Team Lycan: BattleBots, Gripping Jaws, and SOLIDWORKS

We are highlighting different BattleBots teams that use SOLIDWORKS, as BattleBots and SOLIDWORKS go hand in hand. In this post we asked Team Lycan’s team leader Ravi Baboolal about his experience with building a robot for the competition. I think you’ll enjoy his responses to our questions.

SOLIDWORKS: How did you first learn about BattleBots?

RAVI: My first experience with BattleBots was 13-14 years ago as a young teenager eager to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up. It didn’t take long after watching the first episode on Comedy Central; I was to be an engineer in the pursuit of fighting robots!

SOLIDWORKS: What made you decide to compete in the BattleBots tournament?

RAVI: Two reasons: Partially to fulfill that childhood dream of actually competing on the grand stage of engineering that is BattleBots; partially to help inspire the next generation of robot designers.

Copyright © 2016 BattleBots Inc. Photographer Daniel Longmire

SOLIDWORKS: How do you get started building a team/Bot?

RAVI: This journey began about 13 years ago when I found a small local robot-fighting competition in Toronto. They hosted robots weighing in at anywhere from 1 lb all the way up to 30 lbs. I joined forces with a friend and we built our first little 1 lb robot and entered it in the tournament. The hobby has been a constant ever since.

SOLIDWORKS: Why did you decide to use SOLIDWORKS? What advantage does SOLIDWORKS give you when building a Bot?

RAVI: I’ve been using SOLIDWORKS for a number of years, before college and refined those skills while in college. I now use SOLIDWORKS daily at work. It was a no-brainer. In fact, most of the team uses SOLIDWORKS in their day-to-day work as well. As an industry standard it only made sense. The fact that everyone knew how to navigate and utilize the software was a huge help. The sheet metal, tab and weldment interfaces helped move things along very quickly and the vast library of materials was critical to ensuring our design would meet the maximum weight of 250 lb.

SOLIDWORKS: How many hours did it take to design your Bot in SW?

RAVI: Across two designers the process took nearly 80 man hours, including the 3-4 different revisions of Lycan.

SOLIDWORKS: Have a favorite SOLIDWORKS shortcut/feature?

RAVI: “Mass Properties” for the BattleBot builder, it is a life saver. You need to keep track of every bolt, every washer and certainly the mass of any armor going on the robot. The accuracy of Mass Properties and the ability to override certain parts (like setting custom weights for wheels etc.) is a very powerful tool in any builder’s arsenal.

A close second is the belt/chain feature. Being able to produce perfect centre to centre distances for drive chains is a much appreciated bonus.

SOLIDWORKS: What would you change in preparation for BattleBots season 3?

RAVI: Well, there are a lot of design changes going into Lycan for Season 3. Fortunately we are able to move through them fairly quickly using the sheet metal function and weldments. Lycan 2.0 will feature a fairly unique main weapon; I feel the SOLIDWORKS motion study feature will come in handy there.


SOLIDWORKS: What are the best weapons you faced? What were best defenses other Bots had?

RAVI: The big kinetic energy weapons are always the scariest, like TombStone’s blade or Invaders massive titanium shell.  However I’m always impressed with weapons like Bronco’s flipper or Chomp’s hammer. These pneumatic monsters are truly something to behold, I have a soft spot for pneumatics. When it comes to defense it’s a versatile playing field, you have robots with a large steel or titanium plow or robots like RingMaster who are essentially all opposition in their design. That big spinning ring counts as a weapon AND defense, as they say sometimes the best defense is a better offence. Of the BattleBots we’ve seen so far I think LockJaw had a good defense in its fight against Yeti, it was able to grab and hold their drum without suffering damage to any critical components. It’s in that fight that we learn the best defense in a fighting robot is actually an air gap between armor and components. If your opponents weapon gets through your armor but has 2-3 inches of air left to go before hitting anything important then you can keep fighting. It’s much more efficient weight wise to use thinner armor and air gaps then using 1-inch steel plate!

SOLIDWORKS: If you could develop the “dream” weapon for your Bot, what would it be?

RAVI: I’m still hunting for the perfect weapon, I have dreams of a large robot with big heavy fist like appendages, and using these appendages to continuously hammer on an opponent. As perfect as that image seems it is unfortunately not a high damage type weapon, so the search continues.

SOLIDWORKS:  Who do you believe is the toughest competitor in Season 2?

RAVI: Minitour has proven to be relentless in its purist for destruction; that is a tough robot to beat. Speaking of destruction and tough competitors let’s talk Tombstone. Tombstone is a fairly simple robot, but there’s a reason it scores 100% on damage. That massive spinning blade does so much damage and has so much reach it is extremely difficult to fight. How do you get around that weapon? You have to be able to survive a handful of blows before you can hope to do any damage yourself. That’s a tall order, making Tombstone one of the toughest bots to fight.

SOLIDWORKS: What has been your favorite BattleBots experience?

RAVI: My favorite BattleBots moment…This picture about sums it up. Being in the pits with so many beautiful machines, talented builders and all the friends I’ve made over 13 years of fighting robot.

SOLIDWORKS: When/what was the first robot you built?

RAVI: My first robot was a small two wheel drive robot build almost 14 years ago named “Killer Instinct”. It was supposed to fight in the 1-lb weight class but ended up being heavy and fighting in the 3-lb bracket. It didn’t do well trying to punch above its weight, and needed some very intense repairs after its first fight.

SOLIDWORKS: How well did you do in your first competition?  What did you learn from this experience?

RAVI: The first competition held an important lesson, attrition is the key. No matter how beat up your bot is you must give it your all to repair and rebuild, you simply cannot give up. This need to repair eventually guides your design; your robot must be easily repairable and easy to work on.

After our first fight against a 3-lb Tombstone type robot our 1.5-lb robot was left broken and defeated. We ended up having to rebuild the entire frame overnight, a tall order when you’re working with a small hack saw and a screw driver. Having rebuilt the robot overnight we returned the next day to meet a similar fate.

I learned that defeat is only the beginning in this unique hobby, a majority of the fun and challenge is the building process. The destruction is really an excuse to keep building!

SOLIDWORKS: What lessons did you learn from Season 1?

RAVI: Season 1 showed us that the new BattleBots requires a little more show then most of the competitions I’m used to. The BattleBox can be distracting with the lights, hazards and cheering crowds so the robots really need to pop. I feel one of the best ways to do that is by building something other than a box on wheels. Melding functional design with ascetics presents a real challenge to the designer, meaning spending a lot of time in the computer aided design phase. The geometry of the robot itself should present an eye catching design!

Thanks again Ravi, and Team Lycan for your insight into the world of BattleBots. Be sure to check out BattleBots every Thursday night on ABC, and find more about all teams here:

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks and the host for the Born to Design Podcast.