Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Posts By: Joseph

Review of Engineering Placement Year


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

I am now coming to the end of my year-long placement as an engineer at a Plymouth firm called Pipex px®. In this post, I will attempt to give you a brief summary of the highs and lows of my experience. If you have not yet decided whether to do a placement perhaps this post will help you make up your mind. If you are in the process of applying to the University of Bath (I really hope you are!) then this piece will fill you in on everything that the placement scheme at Bath offers.

If you look back to the blog post I wrote at the start of my placement year you will be able to get a more in depth feel for the first few weeks. However, for the sake of completeness, I will recap those weeks in this post, giving you the ‘full package’. Moreover, I can now put those weeks into perspective and make relative comparisons against what I now know about the real world of work – scary stuff!

Without further ado, here is my placement year, condensed into several short paragraphs. I shall start at the beginning…

"My colleagues, managers and directors could not have been more helpful"

As far as I am concerned, the first three months of placement felt like a real whirlwind. As expected, I had a lot of names to remember and a lot of protocol to learn before I could begin real projects in earnest. A formal training programme saw me through my first few weeks and for the following two months I wrestled with some introductory projects. During these months, time flew by very quickly as everything I was experiencing was completely new to me. I had to learn exactly what processes the engineering team followed to see projects through to completion and since I hadn’t been there very long this led to lots of questions. Fortunately, my colleagues, managers and directors could not have been more helpful and I quickly learned that there is no such thing as a stupid question. The wages earned during placement year are a real bonus- having money to spend outside of work was such a novel for thing for me and I made sure to make the best use of my free time; every evening and at weekends. I could suddenly afford cheap flights and trains here and there and I made sure to use these offers to my advantage – it was great! I kept fit by popping down to the local rowing club at least two evenings a week. I think that being a member of a local gym or sports club like this is really beneficial as exercise gave me the opportunity to clear my mind, keep healthy and remember that there was life outside of work.

Not a bad way to unwind at the weekend!

Not a bad way to unwind at the weekend!

Between the months of October and April I really had my work cut out. I was lucky enough to be part of a team working on a huge project in Switzerland and this kept me fully occupied for over 6 months. I gained real responsibilities and learned so many skills associated with managing large, time-constrained projects worth millions of pounds to the company. At the time, it felt like a real baptism of fire but now that office life is coming to an end I am really grateful and honoured that I was able to work on such an important project. Although overtime was necessary and I even worked over the Christmas holiday period to make sure things got done, I was still free at weekends to do whatever I wanted and this was just brilliant. It is always worth remembering that whilst studying at university, even at weekends students are burdened with upcoming coursework, hand-ins and revision. In the real world of work, at weekends, I was completely and utterly free to do whatever I wanted and whilst on placement I had a little extra cash in my back pocket to fund the next adventure too.

In the spring time, it was very satisfying to see the large project I had been working on come to a close. I was able to make sure everything I did was left in an orderly manner and tie up any loose ends. As far as my engineering know-how was concerned it was also extremely useful to see the steps taken by large firms to bottom out massive projects and make sure that all work carried out can be accounted for commercially. Although not directly applicable to my studies, I am very excited to bring back my new-found organisational skillset to everything I do in Bath while studying Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. One thing placement has reinforced is that organisation is key – I am very confident that I will be able to apply this to many aspects of my life after placement, and not just academia.

"I had been given various roles in a range of projects and had so many new opportunities to learn and grow as an engineer"

As my contract at Pipex began to run down and months left turned into weeks, I made sure to take time to consolidate everything I had learned. As suggested by the ever-helpful placement team at the University of Bath, I regularly wrote notes on everything I was learning whilst on placement and kept an up to date notebook of my year. This was very helpful when it came to writing my final placement report. As an engineer on placement it is necessary to write a lengthy report documenting everything that you have done whilst on placement (in the long run, this report acts as a mock-up of the report that must be submitted to our accrediting professional body e.g. the Institute of Mechanical Engineers). With this in mind, I made sure to include as much detail as possible in my report. As it happens, the process of writing this report was worthwhile; it brought home the fact that I had done so much in the space of just one year. I had been given various roles in a range of projects and had so many new opportunities to learn and grow as an engineer – the work I was involved with was so far removed from anything I had ever done before but in each situation I was able to adapt my skills and deal with any problems. I am proud of what I have achieved and I must thank the very supportive engineering team at Pipex for all their help, support and tolerance.

