A TEAM of young entrepreneurs from Oxfordshire has won a global engineering challenge with a crab-like robot designed to collect cigarette butts from UK beaches.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Global Challenge encourages young professional engineers (aged 18-35) across the globe to address a real-world engineering challenge and invent a solution with their diverse academic and technical exposure.

This year’s competition encouraged teams to develop an innovative solution to help clean up the estimated 18 billion pounds of increasing plastic waste that enters our oceans each year.

READ AGAIN: Have you ever been a Seacourt park-and-ride cheat?

The competition scenario was developed in partnership with GreenSeas Trust and required teams to tackle the trillions of cigarettes currently in our waters, the number one item found on beach clean-ups.

Teams were challenged to create a remotely controlled all-terrain machine that can move up and down the beach, picking up cigarette butts from the surface of the sand and collecting them in a chamber or hopper.

Oxford Mail:

The winning team Baywatchers – Helena Livesey, 25, Jonathon Witty, 24, George Fulton, 23, and Alexander Morgan, 25 – has developed the KRABB-E concept which uses a three-stage collection and sorting method, ensuring minimal sifting and non-litter collection.

Designed to use image recognition to identify cigarettes on the surface of the sand, KRABB-E will use its coarse-meshed claws to separate the cigarettes from the fine sand.

The vacuum system then separates the lighter cigarettes from larger, heavier rocks, which are returned to the beach with the cigarettes stored in a transparent container.

READ AGAIN: Queue jumpers on Botley Road will be caught on camera

Team member Helena Livesey, who is a Mechanical Design Engineer at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said: “We wanted to enter as we thought the challenge could have a real positive and global impact and we’re delighted to have won! "We were quite surprised but glad all of our hard work has paid off.

“Engineering and technology is so vital to help tackle environmental change – we can use it to fix problems that we’ve already caused – like with the use of KRABB-E – but also to monitor and inform new technologies, helping to change behaviours and how we interact with our environment.”

READ MORE: Police rescue puppy after it was abused in the street

Fazilette Khan, Founder and Trustee of GreenSeas Trust, said: “It was a very hard competition to judge. All four finalists were of a high standard and each solution gave serious food for thought. The winning entry is effective and eye-catching, capable of reducing the vast quantity of butts found on any beach. It would great to see it get to the next stage of being made into a working prototype.”

Dr Peter Bonfield, IET President, added: “This competition is all about giving young engineers a platform to highlight their innovations.”

The team is receiving a £500 cash prize.