Warman is Back!

20 September 2022

UC Undergrad Teams Gather for Preliminary Rounds of the Warman Competition

  • Warman 2022
Warman 2022

It is that time of year again, meaning Warman is back! Dozens of our undergraduate engineering students congregated together to participate in the preliminary rounds for the 35th Warman Design and Build Competition.  

The competition, for those unaware, is a collaborative group project where teams design and build a proof-of-concept prototype device under the parameters given in mission objectives supplied by the Warman governing body. This year's mission, "Project Renew," is once again a call from the people of Gondwana, who desperately need assistance from Earth's student engineers! The mission parameters for this year are for Earth's student engineers to devise a system to transport a mock "package," via a wire rope, across a chasm and thereby help the Gondwanans transport a crucial impellor part that is urgently needed.   

The Warman competition is always a highlight for the undergraduate student body and outside observers due to the unique and creative solutions developed to accomplish the same goal. A recognizable component of this competition is the emphasis on teamwork. With the technical aspects and time considerations that need to be made, these competitive conditions help introduce our student engineers to environments they are likely to encounter as they progress into their careers.   

The top three teams for these initial rounds in order are Team 1A5 (represented by Alex Broadhurst, Peter Howard, Aden Sadler, Benjamin Wilson), Team 2D3 (represented by Harriet Alderson, Elliot Alloo, Ned Hancox, Sebastian Lampen, Robert Rossiter-Stead), and Team 1B4 (represented by Kele Cheshire, Max Field, Danny Su, Nicholas Thompson).   

We had a chance to contact some of these teams to gain some perspective on their experience in the competition so far and gain some insight into team 1A5's planned development as they progress to the international part of the competition.  

To say the preliminary rounds were exciting is an understatement. Spanning two separate events, dozens of our teams participated valiantly, with emotions running high as time and effort finally manifested into working prototypes. We were privileged to observe these initial events and would like to express collective congratulations to all team participants. However, as this is a competition, only one team will move on and have an opportunity to represent UC in the international component of the competition. A high bar to achieve given UC's previous success, most recently with last year's victory.   

Although Warman is competitive, the atmosphere surrounding it is viewed as positive and supportive, with Team 2D3's Ned Hancox expressing, "I feel Warman has brought our cohort a lot closer together, and despite being a competition, everyone was more than willing to help or lend advice." This comradery throughout the process appears to be a recurring and welcome theme from participants, given the high demands of the competition.   

Team 1A5's Pete Howard states, "The Warman Competition is one of the most excruciating yet rewarding experiences of my life. We worked to each other's strengths while empowering and trusting each other, with good communication throughout."     

What makes Warman so engaging is the number of different approaches devised to solve the same problem. Balancing priorities requires careful consideration as teams cautiously walk the tightrope between risk and reward. A key element for successful teams appears to be not over-engineering a solution, discovering when something reliably simple yet effective will suffice. Ned had this to say, "we went down a simplistic route making it easier to build and troubleshoot our system. The downside being our robot did not have the speed of some of the more sophisticated designs."    

Whether to focus efforts on constructing a reliable system or something that performs the desired tasks quickly is something each team wrestles with throughout the process. Commenting on their design, Team 2D3's Elliot Aloo recollects, "Our approach was to go for a reliable system that will always pick the wheel [package] up and place it accurately. The trade-off for our system was the speed; we were reliable and accurate. However, we were slower than most teams and had one of the heaviest systems."    

In reviewing what made their design so successful, Ben Willson discussed Team 1A5's approach, "The key to our design was in simplicity and speed. This, of course, comes with an extra challenge of being consistent, something that came to bite us in the rear on our first run. The key difference in our design compared to many other teams was using a railing for which the wheel rolls down instead of an arm that picks up and holds onto the wheel. The design was key to our success; once we sorted out our inconsistencies, there was nothing in our way."     

Moving to the next round evokes questions on how a team can improve. Tweaks and adjustments can help shave seconds off a machine's time but can lead to the invariable challenge of knowing when to stop.   

Team 1A5's leader Alex Broadhurst aptly surmises, "Our plan currently is to chip away at making small improvements until competition day. There are still a few possible improvements to make, like setting up our code to be more efficient by making some movements happen simultaneously, which could make our run faster by up to 10 seconds. We really could go on and on making constant improvement, but you have to stop yourselves somewhere – and Gertie [their prototype] really is a great machine already!"    

Whichever strategy Team 1A5 decides to implement as they advance into the next round, what is certain is that the competition will undoubtedly be exciting. We have nothing but support and positivity to offer Team 1A5 as they progress forward and represent UC in the international competition! 

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