Faculty of Engineering & Design staff

Sharing experience and best practice across the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Posts By: Beth Jones

Why I (mostly) like using the new CMS

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📥  Staff experiences, Staff insight

I've had a long hiatus from using the new CMS, but with our Faculty pages finally live, it feels like things are moving again and I've been reacquainting myself with the new system. I'm reminded every time I log into our old CMS what a better system we now have for those who update the website and those who read it. Here's why:

It forces you to write coherently

Before I even create a page in the new CMS I have to select a content type. This involves a good 10 minutes of working out what will fit my purpose. If I'm telling a story I'll probably select the case study content type, but I'll use a campaign if I'm writing persuasive content with lots of calls-to-action or a guide if I'm explaining something.

Once that's sorted I have to fill out a user need. I find this a really (really) tiresome job, but it's a good check to see if you are actually about to create a coherent page that someone will find useful. It's pretty tempting to stray into writing something you want to say and adding in content that is perhaps related but not directly relevant. When I scroll back up the page to check its user need, it helps me to refocus my writing on the intended audience: why am I doing this? Why is it important to someone?

It provides a structure to guide you

I'm not a fan of filling in boxes and until they introduced a preview button I really struggled to use the new CMS. I am often driven nuts by the word limits. For me the most annoying box of all is the one under the title, which is limited to 160 characters. I agonise over that box for about half the time the rest of the page will take. Then I turn around and show Becky and we agonise some more. The secret is, when you've got that sentence or two right, the rest of the page will follow. Getting it right in 160 characters means that you really know what your page is going to be about.

Screenshot of a page title and tag line

The 160 character tag line

I see now that other than the really useful things word limits ensure (not least how the pages are displayed in Google search results) they are actually helping me to write better. They force me to really get to the point and be concise. They are challenging me (quite literally, the page won't save if I've written too much) to take my time and really think things through. What I once raged against I see now is a support (still a frustrating one though) to guide my content and stop me settling for the quick win and a quiet life.

It demands better content

Pages need to have real substance now with information that delivers value or answers a question. Even the photos have to be better, a 16:9 ratio is unforgiving to non-professional shots. Using the new templates makes me realise how much we have been able to hide behind HTML styling in the old CMS. I was pretty horrified when I found out I wouldn't have access to the code in the new system (there's a part of me that would still like to have the option) but it really does make me focus on the quality of the content rather than spending 5 minutes faffing with a boxout. What I once saw as crushing the creativity of the content producer I now understand to be for the benefit of consistency.

Why you should find out more about it

Change can be a brutal process. I have often felt disheartened and confused during this CMS transition project. I still despair on a monthly basis, but when I look at a new page on a mobile I find my answer: the content and the design are so much better. I know the way to overcome many (not all) of my CMS frustrations is to learn more. Find out the rationale behind the compromise, the reason why my status quo has been challenged, what benefit a perceived sacrifice has been made for. I follow the Digital's team blog, 'watch' their release notes wiki page, attend their Show & Tell sessions, and most importantly click that 'suggest an improvement to this page button' and just find out why.

Once you know the thought behind the content strategy and the coding you will feel reassured as to the talent working on this new system and have faith in its ability to get better. I once used to ask myself "why is this happening on our watch?" Now I understand what an opportunity it is to question, to rethink, to reflect and improve. I wouldn't give up the past difficulties or the ones to come because it only makes us think more. With understanding it's impossible to return to before, there's only new ways, better ways.

 

Building networks at the Engineering Placement Fair

  

📥  Staff event, Staff insight

Alison Ukleja, Placements Manager, writes about our recent Engineering Placement Fair:


In November we welcomed over 70 companies to campus for our Placement Fair. Our industrial partners got the opportunity to promote their businesses and talk with our students about placements, summer jobs and graduate roles. We aimed to promote engineering businesses on campus that may not be household names and introduce students to companies they may not have heard of.

Although our focus is on 12 month placements, we wanted to expand the scope and appeal of the Fair to STEM undergraduates, finalists and postgraduates as well. With over 1200 students through the door (mostly engineers, but also some Maths and Physics students) we felt we achieved what we hoped to do.

Showcasing a variety of technology

Martin Baker Aircraft Company brought a jet pilot ejector seat, Saietta an electric motorcycle, Honeywell Aerospace a cooling system, while Anthony Best Dynamics demonstrated their steering robot for driverless cars. Bryden Wood drew the crowds giving a virtual reality demonstration where students toured construction projects in a virtual world. Most companies were able to show a range of technology and products to engage students’ interest including Herman Miller from Bath displaying a range of their innovative ergonomic chairs. Two popular stands were Mondelez with a supply of chocolate that lasted all day and Heineken handed out beer and cider prizes in their quiz.

Alex Powell, IMEE finalist in a pilot ejector seat at the Martin Baker stand

Alex Powell, IMEE finalist in a pilot ejector seat at the Martin Baker stand

The Fair was also a great opportunity for employers to discover the impressive achievements of our student projects. Team Bath Racing, Team Bath Racing Electiric, Bath Zero Emissions Motorcycles, Team Bath Drones and Bath Underwater Racing Submarine Team all exhibited their work enabling the teams to make new contacts for technical support or sponsorship. Our Drone team attracted attention from defence company Harris Corporation, with their expertise in release mechanisms, opening up new possibilities to drop things!

A great day

The whole event demonstrated real energy and enthusiasm for engineering, making for a successful day of recruitment, networking and collaboration. Our industrial partners fedback how brilliant it was to talk with such motivated future engineers. I'd like to thank my team for their hard work in organising the event and look forward to doing it all again in two years' time.

 

Transportation in the low carbon age

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📥  Research, Staff event

Professor Jamie Turner summarises his recent inaugural lecture on Transportation in the low carbon age:


My inaugural lecture looked at the challenge of how society can offer freedom of transport while facing up to climate change.

The stark facts

In the UK, road and air transport (both overwhelmingly fossil-fuel based) use energy at a rate twice that of the average power transmission of the national grid. In 2015, road transport alone used energy at an average rate slightly more than the peak electricity demand in that year. In simple terms, if we electrify the road transport fleet we are going to need a grid – and electricity generation system – at least twice the capacity we have now. To generate this from nuclear power we would need 16.5 more Hinckley Point C power stations at a total cost of £404 billion.

The success of the IC engine and the failure of alternatives

Personal transportation using the internal combustion (IC) engine has brought great economic development because of its affordability. The IC engine is made from cheap and abundant materials using cost-effective processes while using a cheap energy storage system. Liquid fuels are energy dense, easy to transport and also provide low energy losses both in the vehicle and the energy distribution system. Moving away from this is a significant danger to our economic model that makes transport affordable for all (including manufacturers, fuel companies, governments and consumers). This financial system relies on the consumer being able to afford what is offered and will collapse if this is not the case.

The government provides some stimulus for low-carbon vehicles in the form of rebates for electric vehicle purchases; however, EV sales rarely exceed 1% as a monthly maximum and since the rebate reduction this year they have dropped. I think it unlikely that this will break out into the mainstream any time soon. Unfortunately one can largely discount hydrogen as a solution as well. In addition to the power requirement, we have no hydrogen distribution infrastructure at all and the energetic losses in such a system would be considerable, to say the least.

But we absolutely do need to change from a fossil-fuel based transport economy.

Ensuring the polluter pays

The problem of fossil CO2 emissions from cars (and by extension vehicles in general) is not actually the fault of the manufacturers – the fossil carbon that is emitted comes from the fuel, the sale of which the fuel suppliers alone profit from. Yet, car manufacturers have more significant legislation raised on them to reduce CO2 emissions than the fuel suppliers have to take the fossil carbon out of the fuel. Fuel suppliers have a vast revenue stream which dwarfs that of the car makers, and which could and should pay to develop the means of fully decarbonising their product. They are not made to meaningfully do this, which is not aligned with the maxim ‘the polluter should pay’.

