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July 13, 2020

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ONU vs. Notre Dame in football? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking


Students from Ohio Northern University’s T.J. Smull College of Engineering have created a team of robotic football players to compete in the fourth annual University of Notre Dame robotic football competition on Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in Notre Dame’s Stepan Center. The event is free and open to the public.

As part of their senior capstone project during the 2011-12 academic year, a team of ONU students manufactured robotic players (quarterbacks, centers, linemen, running backs, wide receivers and a kicker) with funding from the University of Notre Dame. These players will compete in the spring game, which tests the skills of each robot specific to their position, and will compete against robots built by Notre Dame students in a game of eight-on-eight, modified-rules football.

The ONU team is made up of Anthony Dilisio, a senior computer engineering major from Raleigh, N.C.; Ron Grzybowski, a senior mechanical engineering major from Ada, Ohio; Alexandria Herman, a senior mechanical engineering major from Tiffin, Ohio; Travis Ballinger, a senior mechanical engineering major from Findlay, Ohio; Sattam Almutairi, a senior mechanical engineering major from Washington, D.C.; Amanda Kesner, a freshman civil engineering major from Monroeville, Ohio; Noah Orr, a freshman computer science major from Centerburg, Ohio; Jared Schatzinger, a junior mechanical engineering major from Shelby, Ohio; Ahmed Almotawa, an intensive English exchange student from Saudi Arabia, and Paul Sorensen, a freshman computer engineering major from Ada, Ohio.

They are advised by ONU faculty members John-David Yoder, professor and chair of mechanical engineering, and Sami Khorbotly, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Yoder worked with a Notre Dame faculty member, Dr. Michael Stanisic, to coordinate the project.

The robotics competition involves 12 Notre Dame seniors who work together to design, build and remotely operate robots competing in football. Equipped with sensors that flash different colors when the mechatronic players are hit, tackled or injured, the robots are roughly the size of desktop printers. The game itself consists of two 15-minute halves and a 10-minute halftime. The rules of the game are those for eight-man football, modified for mechanical play.

The teams will compete for 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 and the competition itself are inspired by a drawing he left behind.

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 student 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.