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Department of Engineering

James Buckley wins The Duke of York's Award for Creative Use of Electronics

James Buckley wins The Duke of York's Award for Creative Use of Electronics

James Buckley

First year Engineering student James Buckley has received the prestigious Duke of York's Award for Creative Use of Electronics, with £1000 prize money. He also won The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair entry of £250 plus a trip to San Jose, California for the event. He was also Highly Commended for the Young Engineer for Britain award for which he received £150 prize money.

James describes his prize winning system, which he designed and made whilst at King Edward's School Birmingham; "I designed a system to allow Duke of Edinburgh expedition leaders to keep track of walking groups through the hills/mountains without them having to arrange meeting points. Traditionally Duke of Edinburgh leaders arrange meeting points along the route each walking group is following, to ensure they are not lost and are making progress. This works fine until a group actually get lost, at which point the leader then has to juggle finding the lost group while still meeting the others repeatedly. This generates large amounts of stress on the leader. My Idea came about due to first hand experience.

"How the project works: Each walking group is given a transmitter to put in a backpack. Each transmitter contains a GPS receiver along with a 2.4GHz radio transciever. The Duke of Edinburgh instructor has a 'receiver' which again contains a GPS receiver but also a colour display. On the display each walking group will show up as a red dot (imagine a radar style display), with their position, walking direction, velocity, and positional accuracy plotted on the display. The system allows multiple transmitters (at least 20) to be used (each one just shows up as an extra dot). Communication between the devices is done by 2.4GHz radio. The current devices range is only 1.5 km, however with a simple component replacement this can be converted to 15 miles (which would make the device much more useable). However, one advantage is that all the devices relay information between each other. If one group is out of range of the instructor, yet there is another group between them both, the position information from the out-of-range-group will be relayed through the in-range-group, allowing the receiver to still plot the position (commonly called 'mesh networking').

"The main difficulty encountered was physically manufacturing the device. A requirement of the A2 Design Technology course was that the project had to be made 'in-house'. Because my project was so complicated, we did not have the tools in school to make high quality, multilayer, PCBs. This meant I had to come up with my own fabrication methods for most of the manufacturing stages.

"All parts of the project were designed by me (electronics, software, and case). The case was manufactured using a 3D printer which another school allowed me to use."

Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, The Dean of the School of Computing and Information Technology from the University of East London presented the prestigious Duke of York Rose Bowl award. As part of his prize James will get the opportunity to visit Buckingham Palace for the official presentation from the Duke of York later this year.

These awards were part of the 'National Science and Engineering Competition' hosted at 'The Big Bang Fair' which features compelling and exciting shows, workshops and presentations and displays that cover the entire spectrum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Lord Mandelson presented a number of awards and gave a short speech where he praised the young talented entrants, saying they were very important for the future of the country.

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