Students challenged to design nuclear fission and fusion decommissioning robots

13th May 2024
Sheryl Miles

Students in West Cumbria have been tasked by the Robotics and AI Collaboration (RAICo) and the Industrial Solutions Hub (iSH) to design and build robots which will be showcased at a major robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) industry event.

Students aged 16 to 18 from West Lakes Academy and the Energy Coast University Technical College (UTC) are taking part in the challenge, with the aim of each school developing a small robot capable of transporting a mock nuclear waste barrel.

The four-week sprint challenge is designed to encourage creativity, innovation, and an enthusiasm for science and technology, focusing on RAI.

Participants will demonstrate their new skills through showcasing their robots at the ‘Harnessing Robotics and AI for Challenging Environments’ event to be held at Energus, Lillyhall, Cumbria on 21st May 2024.

The RAICo-supported event, designed to showcase the region’s RAI capability, is a chance for the students to network with industry professionals, listen to keynote speeches, and find out about opportunities in the sector before they embark on their careers.

The decommissioning waste challenge will incorporate coding, engineering, and creativity skills, creating a stand-out point for university or apprenticeship applications. The task replicates real-world challenges within the nuclear fission and fusion decommissioning industry.

RAICo is a collaboration between the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Sellafield, and the University of Manchester. The collaboration is accelerating the deployment of robotics and AI in nuclear decommissioning and fusion engineering.

iSH, based in West Cumbria, works on delivering programmes that bring together industry, SMEs, academia, national bodies, research facilities, and community to deliver growth and regeneration opportunities.

Representatives from iSH and RAICo are visiting the students at West Lakes Academy and the Energy Coast University Technical College (UTC) once a week for four weeks, offering guidance and a chance to build relationships with industry professionals.

It comes as part of a commitment to make a positive difference to Cumbria’s social and economic climate.

Sophie Finlinson, Project Manager at RAICo who has led the development of the challenge, said: "This educational outreach initiative offers practical exposure to students interested in STEM subjects. It could represent a pivotal step in someone’s journey towards a successful career in our industry. We’re excited to see the robots take shape."

Hannah Pears, Education Liaison Officer at iSH, is visiting the schools, along with engineers from RAICo, to support the students and prepare them for their presentations.

Pears said: “Who knows what exciting outcomes this could lead to? These students are engaging in a unique opportunity where they can demonstrate their skills, ask questions to industry experts, and gain experience that will look amazing on their CV.

“The challenge encompasses the emerging technologies that will revolutionise industries in West Cumbria and beyond, and will show young people that there are opportunities to be part of something innovative right on their doorstep.”

This is RAICo’s first collaboration with schools in West Cumbria. The collaboration will use effective community engagement to develop its socio-economic impact strategy with the aim to engage many more schools and colleges to inspire future industry professionals.

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