Search and rescue robot winner

Transmission Developments (Transdev) has helped Andrew Cowan, a student at Sutton Grammar School, to win a top prize at the recently held finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition for his novel and low-cost, search and rescue robot.

Cowan's tracked robot uses Transdev's BRECOflex ATK10 series timing belts with special Linatex high grip bonded backings and matching pulleys to provide the robots' traction which has been thoroughly tested by towing a car during field trials.

The radio controlled robot won the Engineering Technology prize in the intermediate 15 – 16 year age category with fierce competition from 190 projects amongst 346 UK wide competitors.

His own design brief was to produce a cheaper alternative to existing search and rescue robots built for bomb disposal work which are too expensive for other potential users such as local fire and rescue services or earthquake emergency response teams. The robot's equipment complement includes sensors to detect oxygen levels and flammable gases and a special camera system with infrared and normal LED lighting to help locate victims, even in the dark. In addition an ultrasonic radar system traces a 2D map of the immediate area and the vehicle is equipped with a towing hook to remove large objects such as rubble from the disaster zone.

Transdev worked closely with Andrew Cowan and teaching staff at the school as a project sponsor, providing applications expertise as well as the belting and pulley components. The simplicity of using timing belts with bonded high friction backings proved a low-cost yet effective solution for the robots' traction. Although the application is somewhat 'off the wall' even for  Transdev, the Poole based power transmission component manufacturer and supplier is quite used to customised belt solutions for powertrains, parts and materials handling, and to solve complex processing problems.

BRECOflex ATK 10 series polyurethane belts feature a central V-guide for guaranteed self- tracking, enabling the use of low profile flangeless pulleys that do not protrude above the belt line which was important for the search and rescue robot's tracks. Used in demanding applications ranging from conveyors to high speed and high torque engine power transmission systems, these heavy duty belts are part of the BRECOflex POWER range and include continuous helical tension members with 'S+Z' twist to further reduce belt run-off and heavy side loads on flanges.

Cowan's success in the competition has resulted in his selection to represent the UK in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists that is taking place in Lisbon – Portugal for five days in September. Only three people are selected from each country, so it's quite an achievement and Transdev is keeping fingers crossed for him.

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