MetalCow Robotics was founded in November 2011 under the guidance of McLean County Co-operative Extension with founding grants from JCPenney and University of Illinois Extension to form a FIRST Robotics team. This partnership is an effort to provide new and exciting opportunities to local high school youth in McLean, Woodford, and Livingston Counties.

Steamworks, 2017

We built Gertrude, our sixth robot in 2017, in honor of Gertrude Warren “The Mother of 4-H”. Gertrude was capable of performing all aspects of Steamworks which involved shooting balls and placing gears, however, we rarely shot balls in competition as the game and our strength was placing gears and climbing. Our team remained stable at 24 members and we participated in two regions. After working through fewer bugs, we finished 33rd at the week 3 Central Illinois Regional, which prepared us well for a 20th overall ranking week 5 at the Midwest Regional in Chicago where we were picked by the 3rd seeded alliance and had a chance to win it all and had the top two highest scores, but came up short after some unfortunate mechanical problems from tough defense.

Stronghold, 2016

We built our fifth robot, Flank, in 2016. The biggest highlight of this season was moving into our new permanent year round home at the Crossroads Center in January at the start of our build season. Our team grew to 24 members and we participated in two regions. After working through several bugs, we finished 20 th at the week 3 Central Illinois Regional, which prepared us well for a 9 th overall ranking week 5 at the Queen’s City Regional.

Recycle Rush, 2015

2015 was our fourth season and the senior year of many of our founding members. We started with a large grant from State Farm which helped the team purchase more tools, laptops, and supplies. We also attracted more people bringing the team up to 17 students and several new mentors. We participated in three regional competitions and as a wild card at World’s. Although we did not rank high nor get selected to a week 1 alliance in Little Rock, we successfully tweaked our robot in preparation for the rest of our season. Following that we ended up on 6th seeded alliance in Peoria and Cincinnati and a top ranked team in our division at World’s.

via simbotics.orgEllie was designed with an elevator lift in mind. We had two lead screws to elevate the arms that could lift over 60 pounds. We also a jump slide drive system which consisted of 5 omni-wheels; two on each side and one in the middle going sideways. With that drive train we were able to precisely move sideways to properly align ourselves with field elements.

Recycle Rush is a recycling -themed game played by two Alliances of three robots each. Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. Totes are collected either from the landfill located on the far end of the field or from the human player station. Ellie was created to work from the human player station and can create one six stack of totes with a recycling can and litter on top scoring 36 points.

Aerial Assist, 2014

MetalCow’s third year saw even more success. We finished our robot early and designed a robot to compete in all phases of the game Aerial Assist. Fifteen members competed in the first week of competition at the Central Illinois Regional at the Pekin, IL AvantiDome and the 4th week of competition at the Purdue Boilermaker Regional. Along with our Creativity Award for our unique catching design, we earned alliance selections on the second seeded alliance in Pekin and the number one pick on the top seeded alliance at Purdue. More than anything, we had proven ourselves as an up and coming veteran team which helped secure a large corporate donation to expand our program.


Aerial Assist is a game styled similarly to a over -sized basketball game. Robots must either catch or pick up 25in diameter exercise balls from the ground or from the human player. There are multiple ways to score points. A high goal is equal to 10 points and a low goal is equal to 1 point. If you pass once you gain an extra 10 point for a total of 20 when you score. If you pass twice you gain an extra 20 point for a total of 40 when you score. You are also able to throw the ball over a 6 foot tall truss in the middle of the field for an immediate 10 points, also if a robot catches the ball thrown over the truss you gain another immediate 10 point bonus.

Daisy was designed for easy catching and throwing; it is able to do this because we extend our sides out for a total of 17 square foot catcher which feeds into our catapult that has an estimated 150 lbs launch force. Daisy has four meccanum wheels which, in theory, allow it to move in any direction facing forward except for up and down. It is also able to score into the high goal or the low goal.

Ultimate Assist, 2013

The team’s second year brought more members and a more complex robot. The team had 15 members. This required dividing the team members into sub-teams including mechanical/powerdrive, programming, marketing and logistics. The game was called Ultimate Ascent and involved throwing Frisbees at a target and climbing a pyramid. We participated at the Crossroads Regional in Terre Haute, IN. Although the team didn’t advance to the finals, they took great pride in successfully executing all the game elements. The team also participated in an animation contest with its production of Jack and the Beanstalk featuring our mascot MetalCow and was awarded the 2013 Award for Technical Excellence.


Ultimate Ascent is a game styled similarly to disc golf or ultimate frisbee. Robots must pick up or collect disks from feeder stations, and put them into wide goals 10′ off the ground. At the end of the game, robots can climb a metal pyramid to gain more points, with more being awarded for going higher.

Chippy was designed with a dropout 2 -pneumatic, 2 -omni wheel drive -train that enabled us to quickly service problems, as well as maneuver and drive quickly on the field. We use two pneumatic wheels that launch the disk out into the top goal. At the end of the game, we would latch two hooks on our shooter to the bottom bar to pull up off  the ground for a 10 point bonus.

Rebound Rumble, 2012


The team of 11 members spent 6 weeks in January/February 2012 building a robot to play in the 2012 FIRST Rebound Rumble game. The robot was designed to shoot a basketball into the goal, play defense, and balance on a bridge. The first competition was at the Midwest Regional on March 2012 held at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL. The goal going into the competition as a rookie team was to have a running robot. We arrived at the competition with two bags of partially completed assemblies and left with a fully functioning robot that earned us the Rookie Inspiration Award for our efforts and determination to continually build and modify at this competition.

Rebound Rumble is a game styled similarly to basketball. Robots must collect basketballs and score them into goals of varying heights (More points for higher goals). Separating the two sides of the field are 3 teeter -totter “bridges”, and a bump. At the end of the game, 10 points are given for each robot balanced on a bridge.

Bessie was designed to pick up and score balls into the low goal, and be able to push down the bridge so it could balance on and travel across.