A team of football-playing robots, designed and built by students at Purdue University College of Technology at Kokomo, competed in an NFL style “combine” held at the University of Notre Dame’s Joyce Center on April 5.
The combine consisted of individual skill events that tested the robot players’ speed, agility, strength and robustness, followed by a short scrimmage that tested their ability to play American football as a team.
Five teams participated in the event: Purdue-Kokomo, The U.S. Naval Academy, University of Notre Dame, Purdue-Calumet and Purdue-South Bend.
Purdue-Kokomo won both the speed and the agility tests by comfortable margins over the Navy players. The speed test required each player to cover a 60-foot course with two direction changes. The agility test required each player to negotiate a winding course with multiple turns and direction changes.
Navy won the strength test by a narrow margin over Purdue-Kokomo. This test consisted of pushing a 30-pound weight 10 feet as quickly as possible. Navy also won the passing contest, as they were the only team that had a functioning passer.
By the time of the scrimmage, the Purdue-Calumet and Purdue-South Bend robots were no longer functioning, so Purdue-Kokomo and Navy teamed up against a team from Notre Dame to play a few series of downs. The scrimmage ended with the Purdue-Kokomo/Navy team defeating Notre Dame 14-0.
The final test of the day was a robustness test, in which each player was struck by a large weight swinging on a pendulum. The player would pass the test if he was able to drive away after the hit. All of the Purdue-Kokomo players passed the test easily due to the strength of their design.
In the final composite scoring, The Naval Academy narrowly edged out the Purdue-Kokomo team for the overall championship prize of $2,000 dollars. The Purdue-Kokomo team received positive comments from participants, judges, and spectators about the appearance and construction of their players.
For the Purdue-Kokomo team, in addition to being a lot of fun, the competition was a valuable test of the current state of their designs and provided a lot of direction for future design improvements as they move forward in their efforts to build a complete team of robots to be able to compete for the National Championship of Robotic Football.