The University of East Anglia (UEA) Engineering Society is a new and dynamic organisation looking to continuously improve and innovate, using all the tools and resources available.
The use of open-source electronics is an exciting way to allow innovators and inventors to realise their ideas, and Arduino has proven to be one such platform to do so using hardware and software, analogue, digital and programming inputs and outputs, with applications limited only by the imagination.
When student Engineers wanted to run a competition using Arduino as a basis, it soon became too big for them alone and was opened to any student, and Maths and Computing Science faculty wanted in on the action.
At the registration deadline, there were 11 teams and individuals who met the entry criteria, which led to the first major hurdle, where do we get 11 Arduino boards?! Fortunately, RS Components, a supplier of tech to the UEA, were quick to step in and within 48 hours the 11 kits were being distributed to the contestants.
These kits consisted of an Arduino Uno, Breadboard, and an assortment of wires. The fundamental basis for electronic creativity. An additional £15 refund to acquire additional components was also provided courtesy of the UEA Engineering Society. While this could be spent anywhere contestants still utilised RS Components. One of the contestants Matthew Keal stated “We decided to use RS components for reliability, we have used them before for other projects. When you are working on a tight budget and are time restricted, you need that component to work and you don’t always get this from sites like Amazon or eBay.”
MEng Student Jim Rijks's working on the EMG Controlled Game
These types of events are incredibly valuable to student’s future in industry. One student explained this: “Courses have contact hours similar to a full-time job, and if you want to get a decent pass, you need to at least do as many hours again in our own time, and to excel you need to do even more. If you want to stand out in a global marketplace, you need to push yourself, and this competition is a way of getting that extra work recognised by industry.”
Local tech business also stepped in to help, Proeon Systems Ltd., a supplier of safety and control systems who has links with the UEA also stepped in and supplied the prize money for the competition. They have also realised the benefits of liaising with UEA, and the Arduino competition was another way of finding the brightest and most driven students coming through the system.
Richard Miller, Managing Director of Proeon Systems Ltd said, “We were pleased to support the UEA in their pilot Arduino Competition and were excited to see how the students applied and improved their electronics hardware and software knowledge whilst participating in the competition.”
George Markham (left) and Matthew Keal (right) looking at George's Wireless MIDI Controller
The finalists showed a range of projects, and from the 14 registered participants, only 6 made it through to the final, such was the high standard of the judges. The judging panel were as harsh as they normally are for coursework and exams, a mature student on the Engineering programme stated “Engineering is the ultimate meritocracy, it does not have an agenda, it does not care about your background or nationality, we all have the same opportunities, and the students that demonstrate that they can go the extra mile will end up shaping our world and open-source platforms allow us to innovate and develop systems that have yet to be defined in the traditional way tech is used in our lives.”
The winners were:
1st – Caleb Shelton – Eco Plug. It optimises the way that electricity is used in relation to supply and demand, something that is becoming more important given our reliance on renewable energy.
2nd – Jim Rijks and Daniel Munene – EMG Controlled Game. Acquiring electrical impulses from a muscle using electromyography, analysing the data using Arduino and using a fan with a ping pong ball to lift the ball in the air when a muscle is flexed. This has more relevance than ever; the traditional views of disability are being re-written as tech will make sci-fi from 20 years ago become normal.
3rd – George Markham – Wireless MIDI pad controller. The creative and arts industry is a significant part of our economy and generates millions of pounds.
4th – Matthew Keal and Grigorijs Gundorovs – Medication dispenser. As our lives get longer and we rely on medication, until we can cure these diseases, we will need help in managing our failing bodies and minds.
From left to right: George Markham, Grigorijs Gundorovs, Caleb Shelton, Jim Rijks, Matthew Keal, and Viktoras Cesnulevicius
The prizes encourage creativity and innovation, and at the very least it demonstrates that some individuals and self-selected teams can do amazing things when given the opportunity and anyone who has been a student knows a little monetary motivation can go a long way.
Our winner, Caleb Shelton, explains how this event broadened his understanding of how his field is applied in the real world: “The competition was a great way to use theoretical knowledge I learned as a first-year CMP student and apply it practically. I had never done any electronics projects before, only programming, so that was a learning curve for me. I enjoyed the challenge of learning new skills and overall enjoyed participating in the competition.”
It could be argued that the first round of this competition may not change the world, but it is a start. Who can say where it may lead? If anything, it proves that there are young people with a passion to change the world, a world that we will all have to live in.
UEA Engineering Society will be running the Arduino Competition in 2019/20. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or if you are interested in sponsoring the next event.