University robots put to the test

Lord Baker with (front row) Ian Watts, Ryan Pratt and Darren Harkin of University of Brighton with their Creepy Crawlie Battlebots and, behind them, Kyle Brackenfield on his electric motorbike, Sophie Lewis and Keeran Gillett with VEX robotic cars.

Lord Baker with (front row) Ian Watts, Ryan Pratt and Darren Harkin of University of Brighton with their Creepy Crawlie Battlebots and, behind them, Kyle Brackenfield on his electric motorbike, Sophie Lewis and Keeran Gillett with VEX robotic cars.

Racing robots built by University of Brighton undergraduates and students at the University Techinical College in Newhaven, UTC@harbourside, were put to the test when former Education Secretary, Lord Baker of Dorking visited the school.

After being shown around the new school by some of the 14-18 year old students, Lord Baker was treated to a race between the UTC students’ machines and a crack team of ‘Battlebots’ called the Creepy Crawlies, made by university undergraduates.

The Creepy Crawlies were the only European university team to enter competition in the US TV-series, Battlebots, in which fighting robots of all shapes and sizes compete for a $30,000 prize. The programme for ABC Television has just aired in the USA.

UTC@harbourside is jointly sponsored by Lewes District Council, educational charity The Aldridge Foundation, the University of Brighton and Veolia.

UTC student entries included a hand-made motor bike, VEX robotic cars and a racing car. The students made use of the UTC’s state-of-the-art engineering facilities and robot workshop using the engineering, design, electronic and digital skills they are learning as part of their courses.

The remote control racing car built by Tom Dadswell, 17 won, while Kyle Brackenfield, 17, came second on his battery-powered bike. The Creepy Crawlies were beaten to the finish line.

Lord Baker said: “I am very impressed by the various racing robots which the students have made themselves – and they work. UTC@harbourside is training youngsters for the jobs of the future in digital technology and modern engineering. Tremendous support from the University of Brighton and from local companies will make this UTC a real success.

“All the students I talked to were really engaged and completely sure that they have made the right decision to come to this UTC. They only wished they had had the chance earlier.”

Lord Kenneth Baker was the Secretary of State for Education and Science in Margaret Thatcher’s Government from 1986 to 1989 and later Home Secretary (1990-1992). He joined the House of Lords in 1997. The Baker Dearing Trust was founded by Lord Baker and Lord Ronald Dearing to develop and promote the concept of university technical colleges.

In a report published earlier this month, The Digital Revolution, Lord Baker called for more of the kind of education offered by UTCs to prepare young people for a world where many traditional jobs would be replaced by automation.

“Artificial intelligence, robots, 3D printing and driverless vehicles will impact on sectors as varied as the legal profession, transport and construction,” he said on launching the report.

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