The annual Mechanical Engineering Open Day at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a major highlight in the Engineering calendar, is set to take place on Wednesday 16 October at the Unite School of Engineering building, Howard College Campus. Fourth year engineering students will display months’ worth of hard work on 20 ingenious design projects to evaluators, sponsors, parents and the public.

The projects form part of the degree requirements in final year Design and Research Project modules, and groups of three or four students are allocated projects at the beginning of the year. The projects provide the opportunity to gain experience for the working world and put the skills learned throughout their degrees to the test.

Mr Kasheel Kasipershad, Mr Darryn Gopaldass and Mr Muziyanda Hlabisa, supervised by Mr James Collins, designed an indoor mobile security robot that is intended to replace patrol officers as modern security adapts to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Using line tracking and obstacle avoidance, the robot is able to navigate autonomously, and thanks to the installation of a Bluetooth controller, can be controlled remotely by way of a mobile app. Using a camera and a passive infrared sensor (PIR), the robot is able to detect intruders and alert its central control room via email or SMS.

‘The desktop mobile security robot can pave the way for a variety of different technologies that could change the security industry,’ said group leader Kasipershad. ‘It provides a 24/7 sophisticated quality dependent security system that will offer us a sense of security in a country with a high crime rate.’

The aesthetically pleasing robot with its WALL-E like features boasts a simple assembly process and was a great triumph for the team, who were pleased with their brightly coloured and appealing design. The group overcame major software-based problems when working to achieve autonomous movement and a well-functioning security system, but after conducting excessive research and consulting professionals for assistance, they were able to locate and solve the problems to meet all of the project requirements and produce an innovative robot design.

The group had to be resourceful in their problem solving, abandoning a four-wheel drive system in favour of a rear-wheel drive one after a motor failure, and they also worked on a machining a wheel adaptation to be mounted onto the frame.

With this technology becoming increasingly popular, the team looks forward to seeing these sorts of robots offering more permanent security solutions where needed.

Visitors to the Open Day can look forward to meeting the friendly-looking Autonomous Mobile Security Robot travelling by line tracking with the purpose of detecting a human being within its sight and sending a response to the control panel.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied