Engineering and design student insights

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

Topic: Engineering placements

My Placement at SMTC UK

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Hi Everyone!
I’m Uvindu, though most of my friends know me simply as “UV”. Originally from Sri Lanka, I moved to Botswana when I was 7 years old. After finishing my A-levels, I moved to the UK in September 2014 to begin my degree in MEng Electronic & Electrical Engineering (EEE) at Bath. I have now completed 2 years, and I’m currently on placement. I will be sharing my experiences on placement here and hope it will help students who are planning on doing a placement in the future!

As I am over 3-months into my placement I realise I’ve got quite a bit of backtracking to do – prepare for a long post!
I started my placement on Septmber 5th 2016 at SAIC Motor Technical Centre (SMTC) UK. First off a bit about the company.

About the company
SAIC Logo

SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation) is a Chinese state-owned automotive company. The company has a history reaching back to 1955 when they were called Shanghai Internal Combustion Engine Components with a focus was on engine and power train technology. Over the years they have gone through numerous mergers and name changes. They are now the largest vehicle manufacturer in China, and rank 46th in the Forbes Fortune Global 500. Their joint venture with Volkswagen is the longest surviving automotive joint venture between a Chinese and foreign company. They also have a joint venture with General Motors since 1998. The joint ventures allow SAIC to build and sell these foreign branded vehicles as well as collaborate and share technologies which are of benefit to its own marques. The heritage MG brand and the Longbridge plant was acquired by Nanjing automobile in 2006 after the MG Rover collapse of 2005. SAIC then merged with Nanjing Automobile in 2007. Other brands owned by SAIC are Maxus, Roewe and Yuejin. They also produce and sell vehicles for Baojun, Buick, Chevrolet, Iveco, Skoda and Wuling.

SMTC UK is their operation based in UK where a large amount of research and development takes place. The UK offices are based in Longbridge Birmingham where the old MG Rover plant was located. The UK offices are largely involved with the development of the MG and Roewe marques of vehicles. MG branded vehicles are sold locally in the UK and the adaptation of the vehicle to the UK market also happens here.

About my department

elec-0
At SMTC I work for the electrical engineering department. There are around 20 other engineers working for the department. The team is involved with the development of styled electronics, infotainment, telematics, electrical integration in new vehicles and more. Responsibilities include designing the in-car entertainment, interfacing all the different electronic modules in the vehicle ensuring compatibility and planning all the wiring for the car.
My placement plan involves working with different sections under my department over the course of the placement. I am currently working with the integration team but will move on to styled electronics and project management over the next few months. Once I have worked with the different areas my main focus area will be determined taking my performance and preferences into account.

Training

beach
After our first day of orientation, we were sent to a team building camp at Skern Lodge, which is located near a small fishing village called Appledore in Devon. We were taught different leadership and management styles as well as workload management and handling deadlines. We learned these skills through performing activities such as assault courses, orienteering, archery, egg-drop challenge and many more physical, hands-on activities.
We’ve had a lot more training courses since then, including project management, Excel and CATIA.

Activities
General

labcar    speedometer
Working with electrical integration, I have been given an overview of the electrical systems and the current electrical engineering vehicle projects carried out by the department. I was introduced to the fundamental concepts of CAN bus (Control Area Network) and familiarised with the components dealt with in the department. I was introduced to the Labcar, which is a room with three metal structures representing the frame of three cars and each car frame has all the electronics fitted to it, allowing easy access and manipulation of devices.

Testing

speakers
I have carried out various tests on systems during my time here. These have included testing out body control modules with prototype software as well as assessing the quality of speakers for future models. The speaker test in particular involved playing music in the car while swapping out the speakers to assess the difference in quality. I got the other interns involved as well to get a broader spectrum of opinions.

Investigation

fusebox
I investigated a fuse box after a company endurance vehicle had been left on a beach during high tide for an extended period of time and was presenting electrical problems. The fuse box was suspected to be the root cause and I was assigned the task of tearing it down to investigate. The findings were then presented to a team of engineers in charge of matters concerning the current fleet of vehicles.

