Engineering and design student insights

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

Engineer in Training


📥  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

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

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

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

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Engineering with a view

Induction overview

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

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

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

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

Placement schedule

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

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

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

Stem events

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

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

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

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


The Scoop on Ice Cream R&D...


📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Hi everyone! My name is Clodagh and I’m now almost six months into my year-long placement with Unilever, working as Process Development Technologist within the Ice Cream Category. My role involves working on a number of short-term projects both alone and in a team, with the overall aim to apply an engineering approach to develop, evaluate, and improve processes used to make ice cream across the company.

My day-to day attire!

My day-to day attire!

Settling In…

As for most, the thought of leaving the security of university and starting a full-time job was very daunting. However, thinking back now to what I anticipated a workplace to be like, I could not have been more wrong! I quickly learnt that the ‘real world’ wasn’t quite as intimidating as I expected it to be; not once did I get laughed at for asking a silly question or for getting lost in the offices. Instead, I was greeted with a smile from everyone I met or passed by, and quickly felt like part of the team.

My first week with Unilever was spent taking part in the Ice Cream Technology Course, a training week run annually, which is aimed at newcomers to the category. This meant I gained vital knowledge on every area within the Ice Cream category, as well as having the chance to network with many others based in Ice Cream across the globe.

One thing that surprised me most during my first week – and still surprises me up until today – is how much time and effort goes into the development and production of an ice cream!

Gelato Flavour Profiling

One of my main projects so far has been based on the flavour profiling of a premium gelato company. Seeing as gelato products are so focussed on flavour delivery, this work was important in establishing the flavour profile of current products, as well as seeing how this compares to competitor products.

This was a very technically challenging project, which involved running trials in the pilot plant here at Colworth, as well as analysing the flavour profiles of samples using Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry. This project taught me that even if the work you are given is not something you have directly learnt about at university, you have to apply the skills you have and use your initiative to research and learn about a whole new area of study.

My biggest achievement so far on placement was a result of this project – the huge improvement in my presentation skills. After only ever presenting once at University, I was always very nervous at the thought of having to stand in front of a big group and present alone, but practice makes perfect! After a number of smaller presentations, I was trusted to present my findings to Supply Chain, an important customer of the Ice Cream category, and to a Senior VP in the company.

Life in Bedford

During my placement year, I am living in Bedford - a relatively small town around 60 miles north of London. Getting used to living in a new town where you don’t know anyone is always difficult, but by joining clubs outside of work meant it didn’t take me long to feel at home.

One of the best things about working full-time is having weekends to yourself – with no guilty thoughts that you should be finishing that assignment for university – so I try to make the most of them! I like to spend my weekends exploring the local area and visiting friends all over the country.


First post from DTU in Copenhagen

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Author: Adam Engstrom

Hi there! My name is Adam and this will be my first entry about my time on Erasmus at DTU in Copenhagen. I decided to give my stay some time before posting my first time so I had a better idea and impression of my stay so far both at and outside of university.

Best place to start is probably our Introduction Week at university. This week was sort of like a Freshers week for all international and Erasmus to get to know each other. We were split into groups and paired with a "buddy", a current student who is there to offer guidance throughout our stay. During this week we got familiar with the layout of campus, sorting out things like residence permits and seeing Copenhagen. Most of these days ended with a couple of beers if people were up for it, which I would suggest you do.

buddy group My Buddy Group

This week was a lot of fun, though never got really crazy. That we got assigned a buddy for the entire semester is really good. My buddy is a lot of fun and has organised events for us all to join in nearly every week, such as dinners and parties on campus. My buddy group has not been keen on every event, which is a shame, but can't fault my buddy for trying. The only thing about this week that was a bit of a shame was that it didn't really allow for us to get to meet the rest of the people living in our dorm, like you would at Freshers where you hang out with your housemates for a week.

In terms of housing, Elliot, the other civil engineer from Bath, and I share a room in the dorm Hyrdevangen 9. Sharing a room is not ideal but we make it work. The block in itself is quite nice although it's missing a good big social space to hang out with other students. The university is a little over 10 km North and the center of Copenhagen being at most 5km away. I normally cycle to university but there is otherwise a bus stop really close by which will take you about 40 mins to get to campus. The only issue with public transport is the price, I would say, with a return journey to campus running you about 50 dkk or £5. It would have been fun to live at one of the campus dorms but being close to the city center also has its perks.

