Ohio Northern University's robotic football team competing in 2018.

Design and strategy will intersect with competitive intensity on a decidedly nontraditional gridiron as Ohio Northern University hosts the day-long National Robotic Football Tournament and Combine on Saturday, April 1. The event is free and open to the public.
The Collegiate Robotic Football Conference’s first tournament game will start at 9:30 a.m. at King-Horn Sports Center, with ONU facing off against the University of Notre Dame. The U.S. Naval Academy and Valparaiso University will also compete in the tournament, culminating in the national championship game scheduled for 4 p.m. In addition to the schools listed above, four schools — Mount Union, Calvin University, Howard Community College and Trine University — will also participate in this year’s combine, which, like the NFL combine, has players compete in a variety of drills. The awards ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m., with the winning team presented with the Brian Hederman trophy.
Competitive robotic football began in 2008 as an alumni-sponsored senior design project at the University of Notre Dame. Students created two forms of ball “throwing” robots that weighed about 40 pounds each. Intercollegiate competition began in 2010 as a collaboration between ONU and ND, starting through faculty connections, and has since grown to include several higher education institutions. ONU’s Robotic Football Team has won two national championships and has placed as high as third in the combine. The April 1 tournament will provide participants with a chance to display their robotics skills and learn from others whose undergraduate academic pursuits are aligned.
ONU’s College of Engineering offers a robotics concentration in which students take specialized courses such as intelligent systems, embedded systems, industrial controllers or digital-image processing. Students can work side by side with an ONU professor on research in the field of robotics and can join the Polar Robotics Club, working with teammates to design and build robots that compete in the annual intercollegiate tournament each spring. Additionally, ONU’s program challenges students to tackle a senior capstone project related to robotics, like designing a stair-climbing or auto-navigating robot. Students with this concentration have often gone on to work in the fields of robotics and automation at companies such as Applied Manufacturing Technologies, GROB Systems and Rockwell Automation.