Battle of the robots as former education secretary visits technical college

Robots galore greeted Lord Kenneth Baker when he visited the newest university technical college in Sussex.

Lord Baker, who served as secretary of state for education in Margaret Thatcher’s government, was treated to a rather unusual hi-tech race at UTC@harbourside, in Newhaven, on May 27.

A mini motorbike and racing robots, built by Harbourside students, were put to the test against a crack team of battle ‘bots called the Creepy Crawlies, made by undergraduates from the University of Brighton.

The home team more than lived up to the challenge, beating the older students to the finishing line.

A remote control racing car, built by Tom Dadswell, 17, was the winner, while Kyle Brackenfield, 17, came second on his battery-powered bike.

Along with Lord Ronald Dearing, Lord Baker founded the Baker Dearing Trust in 2009, to develop and promote the concept of university technical colleges. Since then, 39 UTC’s have opened across the country, with a further 20 scheduled to open by 2017.

UTC@harbourside opened in September 2015 with 110 students and should increase to its full capacity of 600 by 2019.

It educates youngsters aged 14-18 in technical and scientific subjects.

Lord Baker said, “I am very impressed by the various racing robots which the students have made themselves – and they work.

“UTC@harbourside is training youngsters for the jobs of the future in digital technology and modern engineering.

“Tremendous support from the University of Brighton and from local companies will make this UTC a real success.”

He added, “All the students I talked to were really engaged and completely sure that they have made the right decision to come to this UTC. They only wished they had had the chance earlier.”

Among the students was Vinnie Webster, 14, from Newhaven, who has joined the lunchtime robotics club.

He said: “I’m more hands on. In my old school there was no opportunity to improve – I like it here a lot. We’ve been given the opportunity to build our own robots and put them into competition.”

Jordan Lawrence, 18, of Peacehaven said: “There are so many different things we can do here. Not many students our age will have used machinery like this. It’s the only school around here to do this kind of thing.”

Sixth-former Danielle Vences said: “I’ve never used any of this equipment before coming here. the facilities are amazing and the teachers are very knowledgeable.”

Sophie Lewis, 14, of Peacehaven, said: “We have a choice of activities. We do mountain biking, badminton and climbing at Plumpton College and the boys have started doing gym there too.”

College principal Adanma Umunna said: “It was an honour for us as the new UTC in East Sussex to host the founder of the national UTC movement, Lord Kenneth Baker, last week.

“We had scheduled a robot race for our end of half-term activities in order to give our students an opportunity to test out some of their original designs against some proprietary brands and robots built by older students from the University of Brighton.

“The central race pitched Kyle’s [Brackenfield] hand-made motorcycle against Tom’s [Dadswell] super-car.

“The kit-built super-car did lap the constructed model. Nevertheless, the race gave the UTC students and our guests from the University of Brighton the chance to take pride in their achievements as budding engineers.

“We are proud of our students and were pleased that Lord Baker was able to spend time with them and see some of the work they have done here.

“The staff and governors have worked very hard to give them these new learning opportunities.

“Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, interests and locations but they all have one thing in common: being inspired through science.

“At UTC@harbourside we are also privileged to share that inspiration.”

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