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Scooping the poop in Robot City

The organisers of Robotix '97 expect young and old alike to flock to the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow next weekend to connect with "the world's largest gathering of intelligent machines, robot minds and technology gurus".

Friday (March 14) is schools day at the four-day event. And two educational institutions have been picked as winners of a nationwide "design-a-robot contest" held to mark the show.

Coincidentally Kingussie High and Coatbridge College chose to devise pooper-scoopers for picking up and recycling dog dirt. Isla Simpson, a 13-year-old at Kingussie, took second prize for her invention of a scooper which uses poop to fertilise flowers. The judges said it was "very impressive considering her age".

Kingussie had 15 other individual entries and has been making a reputation for itself. The school won the European Business Game for senior pupils in Italy last summer and a folk group led by David Taylor, head of history, won a gold medal in the Festival of Festivals at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London last year.

"We have very keen pupils and a good number of departments, including the technology department, which enjoy competitive successes," Dr Tom Taylor, Kingussie's headteacher, says.

The Robotix bronze prize went to three Coatbridge students for a quirky robotic pooper-scooper which was judged "humorous, fun and environmentally friendly".

There were 21 finalists from Scotland and England, including a second team from Coatbridge, Mainholm Academy in Ayr and Torbain primary in Kirkcaldy. All their designs will be displayed with hundreds of robots from around the world. The three winning teams will have their work transformed from paper into an animated 3D graphic sequence by a team of computer animators from Glasgow's Central College.

Schools' competitive instincts are being further aroused by the invitation to take part in the Robotix "junior micromouse challenge" in which teams of young robot-builders from throughout the UK will be racing miniature robots for what is described as "a fabulous overseas prize".

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