Misconceptions in engineering (II) - smart robots with Josiah and Sam

By Dan Mannion, 2nd year Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Nanotechnology MEng, University College London

Meet Sam Leighton and Josiah Lee, they are both 3rd year electronic engineering students at UCL. The team are currently working on a robotics project that involves them programming the robot’s microcontroller - you can think of this as the robots ‘brain’. They’re also adding additional sensors so they can make the robot as smart and interactive as possible.

It’s becoming clear from the interviews that engineering really is an enormous subject with a huge range of possibilities. If you are interested in a particular subject, more often than not, there’ll be an engineering role for you. Another great aspect I have taken from these interviews is the genuine love and respect the engineers have for their work. It is inspiring to say the least!

Dan: Tell me more about the project you are doing this summer?
Sam: So what we have here is a robot that you can control with your phone. You can drive it around, make it play tunes, it’s quite cool. What we’re doing is redesigning the circuit board so that it not only allows you to connect to the phone via Bluetooth, but also allows a number of these robots to connect together, and then to a gateway which will allow them to connect to the internet.

The idea is that we can have a swarm of these robots going around collecting data and being controlled by an internet application.

Josiah: This project is also a nice introduction to the “internet of things” so we are upgrading the robot to have more sensors.

Dan: What tasks have you had to carry out for this project?
Josiah: My portion of this project has mainly been working on the hardware. I have been working on integrating various sensors such as the humidity and gyroscopic sensors. Whereas Sam is working on the algorithms that will enable the robot to perform tasks such as geolocation and provide it with a simple AI.

Dan: When people hear the word engineering they immediately picture big oily machines. What would you say to that?
Sam: I think they’re completely wrong! Engineering is about ingenuity, it’s about people who want to see their ideas come to life and this extends over many disciplines. The whole idea of motors and hard hats is only one part of a particular field. It goes back to when engineering started in the industrial revolution which focused on mechanical engineering, but now we’re dealing with quite cool hi-tech stuff!

Dan: Josiah you are in your second year of your engineering course, how have you found it?
Josiah: Actually prior to my university education I was doing a diploma in aerospace electronics but since being in the UK I’ve been much more exposed to the industry side of things and seeing how they combine different fields of engineering.

Dan: Sam what’s the most beneficial skill you’ve taken from your degree?
Sam: How to think like an engineer. We take a large project and break it down into smaller more manageable pieces. An engineering degree really does give that sense of “I can do this!”

Dan: What would be your advice to someone interested in a career in engineering?
Josiah: My advice would be to try and make things; your own PCBs, your own code, as these skills are practical skills that you will pick up along the way. They will really benefit you when you do your course.

Sam: I would say go for it! Engineering really is a subject where the sky’s the limit. If you have even a little bit of imagination and creativity and you enjoy breaking projects down into smaller parts then absolutely go for it.


Engineering at University College London

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