I was a Research Scientist for BMT Group (they do sea technolgy stuff) I was helping them with their robot fish project
PhD student and finishing in a few months!
I currently work for a robotics laboratory
Working towards giving autonomous underwater robots a sense touch, and enabling them to feel the water moving around them by using whiskers
My Typical Day
Mostly reading, writing and thinking. Less often, but equally important I talk to people about engineering, I run experiments and I make things.
Reading, Googling, talking, this is the fuel for the ideas, concepts and plans. When I was younger I was very determined to find just the word for the thing I wanted to learn and study, I was looking for the the electronic thing which makes a robot do stuff. I might have even been told the answer previously, but I did not know at the time that was the thing I was looking for. I now know the word very well, its is microcontroller. There are always many ways to do things, but for me I get my robots or system to sense and move with microcontrollers. You all might know what a microcontroller is, or at least you can look on wikipedia right now to see.
So for me part of being a researcher is trying to find words or scientific publications to explain things I have seen and want to do, then then building on this to make something new.
Now on to the making and experiments part. A nice example is for my experiment to sense viscosity with a whisker. Viscosity is like how thick a fluid is, honey or fluid mud is more viscous, water is less so. The experiment consists of one whisker on a controlled motor called a servo, and this whisker is in a waterproof tray where I can put mixtures of fluid in. I have the whiskers 3D printed in the lab the way the need to be for my experiment, then I assemble them by hand and calibrate them and then waterproof them. The experiment is run is a temperature controlled room as fluids change viscosity with different temperatures, and I check nothing else will interfere with the experiment. Finally I program my microcontroller to move the servo which moves the whisker back and forth in the mixture, the microcontroller then sends the readings from the whisker sensor for storage and for me to process at my computer. By this point I have read a lot about seals, manatee and walrus whiskers, also engineering work for how the fluid should move around the whisker, and finally I have read more how what exact viscosities I should expect for these exact mixtures. When the experiment is done I write about how it went and try to explain what happened, hopefully it is success but if not then it needs to be studied to find out why it happened the way it did.
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to help sick orphan robots.
No really I would use the money to repair two little whisker robots we use for public engagement, and I would patch Mechalobster up a bit he is in need of a lot of repairs.
It would be brilliant to see all 3 of the little whiskered robots fully functional again, perhaps I can post a video here of them working if I win!
Here is the @Bristol video they made of our lab, me and Mechalobster are in there too:
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Determined, caring, and probably quite silly
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I think the underwater robot competitions, and the SHOAL sea trials are by far the most brilliant experience I have ever had as an engineer.[links] Although the most heart warming was when I visited a primary school in Bristol and talked to them about robots, afterwards they all sent me little hand drawn thank you card with robots they drew. The SHOAL robot fish and underwater robotics competition links are below in the work photo section
What did you want to be after you left school?
When i was very young I wanted to be a scientist, but when I actually left school I did not really know what. First I thought I should pursue computing, but eventually I found out about robotics and focused my efforts on that.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Oh um, I will just check with my science communication officer at the uni on how I should reply to this!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Now this is a tricky question as it took me a very long time to decide to be an engineer. I would be very happy working in most STEM area jobs such as a research scientist, but that is too much of an easy answer. Other than STEM I love being outdoors and making things, so perhaps I might choose to train as a commercial sailor or a repair person.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I like loads, Daft Punk and AC/DC are two nice examples.
What's your favourite food?
Chips, bacon and cheese.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I actually love sailing. Not fast sailing mind you, I really enjoy just like exploring in my old boat that seems to be falling to bits and constantly need fixing, i actually like the repairing bit!
Tell us a joke.
Why did the robot go back to robot school? Because it’s skills were getting a little rusty! I have a sea related one too