Sheffield engineering undergraduates triumph as only UK students to finish in the top three at annual Siemens worldwide competition

University of Sheffield engineering students have been placed third in their category at the prestigious Siemens 'Tech for Sustainability Campaign 2023' final.

Siemens students
Cassia Hitching, Saad Mahtar and Panithan Rithburi.

They were the only undergraduates from the United Kingdom to be put in the top three and the only students to compete in their category alongside other entrepreneurs and researchers, beating 17 global finalists, 135 applicants and winning 2000 euros.

Students Cassia Hitching (final year UG MEng Materials Science and Engineering), Saad Mahtar (3rd year UG BEng Mechanical Engineering) and Panithan Rithburi (1st year PG MSc Robotics, Department of Automated Control Systems Engineering) entered the ‘ecodesign for motion control systems’ category. They presented their final idea ‘sustainable repair solution’ in front of a panel of senior management at Siemens.

Tech for Sustainability is a global initiative developed by Siemens for students, researchers, start-ups and innovative individuals to leverage technology to solve real-world sustainability challenges and shape the global future alongside Siemens - the largest manufacturing company in Europe.  

Siemens Motion Control products are the ‘beating heart’ of industry and cities all over the world, providing market-leading motion control capabilities. Siemens products ensure that the world keeps in motion with a broad range of applications such as machines, robots or logistics. Siemens provided the team with relevant data on two of their motion control products, an inverter and a motor, so that they could demonstrate eco-innovation ideas on actual real world products.

Team Leader Cassia said:

“We're tasked with making a Siemens product more sustainable, either by thinking of new materials, or new designs, or even new business models to achieve this, so what we chose to do as a team was to improve product repair. We specifically focussed on repairing PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards), which are key components of motion controllers and other electronic devices.” 

Panithan said: 

“Our original idea was to try and make a product that we could recycle, but this was very challenging. After meeting with my friend from industry, we decided to focus on making the PCB more repairable, so still a sustainable target, but making it repairable rather than recyclable. We realised that for potential Siemens customers, repair is often quite inconvenient, it's usually very slow and expensive with products sent back to the repair centre. We realised we need a way of making repair easier and more attractive for customers, to encourage repair rather than just throwing it away, which obviously has a negative environmental impact. 

“Therefore we redesigned one part of the product, so the customers could repair it on site rather than having to send it away to a repair centre. In essence we kind of made it like a jigsaw puzzle. So you just take out the part that's broken and put in a new part! So it's really easy, minimal waste, minimal time, and just a much more attractive repair solution for customers.”

Saad said: 

“We worked with Siemens specialists during the challenge's development phase from January to March. The Siemens team gave us lots of guidance and then we were put in contact with someone from their customer services. Siemens taught us how to pitch our proposal and held workshops during the three months for the competition, then we had a week-long ‘hackathon’ to finish our product and idea.

“After planning and considering our goals, we worked nonstop! Siemens provided two German ‘hackers’ to aid us with our idea over the week and it was amazing to learn from people who are experts in their respective, technological field. On the last day of the hackathon, we presented to Siemens top management via video chat and we only had five minutes! We were the only remote team as everyone else was in Munich!

Cassia continued:

'We’re really proud of what we achieved in this challenge! As the only undergraduate team in the final of our category, it has been an incredible opportunity to learn from Siemens experts and other competitors. We have all learnt new skills and developed our technical knowledge, which will no doubt benefit us throughout our university journey and beyond. I would definitely encourage other students to enter this challenge as it has been such a positive and valuable experience!'

You can read their pitch here

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