Students engineer robotic future

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, 12:00am

Engineering students who thought the work of lamp post cleaners and painters was too dangerous have designed a robot to help them.

The 'mechatronic' device - so-called because it combines mechanical, electronic and computer engineering - can climb and clamp itself to the post, powered by a compressed-air pump and controlled automatically or manually by a micro-processor.

Alan Fung Sik-lun, leader of the four City University students who designed the robot as their final-year project, said he was inspired by the workers and wanted to make a machine to help reduce their risks.

'I saw the workers cleaning the lamp posts in mid-air. It's quite dangerous,' he said. 'I hope this will be available on the market in the future.'

Mr Fung said most of the time spent on designing the robot involved working out numbers and making sure it was structurally strong and secure enough to do its job.

'We spent a lot of time doing the calculations. We didn't know too much programming when we started it, so it was like learning and working at the same time,' he said.

The project earned the four students a good grade but Mr Fung does not seem to be satisfied with that. 'I don't want to limit its function. I hope it can do more, like adding robot arms to it to switch on light bulbs.'

The prototype weighs 15kg and can climb up to 2 metres, but Mr Fung said there is no limit to how high it could go after modifications to its weight and design.

Another highlight was provided by students from Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School, whose Treasure Hunting Robot operates underwater and can also collect rubbish.

A group of Form 4 students made a dancing 'megatronic' robot. Alvin Lai Tsun-lok, 15, and his schoolmates, inspired by the summer action movie Transformers, took three months to make the yellow robot 'Bumblebee' dance.

The 50 inventions are on display as part of a student science exhibition the Metro City Plaza Phase 2 until October 7.