Professor Martin Levesley
How I came to work in robotics was a chance encounter; someone from Medicine wanted to talk to me about using robotics in their area. I didnt know much about robotics or anything about physiotherapy, but you soon realise that how people move their arms, in what looks like weird and wonderful ways can be translated into engineering principles and used in robotics.
Its genuinely multi-disciplinary; bringing together engineering, computing, psychology and medicine. Our students get involved in all sorts of projects, for example, weve built a robot to support the rehabilitation of people whove suffered strokes. My students were tasked with producing a grip to connect the robot to the patients hand the robot can then mimic the work of a physiotherapist but in the patients home. The students went to talk to stroke survivors to find out how they had been physically affected and to see how they could design something to help recovery. At first the students were apprehensive but soon realised that people are appreciative of student engineers doing something to help them. So its been a really positive, confidence builder for the students.
We like to help with the transition to university learning to change the mind-set of students coming onto the course, from it being all about text books and solving equations to understanding and solving real world problems from the outset. Students are challenged to take learning from the lab and lecture theatre and produce something practical, like building a robot or a vehicle, and then show it works. They progress from a elastic-band powered vehicles to building race cars that compete at Silverstone. Seeing their passion; that emotional attachment you just dont get when youre only solving equations. Its immensely satisfying to see my tutees going on to work for Formula 1.
Having all these bright people around me really engaged students and academics makes me appreciate how lucky I am: Ive got one of the best jobs in the world.