intimidating figure on the battlefield.

Where others rush in screaming and swinging, Rohrich stalks, slowly lumbering toward his opponents until he's close enough to steamroll them. When three men run at him at once, he rears back like a Brahma bull and charges with his sword held sideways, bowling them over in a thunderclap of wood and steel. The trio bounces off him as if they'd smacked into a brick wall.

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6 comments
buffalobills515
buffalobills515

Love the story. It is great to hear a fellow SCA guy doing great things in the world. I will need to put a post about this inventive warrior on my medieval blog

Dennis Ward
Dennis Ward

Simon used to work with/for me a few years ago at ValueOptions. He's a gentle giant and I'd definitely want him in my corner.Glad things are going good for you, Simon.

Simon Rohrich
Simon Rohrich

I hope you have been practicing. ;-)Thank you for the doubleedged compliment. You and you household are formidable. I do ride on my rep. I don't hurt anyone on purpose. Any injury I cause that results in financial loss I feel terrible about.

see you in two weeks,thank you in advance-Nerd of War-

BammBamm
BammBamm

Only the bravest men dare poke the bear. Let alone 2 of them. See you @ practice

Leo
Leo

Its about freaking time you guys did a story on the SCA here in Arizona and the fact that you did one about Simon shows some actual intelligence. Simon is a straight thug and the inventor of the phrase "militant geeks" Alot of the time though he rides to much on his reputation as a bone breaker. He hurts one guy a year and the rest of the year everybody in the game is like "OOOH here comes Simon and Bam BAm." But us Romans have no fear and Constantly have to show the rest of the community that he isnt that mean. Believe me though when I step on the field the first thing I do is look for Simon cause when he hits you and your not aware of it its like being struck by a runaway train. But if your ready for him he falls just like all the rest. Good luck selling your Spear Brother and remember Saterday Night at Highlands is the bucket party swing by your more then welcome LORD LEO Roman Thunder

 
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