The course involved building a substantial autonomous robot, capable of navigating its way around an arena, collecting objects and avoiding confrontation with rival robots in the process. It required a great deal of electrical, structural and mechanical engineering, through which we were able to learn about rapid prototyping, soldering, circuit design and fabrication, debugging, and wood-working. Programming was most challenging for me, as although I had some experience with coding on the Arduino in C++, I was yet to programme a Raspberry Pi in Python. After teams had miraculously scrambled together a functioning robot in less than 5 days, we put them to the test in an arena appropriately named “The Cube” to compete against other teams. Some robots had speed but displayed no signs of intelligence, others were blessed with amazing code yet lacked stealth. In the practice round, my team’s robot did a lap clockwise only to reverse anticlockwise, erasing any points gained in the first lap. What followed was an intense 10 mins of tremendous team-work to modify our code, which subsequently ensured our success in the tournament rounds (at least until the semi-finals!).
During the course, we also gained first-hand experience of university life, mingling with academics and students from the Electronics and Computer Science department at the University of Southampton; had the opportunity to visit ECS’ nanofabrication cleanrooms and an impressive High Voltage Laboratory; and took part in engaging talks on computer vision, cyber security and robotics.
I learnt so many things during this course, including the importance of simplicity in design and coding, and was lucky enough to meet the most amazing people who all shared the same love of engineering as me. I strongly recommend the Smallpeice Trust courses to any aspiring scientist reading this because it’s an amazing opportunity to explore your passion through hands-on learning.
By Kureha Yamaguchi (13MFW)