Engineering and design student insights

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

Science, goblins and the new fiver: why 2017 will be a good year

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

Winston off-duty. Image courtesy of The International Churchill Society.

It’s scarcely worth repeating that 2016 was full of surprises – of which many people were happy, many not happy. As for many other walks of life, science faces uncertain times.

Despite the UK Government’s promise to safeguard existing EU Horizon 2020 funding until the UK leaves the EU, there are concerns of leaner times ahead. Cold hard cash aside, the general zeitgeist is perhaps also concerning for a scientist. The Oxford English Dictionary’s recognition of “post-truth” as a word, plus a famous person being quoted as “having had enough of experts”, has created something of an edgy mood.

Throughout all this uncertainty, I am personally buoyant about science’s prospects in 2017. In the spirit of the year just passed, this is for an unashamedly emotional, subjective reason, all thanks to an unlikely union of people.

First of the odd couple, the man behind Gnarlak the goblin in the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” – otherwise known as Ron Perlman. Secondly, the new face of the £5 note – one Sir Winston Churchill. In an interview with The Big Issue, Perlman spoke passionately about the value of arts, saying:

“I’m with Churchill – we need to cherish culture. It celebrates our commonalities”

Ron Perlman, Interview with The Big Issue, no.1231, 14 November 2016

Gnarlak, a goblin played by culture champion Ron Perlman. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Gnarlak, a goblin played by arts champion Ron Perlman. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Churchill was indeed a champion of culture – particularly its value to society (though he is often misquoted in this regard).

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

Sir Winston Churchill, Address to Royal Academy, 30 April 1938

This staunch support of culture may have partly come from Churchill’s own career in painting. It was a source of great enjoyment and relief for him. As he himself said "If it weren't for painting I could not live. I couldn't bear the strain of things."

Winston off-duty. Image courtesy of The International Churchill Society.

Winston off-duty. Image courtesy of The International Churchill Society.

But what is this to do with science?” I hear you ask. Like its fellow branches of the liberal arts, science, has its ups and downs. But like so many other aspects of human culture, it’s hardwired into our existence. It’s here to stay.

At this point in time, we are perhaps more aware than before of the differences between oneself and other citizens. This is a reason, more than ever, to seek what unites - our “commonalities”.

And science DOES unite. To give an example - standing out amongst December’s news articles about the Middle East was the arrival of SESAME. Not a puppet or seed, but the Middle East’s new particle accelerator, the “Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications”. Scientists from Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Bahrain will collaborate and do research in this new £75m facility in Jordan.

Open SESAME! The Middle East's new particle accelerator in al-Balqa, Jordan. Image courtesy of http://www.sesame.org.jo/

Open SESAME! The Middle East's new particle accelerator in al-Balqa, Jordan. Image courtesy of http://www.sesame.org.jo/

The prospect of lots of clever people from a troubled region working together to push the envelope of human scientific knowledge is something to celebrate. Likewise, in music, sport, literature etc., there is so much which humans enjoy and excel at which unites us across differences. At a time when there seem to be ever more ways to contrive conflict with others (voting preferences, cosmetic appearance, nationality, the list grows ever longer), let us always think first of the reality at hand - that quietly, so many of the things which inspire us are common to us all.

So as we look ahead to what 2017 may bring, rather than dwell on what frights us, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of all that unites us.

A Happy New Year to you all.

Also posted at https://verycivilengineer.wordpress.com/

 

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

Heading Moonward

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📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Student projects, Undergraduate

What is the first thing that comes to ones' mind when you think of going to the moon? Reminiscent memories of the monstrous Saturn 5 rockets used to take the Apollo astronauts to our closest celestial neighbour perhaps? Or fantastical ideas of far-fetched future technology ferrying people back and forth in ease and comfort? A visionary space technology start-up in India has their own ideas, and are acting upon them, planning to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon in late 2017, depositing a rover and multiple other scientific payloads on the lunar surface.

Team Indus are a passionate team of driven aerospace engineers based in Bangalore who are taking part in the Google Lunar Xprize, an international competition challenging private companies around the world to land a spacecraft on the moon, deposit a rover that travels at least 500m and sends back to earth high-definition video and pictures. The first team to do so will be given a prize of US$30 million. As part of their planned mission, the company has left a little (and I mean little) room for extra payload. This is where Lab2Moon comes in.

