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Martin Garland

Martin Garland
Course studied:
Design Technology for Robotics BSc (Hons)
Year of graduation:
2008

‘My degree will help man to explore Mars’

 An interest in making things

“I’ve always enjoyed making things. As a kid I would often build with LEGO, creating towers that were taller than me, complex mechanisms and, later, programmable robotic bricks with motors and sensors. My drive to build things progressed onto RC cars, model planes, boats and kits where I first learnt about servos and electric motors. In Year 7, aged 12, I entered a Young Engineers’ competition for Best Invention. My project – a flying car – won first prize in my category. My entry featured a working model that was lifted by four small propellers. During my A-levels, I studied computing where I learnt a software language and much of the programming experience that would later see me through my Robotics degree.”

Why Robotics?

“After college I knew that I wanted to be an engineer and, most importantly, build and design things. So why did I choose Robotics and not straightforward engineering? Well, I realised that my skills, interests and understanding all lay beyond just mechanical engineering, electronics or software. Robotics requires knowledge of all three disciplines and the end product I found hugely satisfying – plus impressive! Designing, building, programming and then seeing your creation come ‘alive’ is incredibly rewarding.”

One of the few places to study Robotics in the UK

“At the time, there weren’t many places in the UK where you could study Robotics. Originally I came to Staffordshire University to study a Mechatronics course, a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering. However I met with Senior Robotics Lecturer, Sam Wane, who told me about his course and its practical hands-on approach. It was just what I was searching for, so I transferred to Robotics and never looked back. I still remember my first assignment: using robotic LEGO to design, build, program and test a sample fetch robot!”

An amazing tutor

“Throughout my time at Staffs, my tutor, Sam Wane, was amazing. Not only did he allow me to work on my own robot projects, he encouraged it and was always willing to help – even out of term time. Sam allowed me to design and manufacture an eight-legged robot with terrain adaptation for my project. This was invaluable at the NEC graduate fair where I was able to demonstrate the robot to employers.”

A great social life – and great friends

“In the first year alone, we did a total of seven surf trips, ending the year with a week-long road trip around Cornwall. The club was a fantastic way to make friends. I’ve since been to many of their weddings and see those who work here in London most weekends.

“Often during my studies and projects at Staffs, I would come across problems, perhaps a software programming issue, for example. Well, I would go away with the Staffordshire University surf club and forget completely about the issue whilst surfing, only to return back to work with a new angle or way of thinking about and solving the problem. I still surf today, as well as enjoy a whole range of other watersports with those same friends plus some new friends from my current workplace.”

“During my first week at Staffs Uni I went to a fresher’s fair where there was the opportunity to sign up to sports and social clubs. I was asked if I fancied joining a surf club and initially declined. Two weeks later, however, I decided to get involved – it was possibly my best social decision during my time at Staffs.

Graduate recruitment fair – companies wanted to speak to me!

“In my final year at Staffs Uni I attended a graduate recruitment fair at the NEC, Birmingham. Thanks to the advice of my tutor, who I think saw something in me that I didn’t (he told me to be more ambitious and really go for the top companies), I took my final year project  – the walking robot – with me. It wasn’t long before a rumour went around the fair that a boy was there with an eight-legged walking spider! Companies were requesting to speak to me! One of those companies was called Astrium Ltd where I learnt about the ExoMars mission – the European lead robotic Mars Rover.”

The ExoMars mission

“After a gruelling interview process, I was offered a job in Astrium Ltd’s space mechanisms department. My first task when I arrived was to do some R&D work for ExoMars, a programme that will see two missions travel to Mars (one in 2016 and another in 2018) in a joint European Space Agency – NASA undertaking.”

An Asteroid lander

“During nearly three years of working with Astrium, I have been involved on many projects and studies, from an asteroid lander robotic arm to a lunar rover concept. I have also had the opportunity to travel through work, visiting suppliers, attending training courses and testing hardware / rover prototypes in Tenerife, Vienna, Friedrichshafen, Paris and Toulouse.

“Perhaps one of the most responsible tasks I have been given at Astrium Ltd is my current role. One of the core products our mechanisms department produces is a robotic actuator which deploys and points the antennas on board our telecom satellites which provide GPS and mobile phone signals etc.

“I am technical lead for designing our new range of robotic antenna pointing actuators. I now get a kick knowing that the stuff I design goes into space!”