Combat Robotics Team Gains Valuable Experience at Robot Ruckus

The Kettering University Combat Robotics Team put their Mad Dog robot to the test during the Robot Ruckus Combat Robotics Competition November 13-14 in Florida.

The team sent Mad Dog into battle for the first time since they began reuniting in October 2019 with hopes of appearing in the 2021 season of Discovery Channel’s “BattleBots”. Although the team didn’t reach their goal, they were able to face off against two teams featured on the show and two other bots during Robot Ruckus.

“Throughout the weekend we had some technical issues that kept Mad Dog from reaching its full potential, but this was our first initial test, so it was kind of expected,” said Nick Lipcsik ( ’24, ME), team president. “Our creation again showed some of its abilities against several fierce robots, of which we were very proud.”

The team’s 250-pound robot was 4 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, and 1 foot tall. Each wheel was controlled independently so that the robot could face in one direction while moving in another. It also featured a lifting mechanism.

While Mad Dog didn’t win any of her battles, it did help the team learn some valuable lessons as they prepare to apply for the 2022 season of “BattleBots”.

“There are a lot of practices – big and small – that we’ve taken into account when discussing with other manufacturers,” said Luke Fenstermacher (’22, ME), the team’s marketing director. “From fixing methods to team organization, there is so much as a team that we look forward to implementing in the near future. Other than that, Mad Dog is now battle tested. We designed our robot with FEA [finite element analysis] to the loads and forces we thought we would encounter, but nothing compares to one-on-one action with other heavy robots.

The team hopes to finalize its 2022 candidacy by the end of February.

“With all of this new experience under our belt, we have a lot of new ideas that we plan to implement for the robot next season,” said Justin Pointer (’25, ME) manufacturing director of the team. “We’ll be sure to highlight this in our ‘BattleBots’ 2022 app.”

Team members said they were blown away by the generosity of the combat robotics community. They said the competing teams were welcoming and eager to offer tips and advice on designs, manufacturing and software.

“Overall, the biggest takeaway might be that the combat robotics community is very tight-knit, welcoming and inclusive,” Lipcsik said. “And, they’re always happy to provide a helping hand with overcoming issues or just bouncing ideas off.”

Fenstermacher accepted.

“The most valuable advice we have received is from the builders of Big Dill,” he said. “They told us to never be discouraged by things that go wrong; it’s a learning experience, and the more problems we encounter and solve just gives us more experience in combat robotics.

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