An Engineering showcase at the University of South Wales has seen students from six local schools and colleges take part in a robo-rally competition.
Pupils from years 10, 11 and 12 were tasked with building and programming a two-wheeled robot which could intelligently navigate an obstacle course, making use of onboard sensors, motor control algorithms and producing creative ideas on how the robot would respond.
Their finished products were demonstrated at the School of Engineering showcase event, held at the Treforest campus on Wednesday 30th April, with a prize for the quickest completion time.
The competition, which was sponsored by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), saw teams of pupils take part from Lewis School in Pengam; Lliswerry High School in Newport; Coleg Gwent’s Crosskeys Campus, St Edward’s School in Cheltenham and St Katherine’s School near Bristol.
Each team was given an ASURO robot kit which required some assembly and soldering work, which they then programmed to control the motor’s speed and direction, along with reading the sensors’ values to help with the robot’s navigation.
The robots were required to complete a two-stage course – the first stage being to follow a 2m curved black line, using the line follower sensor on the underside of the robot.
At the end of the curved track, the robot needed to enter a simple maze which was navigated using the front switch sensors. The teams adopted numerous algorithms to complete the task; with the most efficient, well-thought out solution navigating the course in the quickest time.
The winners were three Year 10 students from St Katherine’s School, pictured below. Alistair Mitchell, Arlem Mott and Jack Lowe managed to navigate their robot around the track in 9.4 seconds, and won a £100 cash prize from the IET as well as a plaque and certificates from the University.
Student projects on display at the Engineering showcase included an electronic cricket scoreboard, an automatic cat feeder and a motorised car, among others which demonstrated the work of students on courses such as Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Renewable Energy Systems and Electronic Communication.
Bleddyn Dunn is a BSc Electrical and Electronic Engineering student who also works as a Technical Officer at the University, who designed and created a new automatic scoreboard for Llantwit Fardre Cricket Club. “The existing scoreboard has a very noisy chain and pulley system, and requires two people to operate it,” he said. “We were quoted around £7,000 to have an electronic one made, which seemed extortionate, so I decided to make one myself as part of my final year project. The materials only cost me £260 and it works perfectly, with only one person needed to update the scores.”
Bleddyn produced circuit diagrams for the scoreboard system before building it with printed circuit boards (PCBs), which control all of its outputs. Each number on the display turns on every 2 milliseconds, so the score appears to change simultaneously. “Along with other major upgrades we’ve made to the pavilion, this new scoreboard really brings the club into 2014,” he added.
Edwin Duthie, who is studying on the BEng Electronic & Communication Engineering, produced an automatic cat feeder. “I would love to go into product design after I graduate,” Edwin said. “I enjoy all aspects of seeing my designs turn into real products, and being able to create things that can be solutions to everyday problems.”
Taking Edwin Duthie six months to build, his feeder allows people to set a timer for their cats to be fed while they are on holiday or at work. Edwin has used existing technology and added smart features to his design, such as the timer saving its settings so in the event of a power cut the feeder will still work at the correct times, and creating four different portion sizes for different types of cats. The feeder only works when the lid is closed, which prevents hands getting caught in its mechanism, and it will alert the user when the level of food is too low, so pet owners can then make provisions to stock up on cat food.
Akram Hammoudeh is the Associate Head of the School of Engineering at the University of South Wales. “This annual showcase is so important for our students to demonstrate their projects to potential employers and show the high level of technical knowledge, understanding and project management skills they have attained through the development, design and commissioning process during their journey at university,” he said. “The work in this year’s showcase was of an exceptional standard and the prize winners are to be congratulated.”