Battle of the 'Derbots' At University

14 March 2011

Derbot Challenge

Images from the 2010 Derbot Challenge.

Derbot Challenge

Robot rivals built by international teams will pit their electronic wits against each other as part of a University of Derby engineering challenge.

The Derbot Challenge will see 27 students from electronics and engineering related degree courses, in nine teams, put home-made miniature robots through their paces around an obstacle course time trial. The event will be held in Auditorium Three, at the University's Markeaton Street site in Derby, at 11am on Tuesday 15 March..

Taking part will be students from six countries including the UK, Brunei, Zimbabwe and India.

Derbots are independent robot vehicles, guided by their own built-in mini computer or microcontroller brain, rather than a human controller. Similar microcontrollers are found in cars and consumer electronic products such as washing machines, and give machines a degree of 'intelligence'.

Tim Wilmshurst, University Head of Subject for Electronics and Sound, came up with the original Derbot design. All his students begin with the same basic model but then add their own modifications, including light and sound sensors, and create a computer programme for it.

Each robot must follow the same track laid out in Auditorium Three, avoiding or moving objects, and locating a light source. Points are awarded for speed and accuracy of operation.

Tim said: "Derbot Challenge is an established annual event. It's fun for the students and there's a lot of healthy rivalry but it's also teaching the skills they'll need later in their careers.

"For example, as an engineer you're frequently part of a project team working with people from all over the world."

Handing out the prizes at this year's Derbot Challenge will be Jon Rudd, 23, a 2010 graduate of the University's BSc (Hons) Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree course.

Jon is directly using knowledge gained during his degree studies, including the experience of building his own Derbot, to now design a system for Derby firm Davis Derby Ltd to improve the safety of people working alongside industrial vehicles in warehouses, quarries and mines.

He added: "I'm currently working on automatic object detection systems on forklifts, increasing levels of safety in dangerous working environments.

"My forklift weighs five tonnes and can travel at 20mph. Using radar and ultrasonic sensors, which operate on the same principles as the Derbots' sensors, the vehicle can brake in dangerous situations."

Taking part in this year's Derbot Challenge is Liza Webster, 27, of Kedleston Road, Derby. She is in the final year of a BSc (Hons) Music Technology and Audio System Design degree course.

She said: "It's a really good project. Building your own robot is a good way of learning about the technology and we get to work in teams, which we don't with other modules on the course."

For further information please contact Press and PR Officer Sean Kirby on 01332 591891 or 07876 476103, or email

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