The Lab2Moon challenge

Lab2Moon is another international competition hosted by Team Indus to pit the best student minds worldwide against each other to innovate, design and build an experimental payload that will aid the development of sustainable human presence on the moon. 3000 teams sent in their concepts. 25 were selected to advance to the next stage, where they will be flown out to Bangalore and will present prototypes to a board of judges. 'LunaDome' is three University of Bath aerospace students' entry to the competition, and is in the second round as one of the 25. If it wins the second round, we will have the opportunity to put our designed experiment onto a spacecraft and see it placed on the lunar surface.

Our LunaDome project

Effectively, 'LunaDome' aims to understand the effect of temperature fluctuations experienced on the lunar surface upon a pressure controlled environment. The critical payload specifications state that the experiment has to fit into a space the size of a generic coke can, and weigh no more than 250g. Our design is simple: a compressed CO2 canister will vent CO2 through a bespoke valve, designed and built by us, into a sealed, fixed volume 'dome'. Think shiny inflatable bag. This 'dome' will be filled to atmospheric pressure and controlled so as to maintain this pressure. The temperature variation experienced by the sealed CO2 will be measured and sent back to earth for analysis. The aim is to understand what heating and cooling capacity an environmental control and life support system (an air - con) would have to achieve for a habitable atmosphere on the lunar surface.

Keep track of our progress

This project has opened up a huge opportunity for the University of Bath to showcase its excellent engineering capabilities. We have the privilege of being a part of a movement aimed at inspiring younger generations and getting people excited about space and future technological prospects. Our team has been featured on BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Radio Berkshire, and we have a large social media drive to gain exposure and interest in what we are doing (like our Facebook page, subscribe to our YouTube channel or visit our website). Please do find us, follow us and journey with us as we aim to bring humanity to the moon!

 

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

 

Straight into the Labs!

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

I am currently in the second month of my PhD project, which will consist of examining materials suitable for 3D printing lightweight structures. The project will be using swarming, coordinated drones to deposit the material rather than current ground based heavy machinery.

I have dived straight into laboratory work with a small device which represents the amount of material that a single drone can carry. I have enjoyed commencing lab work early and this will help inform my reading by refining the search for suitable literature. Material investigation will focus upon cement pastes and polymers, with the starting point for my work being whether polyurethane foam may play a role in a structural material.

The device consists of two syringes and a 6V DC motor connected to rods moving the plungers up and down the syringes. Polyurethane foam has two liquid components – a resin and a hardener. The figures below show the liquids being drawn into the syringes and then deposited through an arrangement of silicon tubes with an epoxy mixer nozzle into a mould.

blog1       blog-2

Long established as insulating materials, initial syringe device operation has been carried out using standard density polyurethane foam. I have been using different machines for the first time to characterise the material, with mechanical testing in the structures laboratory, travelling to Chemical Engineering to use the Rheometer and to the Microscopy analysis suite to use the Scanning Electron Microscope and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. This will lead on to the investigation of higher density polyurethane foam, which has a density comparable to timber. I look forward in the coming weeks to using the techniques that I have learnt in the first month of my PhD to investigate the higher density foam and determine the structural feasibility of the material.

 

How to Design the 'Best' Paper Airplane

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

The H.M.S. Research in very low Earth orbit.

The 'H.M.S. Research' in Very Low Earth Orbit.

One of the reasons I was interested in doing a PhD in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Bath was the emphasis that the department and the university place on public engagement. Sharing research with the world and inspiring young people to pursue awesome projects in engineering and design is something I wanted to do more of!

One of the coolest such opportunities here at Bath is the University's link with the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution's (BRLSI) Young Researcher's Programme (YRP). At YRP, a group of current PhD students from the University of Bath act as mentors for a cohort of 14-16 year old young researchers who spend one full year developing an completely independent research project on a question of their choosing - a "mini-PhD."

Our role as mentors is to try to convey the research process and research skills, and to inspire and guide the intellectual development of the young researchers - we are not teachers!

The photo above shows what that mentorship actually looks like!