Projects

car-lineup
I am currently working on a few projects including some for my department as well as an intern project involving all 7 interns working for the company. The project involves making major changes to an existing vehicle. My focus is ensuring all the electronic units communicate correctly with each other ensuring the smooth running of the vehicle. I have to ensure the engine management unit we use is compatible with the ABS and any other electronic units we may use, and build a device to translate signals where there are any incompatibilities. As a part of our research we had a ride and drive event involving both new and old vehicles which was both fun and productive!

alternator

Another project I’m working on is to build a test rig for the vehicle alternator. The aim of the project is to use an electric motor to turn the alternator which then charges a car battery. This battery powers the labcars that were previously mentioned. The motor will be controlled by a computer and programmed to mimic an engine going through a specified drive-cycle. This will allow us to simulate external driving conditions within the lab and see how all the devices on the car cope with varying engine loads. I am the lead on this project and will be doing most of the research, supplier contact, component selection and the building involved, including the programming of the final motor drive.

Life outside work

christmas-party
There are various after-hours activities offered by SAIC. I play badminton with the other interns on the onsite badminton court that is actually an old vehicle production workshop that has now been re-purposed.
There are also football and golf clubs as well as an after-hours track group that organise track events where we can race company cars around racing track!
We also have numerous social gatherings and events including a grand end-of-year Christmas party which gave us an opportunity to meet with colleagues from throughout whole company and have a relaxed evening with good food and music!

dinnerbowling
We also hosted a Christmas dinner at our place to get everyone together for a final meal before leaving home for the holidays!
As for living arrangements, the company had arranged two houses for us to rent, saving us the hassle of traveling and house hunting before the start of placement. I live in a four-bedroom house with loads of space and a less than 10-minute drive to work. We also have a couple of restaurants, bowling alley and an IMAX cinema just a five-minute walk away, making life very convenient!

That about covers a lot of what I’ve done over the past few months. I have the next two weeks off and will be flying back home for Christmas. I will try and post more timely updates in the new year, maybe try and make that my new years resolution!
Until then, I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Uvindu

‘Sorry, but what is an engineer doing in supply chain..?’

  

📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

During the last 10 weeks at Patheon UK in Swindon, the above is probably the question I’ve been asked the most and equally struggled to answer, so hopefully as this blog progresses I’ll be able to answer, starting here.

I’m Matt, a chemical engineer, now 2½ months into my Placement in the Supply Chain Department at Patheon, and I can honestly say it’s flying by already! My role so far has involved a wide variety of things, predominantly based in Project Purchasing.

Who is Patheon?

Patheon isn’t a name that comes straight to mind when someone says Pharmaceuticals. It is, however, a global company that specialises in manufacturing and developing products for customers - a pharmaceutical contract manufacturer. This means Patheon isn’t the product owner, and without its name on products, its name isn’t ‘on the shelf’ as such. With 26 sites, 400 clients and 800 products developed & manufactured globally I’m looking forward to getting a deeper understanding of it as the year progresses.

What is supply chain?

While production is the area which directly generates revenue, engineering keep everything working, and quality control/assurance check everything is up to standard; they all rely on the supply chain department for many reasons. Supply chain is fundamentally made up of Planning, Procurement (Purchasing), Shipping and Warehouse management, which work with all the other departments to ensure everything runs smoothly, with two major KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) – OTD, On Time Delivery, and RFT, Right First Time to monitor performance.

Supply chain also has a number of other roles in tracking and reducing spending, building and managing supplier relationships and various other bits and pieces.

Settling in on placement

It turns out Swindon isn’t as bad as its reputation states. I’m living in the Old Town area with a few people also on placement here. Settling in at work has been no problem at all; everyone at Patheon has been approachable and friendly and happy to offer help at a moment’s notice. Looking forward to the next 42 weeks!!

 

Men in Pool & Other Stories

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

A short overview of what I’ve been working on over the past month and more about the construction business game MERIT that our team from BuroHappold participated in.

