ROBOT FOOTBALL Valpo vs. Notre Dame

20150920 CML Robotics Football -023Valparaiso University Robotics Team hosted the University of Notre Dame for an intercollegiate robot football game that will go down in history (click here for team rosters and the game program). The game took place in Valparaiso University’s main Basketball Gymnasium on Sunday, September 20 with almost 600 fans in attendance. Valpo took home a victory with a final score of 88-42, advancing to an overall intercollegiate robot football record of 2-0 following up an equally exciting victory last April over Purdue Kokomo (click here for the recap of Valpo vs. Purdue Kokomo).  Although very confident in their robots and student players, Valpo knew they were up against some giants. The Notre Dame robot football team has been in existence for eight years and participated in intercollegiate games over the past four years.  This recent loss brings their record to 2-3 (they split their first four games against Ohio Northern University).  This event was the first robot football game to be fully videotaped and broadcasted live over the radio thanks to Valpo TV and Valpo Radio.

A group of Valpo students performed the national anthem and the audience was welcomed by Valpo’s head human football coach, Dave Cecchini.  Notre Dame won the coin toss and wasted no time in scoring the first 7 points off of a quarterback sneak for a touchdown.  The audience didn’t have to wait long for Valpo to respond with a series of fancy running plays, exhilarating passes & catches, and some beautifully executed kicks (click here for a summary of the rules and scoring).  Notre Dame kept pace during the first half due to having some of the fastest robots on the field.  Unfortunately, with a high impact game such as this, there were some robot injuries experienced in the second half for both teams.  Thankfully, the injuries were nothing an engineer can’t fix with the teams able to work on their robots on the sidelines and send them back out to the field throughout the game. Valpo opened up an impressive lead early in the second half and never looked back…even exciting the crowd with a completed pass for 7 additional points on the last play of the game as the clock ran out!  After the game was over, both teams allowed the crowd (including children) to come down to the floor and see what it is like to control a football playing robot and talk with all of the students from both universities.

One of the goals of this robotics initiative is to use the allure of competitive football to showcase how engineering can enrich lives and provide excitement. While many robotics competitions have been held in soccer and hockey, football offers a much greater degree of complexity and a need for sustainable design and well-executed control strategies.  The hope is that these friendly rivalries will lead to more intercollegiate competitions against additional engineering schools.