So there we have it, a whistle stop tour of all things placement – this time with some perspective. Although not always sunshine and rainbows, the whole experience has been unforgettable and put me in a fantastic place for the future, whether that be in engineering or elsewhere. As always, the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bath have gone ‘above and beyond’ to make sure that I am not only happy, healthy and safe whilst away from campus but also that I lay solid foundations for professional accreditation when I graduate.

If you have any questions relating to placement as an engineer please do leave a comment below and I will do everything I can to make sure your questions get answered. - happy to help wherever I can – placement is such a valuable year…


Engineering placement - getting into the swing of things!


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

I am now four months into my placement (you can read all about the start of my placement here) and I am in the thick of it. I am slowly becoming more confident around my colleagues and my level of responsibility is also rising. Outside of my working day I am keeping incredibly busy and the weeks, months, and seasons are flying by faster than ever. In this blog post I will run you through my working week to try to give you an idea of what makes my placement year such a storming success.

Whilst at Bath I developed an affinity for the sport of rowing. Indeed, despite the fact that I am working 8 till 5 Monday to Friday, and am often away from home at weekends, I am still able to satisfy my desire to train on the go and even get into a crew boat from time to time. Hoorah!

Training in picturesque Devon

Training in picturesque Devon

My average working week starts at 0700 on Monday morning. After my weekly fill up at the petrol station and short commute into Plymouth I am at my desk and ready to go by 0745, as is the norm throughout the week. My working week, as a member of the engineering services team at Pipex px is always varied with a mixture of computer work- manipulating 3D models, line beam analyses, stress calculation and production of engineering drawings; as well as a variety of meetings, discussions and paperwork- much as you would expect from a busy engineering house I suppose. It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoy my time at work and there is ample opportunity to challenge myself on a day to day basis.

What I have found to be most liberating whilst on placement is that once the office doors close and lights go off, I am free to make the most of my time outside of work, in the beautiful south-west. Moreover, my placement salary means that I am now able to afford many of the things that I could not justify on my student budget. This new-found freedom and liberation from looming university deadlines has inevitably resulted in my ‘working week’ becoming a rollercoaster of activity. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I can be found at my local rowing club training with the senior men’s team. This is a great opportunity for me to socialise with other people of my own age, away from the office environment. On Thursday evenings, I go to a local French class. At this class I have met new people and have found that it acts as a respite from my maths-heavy engineering job – a perfect way to mix up the week.

On Fridays, having finished work slightly earlier at 1600, I am almost always seated on a train to another part of the county (or in some cases, world) before 1800. I am very proud to say that I have not yet had a weekend with nothing to do. Instead I have always managed to plan an exciting activity for the weekend ahead (all in my lunch break of course). On my enhanced placement student budget I have travelled to Brussels, Geneva, London, Cheltenham, the Isle of Wight and of course, even Bath – all during my precious two-day weekends! On top of this I have been able to afford an intensive powerboat course at a Plymouth Marina – something I would never have dreamed of being able to afford before my placement year – a real treat!

Even better still, the placement team in Bath are just as supportive now as they were when I was applying for placements. I have now submitted, and received feedback on, my interim placement report – a report describing the kind of things I have been up to whilst on placement. This report not only allows for my placement supervisor to keep an eye on my projects whilst away from Bath, but also acts as a fantastic record of what exactly I have done during my whirlwind time at work! In fact, my placement supervisor, the Dean of Mechanical Engineering no less, Professor Gary Hawley, has even been to visit me at work. This was great opportunity to show the University where I am working and what I have been up to. We discussed the future, my progress and where I can look to gain even more experience in the immediate future. This visit was much more insightful than I ever expected and I am really glad that the University Placement Office makes such things obligatory.

All the while I am taking log of all of the skills that I am developing whilst on placement in my personal development record (PDR). The Bath PDR is based on the specification as required by professional bodies such as the IMechE and hence, in filling out my log, I am actually taking my first steps towards professional affiliation after I graduate – a streak of ingenuity from the Bath Placement Office yet again!

Well there we go, a whistle stop tour of my ‘normal’ week on placement at Pipex px in Plymouth. When I applied for the IMEE course at Bath I was not planning to enrol on the placement year. In the first few months of my first year I was persuaded to sign up for the placement scheme. If I have not already made it absolutely clear – how glad I am that I did make that change! As always, I will keep you posted.


