Student engineers compete at European Car Rally in Germany

Three University of South Wales engineering students have been competing with some of Europe’s brightest young engineers at the inaugural Renesas MCU European Car Rally in Nuremberg, Germany.

Sam Allsopp, who is studying BEng (Hons) Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Kitso Masendu and Kanishka Gunathilaka, who are also studying at USW built a model car to negotiate a twisting 60 metre course and know when to change lane and direction. Of the 17 teams from 15 universities that made it to Nuremberg for the competition, USW’s students finished an impressive fifth.

The car came in kit form but the trio realised how difficult it would be when they opened the box. “We basically got a sensor board, LEDs, infra red sensors, resistors and an instruction manual,” said Sam Allsopp. "We didn’t expect it to come in parts; we expected a working model. So it was really challenging to start with.”

Kitso Masendu explained that serious thought had to be put into the car’s ‘brain’. “The car is supposed to follow a line around a 60 metre track and there are markers which denote a change of line or direction. We had to create an algorithm that followed the line, detected the markers and then decided what it needed to do.”

The students engineered the car to run faster, by fitting it with larger batteries and more power, as entrants were judged not just on the accuracy of the car but also its speed. However, all didn’t go quite according to plan. Despite a clean practice run, the car came off the track briefly during the second lap of its run before going on to complete two more without incident. This setback aside though, Kanishka Gunathilaka thoroughly enjoyed competing against some of Europe’s finest young engineers: “I was really pleased with the competition because it was a new experience and on such a large scale.”

Professor Guoping Liu, from USW’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, believes the three should be proud of their achievement: “It’s a very challenging project and a great experience particularly in mechanical design and computer programming. They had to change the structure of the car to make it more efficient and solve a lot of problems. I think they did a fantastic job.”