Engineering and design student insights

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

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.

 

My first academic conference (including dinner... in an aquarium!)

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

Eating plaice in the presence of plaice

After starting my PhD recently (a month ago today to be exact),  I was lucky enough to be invited, by my second supervisor, to the Nordic Seminar on Computational Mechanics at Chalmers University, Gothenburg, Sweden. And, of course, I accepted!

With some last minute planning and already feeling like a real jetsetter, I booked my one night trip and the following week it was happening. I arrived on the second day of the conference, and jumped straight into some parallel sessions on Structural Mechanics and Optimisation. In comparison to reading papers during the first few weeks of my PhD, these 20 minute presentations were a great quick insight into this broad and complex research area, and it was a great way to meet and network with PhD students from other universities.

However, the real fun (and some bemusement) came when we were told that our conference dinner would take place at the “Universeum”. If you are asking yourself, "What is the Universeum?", you are not alone! The Universeum is a science centre (similar to @Bristol for those from my native South West) with a four-storey rainforest exhibit with sloths and other animals; a space exhibit (where I got to play a cool version of space invaders with my supervisor) and an aquarium. As we were visiting out of normal opening hours (it felt a bit like Night at the Museum), before dinner we had full access to the centre and its activities.

We were escorted into the reptile and aquarium exhibit where dinner was to be served. As you can see by the picture - it was very cool! Although, I must admit eating Plaice in front of an audience of Plaice was a new experience for me! The evening continued with lovely food, wine and a hilarious Eurovision song contest with the conference attendees. Although, I must admit me and my supervisor kept quiet when they were asking for further entries - what would we have sung anyway?!

 

Things are about to get electric

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Student projects, Undergraduate

Team Bath Racing Electric (TBRe) represents the University at the annual Formula Student Electric competition. We aim to become the top electric team in the UK in 2017 and to set the foundations for continued electric vehicle research and development at the University for many years to come. TBRe was founded approximately a year ago by a small group of final-year engineering students that believed in the importance of electric vehicle technology for the future of sustainable mobility. They were also crazy about racing.

From go-kart to Silverstone in 12 months

The project began with the development of an electric go-kart. Essentially, the aim was to replace the go-kart’s original petrol engine with an electric motor. The success of this project provided a hands-on working knowledge of the electrical systems and proved the feasibility of the team’s wider goal: to develop a fully electric race car in time for the 2016 Formula Student event at Silverstone.

The 12 months that followed were hectic. Time had to be split between setting up the team (i.e. recruitment, funding, sponsorships…) and the development of the car. Many sleepless nights later, the team was able to take TBRe16 to Silverstone in July. The valuable feedback obtained during the event from technical design judges will be incorporated into next year’s car, marking the beginning of a cycle of knowledge transfer that will continue for many years to come! TBRe’s successes in 2016 would not have been possible without the support given by the Faculty of Engineering & Design and Team Bath Racing (TBR) – thank you!

Watch Team Bath Racing Electric in action at Silverstone 2016


Launching our 2016/17 project

Our official 2016/17 launch on the 7th of October marked the beginning of a new era for TBRe. It was a pleasure to inaugurate our brand new build room and present our team, goals and long-term vision to over 70 enthusiastic engineering students that share our enthusiasm for racing and technology. The team has rapidly tripled in size to approximately 30 students from a range of year groups and disciplines, including a dedicated business team that will take care of finance/logistics/media and allow the technical team to focus exclusively on designing TBRe17!

Team Bath Racing Electric launch event

Team Bath Racing Electric launch event

How to get involved

It is hard to explain how thrilled we are about TBRe’s prospects for the future. With a team of highly motivated individuals and continued support from our academic and industrial partners, 2017 is set to be a game-changing year for the project. Follow our Facebook page and come visit us in 2E 1.10 (Department of Electronic & Engineering) if you want to get involved or simply learn more about the team, we look forward to meeting you!

 

Fancy playing with building physics in a ROOM?

  

📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

If at any point in your life, you wondered why the room is dark, why the air is not fresh, or why the speech in an auditorium sounds muffled, the answers lie within building physics.

In the mood to learn a bit about building physics? Here is a ROOM for you to play with.

