[Article by Amber Viviers]
Third-year engineering students in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University (SU) decided it was time to have a bit of fun with one of their design projects to end the semester before the final exams started.
The students, who had to develop a small remote-controlled electric vehicle as part of their Analogue Electronic Design module, competed to see whose cars could drive the straightest, fastest, and survive a “robot wars” battle the best.
At the end of the race, which took place on Friday, 21 October, the winners were Gerard Madsen-Leibold, Joshua Sello, Dylan Vorster, Rudi Venter and Gabrielle Liebenberg.
Prof Thinus Booysen, who holds the Research Chair in the Internet of Things, says the students had to realise the lecturer’s childhood dream of designing a remote-controlled car. But, he added, it was not as simple as it looked.
“The students had to control one wheel using analogue control (with an op-amp-based DAC and emitter follower) and the other using PWM control (with a low-side MOSFET switch). Moreover, they implemented analogue range sensing to avoid oncoming objects, again using analogue on the one side (with a PWM to analogue converter) and digital on the other.
“The vehicle had to independently report the current consumed by the two wheels and the remaining voltage on the battery. They also had to design a battery charger,” Prof Booysen said.
This was the first year since the global Covid-19 pandemic that lectures could resume entirely in person again. “This hands-on approach is a key benefit to becoming an engineer at Stellenbosch University. This tangible advantage, in which we take great pride, is epitomised in our design modules,” he added.
Tené de Wet, class representative and one of the organisers, said the competition was put together very quickly with the help of the other class representative, Chad Sims-Handcock and Prof Booysen.
“After such a busy semester and many late nights in our labs, I felt we just had to enjoy the end product a little, and I’m glad so many students felt the same. And, of course, we also just wanted to brag a little to our fellow Maties students!”
Some of the students made videos of the development and progress of their remote-controlled cars.
- (top left) Prof Herman Engelbrecht, Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, handed the prizes to the winners.
- (bottom left) One of the remote-controlled electric cars that third-year students had to build for their Analogue Electronic Design module.
- (right) The students who competed in the “robot wars” battle with their remote-controlled electric vehicles.
Photo credit: Ignus Dreyer