Starting my Industrial Placement


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

As some of you may already know, I am currently on my placement as part of the ‘year in industry’ scheme available to the vast majority of students at Bath - the Electronic Engineering Department is no exception. To be quite honest, when I joined Bath back in 2014, I didn’t really envisage going on placement and I was certainly very apprehensive about taking time out of my studies to work for a year. How naïve I must have been? Going to just one of the many talks provided by the engineering placement team persuaded me of all of the benefits of taking a year to experience industry in its fullest. One thing that really surprised me is quite how much information is available to students about the placement year, which, in general, doesn’t even take place in Bath. The placement team could not have been more helpful. I attended loads of lectures about the year away prior to even applying for a placement scheme and now that I am on placement, I can say with confidence, that this level of support carries on which is fantastic.

The myriad of connections Bath University has with the engineering industry worldwide means that the number of placement schemes listed on the University Moodle Server feels unending and really allows for a very personal and thoughtful choice of which schemes or jobs to apply for. Personally, I wanted to find a relevant, well known, engineering company in the South-West. A country boy, I didn’t think I could handle the bright lights of the city just yet. Fortunately, this was no problem at all with hundreds of placement opportunities dotted about the South-West region. This range of choice meant that I needn’t apply for jobs outside of my search radius as there were numerous opportunities within it.

Having followed the very thorough and helpful instructions provided by the university team, I was quick to send off several cover letters and applications for various jobs in the South-West including Babcock, Centrax and Pipex px NOV. At this stage, out of the control of the swift acting placement office, it was a waiting game to see what opportunities materialised; meanwhile the placement team were flooding me with further options into the summer months as other positions became available.

I was very lucky to be accepted by a Plymouth based company called Pipex px who have recently been acquired by the American engineering giants National Oilwell Varco (NOV). Pipex px NOV is proving to be a really worthwhile placement scheme and I am benefiting from the wealth of experience and opportunity across the now enlarged global company.

Following a swift induction to the organisation I was set to work right away. Moreover, I wasn’t just making cups of tea – from day one I was able to apply the skills learned at Bath to real world engineering problems. One of the things that has surprised me most thus far is how much the employer appreciates the Bath IMEE course and recognises the vast skill set I have developed at Bath. From minute one I understood that my presence within the Engineering Services Department was on a very professional basis as I was assigned an audacious desk space, an engineering grade PC and four screens to play with – yes, four computer screens!

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

Another of the many things that I have come to appreciate during my first few weeks is just how tailored my Integrated Mechanical and Electrical engineering course is to the requirements of engineers in industry. I have already been contracted to design, model and draw a water filtering system – skills that I have ‘mastered’ during the first two years of my degree course. To my surprise, the system which I have designed has already been sent to the factory for production - albeit a prototype -  to be sent to various sales teams in the States. How extraordinary?! I would not have been able to do any of this if it had not been for the rigorous design modules that I have studied in Bath.

Always kept on my toes, it was not long before I was requested to ponder over some beam calculations as part of a feasibility study. This was a real test of my memory, having studied statics as part of the Solid Mechanics course in year one. To my relief, I was able to re-enrol on the course using the University Moodle Server – something I never thought I would do. Yet another pleasant surprise.

It goes without saying that my CAD skills have been completely overhauled since entering the professional workplace and I very much look forward to becoming better and better in such fields. I already fully understand why the year in industry is so recommended by the Bath team and I cannot wait to re-enter year three with the array of new skills I will develop over the next year. As always, I will keep you posted…


Bath University Boat Club's Campaign at Head of the River Race 2016


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

A little while ago I was lucky enough to travel to London with my Novice Rowers from the University Boat Club for their biggest race to date. The Thames riverside was packed for the annual Head of the River Race which attracts an array of clubs, schools, university teams and international crews. This year, as one of the Novice Men’s Captains, I have worked incredibly hard to get the Bath University Novice Rowers racing as much as possible and, despite the quality of the competition, the Head of the River Race in London was not to be an exception on our calendar. Collectively, thousands of hours of training had led up to this race, including tens of early morning sessions in the build up to the event. It was going to be make or break for my Novice Men and right from the off I was very proud indeed.