Check this video of some interactive visual displays inside:

 

Ideas behind ROOM

Playing with ROOM generally follows the pattern below.

 

It encourages you to visualise the hidden parameters of building design that controls the flow of light, air, heat and sound, to use it as a source of inspiration in the process of developing a design.

 

ROOM currently covers seven topics: sunlight access, daylight access, natural ventilation, fabric heat transfer, approximation of heating demand, thermal comfort, and sound reverberation, all embeded in the context of a room.

Upcoming event

I will be discussing about ROOM and evironmental design in architectural education in the architecture research forum at University of Westminster Marylebone campus on 03 November.

 

 

Survey of attitudes to environmental design

It is a survey we are running with architecture practices and schools to understand how architects perceive environmental design and building physics. I invite you to participate and tell us your views with which ROOM will keep growing.

 

I am also more than happy to give a demo of ROOM and discuss in detail should you be interested in further engaging with the platform and my research.

(more…)

 

11 Tips for Three Minute Thesis Contenders (and anyone giving a presentation really)

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📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Jemma Rowlandson, winner of the 2016 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is a fantastic idea, a great exercise in explaining your research quickly and to a non-specialist audience. It not only comes in handy when engaging the public, but also in your research career. Poster sessions, pitching for funding, and even vivas all require you to think on your feet and explain your research in a concise but informative manner. Squashing your entire PhD into three minutes however is no mean feat, and so here are some tips to get you started…

“An 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present.

Their time limit... 3 minutes”

– threeminutethesis.org

Before the day:

Have a killer story

This is probably THE most important thing you can possibly do. Everyone loves a good story, so ensure your presentation has one, include a beginning, middle and end. Ensure your last sentence focuses on the take home message. This not only makes it easy for the audience to follow, but a good story is also memorable.

Check out other people’s stories

One of the most useful things I find, is looking at what other people have done before me. For the 3MT competition especially, it’s unlikely you’ve ever done anything like this before. Looking at how other people tackled the problem can be very helpful. The 3MT website has lots of fantastic examples from previous winners and finalists, and the University of Bath too has videos of their previous entrants.

Make it relatable

A good analogy helps. Your research will likely span several complex research areas. The real key to this is explaining them in a relatable way. Now this does not mean ‘dumbing down’ your research, you do not want to trivialise what you do. Instead focus on the big picture and find inventive ways to describe your research. My analogy was using Leerdammer cheese to explain adsorption of water toxins. Tricky topic, killer analogy, everyone goes home knowing what adsorption is.

Humour can work well

Humour can go down well in a presentation, and it can help make your story more memorable. However, be prepared for all outcomes. If your joke goes well allow a few seconds before continuing to let the laughter sink in. Equally be prepared for the audience to find things funny that you didn’t expect. And if your joke unfortunately does fall flat, have a back-up plan. Either have a handy one liner to make it into a joke (i.e. ‘I won’t give up my day job then!’), or confidently brush past it onto the next part of your presentation.

Practice, practice, practice

Practice by yourself, in front of other people, and especially people who do not know what your research is about. Know someone else entering the competition? Grab them as a practice partner, you can give each other advice. Multiple people in your research group entering? Great, dedicate a group meeting to presentation feedback. For this, you can never practice enough.

On the day:

Find your happy place

Before your big moment, do something that relaxes you. Don’t go in stressed. Go for a run, eat lots of chocolate, just do something you enjoy. My thing? I listen to Taylor Swift, calms the nerves and puts me in a great mood.

You are the most important thing

The most important thing about the entire presentation is YOU. Sure, you have a slide but the audience came to listen to you, and they will mostly be watching you. Your body language and your enthusiasm are all part of the presentation. So…

Smile 🙂

If you don’t find your research interesting, then why should your audience? A smile goes a long way, the audience will immediately click with you, and it will help you yourself feel more confident. Show enthusiasm for your research topic, the audience will feed off it and enjoy the whole experience a lot more.

Don’t run over time, but don’t rush!!

