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Northern Regional College’s strong representation at WorldSkills UK qualifiers

(L-R): Former Northern Regional College student, Adam Kirkpatrick, who will be competing as part of Team UK at WorldSkills international competitions in Shanghai later this year; Engineering lecturer Alastair Mitchell; Carlie Carson and Jason Scott, (qualifying stage competitors); Engineering lecturer, Karla Kosch; Ryan Crooks, Luke Casidy, Julia Millar and Lewis Wright (qualifier stage); former Northern Regional College student, Cameron Middleton and Northern Regional College student Adam Kirkpatrick, who will be representing Team UK at WorldSkills international competitions in Shanghai later this year.

THREE teams representing Northern Regional College competed in the ‘qualifier stage’ of the Industrial Robotics category in a bid to secure a coveted place in the WorldSkillsUK national finals later this year.


To reach the qualifier stage, teams had to successfully complete the challenges of the ‘passive stage’ of the competition held last month at the College’s Ballymena campus.


Northern Regional College’s engineering department has a proven track record in Industrial Robotics at the WorldSkills UK National finals. In 2021, teams representing the College had a clean sweep picking up gold, silver, and bronze medals in the category.


Automation specialist FANUC and the international skills competition organisation WorldSkills have been working together in recent years to encourage young robot programmers. Prior to competing in the qualifiers, competitors benefitted from an intensive training session on industrial robot cells at the company’s training facilities in Coventry.   


The teams representing Northern Regional College were Julia Millar and Lewis Wright; their team was called ‘Elite Engineers’. Julia completed her Foundation Degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at the College and is now doing a degree in the same subject at Ulster University, while Lewis is doing a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Electrical & Electronic Engineering at the College.


Ryan Crooks and Luke Cassidy who make up the ‘Wrightbots’ team are both completing a Foundation Degree in Engineering. Ryan is now a Higher-Level Apprentice with Wrightbus completing a Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering degree, while Luke is studying full-time Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the College.


Jason Scott and Charlie Cassidy from team ‘Gonk’ are both doing a full-time Foundation Degree at the College. Jason is studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering while Charlie is studying Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering.


Engineering Lecturer Karla Kosch explained what the teams had to do for the qualifying stage of the competition:

“The main part of the task was to create a programme on the FANUC Teach pendant - a hand-held device used to interact, program, and problem solve the robotic system. Completing the task involved solving a 2D puzzle, assembling the gripper on the robot and activating the pneumatic gripper.


“The main part of the task for the three teams was to create a programme on the FANUC robot system to assemble the puzzle pieces from specific assigned positions and enhance the programme with the task of disassembling the puzzle. They had three and a half hours to complete the task which created additional pressure on the competitors as they were working against the clock.”


The results of the qualifying stage will be known next month and, while they are waiting for the results, the College’s three teams will continue with their training on FANUC’s Educational Robotic Cell at the College’s Ballymena campus, under the supervision of Engineering lecturers Karla Kosch and Alastair Mitchell. 


Karla said they were delighted that former engineering students, Adam Kirkpatrick and Cameron Middleton, had offered to help prepare the teams for this year’s competition.


“Adam and Cameron were silver medallists at WorldSkills UK national finals last November and will be competing in WorldSkills International finals in Shanghai as part of Team UK later this year. Their generous offer of support was well received by all six competitors who are aiming to follow in their footsteps by progressing to the national finals and then potentially the international WorldSkills competition in Lyon, France 2024.” 


WorldSkills UK is a competition-based development programme, designed by industry experts, to enhance the practical skills and knowledge taught on training courses. The skills competitions assess employability attributes against set criteria in a competitive environment. The programme has a positive impact on competitors with 90% of previous entrants saying their career progression improved after competing.


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