Students learn theory, practice and a few lessons in life

The Maze Runner might sound like the title of a movie. Not in this instance. It is the name of the group project for final-year Mechanical and Mechatronic students where they learn mechanical and electronic design, manufacturing and control. Along the way they also learn very important lessons in life: Competition in the professional world is stiff and you cannot always choose the team you have to work with.

19 May the Mechatronic Laboratory was abuzz with excitement. Eager teams were ready to outshine each other. The occasion? The annual competition where the Mechatronics 424 class compete against each other in a prescribed project.

Dr Karel Kruger who presents this module says: “This project requires groups (comprising five students) to design, construct and programme a mechatronic system that allows an operator to guide a ball through a maze board with pins. The performance of the system is measured by the speed that a ball is guided through the maze as well as the accuracy of its control. Apart from their final-year project, this is the only opportunity students get to do a complete project which includes mechanical design, electronic design, manufacturing and control.”

Dr Kruger elaborates: “In general, the quality of the projects was very good. I am always astounded by the systems the students come up with. This project is presented as a competition which ads a fun element to it. Our students are fiercely competitive and a mere three seconds separated the winning team from the runners-up.”

Selecting team members is done randomly. Apart from it being fair, it also teaches students a very important lesson: As engineers you will not always be able to choose the teams you want to work with – so get on with it and make the best of it!

Click here to see the winning team’s stellar performance.

Click here for the project description.


The winning team

From the left: Dr Karel Kruger (lecturer), Anri Kruger, Pierre de Villiers, Jody Julius, Luke Dyson, Kevin Neaves (Technical Officer) and Jason Raubenheimer.