Having loaded the rowing boats onto the trailer in the early hours of Friday morning before heading to lectures, it was an early night for everyone prior to a very early departure to Putney on Saturday morning. The majority of us travelled by car to the capital city and were quick to unload and rig the boats in Putney along the side of the river. It is very rare to see so many rowers (let alone rowing boats) all in one place and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Due to enormity of the event, the novice rowers were quick to boat on the Thames and ended up sat in boating queues for a huge amount of time. Although cold, this meant that they were fully immersed in the racing shortly after arriving and could focus solely on the job at hand – completing the course in as little time possible. The course, which is traditionally the reverse of the Oxford Cambridge boat race course, was their longest race of the entire calendar and hence was set to be gruelling! It wasn’t long before myself, as a captain, and all of the other spectators who had made the trek from Bath, set off towards Hammersmith Bridge to watch the event unfold.

The Novice crew in action

Once propped up along the railings of Hammersmith Bridge (which was very cramped due to the sheer numbers of people watching the race), it was time for racing to begin in earnest, with the fastest international crews being let off first. Senior University teams were quick to follow; Bath University Championship VIII being no exception. It was great to see the senior crews put in a strong performance and hold off arch rivals Bristol, over the length of the course.

Some of the crews taking part in the Head of the River Race 2016

It wasn’t long before both of my Novice crews made an appearance in the distance and everyone associated with Bath began screaming words of encouragement. Coming through the bridge, both teams looked incredibly strong with no obvious faults in technique or mechanical failure. This made the day even more exciting for everyone in London. It was the first time in years that Novice crews had raced the HORR course, let alone completed it with such confidence. I was incredibly proud and relieved to see that all of our hard work over the course of the year had paid off. All rowers came off the water with beaming smiles, although exhausted they had clearly enjoyed the experience and were delighted to have been part of such a prestigious sporting occasion.

Once warm and dry it was time to de-rig the boats and load them back up onto the trailer before making a speedy exit and heading home. We all made it back to Bath safe and sound, but most importantly, we made it home just in time for a team meal out in the city centre followed up by a round (or two) of well-earned drinks.

As the mad weekend of rowing and racing came to an end it was swiftly time to return to our studies on Monday morning. There’s never a dull moment in Bath! Having said this, it is impossible for rowing folk not to be excited about the hectic season of regatta racing coming up after exams. The summer cannot come quickly enough…


Second Year Mouse Project


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

Semester 2 for the Department of Engineering at the University of Bath was always going to be busy, but I never expected it to be quite as varied and exciting as it has turned out to be!

At the start of this semester all of the Electrical engineers and all of the integrated IMEE engineers were given a basic ‘mouse’ chassis and told ‘go’! The challenge for us was made very simple- in groups specified by the department, we were to design and build a mouse to follow an electronic track by any means possible. Although the end result may sound fairly mundane, the circuitry required was fairly complex and, as always, having a developed understanding of the underlying theory really helped.

The nature of the task meant that, as a group, we were going to need to spend hundreds of hours in the labs as well as a long time discussing the theory that underpinned our whole design. I really enjoy the group work that is carried out within the department at Bath because, more often than not, you are able to work with people you haven’t ever worked with before and learn about things that you may never have considered if working alone.

Our (unfinished) mouse!

Spending hours and hours soldering and testing circuits in the laboratory spaces may be frustrating from time to time but there is no better feeling than when your circuit works well and reliably, week in, week out. Moreover, the work ethic required has imposed an impressive nine-to-five approach to the degree course. I’ve never seen so many people working so hard all at once. Not only is this really good practice for the real world and placement year, but it means that everybody can work really efficiently in the day, with fewer lectures breaking up proceedings. Likewise, given my busy schedule with the rowing captaincy, as well as all of the other academic work that I am immersed in this semester, the nine-to-five schedule works very well indeed.

Although the mouse project is one of the most exciting things that the IMEEs are doing this year, there is always lots of breadth to the IMEE course. Yet again I have really enjoyed a modelling assignment that we were given. For this assignment we all had to model the heat transfer through a tile on a space shuttle. Although this was daunting at first, with lots of theory work required, the fact that the situation could be related to a real world example meant that it was very interesting indeed. In fact, it was very easy to get distracted by all of the background reading and forget completely about the programming at hand.

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

On the whole, as we come into the final few weeks of the year, let alone the semester, everything is speeding up and everyone is feeling extremely busy. There is a fantastic energy about campus as everyone makes sure that things get finished ahead of revision week. For me personally, although nervous about the mouse challenge race day in the final week, I have worked hard to get all of my other reports done so that I can really enjoy my time at Bath in the last few weeks and focus solely upon my beloved mouse!

