We are a founding member of UK-RAS Network and delighted to have taken part in the first UK-RAS Conference on ‘Robotics and Autonomous Systems’ (RAS 2017). Cohort 2 researcher Rhys Comissiong, Cohort 3 researcher Christos Kouppas and our Centre Manager, Donna Palmer attended the inaugural event.

The conference aimed addressed the synergetic interaction of human and robotic technologies. As robots and agents have begun to enter our everyday lives they begin to do so in an increasingly autonomous way. These increasing levels of interaction will pose serious challenges to the capability of robots to interact with humans in an increasingly autonomous way. The talks were categorised into three general topic areas including 'Assistive robotics' and 'Aerial robotics'. Talks covered a range of application areas from the nuclear industry to health and life sciences.

Oral and poster presentations were given by PhD and early-career researchers from all members of the UK-RAS Network and illustrated the breadth of robotics and AI work taking place across the UK and the fruitful conversations taking place during the breaks demonstrated the importance and relevance of this conference taking place. Prizes were awards for the best presentations and posters, the winners being invited to present at TAROS 2018.

The Image below is of Christos Kouppas presenting his work.


Cohort 3 researcher Youssef Hamid recently attended Reliability Engineering for Electronic Packaging (RELPACK 2017) organised by IMAPS. He write, the day was hosted by Daresbury laboratories and consisted of presentations, tutorials and a number of exhibitors. Topic areas presented included, material design for harsh environments, the use of computational modelling to illustrate failure and the use of design of experiments for qualitative accelerated life testing. Also presented was the different ways to mimic end use when investigating reliability testing of wearables. I attended RELPACK specifically because I was looking for an overview of packaging techniques such as BGA / Flip Chip technology / wire bonding. I got to meet Prof Chris Bailey from Greenwich University and Dr. Colin Johnson from Oxford University, which could bridge possible collaborations. From the industrial perspective, I met with Ville Hevonkorpi from Primoceler in Finland whose work is of great interest. Ville presented his work novel hermetic glass packaging for demanding applications and provided some amazing examples of the manufacturing services and reliability validation.

Summary of RELPACK 2017 written by Keith Arber, Bassem Mouawad, Chris Powley & Stephen Riches.

Written by Cohort 3 researcher Matt Hammond.

I recently attended a training course hosted by Swagelok Nederland and delivered by Phil Harris (Insight Analytical Solutions, Inc.) who has over 30 years’ experience in analytical instruments and systems. The training took place over 5 days at Swagelok Nederland’s offices in Waddinxveen, Netherlands. The technical course is aimed at process technicians and managers who regularly deal with analysers and sampling systems, such as in the oil and gas and chemical industries.

The course covered various components of sampling systems from obtaining a sample, transporting and treating the sample, and analysing the sample, and the design issues that can occur in each area. Three key criteria were emphasised throughout the course: compatibility, timely, and representative. Compatibility refers to the components and materials used and how they should be chosen based on the sample being collected and the state the sample is in. For example, certain filters may be needed to remove dirt and condensates from a natural gas process stream before it reaches the analyser. Time is also a key issue in sampling systems. If the analyser is used for process control, a fast response time is necessary to adjust process parameters in real time. When designing a sample system, it’s important to know where pressure drops occur, for example over valves and filters. Finally, obtaining a representative sample means obtaining a meaningful analytical result for its intended purpose. Loss of representation can occur due to chemical reactions within the sample, fractionation during phase changes, and contamination valve leaks and adsorption.

The course was very intense and covered concepts taken from chemistry, physics and engineering. Over the next few years, I hope to be able to apply the knowledge I gained from this course to my research into Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). A key issue in LNG composition measurement is the current need to vapourise the sample and measure the gas phase, however fractionation and sample enrichment are common problems, and sample system design is a hot topic.

Cohort 4 researchers Luke Wilkinson and Pete De’ath recently attended the Royal Society of Chemistry’s conference ‘Assessing & Managing Real Life Risks from Chemical Mixtures’ at Burlington House, London.

