This year’s Blue and Gold football game weekend will have more than just one football game for some students. The Engineering Department will host its second annual Collegiate Mechatronic Football Competition at Stepan Center on April 23.
Jim Schmiedeler, associate professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, said the competition is a one-hour football game between robots built by students.
Schmeideler said the competition is part of a 13-week effort to design, build, test and demonstrate the skills of the robots.
“The students have done a terrific job. They have progressed with the help of input from last year’s competition,” Schmeideler said.
This is the program’s second official year of competition.
“Last year’s game had an exciting finish,” Schmiedeler said. “The Blue team fumbled on a drive to the end zone with no time left that would have won them the game. The fans and students were jumping and cheering. It was an intense game.”
While the outcome of the game is important for the trophy, Schmeideler said the grade students receive is based on a test that takes place the week before. The robots go through a series of tests to evaluate their abilities from controllability to kicking and throwing accuracy.
The students officially began the design portion of the project in January and started manufacturing and testing their robots after Spring Break, Schmiedeler said.
“The students have been driving prototype robots around the halls of Fitzpatrick for a while now, and they’ve been outside kicking field goals and throwing passes,” Schmiedeler said.
The event was started by a Notre Dame alumnus in honor of his son, Brian Hederman, who was a student in the Engineering Department. Hederman, who passed away before he graduated, came up with the idea of a football-playing robot.
“Alumni from the Department were interested in sponsoring the event,” Schmiedeler said. “They want to evaluate the success of the competition here at Notre Dame and investigate the possibilities of intercollegiate competition.”
The robots play an adapted version of football in which each team has eight players, and they play on a smaller field with a souvenir-sized football. A completed pass is the quarterback throwing the ball and hitting the receiver, who doesn’t necessarily have to catch the ball to complete the pass.
“The robots have tackle sensors that light up to indicate a tackle,” Schmiedeler said. “Essentially it shows how hard one robot slams into another.”
Students control the robots from the sidelines, and two students are allowed on the field to control the offense. Also on the field are three referees from RecSports.
Motorola sponsors the event, Schmiedeler said.
“We’ve invited faculty and students from other universities to promote the idea of a possible league someday,” Schmeidler said. “We would love to have Notre Dame earn a national title in Collegiate Mechatronic Football.”