Robot helps Middlesbrough students tackle gas task

Nine engineering students from Middlesbrough College have been working with Cadent and ULC Robotics to maintain London’s underground gas infrastructure.

The robotic refurbishment of ageing gas mains has been taking place at Great Portland Street and Bow Road and is also due to be carried out in Spencer Street and Curtain Road. Part of Cadent’s biggest ever robotics programme, the work was launched with robot manufacturer ULC Robotics earlier this year and has seen the students working with a platform known as CISBOT.

Using robots for roadworks requires fewer and much smaller excavations than conventional engineering methods and significantly reduces disruption for the public. Work can also be performed with no interruption of gas supply. However, using robots does not eliminate the human element and the technology requires skilled human operators to interface with it, creating a growing niche job market for engineers.

According to, Graeme Cleeton, vice president UK Operations at ULC Robotics, giving young engineers hands-on experience with robots is one of the best ways to ensure the next generation has the requisite skills for the job.

“The idea behind this programme is to give young engineering students experience of working with a technology that’s very much in the ascendency – namely robots,” he said.

“We approached Middlesbrough College and Northern Skills Group and together with clients including Cadent we’ve been able to set up the work placement scheme.”

The nine participating apprentices – selected from around 600 initial applicants - are Andrew McCulloch, Wendel Baltazar, Farroq Hamed, Lewis Grennan, Adam Fishburn, Ethan Austin, Alexander Bavin, Assun Lane and James Swinnerton. The placement will form part of their Level 3 Apprenticeship in Mechatronics Maintenance Technician Standard.

“At Cadent we’re keen to support initiatives to encourage the next generation of engineers and the importance of this particular work placement scheme should not be underestimated,” said James Harrison, director of Cadent’s London Network.

“Together with ULC Robotics, Cadent is giving young engineering students first-hand experience of working robots, a technology that’s likely to play an ever-increasing role in engineering projects.”