Mini Case Study: Reflections from BattleBot Team Riptide
I sat down with Riptide team captain Ethan Kurtz to chat about his experiences this season. In this interview. I asked him what he felt his biggest triumphs and challenges were, how he thinks his Xometry produced parts fared, and about any changes he might make in the future to his bot design.
“Hmm, that’s a complex question for me. Let me think about that for a moment.”
I paused and gave him the chance to think, taking a swig of my coffee. I spoke with Ethan Kurtz, team leader of a BattleBot team named Riptide. I sat down with Ethan to ask him a few questions about his experiences this season, what he felt his biggest triumphs and challenges were, and how his parts fared along the way.
This was Riptide’s rookie season in Battlebots. Despite the lack of experience, Riptide made a strong debut, coming out of the gate swinging by scoring a quick win against Huge in their first match and eventually pulling two more big upsets on their way to the quarter-finals. It was the first time a rookie team had ever made it so far in their first BattleBots tournament without any prior experience building and deploying a heavyweight fighting robot.
That is why when I began by asking Ethan what his biggest takeaway from the season was, his response caught me off guard.
“ I think the biggest thought and feeling I have about it is that it has been a very humbling experience for me.”
I took another sip of my coffee and pressed him with more questions.
“It's been humbling because it took a lot of thought to beat Uppercut, a team from MIT. I wasn’t sure if we were going to win. Any strategy or plan that we didn’t execute flawlessly would have resulted in our bot getting blown to bits by that crazy powerful spinner. I was so thrilled to have won, and unfortunately, I got a bit cocky, and we didn't perform as well in the next match. I had to take some time and process that. I have been humbled by it. We did well, but we can improve and need to adapt because now opponents know how to fight us. Our matches with Uppercut and Shatter may have looked one-sided, but only a couple of variables would have put the other team on top. If Uppercut hit first, they might have won. When the competition is this fierce, victory and failure can occur with small margins.”
“I was impressed with the amount of damage our bot could take. I never needed to swap out the frame. In fact, we were able to use the same Xometry parts from the beginning of the tournament to the end. The weapon bar did exceptionally well; many people expected it to break, but it didn’t. All of our Xometry-produced parts were well designed. It was comforting to know that we had access to such stellar sourcing. As a rookie team who had no network before entering this competition, it was nice to have the Xometry network on standby just in case.”
“We have a few improvements in mind. For instance, we noticed that the shaft kept bending from fight to fight. It was a 45 mm diameter titanium shaft, and we plan to make it a 50 mm diameter shaft in future seasons to improve its durability. We will also be working to improve some of the wedglets in the front. We plan to redesign the front of the bot, as we noticed that is where the bot gets beaten up the most. We noticed the sides rarely get touched when we are playing well, so we will slim out the sides and thicken the steel in the front. We don’t want to avoid going “weapon to weapon” with other bots, as that is where our weapon spinner shines.”
“The most significant internal change to the bot is that we want to make it easier to build and make it easier to service. Riptide didn’t take too much damage this season, but the electronics were a constant challenge. We had to put all the electronics back together before every fight. We will be improving the modularity of our bot’s design, so it won’t take as long to make those critical fixes. We also will make the design much more compact geometrically. Making it smaller will keep it from getting tipped on its side. If we are going to lose, I want to lose in a more straight-up fight!”
“The biggest highlight of the season was the opportunity to get closer with my team. We evolved together. Honestly, before now, I would have said the biggest highlight was getting into the top 8 or defeating Uppercut, but doing this with such a great group of guys is one of the great highlights of my life. You get really close with your team when you try your best together because it takes everyone's effort to make it work. This experience with BattleBots has forged me to be better; as a captain, it has forced me to be the best I can be for the team. As a human, it has helped me become more humble. We hope to have every future year of competition turn out like this. It might happen, and it might not happen. All you can do is try.”
Xometry is a proud sponsor of Riptide. Xometry is a leading digital marketplace for custom manufacturing parts, from 3D printing and injection molding to CNC machining and sheet metal cutting. If you want to keep up with the Riptide team, we encourage you to follow them on Instagram, and while you are here, feel free to explore xometry.com! We do a lot of great work with the robotics industry. Check out some of our related resources; we recommend reading our previous case study with Riptide, or listening to our Webinar “Tackling Tolerances and Drawings for Machined Parts.”
Xometry is not a sponsor of nor affiliated with the BattleBots, Whalerock, or Discovery Network brands.