Interview with RIOBOTZ
One of the oldest and the most successful battlebots team, RIOBOTZ from Rio de Janeiro told us more about its participation on RoboGames and their experience with MGM COMPRO escs. Read more in the article.
First of all let us congratulate Riobotz on fantastic success at ROBOGAMES! We are really happy for a chance to make interview with you. Now let us get straight to the questions. Could you please tell us how the team got together and when, what was the initial occasion?
RioBotz, the Robotics Competition team from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, was created in January 2003, under the supervision of Prof. Marco Antonio Meggiolaro. The main Mechatronics Student Conference held in Brazil used to have combat robot competitions since 2001. Some students went on the 2002 event, and asked me as their Robotics professor to coordinate them. We then started to compete in 2003.
How many people are there in the team and what functions do they have?
We have now around 25 members. In RioBotz, undergraduate students apply knowledge acquired during classes on the real world. We’re composed primarily of Electrical, Mechanical, Computer and Control Systems Engineering students, having also included students from Management, Communication and Design courses, widening our contact with multiple areas. Prof. Marco is the general Coordinator, then there are students as the Team Captain, Coordinators in the areas of Mechanics, Electronics and Administration/Marketing, and the remaining in the areas of mechanics for small or big robots, electronics, autonomous systems, administration and marketing.
The "RoboFights" are getting more a more popular, it is even broadcasted on national TVs. Why do you think it's so attractive?
Because robot combat is visually captivating, it is a fierce competition involving destruction but most of all construction. If you build it tough, it won’t break, so you are improving all the time your design by natural selection. The robot combat community is also very friendly, sharing their robot’s pictures and even build reports. The RioBotz tutorial is an example of this, we teach our competitors to be as good or better than us to improve the sport, and also to challenge us to always keep improving and stay “thinking ahead”, our motto.
How do you see the future of the whole field (RobotFights)?
I see it exploding (in the good sense!) very soon, as events around the world are becoming bigger and bigger, with USA, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Australia and more recently China as the biggest players, among others. BattleBots televised on ABC caused a reboot in the media exposure of the sport, even though this sport has existed since 1994.
What are the plans of your team for the future, which championships/series are you going to attend? How many events in total you regularly visit a year?
We compete every year atRoboGames, the biggest robot event. Last year we began to compete as well in BattleBots. Maybe next year another US competition might be revived, the Combots Cup, which we have won 3 times. In Brazil we compete at the Winter Challenge every July, the main national event, and also at the Summer Challenge, Ultimate Robot Combat (as part of the biggest Campus Party in Latin America), and other events, which do not happen every year. We also show our robots in some sponsor-related events (which are not competitions), and we give talks in local schools to show our robots and promote engineering in general. We have also visited children’s hospitals to talk about our robots and let them play with the smaller ones!
What are your biggest achievements?
We are the combat robot competition team with most awards in the world, with 136 trophies/medals, more than half of them gold and from international events. I believe some of our biggest achievements are: • the first team outside English speaking countries to win the Heavyweight championship at RoboGames (and at Stem Tech). • winning 3 of the 4 main categories at the Combots Cup 2011. • the first and only non-Japanese team to win a robot sumo round from a Japanese master in the All Japan Sumo, after more than 25 years of the competition. • the combat robot with more titles: 23 international/national trophies for our middleweight Touro.
Wow, that is a lot of medals. Since you use MGM COMPRO ESCs, we would love to know more about the experience of your technicians with our products. Did you use different ESCs? How did you end up using MGM COMPRO?
Our Heavyweight Touro Maximus got a silver medal in 2010, so we were very excited about the possibility to be the first non-English speaking team to be Heavyweight Gold. We’ve increased the power of our brushed weapon motors (long Magmotors) in 2011, but they didn’t take it and smoked. We then decided to go brushless, with the largest outrunner motor that Scorpion Motors sells. No controllers would survive. Our biggest bet was the Jeti controllers, we’ve spent an year (and a lot of money) tweaking (and burning) them, unfortunately with no luck controlling the Scorpion for the 2012 season. My student Gabriel Barsi then did a thorough internet research, and finally found the MGM controllers. We started using it in 2013, but still had some trouble at the event setting the correct parameters. When we finally converged with the best configuration, we won both 2014 (Stem Tech) and 2015 (RoboGames) heavyweight championships! We knew we had a '''winning combination of ESCs and motor.
Thank you very much for the interview. One last question, If you could give anybody thinking about starting a team advice, what would it be?
Start with smaller weight categories, like beetleweights (3 lb), to gain experience and not spend too much money. Study the RioBotz tutorial, and visit the several webpages with builder’s reports. And also attending a competition, even if just as an spectator in the beginning, to learn what works and what does not. You quickly develop a passion for combat robots after feeling so much adrenaline!