Congratulations to two Lower Sixth students Joseph Birch and Finley Stirk who have been named as finalists in the Big Bang Competition 2023. This is a national science and engineering competition which challenges young people to solve real world problems with creativity and innovation.  

Their project is called ‘AutoMate: the chess board for everyone.’ As big fans chess fan themselves, and coinciding with the chess boom at Trinity, the students decided to tackle accessibility of the game. They have created a mechanised board in which pieces are moved through voice or key controls with magnets and QR codes under each 3D-printed resin chess piece. They are looking to integrate eye-gaze tracking technology too.  

As a DT A Level student, Joe has been tackling the design and engineering aspects of the project, while Computer Science A Level student Finley has focused on developing the coding. The friends have also worked with a former Trinity student who moved to King’s Maths School on the project and entered as a group (to qualify). 

Joe and Fin said, “We’d heard about the competition from former Trinity student Surya Vijayanand, who was a winner for his robotics model of a human hand in 2021.  

“We did a lot of research into different designs and coding algorithms before deciding on something we wanted to develop. We’ve worked on it during lunchtimes at Trinity, and used the laser cutter in the DT Department, but the majority has been done at home. There have been lots of late-night calls to orchestrate combining the coding and the mechanisms, which was quite a challenge. 

“We were inspired by the Wizard’s Chess board in Harry Potter, where the pieces move by magic and by integrating eye-gaze tracking technology, we’ll be able to achieve that goal. Joe’s mum works at a special needs school, and we’ve talked to the students and teachers there to really understand the users’ needs and how we can design this product to be as accessible as possible.” 

As well as being finalists, Joe and Fin were also nominated for a Special Award for Outstanding Innovator sponsored by the Intellectual Property Office, for entries which demonstrate a significant technological, design or cost improvement to an existing idea. 

The students will now present their project as part of the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham in June. Good luck Joe and Fin!

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