School of Engineering hosts Siemens 48-hour hackathon - and Birmingham students take home the gold

The University of Birmingham has hosted the 5th annual Sir William Siemens Challenge in the state-of-the-art School of Engineering Makerspace.

Group of University of Birmingham Engineering students holding their hackathon prize trophy

The winners, Team Simocast, made up of Subhaan Hussain, Axel Gonzalez, George Edwards, Alexandru Spinu, Dumitru Mavris and Ayman Hussain

The Sir William Siemens Challenge is designed to identify emerging engineering talent across the UK and give young people a taste of what it is to work for a leading technology company.

This year's competition brought together more than 70 students from 27 UK universities studying engineering, mechatronics, robotics or digital courses, including computer science, cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, telecommunications or a related degree.

Multi-disciplined teams of seven were challenged to build and programme a unique mechanical/electrical device using data from Mindsphere, Siemens' industrial cloud-based operating system.

The teams had access to the full spectrum of facilities and equipment School's Makerspace with the capacity, flexibility, essential materials and components to build almost any tabletop device teams could dream up. It is the first time the Makerspace has been used at scale following the opening of the new School of Engineering building in 2021.

The winners, Team Simocast, made up of Birmingham students Subhaan Hussain, Axel Gonzalez, George Edwards, Alexandru Spinu, Dumitru Mavris and Ayman Hussain, created a robotic flower with petals and an LED array that opened and closed and changed colour in response to the temperature and levels of carbon monoxide and oxygen in the room.

Dumitru, 20, said: “As a computer science student it was amazing to interact with engineering disciplines and see my code come to life.

“The hackathon was a great experience and I would very much recommend it to any student.”

The Engineering Makerspace was designed as a flexible digital workshop that acts as a gym for our students and industrial partners who want to make things and provides access to machines and facilities for making: woodworking, metalworking and digital production. The Makespace has a community of student and staff makers and companies using the equipment providing space and machines to make, create and innovate.

Dr Richard Hood, Head of Practical Skills, School of Engineering

We are delighted to have been able to work alongside Siemens in our £3M OfS-funded Makerspace, and it has been wonderful to see the bold and creative designs from the student groups. Events like the Sir William Siemen Challenge create opportunities for new practical learning exposure to state-of-the-art technology – exactly why the makerspace was established, to democratise innovation.” Commenting on behalf of the judges, Colin Morris, Siemens Mobility’s Lead Development Engineering Manager, said: “The judges were blown away by the standard of the competition and the range of innovation on display throughout the weekend. There was a clear demonstration of adaptability, collaboration and problem-solving skills from across the teams. The winners stood out for excelling in the data-driven, engineering and creative elements.

Professor Karl Dearn, Deputy Head of the School of Engineering

Such was the talent on show, Siemens has offered more than 30 participants access to an internship or graduate opportunity with Siemens’ Digital Industries, Smart Infrastructure, and Mobility businesses.