USW students take on Europe’s best in engineering competition

MCU car rally

Three University of South Wales 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 electrical and electriconic engineering, and Kitso Masendu and Kanishka Gunathilaka, who are both studying computer systems engineering, built a model car which could negotiate a twisting 60 metre course and know when to change lane and direction.

Of the 17 teams from 15 universities which made it to Nuremberg for the competition, USW’s students finished an impressive fifth.

The car comes 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.”

And, as Kitso Masendu explains, 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 three engineered the car to run faster, fitting it with larger batteries and more power. Entrants were judged not just on the accuracy of the car but also its speed.

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 onto 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.”

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