Merit Competition

Throughout March and April, I took part in a construction business simulation competition called MERIT (standing for Management Enterprise Risk Innovation and Teamwork) with a team set up together with five other young engineers from BuroHappold. The aim of the competition is to put you and your teammates in charge of making all the business and managerial decisions of a virtual construction company, while competing to grow your business against teams from all around the globe.

The game was set up so that each week, as a team, we could evaluate our company’s progress throughout the previous week and, using the MERIT software, enter a new set of decisions. These covered a range of relevant areas including finance (investments in other firms and paying out dividends to shareholders), overhead staffing (coping with company turnover and conducting market analysis), bidding for new jobs and ensuring ongoing jobs had enough labour and competent managers.

Concentration levels intensified as we developed elaborate spreadsheets

We encountered some problems during the running of our company.  For example, we had been hiring a lot of workforce to cope with a high number of projects, but when we were unsuccessful in qualifying for new jobs, we were instead left with a large number of idle workforce, or ‘free men in pool’ as MERIT liked to phrase it. This might sound like a lot of fun for the workers, but for us it meant a lot of lost funds. Therefore, we had to make the decision of whether to lay off the excessive construction staff or keep them ‘in the pool’ in hopes of soon qualifying for more jobs. But not to worry! After long calculations and some moral dilemmas hardly any staff were deemed to be worth giving up.

During the first week or two, it proved to be quite challenging to take in a lot of information as well as having to familiarise ourselves with the nitty gritty of how the software itself operated. Having said that, the whole process helped me really appreciate how decisions made in different managerial positions interact and affect each other in the long term. Overall, the competition lasted for 10 weeks and, in addition to learning about all the different business functions, it was a really fun teamwork exercise!

The final meeting featuring glorious pizza

Platform design for KAFD Metro

On a more serious note,  in addition to MERIT, I have been doing some actual work as well. For the past month I have mostly been working on the design of the platform structure, which supports two train lines for the KAFD Metro in Riyadh. On top of analysing any basic loading such as supporting its own weight or the pedestrian traffic, one main design criterion is that the structure has to be strong enough to withstand any accidental loads. In the very worst cases, these accidental loads could be caused by the derailment of a train or collision of two trains. Although extremely unlikely, accidental loads are all still some of the most important factors affecting the final design of the platform.

Architect’s vision of the interior of the station by the platform level, image copyright of ZHA

To start with, I looked into the relevant design code and calculated the various criteria that the platform has to be designed for. I went on to set up more than a hundred loading variations on Excel which I could then import and easily amend later in the engineering software we had used to create the model. Due to the very high collision loads, the platform had to be redesigned in some local cases. In these instances, it was important to stick to the most minimal but effective changes so as to keep the amended design as close to the original. Bits of the platform are still being finalised with the architects and so this is all still a work in progress; therefore, until the next time!

Screenshot from Robot Structural Engineer with a view of the platform model

 

A Key Ingredient in Ice Cream Production...

  

📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

I am now 10 months in to my placement with Unilever, and life in the Ice Cream Global Design Centre has not been easy! Since my last blog post, I have started working on a number of new projects that have been keeping me busy, making the days and weeks fly by.

The Wall's Bike - Doesn't every office have one of these?

The Wall's Bike - Doesn't every office have one of these?

Over my time working with Unilever, I have learnt how incredibly complex ice cream is. Simply mixing some water, cream, sugar and flavours together, and then putting this in the freezer will not necessarily give you ice cream. There are a number of very important steps to follow that process the ingredients in a way that affect the texture, taste and quality of the final product.

One of the projects I have been working on since I started my placement involves studying and analysing the very first step of making ice cream – the mixing process. This process involves dosing and mixing the ingredients, and is the key factor in ensuring all ingredients are fully blended, dispersed and hydrated within the mix.

As with all mixing processes, certain levels of shear occur in the mixing vessel that arise from the stirring motion of the impeller. The shear in the mix tank is dependent on a number of factors, including the dimensions of the tank, the type of impeller and the nature of the fluid being mixed. Part of my project involved building and developing a tool that is able to model and calculate a number of mixing parameters – including the shear in the mix tank.

