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Tackle This: Football's Newest Most Valuable Player is a Robot

Sep 13, 2016   |   by Kristen Clark and Eliza Strickland   |   IEEE Spectrum

A robotic tackling dummy created by Dartmouth engineering students could turn out to be the most valuable player on the field this football season. Short for Mobile Virtual Player, the MVP robot is designed to take a beating during football drills, sparing players from an accumulation of the kinds of impacts known to result in concussions and long-term brain damage.

The robot was inspired by a jaw-dropping decision by Eugene “Buddy” Teevens, the Dartmouth head coach. Teevens shocked the football world in 2011 by announcing a complete ban on tackling during practice. While many predicted that the measure would cripple the team, Dartmouth engineering students took it as a design challenge.

The robot’s two lead inventors—a defensive lineman on Teevans’ football team and a Dartmouth rugby player—designed their dummy based on their personal experience of getting clobbered on the field. Their remote-controlled foam robot reaches a top speed of 32 kilometers per hour (the fastest NFL players top out at 40 km/h), can tough it out in extreme Minnesota winters and Florida heat waves, and has circuits robust enough to withstand thousands of repeated blows. Best of all, its weighted base allows it to pop up after a tackle, just like a Weeble Wobble toy.

Article Coming Soon: “How a Robot Football Player Will Prevent Concussions

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