Engineering and design student insights

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

Final blog post about my time at DTU, Copenhagen

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

Hello,

I thought it would be a good idea to do one final blog post about my time in Copenhagen, as I have now finished at the Danish Technical University. If anyone is hesitant or unsure about whether to go for this opportunity, my advice would be to go for it!!!! I would recommend it 100% and I have had an absolutely amazing time in Denmark! I was quite sad to be leaving in the end! It has been really interesting and fun to meet lots of new people, see a new city/country, live abroad for the first time and not forgetting to study in a new way/style!

I think my last blog post was during the autumn break you get whilst studying at the University. Since this point, the work load did pick up considerably and around Christmas it became very busy, but I thought this was also due to the fact that this was when I was applying for Graduate Schemes for next year and completing interviews which took up a considerable amount of time. Not just because the workload being so heavy, it is unattainable to keep up with. However, personally I feel that being abroad does not hinder any applications at all; it is just different. This because no one around you is applying for jobs at the same time so you really have to look at balancing your time effectively. I have also had to fly home a few times for interviews/assessment centres and I have found that companies were fine with reimbursing me for flights and train travel in England. It was just a bit of a hassle. So don’t let this put you off! Also it is a really good conversation opener, when they ask how far have you had to travel in today and they seemed really interested by Copenhagen.

I will start by talking about my accommodation. As mentioned the accommodation by the University is extremely lacking and unorganised! Finding something private in town is a bit tricky but I wouldn’t say completely unachievable. I ended up really loving my student halls (Tingbjerg Terraserne), it was nice to share with people studying different degrees at different universities in the city and it was very social. The halls were of a lot higher standard than others I visited across Copenhagen, and the rooms were a really good size. The location wasn’t perfect, but certainly had the best of both. We were a 40 minute cycle away from the University which wasn’t so bad and then 30 minutes into town (a really nice cycle in, through a nice part of the town too). I felt this was probably the best place to be for us, as we were not so far away from town that we wouldn’t go in but were not so far away University either! Maybe the summer weather would have made the cycle easier!

The social side of the Erasmus placement was really fun! There was always something to do and see, or people to go out with! The nightlife in Copenhagen was more restricted than Bath to Thursday through to Saturday night realistically (not something every night it seemed); however it was a good night out with plenty of bars and clubs. Also the University organised a lot of nights for us to get involved in. Everyone is in the same boat as you, so are really keen to get involved - so don’t worry about not knowing anyone. The city itself is really amazing, I was lucky to have a lot of friends over for weekends and I never ran out of anything new to show people or see. There are some very cool regions/districts with lots of cafes and bars, meaning that there is something for everyone.  Also, as I had worked over summer, I managed to get about at weekends too, doing road trips around the country and across to Sweden – which if you can you should take advantage of.

The studying at the University was certainly very different to at home, with four hour blocks for each module just once a week. However by the end I did quite enjoy this style – as it meant you could get straight onto the tutorial and get help from the teachers. I will run through (Briefly) my thoughts on the modules I took before Christmas and then talk about the 3 week intensive course you can do in January.

Sustainable Buildings – A 10 Credit module (Double) but I would recommend this module which has a very strong building environment focus. It uses software such as IDA ICE and Heat 2 to build up to designing a “Nearly Zero Energy Building” to Danish standards. I found the lectures and assignments very interesting, and once you get your head around the software and what is being asked of you – it is really enjoyable. If you keep up with the deadlines (This course is all assignments) throughout the term, it makes it achievable as you develop your skills for the next assignment.

Rock Physics and Rock Mechanics – I personally really liked this module, it had a petroleum engineering and tunnelling focus for the application of geotechnics. I found this really interesting that all the lecture material was related to real life situations and to applied situations. The exam (100% exam) was very tough I will admit, but despite this the lecturer and teaching assistant were really nice.

Structural Analysis – This module again is 100% coursework, using Danish building codes to design an office and retail structure. It takes it a lot further than that taught during second year and some of the assignments were tricky. Each week you have a new assignment to complete, which you then write up at the end of term. This is very taxing, as it actually takes a long time to write up! Therefore budget your time for this alongside your revision. However I would recommend you take this module.

Smart, Connected and Liveable Cities – I didn’t really enjoy this module. The assignments themselves were really interesting, however, the lectures were not related to them at all and just general knowledge which personally I felt were very dull – I didn’t look forward to Tuesday afternoons! The assignments consisted of writing a book review on George Orwells 1984 focusing on urban design, writing a dystopian story again focusing on urban design. We also had a group report and presentation on a topic of your choice, from which we choose to do city resilience to climate change. In particular we focused on rising sea levels and looked at the viability of options such as floating cities or floodable cities. In the end this worked really well for me, as my group was with five really nice and good people. But I could imagine you may get a bit unstuck doing this, as a few of the presentations were quite poor. The work load was heavy; however, don’t let my view completely put you off – as a few people really enjoyed the lectures.

