The University of Southampton

Andrew goes for triple success in Science Week competition

Published: 9 March 2011

First-year Electronics student Andrew Cowan will be taking part in the ‘Big Bang Fair’ opening tomorrow (Thursday 10 March) at London’s Excel Centre. Andrew will be exhibiting his Search and Rescue Robot, which is in the finals of three competitions that will be judged during the event: Young Engineer for Britain 2011, the National Science and Engineering Competition 2011, and the Crest Awards 2011.

The Big Bang Fair is part of the British Science Association’s contribution to National Science and Engineering Week, and will run at the Excel Centre until Saturday 12 March. Over 20,000 visitors are expected to see the show.

Andrew built his Search and Rescue 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 is being sponsored through his ECS course on Electronic Engineering with Mobile and Secure Systems by Cobham Technical Services. He is happy with his choice of the School of Electronics and Computer Science 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. The course, as any Electronics student will tell you, has long hours and is hard work, but I'm greatly enjoying it.’

‘It’s a superb achievement for Andrew to have reached the finals of three competitions as well as being able to demonstrate the innovative and sophisticated work that can be carried out at A level,’ said Professor Neil White, Head of Electronics and Computer Science. ‘We wish him well in the competition! Good luck Andrew!’

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