The morning session consisted of two sections; ‘Human and Environmental Assessment of Mixtures – State of the Art Research’, and ‘Industry and Regulatory Approaches for the Management of Mixtures – State of the Art Tools’. The research section included presentations from Prof Stephen Holgate (University of Southampton) on why it is important to regulate chemical mixtures; Prof Greet Schoeters (VITO Belgium) on human biomonitoring and biomarkers and how they can be used to link exposure to environmental chemical mixtures; and Prof Paul Whitehead (Oxford University) on modelling and analysing mixtures in an aqueous environment. The second section consisted of presentations from Dr Tina Mehta (DOW Chemicals UK) on industry’s approach to assessing and managing chemical mixtures; Dr Stephanie Bopp (European Commission JRC, Italy) on the regulatory approach of assessing and managing chemical mixtures; and Prof Jacob van Klaveren (RIVN, Netherlands) on the future of European infrastructure of chemical mixture testing and assessment. While both sections were interesting, the first session being more research based was much more relevant and understandable. The second section was industry focused and was a lot more confusing as there were many undefined acronyms used, which made the presentations very hard to follow.

The afternoon session consisted of 4 breakout sessions. The session we attended was ‘Bridging from Science to Risk Management for Decision Making’ and included a range of people from various scientific, regulatory and industrial backgrounds. While it was interesting to hear the ideas and procedures from each of the people present, it was very difficult to contribute much as the session was very industry focused.

The most enjoyable part of the day was the start as the presentations were more interesting and relevant to our current research positions; however the later sessions were useful for exposure and an insight into areas outside of our current field.

Cohort 3 researcher Chris Kouppas, had the opportunity to represent his co-sponsor Motion Robotics and showcase his work at two large exhibitions, New Scientist Live and Innovate 2017. Chris had the following to say about each event

New Scientist Live

In this event we had the opportunity to speak with the end-users (general public) and discuss about their needs and opinions about having a robot in their home. During the event I got more comfortable about my PhD and what people think about that area. The company benefitted from suggestions of the customers, e.g. the robot feet look too bulky and in our next exhibition we made it smaller.

Innovate UK

At this event, the main aim was to meet future investors. I got experience talking with business and companies that need to make collaboration either for the end product or on-going research. We ran a demonstration to show potential investors the first steps of the project (literally, the first steps of our robot!). Since Innovate my co-sponsor has collaborated on a funding proposal with a new company who they met at the event so, they found a new collaborator and, potentially, new funding.

2017 Innovate

Cohort 3 researhc Robin Hamer attended a one day event in partnership with the RAF’s human factors practitioners and the CIEHF. The event was very well run and was tailored more towards the aviation industry with a specific focus on military applications. Since RAF Odiham is the country base of the Chinook fleet, we were given a unique opportunity to have a tour of the Chinooks, the maintenance area and of the training simulator. It was good to see how proactive the RAF are with human factors and how they are continuously look to improve their human factors practises.

The most useful part of the day consisted of the workshop whereby human factors specialists from RSSB came and presented their human factors taxonomy to attendees. This taxonomy was a way to identify contributory factors to accidents in an in-depth manner. We used this taxonomy on three case studies from the aviation industry and it proved very useful to find what goes wrong in organisational accidents, but what also goes right. It was also very good of RSSB to show everyone how to use this taxonomy properly. I can see this being very useful in my PhD as a starting point and I can already see how it can be developed for the nuclear industry. Although the taxonomy wasn’t perfect, it was a good starting point, so I am glad I managed to get my hands on it.

All in all, the event was a success. I managed to obtain the documents I wanted too and managed to network with other human factors specialists not in my domain.

Last week we were delighted to welcome Professor Shigeki Sugano from Waseda University in Japan last week. Professor Sugano gave a guest lecture as part of the CDT in Embedded Intelligence Foresight Series on mechanical intelligence for human-robot interactions. Following the lecture had the opportunity to tour department of Computer Science as well as the Autonomous Vehicle Lab, the Centre for Intelligent Automation and the Sports Technology Institute.

Staff and students attended from across both partner Universites as the talk was streamed online. Professor Max Zecca, who is a Visiting Professor of Robotics at Waseda University, took the opportunity to promote the JSPS Summer Programme, which provided MPhil and PhD students the oppportunity to a fully paid internship at a host institution in Japan for 2 months. 

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