Last Saturday, the exercise we went through with the young researcher's was the design of the "best" paper airplane. Starting out as a very open ended design brief: "Design the 'best' paper airplane.", the exercise eventually guided the young researchers through the process of defining a precise research question - "What does 'best' mean anyway?"

As we quickly learned with the young researchers, however, even with a precise research question formulated, such as "How does wingspan and wing shape affect flight distance?," we needed to develop ways of measuring both our inputs and our results. We also needed to be clear about our independent and dependent variables, and the controls in our experiment. In about 30 minutes, (all the while witnessing the design of some pretty impressive paper airplanes!) we encountered and tackled many of the major challenges every scientist and researcher faces in planning and executing real-life research!

Although we certainly hope that the young researchers left the session on Saturday inspired, and with a better sense of how the research process works, we PhD students were actually amazed at how much we had learned as well! It's easy to forget the basic rules of the scientific method when faced with something as huge and abstract as a 3 or 4 year PhD thesis - I think each of us walked away from the day with a few more tools in our research kit, and a clarified sense of how to approach our own work.

If you do end up pursuing a PhD at the University of Bath, I highly recommend getting involved with the Young Researcher's Programme or one of the similar projects, such as Code Club, happening in the Bath area. You can also become a STEM ambassador, where you have the opportunity to inspire young people about STEM, share your work to excited and bright-eyed audiences, and just have a good time doing the fun parts of STEM!

Please note: the above image is copyright of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. Please do not reuse without permission.

 

Video Production for your Student Project

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📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Student projects, Undergraduate

When people ask what I do, I say that I’m an engineer, completing the second year of my PhD. I work on control systems and simulation, and I want to go into the automotive industry. But in my spare time during my university career, I have developed video production and rendering skills to the point that I’m now earning some income on the side, and I love it! (The income, yes, but also what I do).

I’ve developed these skills gradually throughout a few years, but they’ve really been given a big boost when I joined Team Bath Racing - the Formula Student Racing team – back in 2014. I became business manager for that year, and marketing became a big part of my job. It included branding, media content, and making the team appealing to both students and sponsors. I can write letters, hand out flyers, I can tell you over and over again what makes TBR fantastic, but what I’ve found to be most effective tool is video content. It’s catchy, it’s exciting, and it’s dynamic, just like TBR!

As a result, we have a strong media presence both in the University and in the Formula Student world. If you don't know what Formula Student is, take a look at this fantastic video produced by my good friend and video editing partner Kevin Johnson, who filmed and edited this in one weekend!:

 

So, maybe you’re involved with a University project, and you want the world to know how great it is. Perhaps, like TBR, you need sponsors to survive, and you need to attract them to YOUR project, not the one at University X. Well, let me share my experience from the perspective of someone who is an engineer first, and an amateur video producer second.


PLAN IT!
The first step of video production for your university project is to assemble your V-Team. When you’ve got university deadlines and project timelines to meet, video production becomes much easier with a good team to share the workload and creative process.

The V-team includes stakeholders within the University project who have a say in how the project would be represented to the public. Ours included the project manager, business manager, sponsorship accounts manager, and the video grunts like myself. We sweetened the deal by meeting on a Friday afternoon and going for a crepe in the SU afterwards, so our attendance was usually quite high. If you’re a strong, independent lone wolf who “don’t need no team”, don’t skip this section! This is probably the most crucial phase of the video production process, and one that people rush over most often.

Unified Brand
At your early team meetings, you need to figure out what why you want to make videos, because there’s no point wasting your effort. Before you start filming, start by developing the marketing concept and visual themes for your project. It’s important because it will give your video content a unified approach, building your brand and making it recognisable. Without discussing these themes, your videos will feel disjointed.

Indeed, the outcomes of these meetings will be valid for other areas of engagement, not just your videos; for TBR this included our social media, posters, presentations, events, our apparel, and even the racecar itself! We settled on our team colours of black, white, and BP green, along with the occasional hexagon pattern, and that bled into most areas of our brand for last year.

TBR16

Black, White, BP Green and Hexagon theme, as seen on the TBR16 livery and headrest.

I’ve found coming up with a few key phrases to sum up the marketing campaign helps by making sure each video ultimately meets one or more of these requirements. Last year our three phrases were:

“Professional”

“Creates Loyal Fans”

“Visceral”

Our videos had to reflect these phrases as much as we could creatively manage.

