Redland Green School

RGS Bristol

Students Achieve Second Place in Oxford University Robotics Competition!

Congratulations to Lucy (Year 9), Max (Year 10), Sam (Year 9) and James (Year 10), who came second in the Oxford University Robotics Competition. The students had a fantastic day hosted by the Computer Science Department, involving lectures, robot demos, robot design and programming, assisted by some of the brightest minds in the country. Below you will find a report of the day written by James.

Oxford University Robotics Challenge

It was a very cold and chilly morning in Bristol on Thursday, 6 November and at 7.00am four Redland Green students set out to Oxford University for a robotics challenge. The idea of this robotics challenge was to design and build a search and rescue robot that could be navigated by an infrared beam. I was really looking forward to the challenge and to the software side of it.

Firstly, we were off to the lecture theatre to listen to a talk about robots, the future of robots and how they can benefit society by the Head Lecturer of Computer Science at Oxford, Stephen Cameron. It was really inspirational to see how much robots can help people and after the talk I could definitely see the future of human development through the use of robots. They can help us to find people in a collapsed building as well as help old people around the house!

After the talk we went to the Robert Hooke Building to have an introduction on the NXT Programme. We would be using this to instruct the robot on what we wanted it to do. After this we had our practical session and I was put in charge of the software. After a bit of brainpower, logic and exploration I managed to create a programme that went through a continuous process. It asked itself if it could see the infrared beam. If not, it moved 120° degrees at a time to try to locate the beam. If it could see the beam the robot would move forward towards it.

Max, another member of the team focused on the hardware of the robot. This involved gears, power, design, weight, balance etc. After some trial and error we found that gears improved our speed, however they reduced our turning speed. We also decided to strip some of the materials on the robot to save weight thus increasing our speed. But the best decision of the day was to put tracks on it instead of tyres; this considerably increased our turning speed and capacity and also meant that it travelled over obstacles really well.

After having lunch whilst working on the robot it was off to the Wolfson Building for the competition! The first round was just a 5-metre race to the infrared beam. We were all set up to go, we placed it on the floor, pressed the on button expecting it to go but no! It couldn’t detect the infrared signal! The infrared beam we used in testing was on the floor and the one in the competition was on a raised surface so it could not detect it. It finally managed to detect it in a rather slow 46 seconds.

After a bit of tinkering it was time for the second test, a 5-metre obstacle course with small hurdles in the way. Success! It worked perfectly this time detecting it straight away and manoeuvring beautifully over the hurdles. It raced to the finish line in a pacey time of 8 seconds.

 Last but not least was a 5-metre race again, but this time the robots started the wrong way around. Ours detected the beam quickly and finished in a time of 16 seconds.

Now for the prize giving... I was very nervous waiting for the results but in the end we managed to come second against some of the best schools in the country. I was really pleased with the result, even if the first team that won may have broken a rule!

So overall it was a fantastic day and it was great to see where the future of robotics is going and to be given the opportunity to design and build our own robot. Maybe one day I’ll be at the forefront of robots? As for now “Great success comes through great opportunities”.

James, Year 10