As I have mentioned before you have to take 30 credits at DTU, I opted (along with the others from Bath) to do 25 before Christmas and a 5 credit “intensive course” after Christmas. This module was environmental engineering in developing countries. I personally really wanted to come back after Christmas, as it helped to reduce the work load before the holidays and gave me more time in Denmark to enjoy it! However, if you choose not to, you would get a very long holiday till when you get back to Bath. This January option isn’t taken up by most people, as a lot of my friends (nearly all from DTU) left before Christmas so there wasn’t many of us left after but despite this it was still fun! The course itself was really interesting (in 9-5 every day) looking at methods to improve sanitation, water supply and waste management. There were really good guest lecturers nearly every day, and the assignment in groups was a real life case study in an area of the world, to improve these things so it was very interesting. We had a final report as a hand in, with weekly presentations on our progress and also weekly tests to make sure we were turning up. I would certainly recommend this course, as it gets you back to Denmark (Also for New Year’s celebrations (as the course started on the 2nd) which was something very different to home!!!) and is enjoyable.

The only one slight negative I would say about the whole Erasmus experience is the price in Denmark. I worked for 13 weeks over summer before I went out there, so I didn’t struggle too bad. But, Denmark is an expensive place so just be prepared and it won’t be such a shock! But don’t let this put you off, just try to work a little over summer before you get here!!!

I really hope these blog posts have inspired you to do Erasmus at DTU, as I do not regret going one bit and I have really enjoyed it! It has been a great experience and I have made lots of friends who I will definitely see again.  One big word of advice would be to go and get involved in everything, especially the introduction week as this is where I met a lot of my friends from the whole time there!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask and I will be more than happy to help.

 

Lifelong Learning - sharing a love of Structures

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

Clifton Suspension Bridge from the Observatory platform

Every student is different but mature students have had more time than most to accumulate differences! In my case, I have returned to study having worked in practice, qualified as a Chartered Structural Engineer, had children and taught at a post-92 University. But in each stage of this traverse through my portfolio career, I have been grateful for the support and inspiration of the Institution of Structural Engineers. This has included, but by no means been limited to, technical talks offering a window on others' experience. It is perhaps easy to take these for granted with the luxury of a choice of research seminars and talks on campus almost every week, but for Engineers outside research-intensive Universities the talks provide a valuable connection and opportunity for professional development. However, as a parent, it can be difficult to attend meetings, even when they are local. Six pm starts are great for those able to go straight from work but are not so easy when the logistics of juggling after school and evening childcare means dashing home before hand!

So I was delighted to see that the Institution of Structural Engineers President’s Inaugural Address this year was to be made available on Livestream. It was still challenging to get the children rounded up and fed for 6pm so it was a few minutes after that I tuned in but without the embarrassment of clunking doors and finding the last remaining seat. And as a remote viewer, fire evacuation procedures were of limited relevance in any case! By the time 2017 President, Ian Firth, started speaking, I was happily settled and beginning to appreciate further benefits. As a shorter than average Engineer, I am used to seeing only part of presentation slides unless the lecture theatre has a particularly generous rake or I have managed to get right to the front. This time I could see every slide and hear every word. The talk itself was interesting and entertaining; well worth catching up with as a webinar if you missed it live.

But an unexpected benefit of an evening webinar was revealed later. I’ve previously tended to join lunchtime events, linking to ICE Yorkshire for Jenny Cooke’s "Lunch and Learn" talk on Communicating Climate Change (still available) and to the BRE for an update on Peter Bonfield’s Property Flood Resilience Action Plan. These took place whilst my children were at school but with an evening meeting they were at home. My son first walked through as pictures of buildings following natural disasters were on the screen. He quickly concluded that Structural Engineers were not yet rivalling Danger Mouse in keeping London safe and returned to the TV. However, about a quarter of an hour later he rejoined me, just as Ian Firth was talking about the need for bridges in poor developing societies. This really grabbed his attention, not just because the children were of a similar age but because he also relies on a bridge for his daily walk to and from school, across the River Frome in Bristol.

Boy crossing river on an old footbridge

Hapenny Bridge across the River Frome, Bristol

He continued to watch with me through to the end, though was rather dismissive of the Robot Bridge Building as he’d seen it all before on Dick & Dom’s Absolute Genius: Monster Builds! The next day on our walk to school, we were able to discuss the talk further and think about how he would improve the bridge. This led rather neatly into a weekend where we saw both Second Severn Crossing and the Clifton Suspension Bridge from unusual perspectives.

