Engineering and design student insights

Student projects, placements, research and study experiences in the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Posts By: Matthew Jackson

A very Bavarian Christmas!

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Very early on in deciding to undertake the Erasmus semester I knew I wanted to maximise my cultural experience and spend as much time as physically possible in Germany. Therefore I stayed in Munich over the Christmas holidays in order to experience a proper German Christmas and to use the time off of lectures to travel more widely. So as lectures ended I waved goodbye to my friends and colleagues, however  it wasn't all lonely however as my partner, Kathryn, came to stay!!

The Christmas buzz in Munich really gets underway at the end of November when the Christkindlsmarkts (Christmas markets) come out in force. Having experienced the Bath Christmas market I thought I was prepared, however the number and scale of the markets in Germany made Bath look tiny in comparison! Every district of Munich seemed to have its own local market (my "local", in Schwabing, was especially pretty and focused on the arts and crafts of the area)  as well as the huge ones in town catering to every taste possible. Instead of the major shopping experience we seem to have in the UK the markets here are more of a destination to meet and socialise with friends, drinking Glühwein and eating Heiße Maroni around the outside tables. My favourite market was the "medieval market" at Wittelsbacherplatz - themed in a medieval style with the huts and vendors dressed appropriately, it was a lot of fun to be shopping for axes and bows eating a Flammbrot (like a german answer to the pizza) avoiding the sword-fighting going on behind - Brilliant! And in the evenings when the lights were out it was truly magical to wander the streets of the old city stumbling across market after market in under the twinkling lights...

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Christmas Markets of Munich! 

Christmas eve is the main event for most of Bavaria with Midnight mass being the "unmissable" event to attend so e we wrapped up warm and headed down to the local church at 11:00 pm. Singing Stille Nacht in a huge catholic church lit by candle light was a great way of entering Christmas. For breakfast we had the typical Bavarian breakfast of pretzel, white sausage and sweet mustard (washed down with large mugs of tea!) and then moved on to attempting to cook a Christmas dinner without an oven on just two electric rings - fairly successfully I have to add! After lunch a brisk walk in the English garden and then back to open presents. Skyping home to our family and playing some cards ended off one of the most memorable Christmases I am sure I will ever have.

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Christmas

In the following week we became tourists, visiting Salzburg and Vienna on the train for a few days to explore the beautiful cities and learn about their illustrious histories too. Back in munich we travelled to the Dachau concentration camp memorial which was a haunting place with an eye opening museum, the fairytale Neuschwanstein castle and the grand Nymphenburg Schloss which also had a large "ice festival" on its frozen lakes and ponds. Also an experience was the Müller'sches Volksbad, an old classical style swimming hall with beautiful architecture and an attached suite of steam rooms and sauna in the traditional German style - you leave your modesty along with your swimming trunks on the hook by the door!!

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Neuschwansten Castle

New years eve in Munich was also a lot of fun - Shops are able to sell fireworks from three days before and it seemed that everyone made good use of this time judging by the empty shelves and people staggering back to their homes under the weight of explosives. On the evening itself it was like staying in a warzone with constant bangs from around five o clock until early into the new year however from what we could see the colours in the sky were amazing. The next day a huge smog had enveloped the city and we heard on the news that the air pollution was 26 (!!!!) times over the EU legal limit because of all the smoke! And the debris on the usually pristine streets was unbelievable too! Fortunately it snowed the next day and covered everything up!

Back into the last few weeks in Munich now we are currently (trying) to organise our exams and complete our courses before heading back to Bath for semester 2. Although I am excited about seeing my friends in the UK again and moving back to the beautiful city of Bath, I will be very sad to leave Munich and I think a piece of my heart will be forever here... but more on that later.

Ciao!

Matthew

 

TUM Courses, Modules and Lectures

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

We have summarised our courses in the blog post below. Not all of them we are taking exams in however we have included them for information's sake as it may help future students choosing their units... The number of credits is in the bracket, and which of us is taking the unit is written next to that. If you have any questions about any of them then please do give us a shout!

Rail Design (3) - Matthew

This unit focuses on the design of railway infrastructure and includes a lot of the cutting edge research TUM are carrying out on the railways. Topics we have covered so far include the structural/geotechnical design of the track system and how this has developed throughout history (including the problems with introducing new technologies leading to unintended consequences) and a guest lecture about the organisation of the Deutsche Bahn - at the end of which the lecturer offered us all a job! I was initially worried this might be a lot of repetition from the Bath second year course "Transport Infrastructure Engineering" however it has really built on top of this and gone into a lot more in depth analysis of rail systems. An interesting module to have taken and especially so as it starts at 8:00 on a friday morning!