The three-minute time limit is very strict. Do not go over, even by a second. However, that doesn’t mean you should talk at a million miles an hour to get every tiny possible detail of your research project in. The audience just won’t follow. Instead, have a good story and tell it in good time. Plan some buffer time into your presentation, so that if you do stumble you know there’s a few seconds of leeway.

Never give up

There can only be one winner, and if it wasn’t you this time, that doesn’t mean your presentation wasn’t awesome. Heck, just having the guts to stand up there and try it is something on its own. If it wasn’t your day then don’t worry, there will always be other opportunities. The only way to improve presentation skills is to do more presentations.

But most importantly:

Have fun!

Sure the 3MT can be both stressful and nerve-wracking, but it is also a lot of fun! It is a great way to meet other researchers across the Uni, see what they’re up to, and share your own research. Enjoy the experience as much as possible and take every opportunity it throws your way 🙂

 

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

  

📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

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

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

Who is Patheon?

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

What is supply chain?

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

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

Settling in on placement

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

 

Detecting plastic landmines in different environments

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📥  Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Carl Tholin-Chittenden, 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering and a member of the Engineering Tomography Lab (ETL).


I am working with Electrical Capacitance Tomography (ECT) which is a sensing technique mainly used in industry to non-invasively view inside objects such as pipelines or containers. I use this technology to image landmines underground and reconstruct 3D images to aid in their detection and removal.

Reconstructing a 3D image

Landmines are increasingly constructed of plastic with very few metal components. This makes detecting them with conventional techniques, such as metal detectors, very difficult. ECT is capable of detecting most types of materials not just metals. This is because it finds differences in electromagnetic properties of materials to their surroundings. A plastic or metallic object buried in soil or sand is going to produce very different signals to the ECT sensor than when there is only soil or sand under the sensor. This signal difference can then be reconstructed to produce a 3D image of the object.

The main difficulties with ECT are that it doesn’t reconstruct the objects with much precision (mainly just location and depth) and it can be drastically affected by different environments, such as wet ground which degrades the signal quality.

In order to improve the image reconstruction of ECT I spent my first year at Bath researching sensor head designs to see if by simply changing the shape and layout of the sensor head I could improve the image reconstruction. I found that by using many different shapes of electrode and by varying the electrode layout on the sensor I could drastically improve the image reconstructions.

Carl talks through his landmine detection research with Sir Bobby Charlton and Dr Manuchehr Soleimani

Carl talks through his landmine detection research with Sir Bobby Charlton

Meeting Sir Bobby Charlton

My research is funded by a charity called Find A Better Way (FABW) which fund landmine detection technology research. The charity was founded by Sir Bobby Charlton and in June 2016 he came to visit my lab to see the work that I had been doing. He was very interested in the sensor design and I showed image live reconstruction of objects buried in sand to mimic landmines. I have been an avid supporter of Manchester United since I was young, so this visit was doubly amazing for me, and to have your work validated by someone as impressive as Sir Bobby has left a lasting impression on me.

Attending the WCIPT8

In September 2016 I was asked to present my work at the 8th World Congress for Industrial Process Tomography (WCIPT8) in Foz Do Iguazu, Brazil. I met many interesting people within my field with whom I could discuss my work. This gave me many ideas to bring back and apply to my research. I presented my work on sensor design, which was well received and many people had questions about the work and the software that I had developed to go alongside it. One PhD student was even interested in collaboration as the software I had developed was very similar to what he was working on.

Coming back from the conference I dived straight back into my research using everything that I had learnt. I am currently developing novel scanning techniques to improve the image reconstruction by viewing the object underground from different angles. Next I will start to design and build a sensor head which has configurable electrode shapes and layouts (the conclusion of my first year work).

To solve the problem of different environments I also aim to investigate using conductivity data in my simulations. This will mean that I can account for the wetness of the environment I am in, because wet ground has a higher conductivity that affects the electromagnetic properties of the ground around the object.

Saving and improving lives

Hopefully by combining all of these various additions to the ECT system I can show different ways in which an ECT system can be modified to be used for landmine detection. The dream would be that one day ECT is a viable method of landmine detection and that the technology I develop will be used to save lives and improve the lives of people living in areas affected by landmines.


The University of Bath will be hosting the next world congress WCIPT9 in 2018.