On 4th July ten school-age teams came together in the innogy casino in Essen to present their projects to an expert jury. The VDE Technology Prize, now in its thirteenth year, always features a broad range of concepts and this year's event was no exception, including as it did a WLAN biomass power plant and music-making robots.
The presentation from Theodor Heuss High School in Recklinghausen really started with a bang. The team used a video demonstration to explain the idea behind the project, which involved a method to prevent ATMs being blown up by gas.
A few metres further on, a dispensing machine was set up to distribute teaching material, while another group presented a self-navigating quadrocopter, although this was not allowed to take off inside the hall. Some of the more fun-like exhibits included a 3D printer that worked on sugar icing and a music-making robot that was 'programmed' with colour cards.
The jury therefore had some hard choices to make and in fact at the end of it all they decided to award a special prize in addition to the three main ones. This was bestowed on ASGSG from Marl. Their team had opted to tackle the problem of ageing LEGO robots whose controls tend to fail over time. The solution: take a fairly cheap Arduino Micro PC and develop it into a universal controller that can breathe new life into old robots.
In the main awards third place went to the Ostwest Vocational College in Datteln, whose team had developed a Smart Home app designed to monitor and control home technology systems. Second place was awarded for the Bean Box created by the Don Bosco High School in Essen. This computer controlled box allows students to observe the growth of plants under different environmental conditions.
The first prize ultimately went the team from Thomas Morus High School for their Horse Bot, a robot whose movements were designed to emulate those of a horse. The bionic 'legs' that the robot uses to run, trot and gallop were created by the school team themselves using a 3D printer.
'I am naturally delighted that the main prize is going to a team from a school fairly close to our main factory', said a smiling Harald Golombek, the managing director of Blumenbecker Automatisierungstechnik, speaking at the awards ceremony. Blumenbecker has been sponsoring the first prize of some 2,500 euros for quite a few years. Golombek went on: 'As we have seen again this time, the VDE Technology Prize is an inspired platform that we are happy to support, particularly if it means getting young people excited about technology.'
Students from the technical course and their teacher Dirk Hanke were then invited to tour the Blumenbecker factory in Beckum - an offer that was gladly accepted.