The advanced GNVQ in IT, introduced around 1995, included a control systems element - something we had previously taught only to electrical engineering students.

We met the new requirement using the Economatics Smartbox, with Logicator software and Fischertechnic models. Those who were around at the time may remember the ubiquitous hand dryer model.

When PIC Logicator came along, enabling us to download Logicator programs into PIC chips, we introduced a line-following buggy. We used Revolution Education's Picaxe project boards because they seemed to be good value, but stuck with the Logicator software we were used to and were still using with our Smart Boxes.

The picture shows early versions of the buggy, using Fischertechnic lamps and light sensors. The rear one, with the wider chassis, the loudspeaker and the bump detector, became the prototype for the AGV project described in these pages.

When the GNVQ was replaced by AVCE, with a more demanding control module, we developed the AGV scenario, more or less as described in these pages. We replaced the Fischertechnic lamps and light sensors, which had been somewhat problematic in use, with our own simple reflective IR sensors, put the Smartboxes away and went over entirely to the Picaxe system, which gave us the significant advantage of not having to remove the chips in order to program them.

The system now forms part of our provision for the BTEC National unit Controlling Systems Using IT.

At some point the original track, made from white duck tape stuck down on matt black painted MDF boards, was replaced by the present printed paper version stuck down on lightweight plastic, which is much easier to use, transport and store. It was thought that the paper surface might need replacing every year, but it has proved surprisingly robust and has been in use for several years.