I will now talk a little about how I find my courses. At Bath, I study civil & architectural engineering but while here, I chose courses that I thought looked interesting and a bit different from what was being taught back at the home university. I study Bridge Structures, Daylighting & Lighting Design, Building Services - Integrated Design, Energy & Sustainability and Smart, Connected and Liveable Cities. I will then participate in a 3-week course in January called Environmental Engineering in Developing Countries.

Bridge Structures is quite a good course, with bits of knowledge being added to what was previously taught in year 3. Building Services is a 100% coursework module, where in groups we have to design a new low-energy teaching block meant to be situated on campus. This also quite interesting, since we learn how to use the energy modelling program IDA. These lectures usually consists of a 2-hour group work/tutorial before having a lecture. These lectures can be a bit dull as they usually center around how to use the design software. I am really interested in lighting design so I was very excited about doing a course solely centered on it. I don't really have much to say about this course, I'm enjoying it. It's set up so we have a 1-2 hour lecture and are then given a tutorial to do, learning how to use various lighting design programs. The only "problem" is that it is taught on a Friday afternoon, meaning friends will start meeting up at the student bars before your lecture finishes.

My two other courses are quite different from what is taught in Bath. In Energy & Sustainability  we have been taught about the principles of sustainability and how various climatic systems are affected by global warming, renewable energy sources and will later be taught about life-cycle assessments. The subjects, taught in themselves, have been really interesting as the environment and a sustainable future is something I really care about. Unfortunately, the course is not taught particularly well and is a lot of work. It used to be a 10 credit course and has been made into a 5 credit course but the workload doesn't really reflect this. For this course, we have had to write a group report where envisaged a better future and determined steps to realize this vision.  Although our group got on really well, I was not overly impressed by the effort some of my teammates put into it. Nevertheless, I would suggest this course, or a similar one called Feasibility of Renewable Energy Systems, for all engineers. Either because, like me they're already interested in this topic or to just get the mindset of always striving for a sustainable design/future.

So far, my favorite course has probably been Smart, Connected and Liveable Cities. I expected this course to be about city-planning and quite technical but was suprised to find that it was something completely different. The course is more philosophical and tries to answer the question of makes a city great (or even a city). I really enjoy the broad scope of this module, where one week we talk about waste management and the other alternative transport systems. The classes are quite interactive, where we usually have to prepare and present a topic during a lecture. The assignments are also quite different from what we're used to. We have to write a book report on a novel depicting a dystopian future and will also have to write a short story about our own created dystopia.

If you haven't already noticed, the teaching methods and lecture setups are quite different. Lectures run from 8-12 and 13-17 but usually only half of this time is assigned to a lecture, with the rest assigned to tutorials where students from the past year are around to help out. I'm not a huge fan of the 8am starts as even though if I don't have a lecture in the afternoon I'm usually exhausted and struggle to get much work done afterwards. When picking modules, their teaching times are already included which means you have to pick modules which creates a schedule with no clashes. This is easier said than done. I am quite happy with my final schedule, I have Tuesdays off and lie-ins on Thursdays and Fridays. You're also expected to do much more reading on your own than is usually expected back in Bath, with teachers posting loads of material which you're expected to read before the next lecture. It is of course not obligatory but definitely makes you understand the next lecture better.

I think that's enough about university for now. So now I will write a little about my impressions outside of study.

First thing you have to do when moving here is to get a bike. It is by far the best way to get around and the best way to see the city. There is a used bike sale up at DTU during the first week, which is where I got mine. You won't find a race bike or similar at these sales but you will find reliable and sturdy bikes which you can return to the seller when moving and get at least half of what you paid for it back. Biking makes it super-easy to nip into town or go to campus.

So far, I'm really enjoying Copenhagen as a city. It has a very relaxed feel to it with loads of things to visit and see. It has probably helped that I already knew some locals before moving here who I have been meeting up with quite a lot who have shown me some of the cooler, less touristy spots. I am Swedish but have not lived there since I was three so living in a Scandinavian country is an exciting experience. In terms of language, I usually get by speaking in Swedish. Otherwise most people speak English.

Social life on campus is very different from Bath. Of course, you don't have to drink to have fun but I seriously suggest that if you go here you do enjoy it. The university culture is heavily centered around drinking beer with campus having up to ten different bars, situated inside departmental buildings, meaning you can do bar crawls during a night without having to even leave campus! It is quite strange that it is normal to have bars open right next to lecture rooms and it being acceptable for students to be passed in hallways or bringing in beers to lectures. These bars are always really cheap as well, usually about 3£ for four beers and every last friday of the month they have clearance and all beers cost 50p each. They love a drink here, with sessions usually starting at just past noon and going into the early hours of morning, so you do need to pace yourself!