It is also somewhat ironic that, after 130 years, most people assume that the IC engine has to use fossil fuel, whereas it was originally fuelled using biofuels and we later made it operate on fossil fuels for cost reasons. In this regard, clearly we are in a circle of hell of our own making.

The pragmatic solution

To this pragmatist at least, the solution appears to be to keep affordable IC engines, but to find a solution in the form of decarbonising the liquid energy carriers. This would keep travel affordable. We could use their high energy density to facilitate access to the huge amounts of renewable and clean energy that falls on the earth (the power of wind energy at turbine heights alone amounts to about 78 TW while the total transportation draw is about 3 TW).

Technologies exist to capture CO2 directly from the atmosphere; this can be combined with hydrogen from water electrolysis to produce methanol at about 50% process efficiency, and this in turn can be onward synthesized to ‘drop-in’ fuels for existing vehicles with about an 8% point penalty. If all of the energy used is renewable, we have a fully-decarbonised energy vector. We would need 6-7 TW of renewable energy to decarbonise transport – or less than 10% of global wind energy (and this is without accessing solar energy in deserts, for which I estimated that an area half the size of Somerset could gather the same energy as Europe currently uses in its transport fleet).

Transitioning to a decarbonised transport system

With a taxation system based on taxing energy purchased (and not the liquid volume), in combination with a factor penalising any fossil carbon associated with providing that energy, governments could facilitate migration to a decarbonised energy stream while keeping their tax take at a constant level. This is not something provided by the current inducements for EVs. Supply of such fuels – which is being researched by forward-thinking companies and research institutions, including Audi – enables all vehicles to start to be decarbonised immediately. Contrast this with a gradual movement to an electricity or hydrogen-based transport system, where the small number of such vehicles cannot provide an immediate large revenue stream to pay for the change.

If fuel companies do not embrace the requirement to decarbonise their product, but continue to lobby against any change they could find their businesses severely impacted by a move to another energy economy that their resistance has brought about. They have the revenue stream to do the research and to facilitate decarbonisation via industrialisation, as well as the infrastructure to distribute the product – and they also have the ultimate and moral responsibility for CO2 emissions from the fossil fuels they currently supply.

 

Apprentice Technician: Everyday something new

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📥  Celebrating success, Staff experiences

Emma Walker, former Apprentice Mechanical Engineering Technician, has been nominated to receive the Building Services Construction & Engineering Work Place Learner of the Year Award. This award recognises the hard work, application and excellence in both her academic studies and technical ability throughout the final year of her apprenticeship. Emma writes about how she came to the University and what she has achieved here:

I spent 18 months doing work experience at Designability, where they introduced me to the engineering industry and encouraged me to pursue my career as an engineer by applying for an apprenticeship at the University of Bath.

Being an apprentice here at Bath has been an amazing learning experience for me because you never do the same job twice; everyday you’re doing something new. I loved getting involved in the teaching labs, where I would help and guide the first-year students through their time in our workshop. This greatly improved my skills in speaking to a large group of people, and pushed me to grow my social skills.

I’ve learned how to use machinery such as mills and lathes, laser cutters, and 3D printers. I also passed my forklift licence. I finished my apprenticeship six months earlier than planned, and from here I was given the opportunity to cover another unit in composites, where I was able to learn about carbon fibre and other materials, and working with the autoclave. Since finishing my apprenticeship I have gone down the composites route, so being able to cover the extra unit has benefitted me greatly.

I have been very lucky to have such a great support system here in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, where everyone is happy to answer any questions I have and offer advice. My colleague Clare Ball gave me support to help me through my maths module and my Assessor, Rob Aldous, visited me at the University once a month. Rob always made sure I was being treated fairly and that I was getting the best experience out of my apprenticeship.

What I plan to do next is to broaden my knowledge within the work that takes place in the composites department. I want to learn more about the materials I will be working with and also learn about the maintenance work for the autoclave. In the future I want to look into doing a supervisory and management course, this will allow me to climb further up the career ladder and be able to offer more to this company.

An apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity to start  your career, to learn new things every day and to get paid for it! However, an apprenticeship is not easy and is not something to take lightly, you have to work hard for the rewards an apprenticeship has to offer.