After being able to characterise shear in mixing vessels, I worked on improving the company’s knowledge on the effect this shear has on the ice cream produced. This involved running a number of trials in the pilot plant and analysing the ice cream premix and product in a number of ways.

As well as the work I carried out in the pilot plant, the project also involved building a network of contacts with mix plant managers across Unilever’s ice cream factories in Europe. From an R&D point of view, this was a great insight for me to see what supply chain is like and how the factories operate.

Unlike many of my other projects, I worked on this assignment alone – something I am quite accustomed to after 3 years of university coursework. However, working independently on a project in the workplace has felt quite different. Rather than your work just ending up as a grade, other members of your team may depend on the results and outcomes of your task, meaning every assignment must be carried out quickly, efficiently and to the highest standard.

With the end of my placement fast approaching, I plan to make the most out of the few months remaining by learning as much as I possibly can whilst improving my workplace skills.

 

Rolling On

  

📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

A shorter working month than usual this time as I have been off work for the previous week and a half skiing to celebrate my 21st, the joys of being able to take holiday when you please and not according to a school or university timetable.

Making the most of a slight lull in work I have used March to attend many of the mandatory training days that new starters at TFL are required to complete. These range from courses outlining PATHWAY, the methodology used within the company to manage projects, programmes and portfolios, to those teaching the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion at TFL. As with any lecture or course the usefulness of these courses has much to do with the quality of the speaker, so although a course reminding you to make sure you respect diversity within the workplace sounds entirely unnecessary it turned out to be a highly enjoyable day.

Alongside work I have also been encouraged to study for the Association of Project Management Introductory Certificate, an exam I will be taking this Friday following another training course, Introduction to Project Management, which I completed yesterday.

 

On an unrelated note I’ve now had placement visit from a member of staff from the university. Steve came down last Friday and, following a long chat with my Sponsor and manager, we had a talk about both of the placements I’ve worked in so far before going for that classic Friday lunch, fish and chips in the canteen in Broadway.

 

Everyday life at the Buro

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

In my second post about my placement in the London Structures department of BuroHappod Engineering, I talk a bit more about what I do on day-to-day basis at work and the projects I have been involved in.

Getting into my day job

In my previous post I mentioned how I’m mainly working on the KAFD Metro Station project in Riyadh. Prior to joining the BuroHappold team in London I had very little, or in some instances, no experience with the programs I now use on an everyday basis. During my first year at University we had a course on AutoCAD, which has now proved to be very useful, as well as a good basis for learning to use other engineering and modelling software.

I most commonly spend my time modelling complex elements of bigger structures on Autodesk Robot, which can be best imagined as a ‘grown-up’ version of the Sims build mode. The completed models can later be used to analyse the self-weight of the building, movements and any critical forces. In addition to hand calcs, I also often use CSC Tedds to check member design to different regional standards as well as elaborate spreadsheets.

For example, a really interesting challenge that I’ve been helping with is the structural design of a skybridge connecting the KAFD Metro station to one of the nearby financial district buildings. This involved setting up a model based on design information received from our Bridges department from an earlier stage, checking this for any discrepancies with the current design, while avoiding clashes with the Building Services routes. Due to the new design criteria the initial structure of the bridge was no longer stable enough and in order to not exceed the spacial limitations, I went on to redesign the main supporting structure with enhanced custom steel beam members.

Working in industry has proved to be great fun as I have already been able to work on some amazing projects with BuroHappold, that are either already under construction or will be built in a few years. Similarly to university, you are still constantly learning and developing new skills but without any of the stress from exams.

KAFD Metro Skybridge model on Autodesk Robot

Gallery Installation

The Structures department is divided into teams per project, with some of the engineers working on more than one project at a time or being ‘borrowed’ for shorter periods of time. Therefore, although I am mainly assigned to work on the KAFD Metro Station project, I have also been able to help out on a small variety of different projects for shorter spans of time.