As you may well know, my life at Bath is made up of two fundamental chunks; my time within the engineering department and my time at the boathouse. Although I am forever busy with my course, being such a big part of rowing this year has helped me unwind at the weekends and gives another purpose for my time at university. Not only is my course ramping up as the end of term approaches but so too is rowing with regatta season just kicking off. All in all, this means I have to endure lots of early mornings and a regular 4.50AM alarm clock. Although miserable at times, early mornings on the river (especially in the sunshine) are often a great way to refresh and energise before a day in the labs on campus. I just hope the sun keeps shining and the rain stays away!


The build up to applying for a placement


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

In addition to the hectic schedule of second year engineering, it is also expected that we start to look for placements for our year in industry. For the majority of engineers at Bath, both electrical, integrated and mechanical, a year in industry is something that is really appealing. Bath is renowned for its strong placement office, and I know that both I and my colleagues chose Bath due to its strong links with industry, both in the UK and abroad.

In this blog post I hope to give you a brief description of how I’ve gone about searching for the placement that is right for me and the support offered by the university. Given the number of industries Bath has links with, as well as all of the other placements advertised worldwide, it really is a mind boggling situation and guidance is important in terms of finding the placement that is correct for you – thank goodness I’m at Bath…

At first I was very worried about the rush to secure a placement. For some reason I imagined that the list of places available would be limited and that only a lucky few would find a position, let alone a role that they suited and they were enthusiastic about. Oh dear, I could not have been more wrong. Since I signed up to the placement scheme at the end of my summer holidays I have been inundated with emails from the placement office saying that numerous new roles have been announced. Day in, day out, the emails arrive and hundreds upon hundreds of places are on offer. This immediately calmed my nerves and I was able to relax and really dig through the list of placements available to find a select few I was really interested in. This was no easy feat, but I was very glad to have too many placement opportunities to consider than too few!

I quickly learned to be very, very selective with the placements I researched. Given the sheer number of opportunities available, I was even able to choose some jobs on the basis of their location and where I’d like to live, irrespective of the role being advertised – what a luxury! For some of the bigger companies, especially those that are expecting a lot of applicants, the deadline for applying was early on in the semester and many of my course mates worked hard to get their CVs and cover letters submitted in time. For the majority of placements however, the application deadline is very relaxed and most placements do not expect applications until semester two (after the Christmas break – hoorah!).

As I opted to apply for these companies (as opposed to the bigger names in industry), I had plenty of time to put hours into researching the role and planned to write my cover letters during the Christmas break. Moreover, this time frame enabled me to really focus on the coursework throughout the semester and allowed me time to fulfill my duties as one of the captains on the rowing team.

For those who were organised during the summer break, myself included, the placement office wasted no time in amending CVs that were sent to them. This is one of the things I have appreciated most about the placement office. The team were very thorough in optimizing and correcting my CV appropriately whilst considering the types of jobs that I would be applying for. This resulted in a complete overhaul of the CV I had thrown together over the summer and made my CV look very polished indeed.

Having chosen a few placements that intrigued me, I set about checking all of the details associated with the roles; job description, size of the company, location, accommodation and so on. I was in no rush and could ring home to discuss things I was unsure of. After all of this, if I had any questions concerning the application or what to do next (I always did), I sent an email to the placement office. They were always very, very speedy to reply and the advice they gave was reassuring. Often they pointed me in the direction of the Moodle page where a massive amount of information is listed, including the experiences of past placement students as well as databases of where everyone else has applied – this is particularly useful when it comes to finding somewhere to live during a year in industry!

My biggest concern during this time was missing out on placements that were not yet announced and subscribing for placements I was not completely bowled over by prematurely. This problem was quickly resolved after questioning the placement team. The team was very understanding (I imagine they are asked some questions over and over) and told me to write a letter to respective employers in advance if I was aware that their placement scheme was yet to be announced. This reassured me further and has resulted in a very stress free experience altogether.

In addition to all of this, throughout the semester there were also seminars hosted by the team which guided us in writing and submitting applications, interview technique and what to expect when we finally got to the job. All in all, I have been tremendously impressed by the efforts the university makes to make this big decision as easy and stress free as possible. Prior to coming to Bath I was very naïve and somewhat unaware of this massive opportunity. All I can say now is that I am extra-glad I came to Bath and it is a real advantage to be part of a department that is so involved with our jump into industry.

