Winners of industrial robotics competition announced

Hannah Currie and Peter O’Neill

THE winners of the 2023 WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition, held in conjunction with FANUC UK, have been announced at a ceremony in Manchester.

Representing the best of the UK’s rising robotics talent, Hannah Currie and Peter O’Neill from Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland beat over 50 apprentices and students to take gold at the national finals, which were held over three days at FANUC’s UK HQ in Coventry.

The duo now have the chance to represent Team UK at the WorldSkills International Industrial Robotics competition in 2024.

The five teams that made it to the UK national finals were tasked with programming a FANUC ER4-iA robot according to a brief set by the company’s technical team. This involved picking and placing parts and incorporated sensors and pneumatics components, as well as an extension task to create a digital twin.

The teams were judged on skills such as accuracy of programming and equipment installation, as well as teamwork, safety, time management and documentation. The winning team triumphed with an overall score of 97%.

Hannah Currie is currently in the second year of a foundation degree in engineering and is pursuing a higher level apprenticeship in engineering with Wrightbus, where she is employed as a manufacturing technician. Teammate Peter O’Neill trained as a welder with McAuley Engineering and completed a foundation degree in engineering at Northern Regional College. He is now a second-year BEng mechanical engineering student with Ulster University.

FANUC is keen to inspire the next generation of robotics engineers. Technical manager and competition organiser Paul Coombes said, “We want to engage with young people and enthuse them about robotics engineering as a career choice, so it was great to see so many talented entrants for this year’s contest. The standard of the finalists was extremely high, and it was an honour to crown Hannah and Peter the winners with an outstanding score of 97%. The competition will soon be opening for entries for 2024, so if you know a young person who might like to give robotics a try, please encourage them to enter.”

Ben Blackledge, chief executive, WorldSkills UK, added, “This is a life-changing moment for these young engineers. They are the new generation of high flyers that will give UK employers a competitive edge. Our finals, in partnership with FANUC UK, not only celebrate the best in young talent, but also provide a vital opportunity to see how skill development in the UK stacks up both domestically and against our international neighbours.”