The University of Southampton

ECS student's robot at national Design and Technology show this weekend

Published: 
18 November 2010
Illustration

First-year ECS undergraduate Andrew Cowan will be taking part in this weekend’s Design and Technology with ICT Show at the NEC Birmingham (18-20 November), displaying his prize-winning ‘Search and Rescue Robot’.

Andrew built the robot during his A level Systems and Control coursework at Sutton Grammar School. The large tracked vehicle for use in disaster zones has a wireless camera (with tilt, pan and zoom), and a collection of wireless sensors including gas sampling. About 20 microchips control all the sensors, radio links and functions (including lights, a siren and water cannon). Powerful enough to pull a car, the robot weighs around 80kg and is powered by two 750W motors. ‘I wanted to design and build something for my A-level Systems and Control coursework that would be challenging and complex enough to be my hobby for my two A level years,’ he says, ‘as well as building something socially useful.’ He financed the robot by negotiating sponsorship of parts with 12 different companies (whose logos appear on the sides) and used part of an Arkwright Scholarship.

Andrew entered the robot for the National Science & Engineering Competition 2010, and won both 1st prize in the engineering intermediate age category, and the Siemens Award. He was selected to represent the UK at the EU Contest for Young Scientists, taking place in Lisbon in September 2010 but had to turn down that opportunity since it coincided with the ECS Jumpstart Week! In July, he won 1st prize (senior age category) at the Young Engineer for Britain SE Regional Final, which has qualified him to go through to the Young Engineer for Britain final in March 2011. In September, he was also awarded a Crest Gold Award for his work on the robot (with the Crest finals also next March).

Andrew is being sponsored through his ECS course on Electronic Engineering with Mobile and Secure Systems by Cobham Technical Services and worked for the company over the summer at ERA Technology in Leatherhead. He is happy with his choice of ECS for undergraduate work: ‘Southampton was my first choice of university, not only because of its excellent reputation for electronics, but also because when I came here for interview the department seemed so dynamic and inspiring.

‘Perhaps this is because it is based within the ECS School, rather than a more traditional engineering department. The modern facilities in the ECS were also an attraction, as was the sailing at Southampton. I 'm now teaching sailing at the sailing club on Wednesdays.

‘The course, as any Electronics student will tell you, has long hours and is hard work, but I'm greatly enjoying it.’

When he graduates he will take up employment with Cobham, working in their Electronics Systems Unit in Leatherhead, on leading-edge technology for the design and development of antenna and wireless communication systems. His project over the summer involved working on the development of a robotic vehicle for detecting land mines using ground-penetrating radar. ‘It was great to put the skills I had learnt during the construction of my A level coursework to use in a commercial application,’ he says..

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