Third annual Robotic Blue-Gold Game scheduled for April 15

by William G. Gilroy

The third annual University of Notre Dame Robotic Football Blue-Gold game will take place Friday (April 15) at 7 p.m. in Stepan Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The “game” serves as the final requirement for students in one section of “Mechanical Engineering Senior Design,” a capstone course that is the culmination of the mechanical engineering curriculum in a design, build and test experience. Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering professor Mike Stanisic developed the robotic football concept and is leading the course this year with fellow professor Jim Schmiedeler.

Robot football

A total of 55 mechanical engineering seniors were divided into 12 teams of four or five students and each team was assigned to build one or two robots, including linemen, running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks and kickers. For the first time this year, two groups of seniors from Ohio Northern University were invited to construct three robots (a quarterback, a wide receiver and a center) for the game to evaluate the potential for an intercollegiate competition. The robots are roughly the size of printers and are equipped with sensors that flash different colors when players are hit, tackled or injured. Stanisic and Schmiedeler “drafted” robots to form their Blue and Gold teams based on the robots’ performance at an NFL-style combine held before the game.

The game itself consists of two 15-minute halves and a 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 their student designers with remote controllers.

Despite the air of a sporting event, the game is actually a display of the accumulated knowledge of sophisticated engineering concepts. The technical challenges of designing and building the robot football players deepens 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.

Through the game, the seniors also will try to raise interest in the field of mechanical engineering among younger children in attendance, including a group of middle school honor roll students from inner-city Chicago who’ll be attending for the second consecutive year.

Coach Kelly at 2010 Robotic Football

The winning team 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 and has gone to the Gold team for the past two years.

The sponsors of the competition include the Motorola Foundation, Boeing and Clean Urban Energy. Other sponsors include three members of the Notre Dame Class of 1970: Bill Hederman (Brian’s father), Vince Cushing and Skip Horvath. Additional support is provided by the American Society of Engineering Education and Notre Dame’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Contact: Michael Stanisic, 574-631-7897,