Plan Your Video Content
Now that you have your unified approach figured out, it’s time to make a plan! Think about how many videos you want to (and are able to) produce. Should they coincide with some of your key dates? Who wants to take the lead on each one? In what way will these videos help your project along? You don’t want to end up with a huge video workload at the same time as that coursework you will inevitably procrastinate over until the week before hand-in.

Most of our videos had our big May 25th event in mind – TBR Car Launch. All of our videos pointed towards Car Launch because that is when we would unveil our car for the first time, and we want our fans to be loyal to our team throughout the subsequent race season. It’s also the only time when nearly all of our past and present sponsors travel to Bath to see us, so it has a lot of sponsorship money riding on it.

Once you have a gameplan for which videos you want to release in the year, make a plan for each one!

Who are we trying to reach?” Is it sponsors? Fans? Schoolchildren? Students? This will almost certainly dictate the ‘mood’ of your video.

What are we trying to tell them, or get them to do?” Each video has a purpose, and this needs to be discussed within your brand phrases. Is it to relay information to people who’ve never heard of you? To generate interest of people who have? Pitch a proposal for a sponsor? Set a goal for the video, and possibly write a script.

How do we get them to watch it?” What use is the video if no-one watches it! Think about your distribution plans, and how will you make your video visible to your target audience. This discussion should also branch off into plans for expanding your overall marketing and public engagement strategy, whether it be through social media, the events you attend, flyers around campus etc.  You need to maximise your marketing platform to give your videos the best reach they can.

How do we put it into practice?” One of my tasks was to create a teaser one month before Car Launch to get people excited about it. So I looked back at ‘Professional’ and ‘Visceral’, and created a 360 video that included our colour themes and patterns. Watch it below!

 

Naturally, this is a render and not a filmed and edited piece, but it reflects how those early meetings drive your creativity and innovation.

With your plan ready, it’s time to get filming.


FILM IT!
Filming can be both the most fun and the most frustrating part of the process. It consists of equal parts joy of seeing the video develop before your eyes, and annoyance from not filming that perfect shot you want. But that’s video production for you.

There are plenty of guides on the internet on how to set up a perfect shot written by people much better at this than me, so I won’t waste your time here talking about it, but I will give you a few pointers as someone who’s probably in much the same position as you!

University Library has you covered: If you don’t have a camera, the University Library has some that you can hire out that come with a tripod. Follow this link for more information.

Multiple takes: Film the same shot at least three times from the same angle if you’re able to. Then film the same thing three times from a different angle! This makes editing much easier as you can splice the good bits from each one together, and you end up with a much better video.

Use a tripod: The shaky documentary-style video might be having a resurgence (think Parks and Recreation), but they use special equipment to not make it feel nauseating. The best thing you can do to make your videos not look like a home movie is to use a tripod. If you can get a slider, too, this will make your videos feel much more slick and professional (I’m sure someone in Mech Eng would have fun building one for you).

Use a microphone: If your video is to have any speaking in it, be sure to use an external microphone, not just the built-in one from the camera. Bad audio can ruin a video, usually more so than the visuals can! This link shows you what I mean.

 

Zoom: If like us you have a team member keen on photography who has a DSLR with a zoom lens, be sure to try out a 50mm zoom in some of your shots (strictly speaking it’s a 50mm ‘focal length’). This is the closest to the human eye zoom, and makes the video seem much more natural. Too little zoom and it feels like a home video. Too much and any shakiness gets amplified. For comparison, the new iPhone 7 has a 28mm zoom (again, "focal length"). The video camera from the University Library may also have a zoom function, so give it a try and see what you like.

It takes longer than you think: If you’re in charge of filming a particular video, plan enough time to try the shots you want, and then double it. It takes much longer than you think, and other people involved need to be aware of that. As the old guy in Toy Story 2 said: “you can’t rush art.” Good planning makes the filming activity take twice as long as scheduled, bad planning makes it take much, much longer. Keep that in mind.

