24 hours to hack: Inside the 3rd Annual Hack-A-Bot at The University of Manchester

During the weekend of March 16-17, 200 students gathered for Hack-A-Bot at The University of Manchester (UoM), which infused the halls with creativity and innovation. Organized by the University of Manchester Robotics Society, this event marked the 3rd annual Hack-A-Bot, aiming to unite students across disciplines in a rapid development environment. With a primary focus on robotics, edge computing, and rapid prototyping, the Hack-A-Bot has quickly become one of the largest hardware-centered hackathons in the UK.

The students, in teams of up to 4 members, had 24 hours to hack their way through three main challenges. One of which was the Sony Spresense challenge, which aimed to develop hardware or software to assist technicians in their daily tasks within the Makerspace of the University. Participants had to deliver a five-minute pitch to convince the judging panel, consisting of both academia and industry members working for Sony, of the project's value and functionality.

Eagerly taking on the challenge, sixteen teams leveraged Spresense's capabilities to create innovative solutions for the Makerspace: a hub for student innovation that provides tools, equipment, and resources - from soldering stations to 3D printers - to help students implement their ideas. In addition, two members of the Sony SSUP were at the event to assist the students with technical support, to help them get started with the board, and to answer all their questions.

And the winner is…

The winning project was ALIbot, a multifunctional board leveraging Sony Spresense technology. The prototype was designed to be an assistant to the technicians of the Makerspace, and it featured three primary capabilities: continuous image capturing for capacity monitoring, utilizing advanced machine learning algorithms; human detection through image processing; and a greeting audio player.

Highlights from Hack-A-Bot's Diverse Projects

Overall, the participants explored a multitude of solutions, emphasizing rapid development and effective communication in their final presentations. Examples of other projects included a car robot that would distribute protective equipment to the students in the Makerspace and a water-gun-equipped robot to detect and put out small fires. Other examples were solutions to detect how many people were in the Makerspace and alert when it had reached its capacity of 50 people, and a monitoring solution for the lab equipment recording what was taken from it and by whom.

This 24-hour hackathon was filled with inspiration, where technology and creativity converged, and had remarkable results. Congratulations to the winners and all who participated, and here's to an exciting future that's full of opportunities in the field of technology and sensing solutions.

More information: