A team of Department of Mechanical Engineering students has recently won the First Prize and the Special Enterprise Award in the 9th “Mitsubishi Electric Automation Cup” National Automation Innovative Design Contest for College Students held in Nanjing, China from 3 to 7 August 2015. The PolyU team competed against 64 teams from other universities on the Chinese mainland and snatched the top honour.
Co-organized by the Chinese Association of Automation and Mitsubishi Electric (China) Co. Ltd., the contest aimed at enhancing students’ ability and creativity through incorporating theories with practical applications of automation technologies. Contesting teams were requested to design and build a set of innovative devices or models which could make use of relevant automation products of Mitsubishi Electric. Based on the theme “Intelligent Manufacturing, Green Creation”, the designed products had to follow the development trend of automation technology and could put to good use.
The PolyU team comprising six mechanical engineering students (KWOK Ho-chun, HUNG Hiu-yee, LEUNG Wing-yan, SHIU Tsz-yan, TAM Wing-yiu and TING Hung-kuen) had designed an automatic beverage bottles collecting machine which aims to reduce the amount of daily plastic waste by collecting plastic bottles and recycling them into new products. The ultimate goal is to help the general public to build the habit of recycling with the aid of a rewarding system.
The physical working unit is an automatic beverage bottles collecting machine which will be installed in the public areas. Customers can choose to login to their accounts while the amount of plastic beverage bottles collected will be counted as credits which can be transferred to coupons or even e-money used in online shopping platforms. Suitable plastic bottles will first be identified through barcode scanning. The caps of the bottles will be removed while the remaining body parts will be compressed and shredded afterwards. The storage space required for these processed plastic chips is hence greatly reduced when compared to that for the unprocessed ones. The functions are performed by respective physical modules which are controlled by the PLC and monitored by various kinds of sensors like optical sensors, limit switches etc.
As the winner of the Special Enterprise Award, the six students have been awarded a special trip to visit Mitsubishi Electric’s manufacturing facilities in Japan.
The Mitsubishi Electric Automation Cup was first launched by Mitsubishi Electric (China) Co. Ltd. in 2007. The contest not only provides an innovative and practical platform for students to realize their creative ideas with the advanced Mitsubishi Electric automation products, but also improves students’ abilities of automation product application and enhances their practical skills by applying what they have. The annual Mitsubishi Electric Automation Cup is further divided into two contests ─ Automation Innovative Design Contest and Automation System Application Contest, which take place in alternate years.