Structural Optimisation 1 (3) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio, Will

Urban Infrastructure Design (3) - Matthew

This module, very unusually for TUM, does not have an examination! Instead it consists of three coursework design projects relating to a variety of topics. Firstly was a piece of work to redesign the road system in a local part of Munich, however this being Germany equal consideration had to be given to pedestrians, cyclists and parking making it a challenge to squeeze all the requirements into the constrained spaces available yet still conforming to the German urban design standard. The second project looked at an intersection design and  required us to dimension and assess a signalled and un-signalled traffic intersection and then propose novel ways to improve the traffic flow if required. The final project will look at the design of car parking areas and a public transport and with the final hand in in January gets a nice three credits out of the way before the exams begin.
Energy Economics & Hydropower (3) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio, Will

The first half of this unit focuses on Energy supply more broadly, looking at how generation, distribution and consumption is dealt with in "advanced economies" including a very enlightening section on how energy buying and selling works in a free market. This provides a backdrop as to why Hydropower is such a powerful energy generation tool and the second half of the lecture series focuses on the design and construction of such plants. The lecturer is good at including his own work from around the world and this makes the lectures very interesting - especially important since these lectures are all day each Saturday in December!

 
Principals of Project Management (3) - Matthew 

Including students from several faculties this unit focuses on Project Management in general however many of the examples relate to Civil Engineering works. quite a theoretical subject the lecturer uses many examples to demonstrate how good project management is essential to a successful project. In my experience nearly all problems on projects are caused by poor management or communication, so learning how to do it "correctly" seemed like a good idea! Topics covered have included stakeholder management, time/resource planning and organisation of teams.
Interactions of Land Use and Transport (3) - Matthew

Unsure of what this would contain, this has been one of my favourite units. The aim of the lecture series is to study a broad overview of transport planning, urban planning and to understand the symbiotic relationship between them. Many examples are about Munich so it has given me a new perspective on the city and I have enjoyed walking the streets to see in reality the outcomes we discuss in lectures. The lecturer is really good at fostering an environment for debate and discussion with people bringing their own ideas and experience from around the world and it is great to find out about how different places deal with similar transport problems in creative ways. We also went on a study trip to a new mixed use development in Munich to see how the research at TUM is being applied and it is always nice to get out of the lecture room and into the real world!
Timber in Construction (4) - Matthew

This builds on the knowledge I have gained in Structural Design & Construction and is an interesting unit, exploring the practicality of Timber construction and the applications of it and topics such as tropical hardwoods, seismic timber design and how to FEM model it too. There is also a field trip to a local sawmill to see how timber engineering products are made and to a construction site to better understand the practicalities of using timber for real projects. The lecturer is also good at incorporating wider structural engineering into the module - a good recap to check understanding of previous courses at Bath! I would imagine however, that it follows a similar content to the Advanced Timber Engineering second year option, so would not recommend taking this unit if you particularly wanted to take that. Overall however it has been interesting and a good "structures" type unit to pick.
Principles and Applications of Land Management (6) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio

One of the more unusual options we are taking here, this unit investigates the way people interact, organise and manage one of the most vital and scarce resources on earth - Land. Covering topics such as land registration mechanisms, landscape management, Land use planning and Cadastre, the lectures also include practical exercise tasks, for example developing a land use plan for a disused airport, which helps to gain proper understanding of the topics involved. The lecturer has also been fantastic using examples from his own work on developing new Cadastre types and setting up land registration in emerging states, to make the subject come alive. Every civil engineering project will involve land in some capacity, and with vast potential for disagreement and conflict over it, I am personally very glad I took this unit as it has improved my understanding of this topic immensely. And if you don't know what Cadastre is and want to, take this unit!

The second half of the unit has focused on "Landscape management" looking at how projects are formed to conserve biodiversity and reconcile land use with protecting environments. Again, another interesting topic additionally with a colloquium format where in groups we were required to analyse and present a pertinent research paper to the rest of the class.
Building Performance Modelling and Simulation (6) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio, Will
Geothermal, Ocean and Wind Energy (6) - Nick, Antonio, Will 
Introduction to Earth System Science (6) - Will 
Hydro Power and Energy Storage (3) - Nick, Antonio, Will 
How I want to live (3) - Nick, Antonio

 

Matthew - Morning Commute to the TUM

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Hello,

Some people have asked me how I travel to university each day, so I thought it would be good to make a storyboard of my journey each morning:

  1. This is the building in which I live. It was the first of many new buildings in the Schwabinger Tor development, a mixed residential/office project, hence the large amounts of construction activity around! Otherwise it is a very quiet area with lots of families and young people about which is good for being immersed Germany culture and good practice of my language skills when talking to neighbours in the lift!
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2) The development is on Leopoldstrauße, one of the main routes into the centre of Munich. The Tram line, 23, takes about five minutes to Munchner Freiheit and from there it is around 20-30 mins walk to Odeonsplatz and the centre of town.

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3) Crossing over Leopoldstrauße, I walk past some pretty houses on a quiet leafy street which is opposite the main hospital in the area, the Klinikum Schwabing and the KinderKlink (Childrens Hospital).

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4) The closest U-bahn station to my house is Scheidplatz which has connection to the U2 line (to the university and railway station) and the U3 line (to the olympic park and town centre). Unfortunately as it is the oldest part of the metro system the U3 is currently closed from here, however that does not matter too much as Munchner Freiheit is also on the U3 line and that is open. The walk to here takes roughly 10-15 minutes.

