UT Dallas Battlebot Team Wins National Competition

When you’re housed in a military-grade titanium cylinder surrounded by steel teeth spinning at nearly 100 miles per hour, you can almost imagine your opponents quivering in their boots.

If they had boots, that is, and weren’t emotionless robots, too.

The third-generation UT Dallas “battlebot” known as the Blender returned to tournament competition last weekend and came away with first place in the 120-pound college division of the 2011 BattleBots National Championship in Miami.

“This is a huge collaborative achievement for our multidisciplinary team of two mechanical engineering students and two electrical engineering students,” said Dr. Cy Cantrell, associate dean for academic affairs in the University’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the team’s mentor.

The team’s members are Zach Heins, Alex Kollaja, Nikkan Yadegary and Stuart Yun.

“Having both electrical engineers and mechanical engineers allowed us to combine interdisciplinary knowledge to solve problems,” said Yun, a junior in mechanical engineering. “For example, in the initial design we didn’t consider fusing the robot’s electronic components, however the electrical engineers suggested we do this so that if one part shorted out it wouldn’t disable the entire machine.”

Other problems concerned those steel teeth, which occasionally shattered, and shoulder bolts prone to occasionally shearing on impact. The mechanical engineers came to the rescue, determining the causes to be micro-fractures in the teeth and over-tightening of some bolts. 

“We all learned a lot of real-world industrial skills that we would never have learned in a classroom,” Yun added. “All of our team members learned how to work on a deadline and design with heavy constraints, such as weight and budget. We had to quickly execute decisive decisions and learn to work with the consequences.

“This experience also allowed all of us to apply the material we learn in class and to learn how to work on a team, where everyone had different opinions, academic fields and ideas,” he said. “Personally, I learned how to manage a team by focusing on the details while maintaining the overall objective of the goal. The biggest benefit this competition had to us all was a realistic experience of what it means to be an engineer: to problem-solve on the go.”

And despite participating in a competition that took place behind a protective barrier and featured equally forbidding opponents – with names such as Witch Doctor and Doomsday – Yun described the competition as “pleasant.”

“Every team was friendly, and a large collective formed where we all shared ideas and suggestions about each other’s robots,” he said.

Special thanks go to the UT Dallas team’s sponsor, Technicolor – a leading provider of high-end visual effects, animation and post-production services – and to the Jonsson School’s departments of mechanical engineering and electrical engineering for their support.

Members of the triumphant UT Dallas battlebots team (from left) mentor Cy Cantrell and team members Nikkan Yadegary, Alex Kollaja, Stuart Yun and Zach Heins.

Weighing in at just under 120 pounds, the Blender was victorious in its weight class.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].