One final note, don’t be afraid to get creative! Just be sure to get the shots you feel you need within your timeframe; any extra time allows you to get really creative. A few people may have seen myself and my friend in the car park on Saturday, trying out a wheelchair to get some smooth dynamic shots of our cars… it sort of worked, by the way!


EDIT IT!
As an engineer, I like to tinker. Whether it be my computer code, my car, my electronics, I like to try and explore new ways to make my experience better. Consequently, editing is my favourite part of the video process, as I get to tweak this parameter or animate this gain… plus I get to avoid sunlight like a true engineer.

Pick your poison: After filming, you’ll already have visualised a vague sequence in your mind, and know how you want the video to look. The key is getting good at a chosen editing software to literally make your dreams come true. Difficult software can ruin the experience to the point you get so frustrated that you just say ‘that’ll do’ and end up with a poor video, so choose wisely. Something like Windows Movie Maker just isn’t going to cut it (pun intended), though iMovie is getting better. As a student, you get the benefit of discounts of many editing suites, so I would recommend something like Adobe Premiere. It’s part of a £15/month package, and includes Photoshop, After Effects and loads more Adobe products. Plus you get a free trial! Find out more here.

Again, there are plenty of online guides on editing software and how to use it, so chose an editing suite and get good at googling! However, as before, here are a few pointers to help your process:

Check music royalties: The world of copyright is a minefield, and one where you don’t want to put a foot wrong. Unfortunately, obtaining the rights to a particular song is usually expensive. We wanted to use a Jack Garratt song in one of our videos, but after contacting just the publisher the basic price was £2000! I explained it was for a good cause, but they said that was their ‘charities’ rate. Your best bet is to look for – and likely pay for – ‘royalty free’ music, like the ones found in here. Alternatively, you could compose your own…

Introduce yourselves: Most YouTube channels use some form of creative intro displaying their logo, as does TBR, and so should you! It’s a great way to tie your videos together so that they are recognisable, and lets you draw the viewers in. Think about it – Facebookers scroll through hundreds of videos a week, why would they want to stop and watch yours? You have two seconds to grab their attention. After Effects and Blender are my go-to tools for motion graphics, but you can equally film something for it instead.

Team Feedback: As the old adage goes ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, and that is certainly true for editing. Ever heard of famous bands splitting because of ‘creative differences’? It’s best not to have multiple people editing a video, as your creative vision gets clouded trying to constantly explain it to a pushy team member. However, you really should approach your V-Team after your first cut, as they will have really good feedback and should offer constructive creative criticism on how to make the video even better! The final cut lays on your lap, but they certainly help you get there.

Here is one of our favourite videos made by Team Bath Racing. It was for a competition here at the University hosted by Women in Engineering to help promote engineering amongst schoolchildren, particularly girls. We won by the way. Because the video wasn’t a classic promo for TBR, we didn’t implement all the marketing-related tips outlined above, but we did follow the general video production process, overall.

 

There you have it! Once you’ve finished your video and your team is happy, get it out there for the world to see.


Closing Remarks
Getting good at video editing is not an overnight event, but it is a skill that is worth every second you put in. It’s easier to learn video editing when you have a project you’re passionate about, like the project you’re involved with at the University. For example, I’ve been learning a rendering program called Blender by doing 3D renders for TBR for the past three years, just because I was passionate about the project. Now, my skill has developed to the point that I’m considering starting up a render and video production business with my friend, as we’ve had many people and companies approach us with paying contracts to produce videos and renders for them!

All this to say, don’t feel like you’re wasting your time being stuck doing editing. It’s a valuable life skill and a creative outlet, so why not take the opportunity to benefit your project while also developing yourself.

If you have any questions or queries, feel free to find me on Person Finder, or pop down to the TBR Buildroom in 4 East and ask around how you can get involved. Please also be sure to like Team Bath Racing on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you can see the awesome activities we get up to. Look out for news about TBR Car Launch, and find out how you can attend! We have some big plans for this year, stay tuned.

Happy Filming,

Frederik ‘Franco’ Botes

 

Envisioning the Internet of Things at Bosch

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Ka Man Wong, MSc Modern Building Design (MBD) student


I was very delighted to be selected one of the winning entries for the Internet of Things (IoT) competition organised by BOSCH. The competition forms part of the #BetweenUsWeCan campaign. This award has a great meaning for me as it affirms my work done in engineering and encourages me to pursue my career in in architectural engineering. People often perceive that engineering is a male world because of Maths and Physics, however, it is much more than just that! Women's intelligence, persistence, and creativity can make a fantastic contribution across all engineering disciplines.

