Congratulations to Upper Sixth students Joseph Birch and Finley Stirk who recently won the prestigious Young Innovator category of The Engineer’s Collaborate to Innovate (C2I) Awards. The students entered their product ‘AutoMate’, which makes the game of chess ‘acc-chess-ible’ to everyone. 

AutoMate integrates eye-gaze tracking and voice commands with a chessboard that is capable of moving around pieces autonomously. This means a user with a motor disability, such as arthritis or cerebral palsy, can play chess when normally they may not be able to. 

Joseph and Finley previously entered AutoMate into the Big Bang Fair 2023 competition, the UK’s biggest STEM celebration for young people, and won the Intellectual Property Office Award for Outstanding Innovator. This gave them some funding to further development their concept model. 

Joseph says, “The C2I awards were recommended to us as a follow on from the Big Bang competition as they are both connected to Engineering UK. We had to submit a written entry, focusing on how collaboration has led to the success of the project and what the anticipated impact of it will be. We also had to produce a short video showing our design process, goals, the ‘end’ result and its future plans. 

“It was fascinating to learn about the other winning projects as part of the awards ceremony in London, as all videos were shown. We were then able to network with the other shortlisted project teams. We were fortunate enough to talk to some incredible engineers, such as the team working at Apian who are creating a drone delivery network for the NHS to help deliver blood and medical equipment more efficiently. We also met the overall winners who were part of Duchenne UK, creating a device to help people with muscular dystrophy maintain their mobility. So left feeling very inspired. 

“A very useful meeting was with some researchers at the advanced manufacturing centre in Sheffield who offered to help us in manufacturing some of our more complex components. Engineers from Babcock, the event sponsors, even offered us work experience. We were pretty pleased with how the evening went!” 

Joseph and Finley hope to develop their AutoMate protoytpe into a saleable product and are considering adapting the design for different inclusive board games. They are also looking at the possibility of kick-starters or making the project open source. Well done to both. 


The Engineer magazine published a double-page spread about AutoMate in its latest issue, which you can also read HERE, for the full details of how the students developed the product.  

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