There are lots of events for Erasmus students to take part in with societies like the ESN organizing loads of trips to place like Norway, Lappland and within Denmark. These trips are often during term time however and as our grades count while we're here can't afford to take a week off.

I spend a lot of my free time doing sports. The university has some clubs but comes nowhere near offering the same variety as in Bath. They don't have a floorball team so I have joined a local team who trains just around the corner from the dorm. I would definitely recommend doing some form of sport as it's a great way to meet new people and also practice Danish. I've played quite a few matches since starting which has been loads of fun. The only shame has been that these matches have been on Sundays which has meant sitting out dorm parties which are usually on Saturdays meaning I've not gotten to know our neighbors as much as I'd like to.

I think that's all I have to say for now, so far I'm enjoying my time here but hope to see even more of the city as I have not done all the touristy things yet.



Post Two: One Month In

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

This first month has gone really quickly and I have been very busy.  The modules have stepped up a level and Adam and I have a fair amount of coursework on the go.

Teaching & Education

I am aware that I did not expand on this in the previous post. The lecture structure is different to that at Bath. Each module has an assigned 4hour block, 8am-12pm or 1pm-5pm. I am unlucky that I have 8am's every morning except Tuesdays, resulting in a 6am wake up. The lecture period consists of two hours teaching and two hours tutorial/coursework. Most lectures we have to present work from the previous weeks work to the others in the class or present the tutorial to the lecturer for review.

We are expected to work about 40hours a week, so generally I have lectures at 8am-12pm and work until 6pm in the library. The work load and level is little higher than that at Bath, however sometimes it is really difficult to try and work out what the lecturer is asking for in questions and coursework.

I would say the most difficult module I am undertaking is Water Resources Management, it is a mainly matlab course at a higher level that what I have previously completed at Bath. Having said that, there are many on the course who had never even opened matlab.

Yesterday I went on a field trip at ARC or Amager Bakke, a waste incinerator on the outskirts of Copenhagen. We went around the plant and then visited the new plant being constructed. The plant receives most of the unrecycled waste from the surrounding communities of Copenhagen and burns the waste to produce energy and district heating to the city. The new plant features a new incinerator with a ski slope on the roof and a climbing wall up the side (the highest in Europe), it is also much more 'environmentally friendly' than the current plant. See pictures below.





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Extra Curricular

I have joined the rugby club as it is one of the few clubs that appealed to me. The university offers; sailing, basketball, football, rugby, tennis, rock climbing and scuba diving. I joined the rugby club, having not played for many years, to be part of a team and to meet others outside of the course. I have been selected for the 1st XV and have my first match this weekend. There is a social most weeks which revolves around the Rugby World Cup at the moment. The club is made up of students and professionals in Copenhagen and other Universities.

Social Events

Every week there are parties on campus. At the start of term we had Sensommerfest, this party by my terms was massive, filling six marquees and five surrounding bars and over 1000 students, costing only £2. There was a bar crawl around campus before the party. There are about 15 bars on campus, each department building has a bar run by the students, all serving cheap drinks, 4øl for £3.

The Sunday after Sensommerfest, a group of us from our buddy group took part in the Nordic equivalent of Tough Mudder, Nordic Race. It was a 5km race, mostly swimming in rivers and the sea and running on the beach. It was fairly tough as the weather was poor and the North Sea was freezing! We took a while to get round the course however we did come in the top 40%.

Last week was Oktoberfest and Trappe. Trappe was an event outside one of the buildings which had 40 steps. Every step you had to drink a beer (this is an official event)(see picture below). It was then a race up the stairs, a groups of students took part in the event, in total there were 400 students who took part. I went to Oktoberfest instead where they were serving 50p pints.



The slightly strange thing about the events here is that they are all in the department, not a nightclub or the equivalent of The Plug/Tub. So Oktoberfest was in the Civil Engineering department with over 1000 students  partying in the equivalent of the crit room (a much larger room was needed clearly).

Less about parties/drinking, we are working hard!!

I think thats most of it! We are still having a bit of fun sorting out our accommodation but we are slowly making progress!


