How Do You Start a Robotics Club from Scratch? Northeastern University London Students Found the Winning Formula
As a current first-year engineering student at Northeastern’s London campus, Aidan Carrier helped to create a new robotics club that has already developed a talented robot that won the Unibots UK robotics competition.
LONDON—NUtron had just barely made it out of the first round, but the newly built robot made by the recently formed Northeastern University London team had a secret weapon.
Like other robots in the Unibots competition at Cambridge University, NUtron was coded to follow a certain route, using sensors and a camera to navigate its surroundings. However, NUtron had something unique: it was built piece by piece on Northeastern’s London campus.
It was just what the team needed to give them an edge, and to add a feather to the impressive team’s cap. In just a few months, Northeastern London’s new robotics club has accomplished a lot: creating a talented robot, winning a prestigious robotics competition and developing a new way for students to connect.
“Founding this club was a way to actually get that community,” Aidan Carrier said.
How do you start a robotics club from scratch? Part of it was luck. A first-year engineering student at Northeastern London, Aidan Carrier attended the 2022 Thanksgiving dinner on campus. President Joseph E. Aoun was in attendance, and Carrier was trying to gather the courage to ask for his support of an idea: a new robotics club.
“I wanted to approach him, but I didn’t know how,” Carrier said.
As it turns out, he didn’t have to. As Carrier was enjoying his meal, “President Aoun tapped me on the back,” he said.
When Carrier told him about his idea, the president said he would love to help, taking a photo of his nametag with his phone. He got Carrier in contact with Suzi Broadaway, the head of student life at Northeastern London. Carrier started the process of getting funding for the club, and met with the head of the robotics club on the Boston campus for support. He also reached out to fellow first-year Mark Yang, who became the co-president of the club.
Both Yang and Carrier brought a breadth of experience to the organization: both were president of the robotics teams at their respective high schools. Carrier did summer programs in robotics as well, including working on an autonomous underwater vehicle. Yang, meanwhile, led his high school team to the robotics world championships—not once, but twice. First-year students Andrew Schwebel and Justin Steenstra rounded out the group.
Once they had a club, one of the first things Carrier and Yang did as co-presidents was set a goal.
“We wanted to have a purpose,” Carrier said.
The team decided that, with only a semester remaining of their time in London, they should build their own robot and sign up for a competition. They found one of the few robotics competitions in the United Kingdom—a student-run contest at Cambridge University called Unibots—and signed up.
When they arrived in Cambridge on March 25, the scene was intimidating. As Yang noted, they were the first global university to participate in the competition. There were 14 other teams, including Cambridge University and King’s College London.