The University of Edinburgh are one of our Scottish partners for our annual engineering competition which asks pupils aged 3-19 ‘If you were an engineer what would you do?’ and encourages pupils to come up with creative solutions to real-world problems.

Based on the idea of a Primary 1 pupil, Iona, from Linlithgow Primary School, the Glowbot is designed to help children who are afraid of the dark find their way to the bathroom at night.


Iona envisioned a robot that could help tidy up her toys, light up and guide her to the bathroom though a dark house at night, and to make sure it had claws. The team at University of Edinburgh took those ideas and started to develop the prototype.

They initially wanted the build to have a dual wheel so it could be a self-balancing robot with a basic chassis that further features could be added to. It was designed to light up and follow a line on the ground that can lead the child from the bedroom to the bathroom. A body was developed to encase the robot, taking design inspiration from the drawing provided by Iona. The head & torso sections of the outer enclosure were printed and the robot was tested, evaluated and debugged.


The team had some issues in devising the best way to enable the robot to navigate autonomously. They selected a line following algorithm to ensure that it would not get lost on its way from point A to point B. Further to this, they made sure that the robot contained additional sensors to detect obstacles in its path, for which it can either stop moving and wait for the obstacle to be removed, or attempt to navigate around the obstacle.


In the future with any further prototype developments, they would have loved to add an interactive screen that would enable the robot to show personality and emotions, adding additional sensors, including machine vision which would allow the chassis to navigate the environment with more autonomy, and even allow it to track and follow coloured targets, worn by the user or placed around the operational environment, and a feature to enable users to communicate commands to glowbot vocally, using natural language processing, and have the robot respond in a calm tone to reassure the user.

They also envisioned further add ons possibly including the ability for the robot to pull a cart behind it while following the pupil around the room, assisting in tidying up toys and teaching stewardship of our surroundings.


On Tuesday May 28th pupils from schools across the East of Scotland visited the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering to receive awards and recognition for their engineering ideas. The prototype was also unveiled.

Professor Gareth Harrison, Head of School at the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering, opened the event:

“We were delighted to host this event with our long-standing partners Primary Engineer. Today’s celebration event brought the pupils, teachers and engineers back together for an awards ceremony and to view the exhibition of over 200 winning and highly commended entries for the South East Scotland region. It has been fantastic to see how the children have been able to identify problems and come up with such inventive solutions. It was also great to unveil the prototype for ‘The Glowbot’, of one of the winning entries from last year’s competition, built by our technical staff in conjunction with it’s primary school creator.”

Extracted from Primary Engineer website, read more here

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