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BBC Two's Robot Wars: Greenwich to enter the arena

The university's enthusiasm for all things high-tech will reach a new landmark when the Faculty of Engineering & Science sends its own creation out to compete in Robot Wars on BBC Two.

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Presenters Angela Scanlon and Dara O'Briain

In the popular TV series, teams of 'robot fighting' enthusiasts see their creations battle it out over a series of rounds in a huge purpose-built area, each aiming to become the latest Robot Wars champion.

It is the first time the University of Greenwich has entered its own robot, named Trolley Rage 2, in the BBC series – but it will certainly not be the last.

"We set ourselves an ambitious challenge for the TV programme," says Deputy Pro- Vice Chancellor Professor Simeon Keates. "We wanted to develop a new version of our Robot Wars Live Show 2016 competitor, Trolley Rage. We also wanted to demonstrate how simple, cheap and sustainable it can be to build a robot.

"We concentrated on using as many recycled components as possible. We cut down disused shopping trolleys for the body and took the motors out of a very old wheelchair. We created the robot's weapon from an abandoned hand axe."

Guided by Professor Keates, Trolley Rage 2 was constructed by Faculty technicians and a second-year Mechanical Engineering student, robot enthusiast Gareth Anstee.

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University robot Trolley Rage 2

Development is now under way for an even more robust University of Greenwich robot, which Gareth is planning to take to Robot Wars Live contests across the country later this year. 

The university has hosted two highly successful Robot Wars Live Shows at its Medway Campus, in 2015 and 2016, and is planning to host more live shows this autumn.

Robots inspire schools

Designing and building robots, and challenging competitors, is at the heart of Professor Keates' outreach campaign to inspire more young people to take up engineering as a career.

More than 900 entries from across the south-east have been received for a design-a-robot competition, which was launched at the university's schools' Robot Wars Live Show 2016.

University engineers are now working with the 24 winning schools to build their robots. Their designs will be put through their paces at this year's Robot Wars Live Show at the Medway Campus in September.

"When we first launched our campaign in 2015 we concentrated on schools in Kent and Medway. Now we are also attracting design-a-robot competition entries from London, Hertfordshire, Essex and beyond," says Professor Keates.

He insists it is important to expand the UK's capabilities in robotics and innovative smart devices, which are currently very low compared with countries such as Japan and South Korea.

"In the 19th century our engineers led the world – we can do that again," he says. "I want us to inspire and encourage young people, careers professionals and schools to rediscover the excitement of engineering, and take advantage of the many opportunities available.

"Robots are already key to many of our industries. Recent improvements in battery design and life, coupled with increased computer power, mean that individual robots and teams of robots working together are going to be assisting many more aspects of our lives at home as well as in the workplace." he adds.

Greenwich leads the field

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The 'Robot Wars Live' arena at Medway

Currently there are 50,000 unfilled vacancies for professional engineers in the UK alone. Thanks to significant investment in new integrated engineering labs and a state-of-the art robotics suite, alongside a raft of new undergraduate and graduate engineering programmes, Greenwich is well placed to lead the field and meet the demand for qualified engineering graduates at home and overseas. 

Furthermore, its engineering team is working with schools across the south east – at primary and secondary level – inspiring the next generations of engineers.

I want us to inspire and encourage young people, careers professionals and schools to rediscover the excitement of engineering, and take advantage of the many opportunities available

Engineering: Passport to a top career

Many of the world's leading CEOs, including Larry Page (Google), Tim Cook (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Mary Barra (General Motors) are engineering graduates.

For Professor Keates this is not surprising. He believes engineers have just the qualities and mindset to take the helm. These qualities include being well grounded, tenacious, a focus on process and detail and the ability to keep a cool head when faced with challenges.

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Professor Simeon Keates with 'RoboThespian'

However, schools don't teach engineering at A-level. So many pupils, and their teachers, are not fully aware of the range of careers available or what many of the newer engineering degrees entail.

In addition to their robot outreach campaign, Professor Keates and his team regularly hold open days and activities with schools to introduce students and careers staff to the many possibilities available.

Taking advantage of the university's investment in integrated engineering labs and robotics suite, new degrees are offering undergraduates and postgraduates the opportunity to be at the forefront of rapidly growing fields.

The university has also taken an innovative approach ensuring all undergraduates experience the full range of engineering disciplines during the first year of their degree programme before specialising. 

Meanwhile, school and college leavers keen on an engineering careers who have not taken quite the right combination of A-levels to apply directly for an engineering degree course, can consider applying for four-year extended engineering programmes.

New degrees for growing markets

Businesses are crying out for professional engineers and many young people are keen to put their own ideas into practice as 21st century entrepreneurs.

Three new undergraduate degrees, for school and college leavers alongside mature applicants, and three new postgraduate programmes are designed to position Greenwich engineering students ahead of the game in gaining top jobs.

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Engineering students at Greenwich

Students taking the BEng Hons in Design, Innovation and Entrepreneurship will be aiming to launch their own businesses – using the latest design and engineering know-how to create new products and services and see them through production and on to the market.

BEng Hons Cybernetics graduates will be determined to help grow the nascent UK robotics industry and potentially steal a march on Japan and South Korea in smart technologies and developing the Internet of Things.

Meanwhile, students opting for the BEng Hons in Industrial Engineering will be set to deliver the growing demand for 21st century industries and organisations to work smarter – maximising efficiencies across all resource acquisition, production and distribution systems.

Postgraduate opportunities for pioneering engineers

Students taking the MSc in Future Intelligent Technologies  will work at the frontline of the expanding and developing Internet of Things – taking a pioneering approach to analysing and predicting the innovative ways future smart devices will be designed and will communicate with each other.

Graduates seeking to specialize in delivering the Internet of Things can take advantage of the MSc in Wireless Communications Engineering. The programme concentrates on the networks and systems, such as 5G, required for the rapidly increasing demands for interconnected smart devices.

Successful applicants for the faculty's third new MSc programme, in Water, Waste and Environmental Engineering, will develop skills and knowledge that are now in short supply in the developing world as well as in the UK.

They will bring together science and engineering to analyse and resolve complex environmental problems in the handling of water and waste on an industrial scale.

Robot Wars Series 9, Extended Trailer:

Robot Wars runs on BBC Two on Sundays at 7pm.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04v9q4m

To find out more …

There is more information about the university's full range of Engineering degree courses at http://www.gre.ac.uk/engsci/study/engsci/programmes