Staff at JET’s remote handling unit recently took time out from their busy schedules to meet the next generation – students who, while still at school, are already building robots. The students are participants in Student Robotics, a national UK competition to build a robot which will fully autonomously compete against other robots in a game to conquer territory by manipulating tokens on a square grid eight metres on a side.

Remote handling operative Gary Hermon was impressed with the group. “It’s a challenging thing they have to do, and they were so keen, so into what they were doing. We gave them a tour of remote handling and they were brilliant, firing excellent questions at me. There’s a lot of commonality with what they are doing with industry. As it happened we were doing maintenance on the motor train and the control system, just what they were doing too.”

The event at JET, which was a practice for the actual competition, was organised by CCFE graduate engineer Andy Busse, who became involved with the competition during his studies at Southampton University. JET’s assembly hall provided the perfect open space for local students to put their robots through their paces – although one school drove nearly 200 kilometres for the opportunity to visit JET!

Mr Busse, who regularly mentors at one of the schools, also emphasised the practical nature of the competition. “I work in Power Supplies – there is a lot of engineering overlap with the projects, for example electronics and programming feature in what I do.”

Just as in real life, the elegance of the solution is important. “You could have a very complex solution that doesn’t win, or a very simple solution that does. The competition gives them as much scope as possible – that’s how they learn!”

CCFE is the UK’s signatory to EFDA, and is also the operator of JET.