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Oxford Engineering Triumph: Team Orville Secures Third Place in MathWorks Minidrone Competition

Three teams from The Engineering Science Department entered, with two made the final, and team Orville claiming the third-place spot out of 152 entrants.

A full team photo of Team Orville who competed in the MathWorks Minidrone Competition. There are four men and one woman, with two men standing either side of the woman. The three people in the middle are holding the award certificates and drones they used.

MathWorks are the creators of scientific software MATLAB, an indispensable tool for engineers that is utilized in Oxford University's Engineering Science undergraduate program. Each year MathWorks challenges engineers to program a mini drone capable of finding and following lines.  

"It was exciting to witness students collaboratively navigating through challenges, showcasing exceptional problem-solving abilities". 

The 2023 EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) competition saw 152 entrants put their skills to the test. Tasked with designing an algorithm to successfully follow a line as quickly as possible, four teams made it to the Final. This year three teams of undergraduates from the Engineering Science Department entered, with two reaching the finals—a testament to their application of learned skills in a real-world context. The teams presented their work to a panel of judges, as well as faced a question and answer session. 

Team Orville: 

  • Thomas Turner – Engineering, Oriel College (Team Captain)
  • Alessandra French – Engineering, Somerville College
  • Lewis Blake – Engineering, Somerville College
  • Tom Rose – Computer Science, Oriel College

Team OpenX: 

  • Xisen Wang – Engineering, Keble College (Team Captain)
  • Sitao Huang – Engineering, Magdalen College
  • Zhongyu Shi – Engineering, Lincoln College
  • Yuhan Ning – Maths, Queens College

In a significant accomplishment for Oxford University's engineering community, Team Orville clinched the third-place position at the MathWorks Minidrone Competition - EMEA 2023.  

Thomas Turner said “the MathWorks Minidrone competition was a great way to explore a project with real applications. It pushed us to improve our working habits by creating functions that were simpler, more robust, and easier to understand. It was also incredibly satisfying to get it moving and the sense of accomplishment was massive when we finally got a model that performed at a high level. I am incredibly proud of our team being the top team out of the UK and 3rd overall.” 

Throughout the academic year, Isaac Mear and Junaid Memon, Teaching and Design Engineers in the Department, ran workshops for students to inform and motivate them about the competition. Dr Mear said “It is wonderful to be able to support students to become involved in competitions. It allows them to develop team working and technical skills that will help them after they graduate”. Mr Memon said “Engaging in engineering competitions is an excellent means of refining and acquiring new skills. With a touch of motivation, it was exciting to witness students collaboratively navigating through challenges, showcasing exceptional problem-solving abilities”. 

MATLAB Mini-drone competition 3rd place team.

From Left to right: Engineering Students; Lewis Blake, Alessandra French, and Thomas Turner, plus Computer Science student Tom Rose

“It was an exciting journey shared with my teammates. It taught me that with persistence, collaboration, and a deep dive into the subject matter, even the most complex concepts can become not only understandable but also a platform for innovation and creativity. This journey was as much about learning and growth as it was about competition.” - Xisen Wang 

The final ranking: 

  • 1st Place - Team QKH – ISAE-ENSMA / IMT, France 
  • 2nd Place – Team Mambonauts – Politecnico di Torino, Italy
  • 3rd Place – Team Orville –  University of Oxford, United Kingdom