Post One: Starting out at DTU

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Hey, I'm Elliot, a final year Civil Engineer here at Bath. I am on the ERASMUS exchange to Denmarks Technical University  or in Danish, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet or DTU for short. Adam Engstrom and I are both on the exchange together, we arrived last week in Denmark (25th August 2015).

I am not too sure how to structure this so will just write about what has happened to date...


Danmarks Tekniske Universitet

DTU is one of the best engineering Universities in Europe and the highest ranked of the Nordic countries. I am completing the first semester of my MEng here in DTU, however DTU only offers MSc courses, therefore I am classed as a postgraduate student at the University. All MSc courses are taught in English and everyone who comes here is fluent (or near) in English, this is a major bonus for me as my language skills are not the best (as I am sure you can tell...).

I have chosen a selection of courses which are similar to what is offered at Bath, but are slightly more tapered to my personal interests. There was a choice of roughly 170modules, ranging from petroleum engineering to sustainable lighting design. I have remained towards the more traditional Civil Engineering; water resources management, urban design, transport and infrastructure management, bridge engineering and structural fire design. Choosing courses was quite a difficult procedure as you had to build your own timetable to ensure that there were no clashes, easier said than done. 4hours later, I had a timetable. How to avoid spending all this time on a timetable, I don't know.


Introduction Week

We had a sort of 'freshers week', not quite the party week of first year but none the less a good week. We were assigned to groups who we spent each day with and then we were paired with a Danish student who helped us adjust to living in Denmark. The week included; tours of the uni, tours of Copenhagen, boat tours and a fair amount of beer consumption (you don't have to drink) (...but we do recommend you drink). A beer (øl), 0.4l (don't ask me why so small) sets you back 20dkk or £2. The most I have paid for a 0.4l øl is 65dkk or £6.50... (NOTE TO SELF: check bar prices before hand) it was a very nice beer though...

There were a few parties through the week, organised through the uni and meet ups within our halls of residence. The final night we had a dinner and party afterwards. All I can say is we drank a lot, the Dane's like drinking early and when I say early like pre drinks at 2pm... The party was for exchange students and went on into the early hours of the following morning. Sorry, must stop talking about partying. One final thing is there are parties every week on campus and so far each one we have been to has been sold out (our danish reps get us in though).

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The Buddy group (I'm the guy in the red jumper on the left)


Time for the complaining part... If you think getting accommodation in Bath is bad, try doing it abroad where the uni is oversubscribed (this is a fact) and you cannot get a short term contract and all contracts are in Danish. Housing here is expensive, I am in a shared room with Adam, 18m^2 with a 'functional' bathroom and a 'basic' kitchen. When I say basic, I mean a fridge and two hobs. The rent is 3000dkk a month (£300). The halls are in an area called Brønshøj (I cannot pronounce the area or my road),  it is about 12km south of Lyngby (the campus) and about 5km North of Copenhagen. Some are lucky and get accommodation near to uni others are an hour and a half north of Lyngby by train (i.e. in the middle of no where). Luckily we have made friends in the halls who are on our courses or in our introduction group.

So, how do you avoid living miles from uni or in a shared room (I would prefer my own room)... Well I don't really know either. We had to put a bit of pressure on DTU and were offered rather standard accommodation... I know many who have no accommodation and are living in hostels, on sofas or in Airbnb's moving every 10days. So in the grand scheme of things we could be in a worse situation.

Negatives over.

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Learning and teaching

Since I have only been to three lecture  I can't say too much... I will shed more light on the course as I progress.


Getting About

So far I have been using my bike and getting the bus. My bike hasn't been working the best as I broke the back wheel (locked up when I was cycling along in the rain causing me to skid across the bike path (The locals didn't appreciate that)). Got that repaired and then went 10miles down the road and I accidentally  cycled over some broke glass and slashed the tyre so had to replace the tyre and inner tube. Not the best...Spent near 1000dkk on repairs.

The bus is rather expensive, to get to uni is 100dkk (£10) return without a travel card or 50dkk (£5) with a travel card. However to get a travel card you need a Danish residency number (I have one after a 4hour queue and lots of ID cards) however this took a few days to get the number, so transport to uni was expensive for the first week. I aim to cycle as much as I can as the roads are designed for bikes. Bikes are not allowed on the road and have there own separate path (2-3bikes wide) away from cars and pedestrians. However I have not quite mastered handling the Danish junction system and have had a few close calls... However the route to uni is easier than cycling up Widecombe Hill or Bathwick Hill each morning and takes about the same time.

I cannot think of anything else to add at this time, I will write another post one soon.