High tech sporting spirit at Luton’s robot games

Posted on 26 Jun 2012

As athletes around the world hone their skills in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics, a different kind of competitor got ready to compete for glory at defence firm Selex Galileo's site in Luton. Those competitors? Robots!

It’s all to do with the Rampaging Chariots robot games, originally developed by one of the brains behind the BBC’s Robot Wars TV show and Selex Galileo engineer Peter Bennett, and it’s now held annually at the company’s sites in Edinburgh, Luton and Basildon.

It’s aimed at getting school kids interested in science, technology, engineering and maths by smashing the traditionally stuffy and boring reputations of these subjects with a thrilling demonstration of what these skills can make happen out in the real world.

“It’s all about branching out to a wider audience and getting more people into engineering” emphasised Peter Bennett, the man behind the project. “These games give children a chance to come up with some very innovative ideas and applications for technology. That’s what engineering is all about”.

Built to win

Weeks earlier, young people from all over the local area had formed teams and, with a little help from Selex Galileo’s engineers, built their own robotic challengers. The robots had to be able to compete at football and sumo wrestling and to tear around obstacle-laden assault courses.

On Saturday, that hard work and preparation paid off as the schools got to see their creations battle for glory. Eleven schools lined up to test their skills, and their robots, in the finals of this year’s competition and just like in the upcoming Olympic Games, for some teams that work paid off in the form of medals.

Team Wall-E
Team Wall-E

One of those teams was from local St Alban’s School which, with their robot Wall-E (pictured) took home both the gold medal for the assault course and the prize for best overall design.

“In lessons at school, you don’t get to do any really huge projects” said student Timothy Furlong as he made some last-minute repairs to the robot in between matches. “This is a big, personal project, and we’re really seeing the theories we’re learning about in science in real life,” he said.

Fellow student and team-mate Mark Hardwick agreed, saying “It’s really helped us to decide that this is the kind of career we want, that’s why we’re both applying to do electronic engineering at university.”

Throughout the day, local MPs Gavin Shuker (Luton South) and Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) were on hand to help judge the robots’ designs and see the level of talent on show. After helping select the best overall design, Gavin Shuker MP was full of praise for the hard-working students, saying “It’s fantastic for local schools to come and be inspired by engineering in an event like this. The quality of the projects has been extremely high.”

Kelvin Hopkins MP also saw the future potential of the students taking part, commenting: “I am delighted to see so many of our local school children making technologically brilliant robots for the Rampaging Chariots competition – and having so much fun taking part. These talented and dedicated young people are Luton’s future engineers”