The prize of the award was a two-day trip to Germany. I had a great time with the other two winners who are high-talented and super bright. We exchanged our ideas of the entries on innovative engineering during the journey which was very enlightening for me!

Ka Man Wong and fellow competition winners at BOSCH, Germany

Ka Man Wong and fellow competition winners at BOSCH, Germany

My winning idea
I designed a multi-sensory recycling container that could classify the type of waste that consumers were recycling, employing a points-based incentivisation scheme to reward them accordingly. The idea of an incentivised multi-sensory recycling container encourages the concepts of recycling to all citizens in the UK, as well as to create a smart and sustainable society. This smart design centres on the intelligent classification system, smartphone applications, internet protocol, and supporting better recycling habits.

My trip to Germany
We got to the Heathrow airport at 6:00 in the morning, but unfortunately our flight to Stuttgart was delayed because of engineering problems. We were stuck in airport for 3.5 hours. Once we finally arrived, the Bosch trip organiser adjusted the plan and we visited the Mercedes-Benz museum. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in Stuttgart and I was surprised to learn that visitors go to the museum not just to learn about the history of car manufacturing, but to explore the glorious architectural features of the building.

On the second day, we went to visit Bosch's research and development centre in Reutlingen near Stuttgart. We were all surprised how such small circuit boards / cells can provide so many intelligent functions of the car such as an automatic parking system! It was also fascinating to visit their testing facility where thousands of car parts are sent for testing every day.

Bosch's research and development centre in Reutlingen

Bosch's research and development centre in Reutlingen


Watch Ka Man Wong receive her award

 

Copenhagen, DTU - Thoughts so far

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Hello,

I thought it would be a good time to do another blog post for my time in Copenhagen, which is going incredibly quickly! We are now half way through our time on Erasmus and have had a one week break, to catch up on work and more importantly rest. I personally have taken this opportunity to try and see a bit more of the country with a road trip to the main island of Jutland to see a few cities and places and headed home for a little bit (Be warned if you do apply to come out here, despite there being very cheap flights to and from the UK around four weeks before,  if you leave it to the week before the price is incredibly expensive!). But lots of people are spending the week also heading around new European cities and in Denmark itself.

I will start by talking about the social aspects of the Erasmus placement so far. During the week (Sunday – Wednesday) it is very focused on working and quite intense I would say, in order to get all your deadlines met. A lot of people studying with us just have to pass the Erasmus placement which is a tad annoying but I have not as of yet (Luckily!!) had anyone who hasn’t pulled their weight in group projects. However, from Thursday through to Saturday night there are so many different social activities to do which more than make up for the intense week days. This includes university nights out ranging from mini festivals on campus, 50p beers on the last Friday of the month, parties in the S-Huset (Student Union), Octoberfest, Bar crawls around the city and going out in the city itself. So there is more than enough night-out and drinking activities to get involved with and to meet people.

This said, there are also a huge range of things to do that are not drink related within the city itself – there are so many places to visit, things to see and really cool areas of Copenhagen to explore. I have been quite lucky in that I have had a few visitors come out to Copenhagen so I have spent a lot of weekends in the city with them exploring and trying new things. This includes boat tours around the harbour, swimming in the main river, Carlsberg factory, seeing the houses of parliament etc so if you are concerned that socially the Erasmus placement would not be fun – I personally would say there is nothing to worry about at all!

The only slight negative I would have is the sports at DTU do not compare at all to Bath and makes me realise how lucky we have been. I am a keen footballer and have joined the DTU Football group, sadly they only play 4-aside Danish style Futsal (which has some very interesting rules) but it is just training at the moment twice a week (one of which I can’t make due to lectures). There has been talking of trying to get us into competitive tournaments, however the standard is extremely varied between practise sessions depending on who turns up. Also the team is not limited to just students so many working professionals from the local town turn up and play. Despite this I have found it fun, and another good way to meet new people. There are other sports team such as dance, rugby, volleyball but they are limited.

