How well do you know your SI units? Low-tech ‘gamification’ of SI unit revision with this clever deck of playing cards.


The International System of Units (abbreviated to SI from the French Système International d’Unités) is the modern form of the metric system and is  a system of units of measurement devised around seven base units and the base 10 mathematics. It is the world’s most widely used system of measurement, both in everyday commerce and in science, technology, Engineering and Maths.

The system has been nearly globally adopted. Three principal exceptions are Burma (Myanmar), Liberia, and the United States. The United Kingdom has officially adopted the International System of Units but not with the intention of replacing customary measures entirely.

The Autonomous Systems Lab, based at Southampton University, UK have devised a clever way of helping anyone studying Engineering or the Physical Sciences learn and revise the SI units by incorporating 52 of the most common units into a deck of standard playing cards Continue reading

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The importance of proportional simplicity in competition robotics: Reflection on my past Eurobot experiences


This year will be the 3rd time that I have entered Eurobot as a serious competitor (Last year, in 2011, I attempted to throw an entry together the night before the UK competition for a bit of fun and never really had time to write the software). I’ve spent a lot of time of late reflecting on my experiences in the competition, and it has become apparent that there are several reasons why people enter the competition:

  • Small-budget entrants, who are in the competition to see how far they can go.
  • ‘Work-in-progress’ teams, who are using the competition as a focus to develop a particular algorithm or technology. These teams are in the competition for the learning potential rather than the winning potential, but are in the competition to demonstrate what they are capable of.
  • Large team, large budget entries seem to be the most successful overall. Often, these teams have entered for several years and know the competition inside out. They are serious competitors, who aim to develop a sickeningly impressive machine with the resources available to them.

My previous entries have fallen into the first category, which is arguably the most challenging position to be in. Continue reading

12-zone perimeter detection from 6 ultrasonic sensors


The proximity sensing in ‘An Accident Waiting to Happen’ was done by a PICAXE 28X2 microcontroller, reading 6 Devantech SRF-10 ultrasonic sensors mounted around the perimeter of the table. The PICAXE board was programmed in PBASIC using their proprietary IDE. The detection cones of the 6 sensors overlapped slightly, so there were area where an observer would only be detected by one sensor, and also areas in between these where they would be detected by 2 sensors. This gave us 12 ‘zones’ in which to detect objects. Proximity readings were taken by the 6 sensors in sequence, and this was output to the PLC as a 4-bit parallel signal representing which zone had the closest object. Continue reading

Random ‘Art’ Robot


The results of a 1-(long)-day project with ASL colleague Darren Lewis to build a robot to produce random works of ‘art’.Whether the work of a machine can truly be classed as art is still debatable, but the task of writing a computer program to generate pseudo-random movements was not without it’s challenges. Continue reading

Reconfigurable beginners’ robotics kit


An assignment to help develop a reconfigurable robotics kit for Mindsets, a local company who specialise in science and technology products for educational and hobby purposes. Continue reading