Click here to read more blogs about placements at Bath



My role on rowing committee


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

As you should all know by now, ever since I started at Bath, rowing has been a big part of my life at university. In my first year I was lucky to be selected to row in some of the top novice crew boats. This led to training twice a day, every day, throughout the second semester of first year and I had to devote the majority of my weekends to the boathouse. Although this may sound like a burden, I believed, and I still believe, that it was great to do something at university to take my mind off academia and coursework. This year is no different, but for completely different reasons. Let me explain why…

Towards the end of last year, I put myself forward to be elected as one of the Novice Captains for the boat club. Fortunately, I was elected, and this year I am a Novice Men’s Captain – a hefty responsibility.

Rowing training at the University of Bath

Rowing training at the University of Bath

Being part of a sports committee is a much bigger job than I could have possibly imagined but I am enjoying it much more than I ever thought I would. In addition to my studies, an average week at Bath now involves arranging crews, organising novice rowing sessions, coaching the novice rowers from the motorised ‘launch’ coaching boat, attending committee meetings as well as endless administrative tasks. The administration involved with committee work has been the biggest shock to me, but it is also very rewarding. I very much enjoy being able to answer the thousands of questions the novices pose, whether rowing related or just concerning day to day life in Bath. As a whole committee we need to make important decisions about the direction that the club is moving in and, most rewardingly, we need to enter our novices into as many races as possible.

Due to the strength of the committee team this year I am proud to say that the boat club has entered novices into more races than ever before and by entering small events, we have even won some mugs! Last week, we entered a record number of five crews into the University of Bristol Head on the River Avon. This is the first big event of the year and although as a novice, I raced at this event, I did not realise the amount of time and effort the captains had to dedicate to organising crews and making sure everybody and everything is in the right place at the right time.

UBBC Head race

UBBC Head race

In semester one alone I have learnt lots of new skills from my role. For example, I have had to liaise with the professional university coach and arrange for boats to be delivered from nearby boat clubs for our novices to race in. This took lots of planning given the busy timetable of my engineering course and the pressures of coursework submissions which are constantly niggling away in the background.

I am often asked by the hundreds of novices that have signed up for rowing whether it is worth the amount of time we have to commit to captaincy. My response is always the same; although I have had to forfeit my chances of rowing competitively as a senior this year, I have met lots of interesting people and feel like a massive part of the club without actually competing myself. The work we do on sports committee is so far detached from my course that it acts as a perfect respite from the busy schedule of coursework that second year engineers are faced with – this is brilliant news.

Early morning rowing on the River Avon

Early morning rowing on the River Avon

My role on committee at Bath also helps to juice up my CV. The Bath University Students Union is very aware of the amount of work we do and we are elegible for lots of awards and exciting opportunities solely because of our volunteering and organisation. In short, there are lots of hidden benefits to the job, thus making the 4.59AM alarm call and early mornings at the boathouse much more bearable.

Away from the course, second year IMEE is far from relaxed. More about this in my next post however…


The busy life of a second year integrated engineer


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

As semester one draws to a close and exams loom ever closer, I feel it’s best I write a post about what on earth I have been getting up to in the engineering department over the last eleven weeks.

Let me get one thing straight - I know that I said lots last year about how busy life was as an engineer but, if I’m totally honest, last year’s work load was incomparable to the workload we have now been given as second year students. Although I am finding the work very challenging, there is always help at hand and just as before, tutors and professors are very willing to respond to emails and help you out if you get stuck. I will endeavour to give you a breakdown of my term so far and how I’ve managed the intensity of the course whilst remaining organised, healthy and devoting lots of time to rowing too.

The start of semester was relaxed and allowed us all to be eased back into the realms of engineering – no shock to the system given the enormity of the summer vacation. In second year, integrated engineers are expected to submit two design projects, the first of which was announced not long after our return from holidays. We had to design and analyse a snowmobile shaft in pairs. Although this sounds simple, the report required was very thorough and it was great to get to know my partner so well. We ended up spending an awful lot of time together and this meant we could really work to our strengths as a combined pairing. To date, this was the best and biggest piece of academic work I have ever submitted and I am still very proud of what we achieved. Working on digital engineering drawings on the train makes you look very clever indeed!