Second Severn Crossing from Spaniorum

A privileged view of the Second Severn Crossing

So thank you IStructE for allowing me the opportunity to see such an interesting talk - and thank you Ian Firth for inspiring not only me but a 10 year old who is already considering whether he might be able to follow Brunel beyond the Avon Gorge.

An edited version of this blog is available on the IStructE website

 

HIGH DENSITY POLYURETHANE FOAMS

  

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

My PhD project, looking at materials suitable for 3D printing buildings using swarming aerial robots, began with investigating low density, expanding polyurethane foam ‘LD40’ (a) manufactured by the company Isothane. Now it is the turn of high density polyurethane foams, and the studies have used Reprocell 300 (b) and Reprocell 500 (c), commercially available foams manufactured by the same company.

foam

While LD40 is established in the construction industry as an insulating material, the higher density foams are not readily associated with construction. Reprocell 300 is usually found as a substitute for timber in prop and set design along with applications such as balustrades and mantelpieces, whereas Reprocell 500 is primarily used for deep sea buoyancy applications.

Blocks of foam created so that the materials may be tested in line with the British standards, have been primarily made by hand mixing on the high density foams, such as the compressive strength test specimens shown in the figure.

Through trial and error, I arrived at a recipe for making the high density specimens. Firstly, I heat the two liquid components (one resin, one hardening agent) to 30°C, pour together and hand-mix for 90 seconds. The creamy, viscous liquid then turns a darker brown and becomes much less viscous as the mixed liquid heats up and the polymerisation process begins. I then stir again until the 150 second mark, at which point the material expands. A few more careful stirs then follow until I withdraw and the material quickly hardens, becoming solid at 180 seconds and feeling like a block of concrete.

This recipe has produced specimens which exceed the density stated in the manufacturer’s literature, most notably with the Reprocell 500 (specimens average 685 kg/m3). Compressive tests on the 500 have shown strength in excess of 30 MPa, astonishingly competitive with concrete. Flexural tests have also shown strengths indicating the material is competitive with the lower range of timbers. Reprocell 300 has around a third of the compressive strength of the 500.

Reprocell 500 has therefore shown that it has potential to be a structural material. The downside of denser specimens of course is that the material does not expand quite so freely so I am having to use more of the liquid components!

Making 500 specimens with my little syringe device outlined in the previous post has proved to be challenging. Despite experimenting with longer tubing and multiple static mixers, the material is being deposited in its creamy viscous state, and then the darker / hotter / thinner / runnier phase is occurring on the surface of the mat after deposition, leading to lateral spreading.

After the current round of tests are complete, several options will be investigated, most notably whether a catalyst may be applied to speed up the reaction time and the investigation of whether particles can be added to the material to favourably alter its rheological properties – these may include clay nanoparticles, graphene, carbon fibres, or ways to combine the lower density foam with the higher density foam.

Barrie Dams 19/01/2017

 

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

 

Cold homes - the "silent" killer.

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

fuel-poverty

 

So almost all of us are back in Bath after a couple of weeks of over-eating, prolonged exposure to relatives and dreaming up wholly unachievable New Year’s resolutions. As the weather gets colder and we are no longer ensconced in wonderfully warm living rooms with copious amounts of mulled wine, you might be questioning how on earth you’re going to cope with the arctic conditions of your house share… Well, you’re not alone.

Cold homes are estimated to cost the NHS approximately £1.3 billion per year, mostly as a result of people suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular problems. With soaring energy prices, inefficient buildings and incomes rising slower than inflation, it is no wonder that an increasing number of people struggle to attain suitable indoor temperatures. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18˚C, which should be increased to 21˚C for children, disabled people and the elderly.

Unsurprisingly, cold homes have a more adverse effect on older people, whose bodies are less capable of trapping and retaining heat in comparison to a younger person. In the winter of 2014/15 there were 43,900 excess winter deaths (EWDs), 83% of which were people aged 75 and over. It is estimated that around 30% of EWDs are caused by cold homes, which results in over 8000 people dying unnecessarily each year. Shockingly, this is more than the number of people killed in road accidents, or through alcohol abuse.

So with this in mind, what is being done to prevent EWD’s? Well, Government initiatives such as the Energy Company Obligation (which requires energy companies to improve the energy efficiency of their most vulnerable customer’s homes), the Green Deal (which loaned money to homeowners for renewable energy sources) and more local Council led schemes, such as Warm Homes in BANES, all go some way to alleviating the problem, but the reality is that the direct and indirect effect of cold homes on health is not fully understood and further research is necessary to ensure this problem is prevented.

In the meantime, as we now know more about the impact of cold homes on health, I think it’s completely justifiable for us to hit the sales and buy some more clothes, purely in the interest of staying warm and healthy… right?!

 

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

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

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!