 

New woodworking and timber engineering workshop in 4ES

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📥  Celebrating success, Staff insight

Julian Sulley, Director of Technical Services, updates us on 4 East South developments:


After months of planning, the ACE woodwork and timber engineering workshop moved into its new facility back in June. We now have a much larger workshop capacity than the old 6 East workshop and an adjoining dedicated laser cutting / rapid prototyping laboratory. The project has been an unmitigated success and is a reflection of the close co-operation and teamwork between the 4ES project management team, the contractors and our technicians throughout the planning process and move itself. We can be rightly proud of a spacious, light, energy efficient, state-of-the-art facility, ready to welcome its first students in the coming academic year.

Improved use of floor space and a radical rethink of dust extraction and energy conservation

As the project developed we implemented a number of new initiatives to better use floor space and rethink dust extraction and energy conservation. We originally intended to have a central dust extraction unit to service the four heavy application machines and this was to be housed in an internal bunker adjoining the workshop. However, following further evaluation, we decided to install individual extraction units to each machine, replicating the dust extraction provision to the other smaller demand units throughout the rest of the workshop. Not only did this represent a significant saving in capital outlay, it allowed dust extraction units to be controlled as needed (as opposed to a common system running irrespective whether the machines were being used or not).

A further benefit was that the surplus room previously designated to locate the cyclone could now be used for much needed material storage. The workshop incorporates a new technician’s office affording unrestricted viewing of the entire workshop, a key safety factor given the nature of the activity. A roller shutter door allows for material deliveries to be offloaded directly into the workshops material storage racks.

4 East South woodwork and timber engineering workshop

4 East South woodwork and timber engineering workshop

Cost saving and additional space

The move of all our tools, equipment and machinery was undertaken by our departmental technicians in May. Once again, this represented a significant cost saving to the project. Technicians relocated the machines to a signed off layout leaving connection of electrical supplies to the contractor. The additional space has also allowed us to purchase a vertical sheet panel saw, a valuable addition to our existing comprehensive range of machinery. Three new laser cutting machines have been ordered to supplement our existing three, giving a substantial increase in capacity of these heavily used machines.

A team effort

Members of the ACE technician team have been heavily involved in planning the new workshop layout, primarily fronted by the woodworking and timber engineering senior technician, Walter Guy. Thank you for all your hard work.

 

Effective staff induction

  

📥  New initiative, Staff insight, Top tips

We are working on a new Faculty staff induction to complement the activities that happen at a departmental and University level. As part of this project we interviewed new staff about their experiences joining the University. We also asked some teams what they did to prepare for new arrivals. We discovered a lot of good practice happening within our Faculty. From our findings here are some staff induction best practice tips:

Put in preliminary work before new members start

Nearly all our new members of staff expressed frustration at not being able to access University systems immediately. Although there are many processes that can only be started once a new member of staff is on campus, there are still some aspects that can be prepared in advance such as folder access, informing and setting up meetings with relevant people (including those who can provide card access).

Develop your own materials

We discovered some teams have developed their own induction materials specific to their job function. These even included tasks and treasure hunts so that new members of staff could get to know folder structures and try out the University's systems.

Get the whole team involved

Creating a schedule of training where each team member takes on responsibility for a certain aspect helps share the workload and means each member gets to know the new recruit.

Start small

Some of the staff we interviewed talked about being overwhelmed by "meeting too many people in a short amount of time". One team within the Faculty draws up a plan where the inductee is introduced to their immediate surroundings and then shown other areas as the weeks progress, ensuring their network increases at a manageable rate.

Put the role into context

Understanding where your role fits within the wider university is an important part of working effectively. One of our job families produced a special induction document introducing the University's strategy and how their job function fits into this.

Get them connected

Our interviewees mentioned how useful it was to meet others outside their immediate surroundings who performed a similar job function. Many people aren't aware of the mentoring or buddy opportunities available at the University, so this might be a good thing to highlight to inductees early on and at the mid-probation point.

The little things

In our interviews small gestures like buying an inductee a coffee on their first day really made a difference.