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5) Once on the train it is only a couple of stops heading south to either Theresianstrauße (closest to the north end of the university main campus where most of my lectures are - so I get off here if I am running late!) or Königsplatz (slightly further but a much nicer walk). They are very frequent but can get quite busy at rush hour, including a memorable time when I was trapped on the train by the volume of other passengers and unable to get off at my stop!

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6) The walk accross Königsplatz is always amazing with history oozing out of the buildings. For example the building obscured by the trees is where the Munich Agreement of 1938 was signed ("peace in our time") and the classical building to the left is a museum celebrating the links between Bavaria and the Modern state of Greece, which was apparently founded by some exiles from Munich. The white building with the glass sections in the background is the NS Dokumentation centre which is a great museum charting the rise and fall of the Nazi party and the effect this had on Munich.

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7) The main entrance to campus is on Arcisstrauße, which also has the MENSA (the university cafeteria/student union building) seen just to the left of the picture below and some museums and pinakotheks (art galleries) housed in the grand looking buildings. Also outside to greet you every morning is the statue of a naked man which I feel is something Bath should really invest in, in order to be able to consider themselves a truly great university!

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8) Once inside the building there is an entrance courtyard which leads into the main hall with staircases and corridors leading to most parts of the university. Proceeding through here leads into the campus forum, the main central space which includes the TUM totem pole. Each of the flags has a symbol for a different faculty - can you work out which is which?!

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Otherwise life in Munich continues to tick over between lectures, work, sightseeing and beer drinking/pretzel eating. We will also write a joint blog post outinling our courses soon, I promise!

Until next time, tchüss!

Matthew

 

Matthew - Wilkommen zum München!

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Hi, I am Matthew and I will be blogging here about my experiences whilst studying an Erasmus semester abroad at the Technical University of Munich (TuM) in Munich, Germany.

First off a little about me. I have been studying the Civil and Architectural Engineering Course for the past four years, including a placement year with BuroHappold Engineering in Bath. I have had a great time so far – It has been challenging, interesting and I have loved living in Bath so what prompted me to up sticks and move roughly 700 miles away to study?

Firstly, I love getting to know people from different countries and cultures and I count myself lucky to have friends from places such as China, Norway, France, Brazil, USA, Italy, Poland…  A key part of Erasmus is “cultural interchange” so I am looking forward to meeting other Erasmus students as well as the German locals and expanding my international contacts list further!

Secondly, the opportunity to practice studying and working in a foreign country is a good one and I believe that the skills involved in doing this will help me hugely in my future career. Another reason is that I wanted to study a greater breadth of subjects whilst at university and, although Bath’s options are great, TuM offered a huge range of subjects to pick which made coming an easy decision. I also enjoy a good challenge so studying new subjects as well as building on others in perhaps a different way is something I am hoping to test myself with. Other reasons include wanting to visit Germany, as I have never been before, Traveling more widely to other countries nearby such as Austria and also trying to learn the German language.

I arrived in Munich at the weekend from Edinburgh, and am living just north of the city centre in a district called Schwabing. It’s a beautiful leafy area with some great architecture and lots of new buildings being built (annoying for most but interesting for a civil engineer!) and I am a ten minute walk away from the Muncher Freiheit area for shopping and the metro. This week I have registered with the local authorities (necessitating a three hour wait in a crowded waiting room for what ended up as a two minute appointment) and opened a bank account with Deutschbank in order to pay rent and gain a debit card. I have also been coordinating my courses and modules navigating around TuMs hideously complicated module selection process. Unlike at Bath,  students are expected to arrange their own learning - selecting the modules they wish to study, assessing the courses/credits attached to those modules then trying to build a timetable which inevitably contains clashes between different lectures/seminars. Despite the complexity it is nice to have an almost blank slate of units to choose from allowing me to pick subjects fairly different from what I would be doing in Bath. That said, I did have some limitations being required to undertake a good chunk of credits in “design” in order to negate missing the Basil Spence project.

In my spare time this week I have had a great time walking through the “Englischer Garten” an enormous park leading to the Munich Residence (a huge castle/palace) and also exploring the Olympic Park which contains Frei Otto’s Olympiastadion - one of my favourite buildings! The weather (yes, I am British after all!) is warmer and sunnier than at home which was a nice surprise when getting off the plane – however I am expecting it to get a lot colder and came prepared! I have yet to undergo the full Oktoberfest experience so that is planned for the end of this week.

The German language has also thrown up a few surprises including some abnormally long or unusual words. Therefore, the “German word of the week” for this blog post is:

“Wohnungsgeberbestätigung”

Any ideas what it might mean? Check back in my next post to find out the answer!

University welcome fortnight starts next Tuesday with lectures following after that so no doubt my next post will also contain some more information about what we have been up to and more about academic life! If you have any questions about Erasmus, Munich or anything else related to this blog then feel free to get in touch!

Until next time, Auf Wiedersen!

M