In a similar fashion to last year, there were a number of laboratory exercises to complete during the term. Although daunting at first, it’s miraculous what we are able to produce in the labs. We have even produced an amplifier system with a small speaker that could play music, using only simple components and a bread board! This is one of the highlights of my engineering career so far and I was very surprised that the circuitry we designed ourselves actually worked. A very satisfying feeling indeed.

Our amplifier circuit

Our amplifier circuit

Unlike last year, this semester, engineers (both Mechanical and Electrical) have learnt lots about computer coding. I had never done any coding before university so this was very new to me. I wasn’t quick to pick up this skill set, but now I have, I really enjoy coding and how powerful simple coding languages can be. One thing I really love about IMEE is that although you are working at a basic level, it is clear to see that the skills we learn will be very important to engineering in the future. In just a few weeks we have learned to write simple programs in MATLAB and we have even coded for our own images to be outputted from hardware blocks using a VGA cable (the same cable used for desktop computer displays).

Planning for one if this semester's practical projects

Planning for one if this semester's practical projects

Towards the end of the semester, in weeks ten and eleven, we finished off a project whereby we designed and constructed a ping pong ball launcher. This was a very challenging and fiddly task but was lots of fun at the same time. We worked in big groups and wrestled endlessly with our devices to try and get them to function as designed. It was much harder to get our bits to work properly together than I expected, but a vibrant atmosphere in the workshops meant that most of the problems incurred could be laughed about as we worked to find a solution.

The final task of the semester involved another big design project. Again, this was great fun as we were given such broad scope and were allowed to design any ‘off-grid laundry machine’ that we wanted. All we were told is that the laundry machine had to meet a short list of requirements and off we went. After much deliberation I opted for a pedal powered device to be used on campsites in the UK. This was another massive project and a piece of work I am very proud of – let’s just hope the marks I get equate to all of the hours I put in!

Having done so much work in such a small time frame I am relieved it’s all over and I can now start revising in earnest. Let’s just hope that the Christmas holidays don’t prove to be too distracting!

If you have any questions about studying Engineering here at Bath, the feel free to comment below!


Guide to Oldfield Park


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

In their second year, the majority of students at the University of Bath flock to Oldfield Park in search of private accommodation in order to try and maintain the student vibe that they all loved so much in the first year.

At first I was quite apprehensive about living in private accommodation in this new area of the city and having to trudge up and down to campus for lectures, but like all things at Bath last year, my worries were short lived as the whole process has turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated. The buses, on the whole, run very smoothly and, due to an upgraded service this year, they are very regular throughout the day and even during the night. In this blog post I hope to give you all an idea of what living in Oldfield Park is like and I will try to describe how I am coping with the change from campus living.

As you may or may not know, this year I am Novice Captain at Bath University Boat Club. As the title suggests, I spend a lot of my time at the boathouse which happens to be down in Bath on the river, not on campus. In terms of rowing, living in Oldfield is brilliant news as it is just so close to the club. More importantly however, the previously hilly cycle to and from rowing is now completely flat and only takes five minutes, not half an hour! This change has allowed me to save lots of time and lots of sweaty clothes too no doubt, although my fitness levels may not benefit so much!

Another aspect of living in private, rented housing in Oldfield that I did not immediately appreciate, is the proximity to all of the local shops and services of Bath. It was only after living in Oldfield for a few weeks that I realised just how many shops there were nearby on Moorland Road at the heart of the student area. There is a smallish Sainsbury’s that stays open until 11pm every day and a massive Co-op. Just as there were restaurants on campus, we have restaurants, coffee shops, banks and takeaways in Oldfield too. Last year I left thinking that campus was so compact and convenient - it turns out that Oldfield Park is just the same and everything is within five minutes walking distance, perhaps even better than on campus. Another big bonus is that Lidl opened a store in Bath last year too, handily located in Oldfield so it is easily accessible to us budget-watching students. My research and experience shows me that Lidl is the cheapest place for fresh bakery products and definitely worth the ten minute walk from my doorstep.

In addition to all of the services available to us right on our door step, Bath city centre is only a ten minute walk in the other direction. On route to the city centre you have to walk past the big Sainsbury’s supermarket in Bath – we really are spoiled for choice when it comes to grocery shopping. From there all of the big names in Bath city centre are within spitting distance – no need to take a bus this year, which saves both time and money.

Another key feature of Oldfield Park that I must talk about is of course the people. It really is a campus away from campus. Having settled in, it was not long before we realised that all of our friends from first year only lived a stone’s throw away, if not on the very same street. On both sides of our terraced house the neighbours are students from the University of Bath; this is great news as they are fully understanding of our busy schedules and tolerate a bit of noise on a Friday evening.

