Purple Fire Robotics team battles for greatness

Sep 23, 2019
Purple Fire Robotics team battles for greatness
Purple Fire Robotics club member Bryan Garcia shows a combat robot the club has built. He is leading the design of a 250-pound combat robot the team hopes will secure a spot on the BattleBots television show.

With powerful steel arms designed to toss its opponent out of the ring and flames intended to intimidate and destroy, Phoenix, a 250-pound combat robot, could put Florida Polytechnic University on the map for competitive battle robotics.

“We’re a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) school, and this would be like having a great football team for other schools,” said team member and computer engineering sophomore Bryan Garcia, who is committee chair for the Phoenix robot project.

Phoenix’s creators are Purple Fire Robotics club members who have come together with a goal of destroying the combat robots in their path and making it onto BattleBots, an intense robotic fighting competition that airs on the Discovery and Science cable television networks.

The team members have built 3- and 15-pound combat robots in the past, but this is their first attempt at creating a 250-pound behemoth.

“When the robot is built and you use it in a fight, it’s going to be an amazing experience,” said Joseph Patullo, Purple Fire Robotics president and a computer engineering junior.

The Phoenix combat robot will feature a design that can be modified depending on its opponent’s strengths. The robot operator will work to maneuver the arms under the opponent to throw it outside the ring and end the match. Alternatively, Phoenix can wedge its opponent against a wall and win by pinning it in a corner and immobilizing it.

With an initial price tag of $8,000 to $10,000, the robotics team allocated $3,500 of its budget for the project and received donations of steel and other materials. They are now in position to begin building Phoenix, but are still seeking sponsorships to assist with repair, maintenance, further development, and competition travel costs.

“We build these by hand and take them to competitions and they get broken down, so we have to figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it,” said team member and mechanical engineering junior Jace Cooper. “There’s a lot that goes into designing, building, repairing and maintaining these bots. It involves a lot of STEM and that’s what Florida Poly is all about.”

The combat robot will debut at Maker Faire Orlando on Nov 9-10 to take on other BattleBots hopefuls and begin filming a highlight reel for the television show, which would film in spring 2020.

Team member and business analytics junior Jacob Rogers has been on the BattleBots show twice assisting other teams and is hopeful the Florida Poly team will earn bragging rights there as well. His passion for the competition has fueled the Purple Fire Robotics team’s push into this area.

“This is a chance to pit us against the best engineering schools in the world and gives this school something else to cheer for,” he said.

Students interested in joining the Purple Fire Robotics club and people interested in sponsoring or supporting the Phoenix combat robot project can email robotics@purplefi.re.

Lydia Guzman
Director of Communications