We, Robots: SOLIDWORKS, Robotics, and RioBotz


We, Robots is a series of 3 posts about the use of SOLIDWORKS in Robotics, and its role as a transformation tool, whether in the classroom, in the laboratory, or on the factory floor.

In the past few weeks, we saw an incredible post about the Witch Doctoand the use of SOLIDWORKS in Robotics. Inspired by their story, I decided to talk to some friends (who also competed in Battlebots) about the usage of the software in their activities. In addition to being a big fan of the team, I had the honor of working with some of the team members, and today we share the same campus at the university where I work. We are talking about RioBotz!

In 2002, students from the Instrumentation and Control Engineering bachelorship  program at PUC-Rio watched a combat robots competition and decided to establish their own team. After communicating with the undergraduate coordinator, they reached out to Marco Antonio Meggiolaro, Professor of Robotics at the university. Thus began RioBotz and in the following year, 2003, they competed for the first time at the national level.

After several months of study and research, their first victory came in 2004. In their second competition, RioBotz introduced trends by inaugurating the first knockout in a Brazilian championship, becoming the undefeated champion.

Professor Marco Meggiolaro (at center) advising the RioBotz team during a break at RoboGames 2017

2006 marked their first international competition at Robogames. RioBotz received a bronze medal with their bot Touro (120 lb) and a gold medal with Mini Touro (3 lb), and went on to become the first non-English speaking team to win the championship. In the following year, a new robot, the Touro Light (27 kg) debuted, and became the undefeated champion with the already established Touro name.

Mini-Tourol, the robot that brought RioBotz the first gold medal in an international competition

In 2009, there was a new challenge. The organizers of Robogames challenged RioBotz to build a heavyweight robot, so the Touro Maximus (220 lb) was born, which helped define the now best known team. Maximus’ first gold came in 2013.

2016 was the  year RioBotz debuted on BattleBots with Minotaur (250 lb). Known worldwide, and one of the most beloved robots of the event, Minotaur had a series of overwhelming victories, becoming so popular that its miniature model is officially marketed. Holding the title of the most destructive robot of the 2016 season, this robot has a legion of passionate fans and has deprived many of its competitors of sleep.

Minotaur R/C miniature, sold by Hexbug


Despite all the fun of competitions, creating robots is engineering in its purest form: calculations, graphics drawings, simulations and analysis are all activities the team be proficient in. RioBotz has been using SOLIDWORKS solutions since 2004 to do this.

There are those who criticize the destructive character of the battles, but this is not the objective. The focus of the robots is on their construction rather than their destruction. Behind the few minutes of battle is a whole year of development, research, mechanics, power electronics, administration, and marketing, all while the team collaborates while in training at the university. If the robot can withstand the harsh competitive environment, it is certainly prepared to face the challenges of industrial applications.

The knowledge generated through competitions provided the development of robots for defusing bombs, performing in radioactive environments, and even for assistive equipment, such as electric wheelchairs and omni-directional walking sticks.

Even with an extensive collection of medals and trophies, RioBotz doesn’t rest. The team is always updating and evolving with each new competition. In addition to combat, the robot also competes with line followers, humanoid robots and even with autonomous and sumo robots controlled by artificial intelligence. No wonder their slogan is Thinking ahead!

Check out Minotaur’s incredible performance against Blacksmith in the 2016 Battlebots season. Did you notice the energetic pilot? We will talk about him in the next episode!

One of the team’s differentiators is its knowledge sharing. Since 2006, it has provided a free tutorial full of information about combat robots and how to design them. This gesture allowed many teams to become professional and raise the level of the competitions. You can access the tutorial here, or purchase a printed copy via Amazon.

The challenges facing the RioBotz engineering team are easily dealt with using SOLIDWORKS solutions. From the mechanical design, through to the manufacturing drawings and the analysis of finite elements, everything is intensely planned and simulated in order to reach perfection. Both SOLIDWORKS and the local reseller, MechWorks, became RioBotz sponsors.

FEA Analysis of a combat robot drum using SOLIDWORKS Simulation

According to Rafaela Doyle, Customer Success Manager who oversees the relationship with MechWorks, the SOLIDWORKS solutions, along with the sponsorships, provide the foundation for RioBotz to design increasingly improved versions of their combat robots. MechWorks is proud of their involvement in the development of PUC-Rio engineering students, who are able to leverage the practical applications acquired in the classroom.

Did you enjoy getting to know RioBotz? In the next episode of our series, we will learn how combat robots allowed the creation of a modern robotics research laboratory, accelerating the technological development of robotics in Brazil.


Bruno Caixa

Bruno Caixa is a Certified SolidWorks Expert (CSWE) and a member of the SOLIDWORKS Champions Program. A passionate user and Educator of SOLIDWORKS, Bruno has over 10 years of experience working in many industries as a Draftsman and CAD Administrator. He works as an R&D Engineer in the Mechanical Engineering Department at PUC-Rio, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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