For example I had an opportunity to contribute to the installation of Magdalene Odundo’s glass sculpture in the James Hockey gallery in Farnham. My project director, Rasti Bartek, had already designed a custom wire net to which each of the 1001 individual glass pieces were attached and my task was to check the existing structure of the gallery room, in order to ensure that it can take the new forces from the installed cable net.

Although it was a very short-span project, I really enjoyed the opportunity to work on something on a very different scale to my main project and which was not specifically building-related. Also, it just looks very pretty.

gallery2
gallery1

Photos from Transition II, by Linda Salamoun, BuroHappold

Out of office hours
To finish things off, in addition to project-work, we get up to quite a few extra-curricular activities after working hours, such as team sports, pub-quizzes, STEM outreach and many in-house or institutional talks. For example, the talks I’ve been to with my co-workers have ranged from technical and design lectures to more light hearted talks such as the Stratigraphic Beer talk and tasting session, on the link between quality groundwater and the taste of the brew. I find all of these events a great way to learn new things, get to know the people in the office as well as just generally being a lot of fun!

quiz

Our winning team at the YEF quiz

 

A Cool New Placement

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📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

One month into my second placement and I’ve now got my head around what my new team does and, after a slow start, finally have some work to sink my teeth into. My new team is part of the Capital Programme’s Directorate. The projects this directorate are involved with are to renew ageing assets, rebuild some of the network’s most congested stations, increase capacity on the busiest lines and to also replace obsolete systems with the latest technology. These are all critical to supporting the continued growth and regeneration of London.

The works already completed range from upgrading the signalling on the Jubilee line, increasing capacity by a third by allowing trains to run much closer together, to introducing Wi-Fi across the network.

The team I have been placed in is the Integrated Stations Programme, working with the vents and cooling systems in place in the underground. With the capacity of the network on the rise there is an ever increasing amount of heat being produced by the system, whether that be from the regenerative breaking of the trains or the commuters themselves. It is therefore necessary to constantly upgrade and replace the fans and condensers that provide comfort cooling, not quite air conditioning, to the stations.

The work I have been involved in so far in its most basic form is pressure drop calculations. In order to determine what fan is required for installation you must first find the Index Route. This is the route of greatest resistance within the system where the pressure drop will be greatest. Typically, but not in all circumstances, this will be the longest route within the system. Once this route has been calculated you are able to calculate the size of the fan and the flow rate it is required to produce in order to ensure there is sufficient air flow at the extremes of the cooling system.

Alongside this I have been introduced to the Microstation, a CAD programme used to model the position of the vents and grilles by overlaying them above the floor plan of the station. By working from the CAD files and copies of the original installation drawings I created a Grille Schedule. As a new set of standards have recently been introduced the required flow rates for the various rooms within the station, such as ticket offices, mess rooms, or toilets, has changed, and it is therefore necessary to determine what the new required flow rate is and from this source an appropriate grille to be installed in the update.

As I am now approaching 6 months with TFL towards the end of March I had my mid-year probation review a couple of weeks back. This is part of the P&D (Progress & Development) process that everyone at TFL goes through and it involves a sit-down with the Scheme Advisor, personal mentor and sponsor to discuss your time so far with the company and assess your progress towards the objectives set at the beginning of the placement.  As you might imagine this tends to be more of a formality as I have regularly been meeting with all 3 over the course of the placement but it will be very useful should I decide to return for the grad-scheme in future.

Changing Tracks

  

📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

 

This second blog is later than I had planned, mainly due to the hectic month I have just finished with the Asset & Operational Support team. Four months have flown by, and so too did my time within the team at Canary Wharf. The past four weeks have been a bit of a blur, trying to finish off as many of my projects as possible before the handover to the next Year in Industry student at the start of February.

One of my major projects that I managed to rush to completion before the end of my time was the testing of various protective wrappings for the axles of the trailer cars on the Victoria Line 2009 tube stock. A complete train is made up of 2 units, with each unit composed of 4 cars:

The DM, or Driving Motor, car.