Tow path in Bath, part of the great Bristol-Bath cycle path

Tow path in Bath, part of the great Bristol-Bath cycle path

Living in a private house means that my life is a lot more relaxed when I am away from campus. I have more free time in the evenings because I aim to get more done on campus when I am there; I work in the gaps between my lectures. The result is more time to spare when back at ‘home’ in Oldfield Park. When the weather is nice, there is a beautiful cycle path that runs all the way to Bristol just at the bottom of the road and many of us use this for relaxing on a Sunday afternoon; cycling, running or just taking a stroll to clear the mind.

In summary, although life in Quads on campus was great fun, I am really enjoying living in the private sector for the relaxed way of life and heightened freedom.

Life in Bath, is, once again, bliss.


BUCS Weekend

  , ,

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Undergraduate

For everyone who takes part in rowing whilst at university, BUCS weekends are of particular significance. Unlike most sports that you can take up at university, BUCS events are few and far between on the rowing calendar. For starters, getting boats to and from competition venues is laborious, time consuming and costly and, in addition to this, rowing is a sport that relies heavily upon amicable weather conditions. With this in mind, there are only two outdoor BUCS rowing events each year – the longer, winter head race and the ‘biggy’ – BUCS Regatta. As it happens, the novice category for BUCS head racing was cancelled this winter due to poor weather. This meant only one thing; everything came down to the BUCS Regatta…

So it was seen to that on one windy weekend in May, the entirety of Bath University Boat Club hiked up to Nottingham rowing lake for a weekend crammed with racing and inter-university rivalry. Right from the off the weekend was incredibly eventful, and, despite the gusty conditions, was enjoyed by all.

We arrived at our cosy Nottingham hotel to find opposing University boat clubs milling the hallways – a great chance to eye up the size of the competition for the following days. Any early night’s sleep was followed by an even earlier wake-up and breakfast routine before we headed to the lake for the day’s races at 6:00AM. Racing began for me in earnest at around eight o’clock in the morning in a coxed four; cold, wet, windy, but immensely fun.

Competing at Nottingham

Competing at Nottingham

The Nottingham rowing lake became an arena of sound and chanting as old rivalries surfaced and new ones took shape. Bath, like all other boat clubs present, gathered in front of the finish line to cheer on teammates – a brilliant atmosphere. Results were frantically announced around the steward’s enclosure. The four I had raced in in the morning had done well and were positioned to move forward to the semi-final for head to head racing.

During the periods of waiting in between racing it was great to be able to witness some more senior racing and relax with crew mates. It’s bizarre to think that I only met some of these people a few months ago and everybody already seems to be such close friends. I get the impression that every sports team in Bath has the same, very close knit, feel about it. BUCS events have also been great times to meet up with friends from other universities – everybody is in the same place for one weekend of the year and the chance to reunite with old school mates is not to be missed!

Before we knew it, our second and third races had passed us by and despite aching legs, choppy conditions and poor racing results we were still very proud of what we had achieved! No sooner had we come off of the water we were in the coach heading back to central Nottingham, the hotel and most importantly… dinner! Yet again, another huge appearance was made by all in the restaurants of Nottingham – a prime time to finally unwind and load up with the necessary carbs for the next day’s racing.

The following day went by with similar speed as I took part in the eights race. We put in a very similar performance on the day – finishing well in the time trial events but not fulfilling our potential in the head to head racing. A steep learning curve indeed! If anything, the results for the novice crews at the weekend only enthused us to train harder and continue rowing well into the summer break. We finished our weekend’s racing with our heads held high and having learned lots about the sport and each other.

Monday was a day for us to watch the remaining races of the weekend and finally properly relax and enjoy the sport as spectators. Right on cue, the sun came out and we were sent home with sunburn and dry clothes, hoorah! The bus back to campus was a sleepy affair. Following boat unloading in the evening we were all very keen to get back to the warmth and dryness of our respective bedrooms for a big sleep!

Alas, BUCS racing was over for another year and we now look forward to the summer regatta season outside of university semester dates. For me personally, it was time to return to the realm of integrated engineering ahead of my first exam in just a week’s time. A well-earned break from the boathouse was in store and academia was to take priority for a month or so. As always, I will keep you updated!