Our staff induction module will be available on the Faculty of Engineering & Design's staff wiki space's New Staff page in the Autumn.

 

New Head of Department for ACE

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📥  Celebrating success, New initiative, Staff experiences

Professor Pete Walker, outgoing Head of Department, looks back at his time in the role:

The past three years have literally flown by. When I joined the University of Bath in 1998 I did not anticipate that one day I would be Head of Department. A little daunted at first by expectations and the track record of previous Heads, it has been a tremendous privilege to be Head of the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering.

In particular I have enjoyed working with a broader range of colleagues across the University, and getting to know our Department much better. Recruiting new staff and supporting colleagues through promotion and probation, and seeing them receive the rewards their hard work, talent and dedication deserve has been particularly satisfying.

Other highlights over the past three years have included our REF 2014 success (we were joint first in the Architecture, Built Environment and Planning unit of assessment), receiving our Athena SWAN bronze award, and seeing 4 East South open in readiness for the 2016-17 academic year.

Moving ahead I look forward to having fewer meetings in my Outlook Calendar, refocusing on taking forward the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, and more teaching.

 

Professor Stephen Emmitt, incoming Head of Department, looks forward to the next three years:

Taking on the role of Head of Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering in its 50th anniversary year is a great honour. The Department is the only joint Department in the UK, founded on the philosophy of integrated working. We have a fantastic research record (joint first in REF 2014) and perform wonderfully well in our taught architecture and civil engineering courses, consistently at the top of the league tables.

This has been achieved by a highly dedicated staff and clear direction from management over a long timeframe – excellence is deeply embedded within our Department’s collective DNA. I am keen to build on this expertise to further enhance the quality of everything we do, while also extending our international profile.

The mantra that ‘there is no room for complacency’ is ever present and taking on the leadership of such a high-performing Department is not without its challenges. We have major events on the horizon; the next REF, the new pressures to be imposed by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the ever-rising tide of metrics. These are challenges to be embraced while also contributing to the 50th anniversary celebrations. I relish the opportunity to be a part of our continuing success.

 

Women in Engineering

📥  Staff experiences

To celebrate Women in Engineering Day, Dr Min Pan, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, shares her experiences of studying and working in engineering:

How will you be spending Women in Engineering Day?

I think I will spend the morning in the office doing some research and then go to the lab in the afternoon to carry out experimental work just like any other normal day. To me, women are always 'in engineering'.

What are the most rewarding parts of your role?

I enjoy doing my research work and supervising students’ projects. I get a great sense of satisfaction when I see my ideas work and my students make progress.

What have you learnt from your career so far?

Find something you enjoy and find role models who inspire you. I have found something I really enjoy and it’s such a privilege being able to make a living doing something you love. I also think it is very important to be creative and confident when you are doing research.

Why did you choose to study engineering?

My father is a Civil Engineer and he was a big influence on me. Growing up I was very proud to tell people that he designed bridges and buildings. He taught me basic maths and physics when I was young, which I then excelled at in school. However, when I came to apply for university I insisted that computer science was the right choice for me. I enjoyed using programmes to analyse practical problems, to design smart controllers and find solutions, not just for fun and solving puzzles! I then applied for an MSc programme in Mechanical Engineering followed by a PhD, which was in the same area.

What is the future like for women in engineering?

I believe there is a rosy future for women in engineering. More and more female students are starting to consider engineering courses, and universities generally have very good support groups/systems to help women build confidence and develop skills. Industry also now offers more opportunities to women in different sectors. If you are creative, engineering is something you should consider.

I think the key influencers of young people are their parents and teachers. We need to present engineering as enjoyable; there is still some work to do and improve, but the future is definitely bright!

 

Introducing our Faculty Staff Wiki space

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📥  New initiative

As part of the CMS transition, our Faculty’s internal web pages have migrated to the University’s Wiki (called Confluence).

Our new Faculty of Engineering & Design Staff Wiki space means:

  • Faculty staff information is contained in one place
  • teams can take ownership of their own content and easily update their pages
  • staff can share information and collaborate more effectively

Since starting the project back in January, we have moved across our current content, as well as creating new content. We’ve also undertaken a user testing process to refine usability and design.