The T, or Trailer, car.

The NDM, or Non-Driving Motor, car.

The SNDM, or Special Non-Driving Motor, car.

The trailer car, being the only car in the unit without four traction motors, has a far more exposed undercarriage than the other cars in the unit. The axles are therefore far more exposed and at risk to impact from debris and litter on the track. In order to mitigate some of the damage caused by impacts such as these, and to extend the service life of these axles, they are covered in protective wrappings that also serve as protection against corrosion.

Recently it has been found that Pandrol Clips, the metal clips that are used to secure the rail to the sleepers, are occasionally snapping and striking the axle. Impact craters deeper than 0.5mm are cause for scrapping an axle therefore there is a lot of interest in any wrapping that could be applied to extend their lifespan.

The test I designed focused on replicating the impact of a track clip striking the axle when the train is moving at top speed, which is limited to 80km/h during service on the Victoria line. Attaching a section of track clip to a secure mounting bracket and attaching this to the end of a weighted pendulum arm we spent a day striking the various wrappings we had covered the axle in. These included a thin ‘Solotape’ wrapping that is currently used, which ultimately came out as our recommendation going forward

Unfortunately I was unable to finish one of my others major design projects, but I am pleased to come away from my time with the AOS team with a nice portfolio of work to my name.

Following my four months with the AOS team I have now moved to the Integrated Stations programme, part of the Capital Programme’s Directorate. This is the second part of the yearlong plan of experiencing work within the track, rolling stock and stations teams within TFL.

 

Part time blogger, full time engineer

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

My first introductory post with some key points of my placement with BuroHappold Engineering in London.  

Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Civil Engineering student on placement with BuroHappold in London. It’s been almost four months since I started my placement and a lot has been going on: moving to a new house, getting used to the London lifestyle and starting my first full-time job at an engineering practice. Hopefully this blog will give some insight into what one might expect from a year in industry, as well as life and work in London in general with a quick breakdown to follow.

The Company

I am working for the international professional services company BuroHappold Engineering, in their second biggest office in London, situated just off the tourist stuffed Oxford Street. With 24 locations and roughly 1500 employees worldwide, the company’s headquarters are situated in Bath. Being a multidisciplinary engineering consultancy, BuroHappold has several teams such as Infrastructure, Facades, Building Services and SMART Solutions operating in London. I am placed in the Structures team alongside roughly 80 other professionals.

 

 

IMG_8247

Our Newman Street office currently holds a gallery exhibition on Stratford

The Structures Department

BuroHappold is involved in a variety of projects from multi-million pound developments in the Middle-East to much more local projects for the community, such as the Burntwood School which recently won the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize. Therefore, the Structures department is divided into project teams with some of the engineers working on more than one project at a time.

The Structures team office floor in the spirit of Christmas

The Project

I have been assigned to work on the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) Metro Station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This station is planned as one of the major interchanges in the new Riyadh Metro network, with BuroHappold having been commissioned for work on eighteen disciplines, including Structural Engineering. Being a huge international project, BuroHappold is working alongside several other organisations, mainly the architects at Zaha Hadid.

 

An external and internal view of the planned Zaha Hadid designed KAFD Metro station with both images copyright of ZHA at http://www.zaha-hadid.com/architecture/king-abdullah-financial-district-metro-station/

So far, the project and the people I am working with have been my favourite part of my placement. Working on a huge international project, I have been able to gain an insight into how one liaises with clients, architects, contractors and other involved parties, as well as how the work of a multidisciplinary team all pulls together.

What is more, the London office has a buzzing social life with many talks, sports events, wine and cheese evenings and pub quizzes going on. All of this, together with the large number of young people and graduates, has made getting used to office life and getting to know my 400 co-workers very easy and fun.

Christmas jumper day in the office

I hope this short introductory post has given a general idea of what my placement is about! Stay tuned for more posts where I’m hoping to talk further about life in London, my project and what we get up to in the London office.

