Several teams of third-year engineering students took to the track for the ultimate robot showdown as the highly anticipated annual TUKS Robot Race Day took place at the campus recently. Now in its ninth year, the event – which is coordinated by the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology – has grown in leaps and bounds, with more students getting involved and showcasing their innovation, programming and engineering skills. This year more than fifty teams registered to compete for the title.
Professor Tania Hanekom, function head for undergraduate studies at the University of Pretoria, said that providing world-class education to its students is what the institution strive for across all departments, and the Robot Race Day is just one of the ways education is enhanced. “Our annual Robot Race Day provides a platform to stimulate curiosity and creativity, which is crucial for the innovation and entrepreneurship that a career in engineering demands. The project guides aspiring engineers through a carefully planned process to develop a fundamental set of engineering skills, which include hardware and software design, systems integration, the ability to work and function in a team, time management, perseverance and the good old indispensable ‘engineering gut feeling’ which comes only with experience in the execution of engineering projects,” she said.
The TUKS Robot Race Day offers students the opportunity to put theory into practice. Students are required to build autonomous robotic vehicles with a sensor system able to detect specific colours on the multi-coloured track, and is developed as part of their analog electronics module. The Race Day also gives them a platform to work as a team and to demonstrate innovation and technical skills in developing these robots.
Professor Hanekom also added that the educational objectives of the Robot Race Day were strongly supported by the university’s partnerships with industry, which provide the necessary resources to maintain this flagship event. “On behalf of the students and the engineering faculty, I would like to thank RS Components South Africa for assisting us with the various components, batteries and support over the years. We look forward to future engagements with RS,” she added.
The 2022 Robot Race Day winners – Natalie Hanekom, Brendon De Beer and Karl Etsebeth – were elated after their robot beat the others to claim the win. Wesley Hood, education specialist for RS Components SA, said that nurturing the next generation of engineers was at the top of RS’s agenda. “RS Components’ continued involvement in this project is in line with the company’s policy of supporting both professional and future engineers by giving them access to the components, tools and resources that they require to excel in their endeavours.
“This is echoed in our DesignSpark platform, which is a free online community for engineers, inventors and tech enthusiasts from around the world, offering free CAD software and other technical resources to help bring ideas to life. With more than 1,2 million members, this community can be of assistance to students and engineers working on real-world applications. I encourage anyone interested in engineering and inventing to register and be a part of this global community,” he said.
View a brief video of the day here: https://youtu.be/Be4dIHJZwpw
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