Where is the space?

You can find the Staff Wiki space in the same way as the old internal pages: by clicking the padlock link on the Faculty’s external landing page.

You can also log in to Confluence and search for the space or type in the web address go.bath.ac.uk/fedstaffwiki directly into your browser.

Who can access the space?

All staff at the University (who have a University log on) can view the space but certain pages may have viewing or editing restrictions applied to them. This is so that they can only be seen or edited by a select group or individual.

Design

The space has been designed by Rosie Hart (Postgraduate Taught Programmes Officer) using a colour palette of Faculty Orange, Stylus grey and About blue. All pages have consistent headers and footers. To reduce scrolling we have hidden some content under expandable headings.

Each page has been assigned a webmaster or masters who are responsible for creating and keeping content up to date (these names are listed within the page footer). Page design inevitably varies depending on the webmaster, but should retain the same design ethos and colour scheme as the rest of the space.

Navigation

The page tree in the left-hand sidebar lists all top level pages. Page headings with ‘>’ next to them (rather than a bullet point) expand to reveal child pages beneath them with further content.

The search box in the top right toolbar searches the whole of Confluence (all University of Bath Wiki pages). The search box on the Faculty Staff Wiki homepage only searches the space.

You can always return to the homepage by clicking the Orange Minerva head logo at the top of the Wiki space’s left-hand sidebar.

Each page is tagged with its function or team, which formulates an index (or A-Z) linked to in the left-hand page tree and on the homepage.

Take a video tour of the space


Managing the space

The Staff Wiki space will always be a work in progress. All staff are expected to take an active responsibility for keeping the space up to date. We all have editing rights for any page containing an edit button (located at the top right of a page). Teams who do not wish people to edit their pages can restrict this, so if an edit button is present then the webmaster is happy for others to contribute. The Wiki has a history function so if anything goes wrong you can always publish an earlier version of a page.

The homepage has a feedback link for staff to provide comments on usability, content and design. This feedback will be evaluated tri-annually (October, February, June) by the Wiki space editorial group consisting of Becky Garner, Beth Jones, Rosie Hart and Tracey Madden. The group will also review the space to ensure design and content standards are being met, and offer advice to webmasters.

Creating new pages

Should your team have a presence within our Staff Wiki space? In the first instance, it is best to contact Tracey Madden (Learning Enhancement Advisor) through the new content request table. Tracey can advise on your content needs, the design of your page and provide bespoke wiki training for your team. You may find that the Staff Wiki space is not the correct location for your content or that you only need to link to your own pages from it.

Webmasters of top level wiki pages already in existence can create as many child pages as they wish. All new pages must contain a header and footer to match the rest of the Wiki space and comply with our colour styles and brand principles.

Developing your wiki skills and finding help

Tracey Madden has created a bespoke help section with how-to guides and page templates to aid staff in using the Wiki space and creating their own content. You can also take a look at Tracey’s Macro of the Month feature and Rosie’s Top Wiki Tips on the blog to develop your wiki skills. You can practise editing and using macros on your personal wiki page (everyone automatically has one) or book wiki training with Computing Services. Tracey Madden is also available to provide bespoke training to members of our Faculty.

Thanks to...

Thank you to Rosie Hart (supported by Bex Mills) who transitioned our existing internal content and designed the space, and to Tracey Madden who has worked with teams to create new content. Thank you also to our user testers.

 

Raj Aggarwal's retirement event

  

📥  Staff event

After over 40 years in the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Professor Raj Aggarwal is retiring. Raj, who started at the University in October 1973, is a familiar face around the campus.

Colleagues from across the University are warmly invited to mark the occasion with tea and cakes in Wessex House Restaurant on Tuesday 14 June at 4pm.

Please email Ann Linfield if you would like to attend.

There is a card for signing and an envelope for contributions in the EE Department Office, 2E 2.10.

Raj has requested that any money from a collection be donated to MIND and Sightsavers.