The annual robot car race day at the University of Pretoria illustrates innovation and tenacity among our youth

Posted on June 09, 2023

It was with much excitement that the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology’s third-year students in Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineering counted down the days to the much-anticipated Annual Robot Car Race Day. This year’s event marked a decade of innovation and engineering excellence.

Initially conceptualised as an engaging, enjoyable practical project for students in the Department’s Microcontrollers module, it has developed into a highlight on the Faculty’s calendar. The Robot Car Race has since been extended to other modules, enabling the horizontal and vertical integration of learning content in the different programmes.

In the lead-up to the event, students have to work together in small groups to design and build a microcontroller-based autonomous robotic vehicle. These vehicles then have to navigate a coloured line laid out to purposefully cross over other coloured lines and not veer off course, in the shortest possible time.

The event has attracted just as much attention from the Department’s industry partners, who sponsored prizes to the value of almost R200 000 this year. These sponsors included Microchip, Gendac Software Engineering, BBD Software, Omnigo, RS Components, GEW Hensoldt, Microrobotics, ST Microelectronics, Keystone Electronic Solutions, Rapid M, MWR and PPS Insurance. The success of this year’s event is largely due to their unwavering support of the Faculty.

More than 60 teams took part in this year’s Robot Car Race. Prizes were awarded to the first nine teams whose vehicles passed the finishing line of the five-meter track. The first prize went to Team 8 (comprising Maurice Fourie, Karl Kleynhans, Christof van Veijeren and Aldo Vos) with a time of just over nine seconds. The second prize winners were Team 1 (comprising Cameron Eales, Heinrich le Roux, Rynhardt Lules and Michael van Jaarsveld) with a time of just over 12 seconds. The third prize went to Group 65 (comprising Stephen Barnard, Tyron Serradinho, Lara van den Heever and Luke Winterton) with a time of just over 15 seconds.

The Robot Car Race is the brainchild of Prof Tania Hanekom, who is proving that women can also succeed in engineering. “In the young men and women who participated in this event, we can see the value of an engineering degree from the University of Pretoria,” she says. “The teamwork and innovative thinking that have been brought to bear to not only construct an autonomous robotic vehicle but also ensure that it completes the course in record time, represents the first step our students are taking to make a giant impact on the future.”

Our youth is clearly illustrating their worth when it comes to making a difference in the things that matter by proudly harnessing the powers of technology for the good of mankind.

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