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‘Hammer Basher and Sparky’ qualify for the WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics National Final


Two males in engineering workshop

Engineering students Cameron Middleton and Adam Kirkpatrick (‘Hammer Basher and Sparky’), will represent Northern Regional College in the WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics national final. Adam completed a Foundation Degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering while Cameron undertook a Foundation Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Both studied at the College in Ballymena and have progressed to the second year of BEng (Hons) degree at Ulster University.

WorldSkills UK is a competition-based development programme designed to enhance practical skills and knowledge taught on vocational courses by assessing competitors’ skills in a competitive environment. The original entry of over 3,000 competitors in 64 different skills areas was whittled down through a series of local and regional heats with the eight highest scoring competitors in each skills area qualifying for the national final.

Traditionally, the WorldSkills UK national finals are held in the NEC, Birmingham but this year, because of COVID restrictions, the finals are being held at 23 venues throughout the UK. With all eight finalists in the Industrial Robotics category representing Northern Regional College, the Industrial Robotics final will be staged at its Ballymena campus.

Cameron, who is now studying Mechatronic Engineering at Ulster University, said: “The College gave me the aspiration to fulfil my intentions to attend university when I didn’t receive the A-level results needed to progress to university. 

“It provided me with an alternative route. Studying for the Foundation Degree meant that I gained practical skills in electronics which have been extremely beneficial at university and also allowed me to progress into the second year of the degree at Ulster.”

Cameron said that the knowledge gained at the College included learning multiple coding languages and he hopes this will benefit him, not only as he progresses through university, but also in his career after graduation.

“It has given me a real advantage as I was familiar with topics which I wouldn’t have been exposed to had I not chosen to do a Foundation Degree,” he said.

Reflecting on his experience at Northern Regional College, his teammate Adam Kirkpatrick described the Foundation Degree as “a building block” for wherever he intends to go in industry. 

He said he decided to study at the College after A-Levels as he “didn’t feel ready for university” when he left school.

“The Foundation Degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering seemed like the perfect stepping-stone,” he said.

Like Cameron, Adam found his College experience extremely valuable, as he gained a variety of skills which range from “practical, hands-on experience” using machinery and robotic programming, material testing, Computer-Aided Design and quality analysis skills.

He added said the skills developed at the College became even more obvious when he was on work placement. 

“The teaching standards at Northern Regional College are second to none. The lecturers are always more than happy to assist and provide further information on a specific topic. The equipment is industry standard and students get training that will prepare them for the real world.

“For any students in a similar position to me and who aren’t quite ready to move on to university, the Foundation Degree option is a fantastic step, allowing me to go straight into second year and work with confidence,” he said.

Adam said getting to the national finals had been a real boost for his confidence. 

“The competition has been a brilliant opportunity to meet new friends, learn industry specific skills and it is a great talking point to have on your CV.”

Northern Regional College Engineering lecturer, Karla Kosch explained that, in order to qualify for the UK national finals, competitors needed to demonstrate that their team could communicate ideas and work together effectively, with the top teams going through to the next stage of the competition. Teams also had to tackle CAD modelling and programming, as well as being tested on their virtual and programming skills using the FANUC Educational robot cell.

The other Industrial Robotics teams in the WorldSkills final are The Cyborgs (Julia Miller and Thomas Simpson), The Athletes (Jude Moore and Aaron Stevenson) and 2 Dudes and 1 Robot (Louie Heath and Brennan Wilson). 

As well as the Industrial Robotics finalists, the College has representatives in three other categories: Lydia Fletcher, second year Computing student at Coleraine, is in the IT Software Solutions for Business final; Savannah Hodgins and Jonathon Wilsdon have made it through to the 3D Digital Games Art and Web Design finals respectively. Savannah and Jonathon have both progressed to Ulster University, having completed a Level 3 Diploma in Creative Media at the College’s Newtownabbey campus. Savannah is doing a BDes (Hons) in Animation while Jonathon is doing a BDes (Hons) in Interaction Design.  

Gordan Kane, the College’s Skills Champion, has congratulated all the finalists who will be representing the College and said it is a wonderful achievement for them.

“We are justifiably proud for them for what they have achieved so far. It is wonderful to get through to this stage of a national competition and is a great boost for them to be able to have this on their CVs. They are shining examples of the skills and talent inherent in our young people. Their achievement also reflects their commitment and dedication to their respective career paths, and I wish them every success,” he said.

Northern Regional College has a proven track record at WorldSkills UK finals: Rory McCloskey and Samuel Gilmore won gold medals in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Milling and Carpentry respectively.

The winners of all the WorldSkills UK finals will be announced during a virtual ceremony hosted by TV presenter Steph McGovern and streamed live from ‘Steph’s Packed Lunch’ studio on Friday 26 November 2021.