Hackers, robots and real-world solutions
15 November 2022
Launchpad was the venue for an exciting robotics hackathon last weekend (11-12 November). Members of the MSc Entrepreneurship course rubbed shoulders with AI specialists, coders, web developers, robotics students and gamers to work on a daffodil picking robot designed by Robotics Technician, Ben Green.
The whole project was conceived by MSc Entrepreneurship Lecturer Vivienne Neale who has a long-standing interest in agri-tech (from a purely theoretical perspective and refuses to get her hands dirty!): “In a past life I wrote many thought-leadership pieces on plant proteins and agri-tech developments, and it remains a real passion. In July 2022 a new independent report was commissioned by the UK government into automation and agriculture. It was written by Prof Simon Pearson at the University of Lincoln. One of the recommendations was for the agriculture sector to develop stronger links with academia to push innovation.”
Vivienne felt this was too good an opportunity to miss as Falmouth University has recently developed a robotics department at the Games Academy: “Having a university placed slap bang in the middle of a vast area that has agriculture right at the heart of it I decided to reach out to Varfell Farm and develop a partnership. There were plenty of raised eyebrows as agriculture is not in the University’s DNA but I thought, well robotics wasn’t part of it either, two years ago, so let’s see what happens.”
The next phase was to undertake a site visit and see the extent of the problem when it comes to picking daffodils and make a link with Lincoln University to consider undertaking knowledge exchange.
Vivienne added: “When our local MP, George Eustice, came in to talk during the hackathon, he said that we had chosen the most difficult problem to solve, which was not a surprise as that’s the kind of project I tend to develop!
“However, it has been such an exciting time. Ben developed a robot that we code named ‘Daffy’ and put out a call for students and those with an interest to join us in hacking some further developments over a weekend and 22 people answered the call.
“Tom Brothers and James Absalom were key players as they are studying Robotics and have proved seminal in Daffy’s ongoing development. It is an example of making things happen and an entrepreneurial education. It is Falmouth University’s role to develop a modern knowledge economy and to be an entrepreneurial university. Our aim is to develop the ability to recognise opportunities, find inspiration for new initiatives and innovation where others only see difficulties and problems. We are keen to focus on action, not just theoretical learning.”