After months of design and development, accompanied by a bit of trial and error, USF is ready to roll out an innovative new game-day element.
Replete with bells, whistles…and even smoke-bellowing nostrils.
A motorized, black fiberglass bull — built by roughly a dozen USF engineering students — will be unveiled before Saturday's season opener against Elon. It will be showcased in the "Bulls Bay," a fan-experience area in the south plaza outside Raymond James Stadium.
Ultimately, the goal is for the bull (which doesn't yet have a name) to chug across the back of the north end zone (between tunnels A and B) after each USF touchdown.
"We definitely put a lot of time into it, and it was a pretty involved project," said 21-year-old Ryan Murphy, a mechanical engineering graduate student.
"Something we had many hours into for a few months here."
Operating via remote-control, the bull moves via battery-powered motors attached to its rear wheels. Other accessories include a smoke machine (for the nostrils) and red LED lights for eyes.
The bull was the brainchild of prominent USF booster Jeff Fishman, whose family's lead monetary gift led to the construction of a $750,000 student-athlete enrichment center.
Fishman purchased the life-sized bull from a Texas-based art gallery last November, and the school's College of Engineering began the process of bringing it to life as a Spring Capstone project in early January. Stephen Sundarrao, associate director of the College of Engineering, was selected to essentially oversee it.
A 12-volt battery (think car battery) runs the smoke machine and LEDs. A 36-volt lithium battery empowers the two rear-wheel motors. Other internal organs include an inverter, about the size of a VCR, changing direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).
"At the end of the year, all the seniors or juniors have to come up with pretty much an end-of-the-year project," explained Zach Diaczynsky, a mechanical engineering graduate student.
"So this started out as that. (Sundarrao) had two groups: one working on the power for the wheels, and the second one was working on…the smoke, the eyes and kind of the support system inside to hold the smoke machine, the inverter, battery and everything.
"It's only a semester-long course. … They ordered the parts, they designed everything, they came up with the ideas for the wheels. And once it came around to May, they were kind of running out of time unfortunately. So Ryan and I picked up the project, as well as (electrical engineer) Tony (Jose)."
The bull already has drawn raves from USF president Dr. Judy Genshaft and Michael Kelly, the school's new vice president of athletics. If all goes as planned, the raves could evolve into breathless gasps.
Sundarrao said the the plan is for future engineering students to "embellish" the bull, possibly designing legs that move on their own (without wheels), a wagging tail and jaw that opens and closes.
"They built a 3-D prototype (of moving legs), and they've been doing some testing," Sundarrao said. "It's one of those things that's more complicated, but it is do-able."