March 03, 2023 | Matt Kucinski

Nine students and their faculty adviser pose with robots and hold a
Students on the Calvin Robotics Football Team pose with their robots at the skills combine at the University of Notre Dame.

This past fall, as Calvin was announcing the addition of football to its athletic offerings, it’s other football team was making a splash at the combine.

“At the combine we competed in multiple events and there were two events where we got first place and we placed high in the other events as well,” said Luke Jensen.

An impressive start

Jensen is a junior electrical engineering major on the 10-person Robotics Football Team, which in its first year competing bested the likes of the University of Notre Dame, Navy, Valparaiso, and Ohio Northern, in multiple skills events on Notre Dame's campus.

“The faculty adviser at Notre Dame commented to me that he has never seen a team make so much progress in a single year,” said Ren Tubergen, the faculty adviser for the Calvin Robotics Football Team.

A well-balanced team

Just like in the sport of football where there are three units: offense, defense, and special teams, robotics football is divided into three specialty areas as well: with different students in charge of the electrical, mechanical, and software components that make the robots ready for competition.

Calvin’s team is well-balanced in terms of class, with three seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, and two freshman on the roster. The team is mainly comprised of electrical and mechanical engineers, with one student holding a major in computer science, and others with computer science minors.

While most students on the team this year have previous robotics experience from high school, the student leaders say they are eager to help develop walk-ons as well.

Walk-ons welcome

“We love robotics and we want more people to get into it,” said Jacob Vanden Bosch, a junior electrical engineering major on the team. “We are willing to support anyone who is interested on the chance they like it and stick around.”

“We had positive high school experiences with robotics and so it’s cool to go into college and to be able to continue that and to share that same experience we enjoyed and discovered in high school with fellow students, some who are discovering robotics for the first time.”

While the Robotics Football Team has performed well in skills tests so far, it’ll take to the field for its first full 8 vs. 8 competition on April 1, 2023 at a tournament at Ohio Northern University.

Jensen and Vanden Bosch say the team is looking to expand its roster, hoping to attract more computer science majors to help on software components and business majors to help secure sponsorships that will allow the team to continue to improve and build its robots.

Robotics options

While the Robotics Football team requires one to have or learn more advanced robotics skills, Calvin also offers combat robotics, an experience designed to open doors to robotics to more people.

“We wanted to provide stepping stones for those interested in perhaps pursuing more advanced robotics,” said Jensen.

The club is modeled after the TV show: BattleBots. Organizers say that it is setup to allow people with little to no robotics experience to be able to learn quickly. Though organizers say while it's easy to learn, it can still be hard to master and so there's a lot one can do with combat robotics to take it to the next level.

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