A snap from the London Christmas party

 

Engineer in Training

  

📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Tucked away by the river, in one of the UK’s two major financial centres, you would be forgiven for not expecting Canary Wharf to be home to nearly 1,300 engineers, working for Transport for London to keep London moving.

My name is Ben and, halfway through the first of my three, four-month, placements within TFL, I am currently working with the AOS engineering team, focusing on Rolling Stock (the trains themselves). The AOS, Asset & Operational Support, team provide engineering support for London Underground Rolling Stock. This covers emergency response, large maintenance programmes, and long-term reliability improvements.

So far I have mainly been involved with the reliability improvements, with a couple design projects thrown in for good measure. I’ll go into these in more detail in future posts, and this will be more of an introductory blog.

blog 1 photo

Engineering with a view

Induction overview

Starting in mid-September, it was a longer summer for me than many of those out on placement this year, with some having two months of work experience under their belts before I began the first of my two weeks of training we had to go through before we could begin actual work.

Previous grads have described these introductory weeks as death by PowerPoint, with presentations ranging from the experiences of previous grads to the various trade unions we will encounter crammed into the first week. Integrated with all of those on the Grad Scheme, the out of office events were the highlight of the first two weeks.

Networking is a term that you will hear bandied about just about everywhere nowadays, and TFL is no exception. A networking event held at the Transport Museum in Covent Garden gave us a chance early on to meet our placement sponsors and mentors, as well as hear from Mike Brown, commissioner of the company. This was followed by the one and only open bar TFL holds each year, providing a great opportunity to get to know the other students on placement, whilst ensuring you weren’t making too much of a fool of yourself in front of the various senior staff in attendance!

A visit to Mayor’s Questions proved surprisingly eventful, with rowdy Black cab drivers forcing the Chair to clear the chamber, as well as call in the Riot Police. Escorted out of a back exit, covering anything that would identify us as an employee of TfL, this was not how I envisaged my first few days of work to pan out. The remaining week of induction events was relatively dull in comparison, but served the useful purpose of both introducing us to the inner workings of the company, and allowing us to settle into our new routine before the work began.

Placement schedule

As I mentioned earlier, the Year in Industry with TFL is split into three individual parts, with the idea of allowing us to see as much of the company as possible within our time here. Once I have completed my time here within rolling stock I will spend four months working within stations & infrastructure, and then four within a track department, getting a more hands on experience to the engineering here.

Once the introductions were over, and most of the names promptly forgotten, I sat down with my manager and a couple of members of the team to go through my initial projects. My first long term project involved issuing a Change to Rolling Stock, CRS, along with the calculations and proof required before it can be authorised by the fleet manager, and the procedure implemented onto the network.

My other major project involves designing a bracket to mount a data logger within the equipment box that hangs below the train.

Stem events

Finished by five every day, I find myself with a lot more spare time than I had back in Bath. This has given me the chance to attend a couple of talks at the IMechE in the last few weeks, finally making use of that free membership we all have. Whilst not sounding like the most gripping of subjects, the most recent, ‘The Art of Boarding and Alighting: Designing Trains and Stations to Ensure Safety and Efficiency’ gave a surprisingly interesting overview of the engineering behind maximising the efficiency of the metro system, as well as the psychology behind the design choices involved.

As part of our placement objectives set by the company we have been encouraged to take part in a number of STEM events with local schools, ‘inspiring the next generation of engineers.’ The morning involved assisting with a ‘braking eggsperiment,’ I was a fan as soon as I saw the pun, an activity that involved the kids, a mix of years 8 & 9, safely transporting an egg down a constructed track, stopping it safely at the platform.

The afternoon was spent being interviewed by groups of 5 or 6, a surprisingly tough activity when they run out of questions 5 minutes into a 15 minute interview, leaving me to freestyle on an industry I had spent all of 5 weeks in at the time. Whilst I may not have convinced all the doubters to turn to a life of engineering, I had a great time, and so did the kids judging by the feedback after the event.

As this is intended to be a monthly blog this will be my one and only until the new year so, until then, have a happy Christmas and New Year.