The work/learning experience in DTU has been very different to Bath. As already mentioned the lectures are in four hour blocks from 8-12 or 1-5 which does make for very long days. The lectures are split normally by two hours of teaching, and then two hours of tutorial where you work on a project or examples from class. The lectures themselves require a bit of self-learning before and you are not given as much in depth detail compared to Bath; certain things are glossed over very quickly. I personally find the tutorials after the lectures where I learn the most; the teacher usually stays for this and there are always learning assistants. The learning assistants are students from the year above who have previously taken these modules, I personally have found that everyone is very approachable and more than helpful trying to help you understand anything or showing you the best way to do something. So on this front I have no problems; however, I do feel in lectures they rapidly run through things without most people understanding. I will now give you a brief run through of the subjects I am taking, which Ben and Dominique also do 3 out of the 4 with me.

-       Smart, Connected and Liveable Cities – This module focuses on looking at what concepts/features make a modern city “connected/smart” and the ways about achieving this. What certain aspects does a city need to have in order to make it reachable for all people living within it and what makes it stand out against other cities. The course started really interestingly; however, as the weeks have progressed I have found it getting a little tedious with the lectures just consisting of general knowledge about different elements of cities such as water or transport without offering any solutions to problems or really relating to any assignments. The assignments themselves seem interesting, we have to read and write a report on George Orwell 1984 which is a very good read, write a story about a utopian city and do a group project on climate adaptation within cities.

-       Structural Analysis – I quite enjoy this module and personally it is up there as one of my better modules. The work load consists of doing assignments each week that add up to the final report; we have 3 hours of tutorial to the do the work (you have to do stuff outside class too!) and then an hour lecture after which goes over next week’s work. We are using Danish building codes to design a 5 story construction in Copenhagen, looking at the use of different floors by different occupants. We have had to look at wind loading, connection details in a lot of detail, wall stability so overall I have really enjoyed this and I am learning quite a lot. However, do not expect the lecture to clear everything up for you – you really have to digest the presentation and understand it yourself.

-       Rock Physics and Rock Mechanics – This is my favourite subject I am taking at DTU, with the only slight negative being that it is assessed through examinations meaning I have to stay late in to December to take the exam. The topic itself builds on a little bit of similar stuff to soil mechanics but focuses on it from a petroleum engineering and tunnelling point of view. With a lot of the lectures focusing on the application of what we are being taught, for a potential job in the petroleum industry or tunnelling. We have had some very interesting guest lecturers from Ramboll, and a site vist but most importantly the teacher and teaching assistant are very good in this subject and very helpful during the tutorial sessions. The work is generally quite hard to get your head around with the different conventions and a lot of new content but this said I am still finding it very enjoyable.

-       Sustainable Buildings – This topic is a 10 credit module so in essence is a double module. The work load for this has been very intense with assignments during the term and I have generally had to spend a lot of time on this one (compared to the others). It is not technically difficult but the assignments are worded very poorly so we have been spending a lot of time trying to dissect what he really wants from the questions. We have also noticed that the other people in the class are very happy to plug numbers into software without really understanding what they are doing, so a very different learning experience to Bath. The topic focuses on creating Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in Denmark, and so far we have used different software to optimise building construction, window constructions and mechanical ventilation systems. The work I find is very interesting but it is just the time taken understanding what he really wants which takes up a large amount of your time. I would recommend it though.

The accommodation despite being very sceptical about at the start I am really enjoying. It is really nice to be sharing halls with people studying from all over Copenhagen and a good way to meet new people. The kitchens are really sociable, we have regular meals, drinks, parties, and watch tv in the living area so I really can’t complain on this front. Having the bar downstairs is also a nice way to meet new people on a Saturday night. The standard is very high compared to other friends who are in DTU accommodation (Campus Village, shared student houses in Verum etc) but the offset is it is a good 35-40 min cycle to campus (which for a 8 lecture means getting up at 6). But to be honest I think this is completely worth it even in pouring rain and being close to town is also really nice.

Sorry about the length of this blog post, but I hope it gives you an insight into the 7 weeks I have now done at DTU. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask and I will be more than willing to help, the previous year who were at DTU were extremely helpful in helping me and the others out.