Robotic Blue-Gold Game scheduled for Friday

by William G. Gilroy

Robot football

Watch Video of Last Year’s Game Video

Instead of three yards and a cloud of dust, it will be more like five feet and the soft whir of sophisticated robotic machinery when the University of Notre Dame’s second annual Robotic Football Blue-Gold game takes place Friday (April 23) at 7 p.m. in Stepan Center.

The “game” serves as the final requirement for “Mechanical Engineering Senior Design,” a capstone course that is the culmination of the mechanical engineering curriculum in a design, build and test experience. The course was led this year by Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering professors Jim Schmiedeler and Stephen Batill. Mike Stanisic, another department faculty member, developed the robotic football concept and was on sabbatical this year.

A total of 67 senior mechanical engineering design students were divided into blue and gold squads that designed and constructed about 10 robots per team. The “players” include linemen, running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks and, new this year, kickers. The robots are roughly the size of printers and are equipped with sensors that flash different colors when players are hit, tackled or injured.

The game consists of two 15-minute halves and one 10-minute halftime. The rules of the game are those for 8-man football, modified for mechanical play. The players are semi-autonomous and controlled by student designers with remote controllers.

Coach Kelly with robot football

Although the game will feature the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat” indicative of any sporting event, it also will display the accumulated knowledge of sophisticated engineering design concepts. The technical challenges of designing and building the robot football players deepened the students’ understanding of, and ability to implement, engineering principles. The participants will use the skills they acquired during the project in their careers as engineers, applying the same principles to develop, among other things, intelligent prostheses, biomedical devices and electromechanical systems in general.

The winning team in the game will receive the Brian Hederman Memorial Robotic Competition Award. Hederman was a Notre Dame student who suffered an untimely death after his freshman year in 1995. The award plaque is inspired by a drawing he left behind.

The Motorola Foundation is the major sponsor for this year’s competition. Other sponsors include Boeing and three members of Notre Dame’s Class of 1970: Bill Hederman (Brian’s father), Vince Cushing and Skip Horvath. The event also was supported by Clean Urban Energy, the American Society of Engineering Education and Notre Dame’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

The game also can be viewed online at: mms://

Contact: James Schmiedeler, associate professor, aerospace and mechanical engineering, 574-631-6403,