Cool Robots That Inspire Future Engineers
BattleBots fan favorite Team Witch Doctor wins robot battles and encourages interest in engineering for others.
Develop battling robots quickly and cost-effectively to grow and maintain the competitiveness and popularity of Team Witch Doctor as part of the BattleBots television series, while simultaneously making more rugged, cool-looking, and winning robot designs.
Secure a sponsorship from Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS in the form of CAD, simulation, and visualization software licenses so the team can leverage a range of productivity-enhancing solutions, including topology optimization tools.
- Iterates more than 20 versions of each season’s robot
- Manages strength, stiffness, and weight more effectively with topology studies
- Brings color, personality, and pizazz to robot and team uniforms
- Inspires young fans to become engineers and robot builders
BattleBots’ Team Witch Doctor is a fan favorite, thanks to a robot with personality and a team with pizzazz that encourages interest in engineering. Team leaders Andrea and Michael Gellatly have built and competed with robots for about 17 years.
Andrea spearheads the team’s initiatives to inspire future engineers. Team Witch Doctor partnered with BattleBots to publish B is for BattleBots, a book designed to inspire the next generation of robotics engineers. In addition, in June 2020 the team began publishing Witch Doctor magazine via its website, and it has created a series of how-to videos for beginners on building small robots that is accessible through MakeMIA Makerspace.
Faced with a short development cycle for the first season of BattleBots, the natural choice was to use familiar design and engineering tools. Michael uses SOLIDWORKS® in his engineering work, and Andrea has used SOLIDWORKS 3D design tools since high school. “SOLIDWORKS is really good for designing parts and assemblies, and conducting engineering assessments of a design,” Michael stresses.
Iterating 20 Versions While Working Remotely
SOLIDWORKS solutions via its team sponsorship from Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS enable the eight-member Team Witch Doctor to re-design and rebuild new, improved versions of their robot for each BattleBots season, working collaboratively and iteratively to improve performance.
“Mike works on the overall design and other team members contribute their specific part of the robot,” Andrea points out. “We work remotely, so we share our screen and conduct a bunch of design reviews to continually refine our design.”
“We improve our robot every year,” Michael adds. “For example, we used SOLIDWORKS multi-body sheet-metal tools to develop the rib cage, a signature Witch Doctor trait. We came up with roughly 20 ways to do the ribs before settling on our final version. With SOLIDWORKS, we can iterate quickly and continue to iterate until our application is accepted and it’s time to build the robot.” The process definitely works, as Team Witch Doctor made it to the final match in the 2019 BattleBots competition.
Last season, we were over weight by four pounds and had to cut away sacrificial pieces to make weight. With SOLIDWORKS topology optimization tools, we learn where we can cut material and weight that not only doesn’t sacrifice strength and stiffness but actually improves both. We’ve cut five pounds from our current design while strengthening the robot in key areas.
Balancing Strength, Stiffness, and Weight with Topology Studies
To avoid being overweight and having to sacrifice pieces after arriving at the competition as they did last season, Team Witch Doctor plans to use topology optimization on the next version of its robot to better balance the relationships between weight, strength, and stiffness. “With SOLIDWORKS Simulation topology optimization tools, we learn where we can cut material and weight that not only doesn’t sacrifice strength and stiffness but actually improves both. We’ve cut five pounds from our current design while strengthening the robot in key areas,” says Michael.
In addition to keen attention to performance, Team Witch Doctor uses SOLIDWORKS tools to create aesthetic designs with a distinct personality, which they believe help expand support among the public for competitive robotics, build excitement around the team, and inspire young people to pursue careers in robotics engineering.