I'm currently employed by Didactic Services, a FESTO Partner, as a Senior Applications Engineer.
I'm currently the WorldSkillsUK Mechatronics Training Manager
I'm also a Visiting Lecturer at Middlesex UniversityOccasionally I can be persuaded to Freelance!
For the 2019 WorldSkills UK Mechatronic Team Selection competition in March, I wanted to design a modular production line that — that produced popcorn (and drinks)
The System needed to be capable of dispensing & weighing popcorn kernals, transferring them into a popcorn popper, and then popping them
The system (as seen in the GIF) was comprised of 5 tasks, spread over 3 days (14 hours build time)
The competitors build up the system, starting with the simplest system, and then moving on to the more complex features as the days progress.
The system ejects a pot from a magazine, checks if it is the right way up usign an analog IR height sensor, then transfers it to the filling area, on station 2. It then either fills with popcorn, or liquid, depending on the choice selected from the HMI. — The the pot is transfered back to the 1st station, and then onto the 3rd station. At this point the system allows you to pump the popcorn down to the popcorn popper, and then the popcorn popper is turned on using a networked plug socket (240v)
About two years ago I started my role as the Mechatronics Training Manager for Worldskills UK
The role involves training and planning training sessions, and competitions with a group of competitors (6 max), with the ultimate goal of selecting a team of two to progress to international competition.
As part of my role, it is increasingly important to log the progress, times, and scores of various tasks, to be able to benchmark competitors against each other. This, coupled with a need to collect reviews and provide feedback to each of the competitors, and provide an opportunity to share files with competitors, led me to the task of building a dedicated tracking and metrics site.
I embarked to build the site, and, due to my choice of stack, decided to name it “nodeSkills”
It had way too much going on on each page, and tried to lift some of the graphics available on the original workdskills site, but the inevitability of feature-creep meant I continued adding styles and features, and even a horrific imessage inspired feedback system
While the system worked, my lack of understanding in async techniques caused some horrible hangs on page load, and the recommended model of generating data before page load went out the window, with much of the chart/layout generation happening on the fly in handlebars — It wasnt pretty from a code perspective.
V1 never really launched properly —Sadly the website never saw the light of the www, and was instead was confined to die in my localhost testing environment
Note: It still booted at the time of the article being written! — something i was pleasantly surprised to find.
nodeskills v2 — nodeskills v4
The next iterations were few and far between, but mid 2017, after the 1st cycle ended, I decided to scrap, and restart the site, launching with a fresh face, (and importantly a user-facing URL) — Ultimately, something that would not be achieved until the start of the Kazan Cycle in early 2018
I decided to switch from Bootstrap to Bulma (my new favourite layout framework) and in doing so developed a cleaner look for the site (although it became very messy once i started using a custom charting interface
After struggling profusely to handle data entry properly, I decided to switch from Express to Koa, and from Handlebars to EJS, as the combination promised to be ‘new’, and a little more async friendly — I took a long and varied walk down exploring socket.io for dynamic data entry… At one point i through caution to the wind, and dropped SQLite for A new-fangled JSON based database lowdb. — It turns out storing the whole database in memory is a bad idea, so this was quickly reverted.
NodeSkills V (Five) was launched to a fan-fair of one, on the Jan 24th, 2018
The site has been rebuilt again, using Koa, EJS, Bulma, and finally Knex/Mysql to handle the database connections. — Sometimes its just easier to stick to what you know.
The site is hosted on Heroku — pulling the latest deploy straight from github, making this the easiest site i have ever had to maintain — gone are the days of FTP hell!
I think for next cycle, I’m going to need another re-write. nodeSkills VI will probably be mongo / react. I’m not sure that it is necessary, but it will be yet another learning Experience
Jack and Danny have been training hard for the last 3 years for their place in team. They successfully gained a well-deserved BRONZE medal in Euroskills Budapest 2018 — You can see a reaction interview with them here.
– register your learners for WorldSkills UK Competitions by 7 April!
WorldSkills UK Competitions are now open until 7 April, and you can register your learners to take part here. The competitions enable learners to build on their knowledge and develop their technical and personal skills. For employers and training providers, the competitions are a mechanism to benchmark their activity, raising standards in training programmes across the UK.
The Apprenticeship Levy can be used to support your learners’ involvement in WorldSkills UK Competitions. Participation in the Competitions can be used to contribute to the 20% off the job training requirement for apprentices. Find out more here For the last 65 years, WorldSkills UK Competitions have been helping young people from all backgrounds to Go Further, Faster, in their careers, find out more at Hwww.worldskillsuk.or #SkillsCompetitions #GoFurtherFaster @WorldSkillsUK
And not every blog post needs a gist.. but sometimes the two go hand in hand.
Today I am teaching a class on the use of the Gazebo Simulator in ROS — While I have spent quite some time poking around in ROS, I haven’t used the simulator much before this week, when coincidently, I have been using it heavily in my ongoing MSc research — More on that to come —
I spent some time poking around on the internet for some updated teaching material… some of the old slides were feeling a little dated, and it seemed like a good idea to see if the Jackal Simulator could be installed under Kinetic, as Indigo is feeling very 2015 as of late
I stumbled across a gist written just a few months ago, that seemed to be exactly what i needed. But sometimes, a little update is needed.