December 17, 2014

Fully Charged for Christmas

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/wmg/mediacentre/wmgnews/?newsItem=094d43454a4e6f1d014a57df53c63540

Battery Facility Testing 5We were approached by the BBC’s popular magazine programme, The One Show, to help them find out which AA batteries were the best performing.

We’re more used to testing batteries for transport, including cars, trains and motorsport but, as it’s Christmas, experts were more than happy to help reporter, Anita Rani with a scientific test to understand how a range of different AA batteries available on the high street might perform.

Having accepted the task, battery experts Mark Amor-Segan, Principal Engineer and Shane Beattie, Technical Manager, for the Battery Scale-up Facility, were sent 16 different AA batteries. The batteries came taped so there was no way of knowing where they were from.

The One Show were keen to test a range of batteries so what Mark and Shane did know were the chemistry families that were being tested, which were:
i) zinc-chloride,
ii) alkaline and
iii) lithium.

Battery Facility Testing 4All 16 batteries were blind tested at a constant current of 500 mA down to 1.1 V. The voltage profile was recorded using a highly accurate battery cycler. All batteries were kept at 20 degrees using a thermal chamber to provide a controlled test environment.

Having conducted the tests, The One Show were keen to demonstrate for their viewers what this actually meant. So Anita came armed with 16 toy puppies. Each were fitted with the 16 different types of batteries. It was going to be a noisy day!

Keeping the puppies in a make shift pen and at 20 degrees, the same temperature used to test the batteries, they were watched over by a researcher. Together Anita and Shane set the puppies off to see which would last the longest.

During filming we popped by to see how the puppies were performing. We all had our favourites, which you can’t blame us for, as they were all so cute. I can understand why the researcher came armed with ear muffs with all the barking.

By the time filming had finished we had our results. Thankfully the scientific results, undertaken by Mark and Shane, correlated with puppy test.

We can reveal that the worst performing battery for longevity was zinc-chloride and the longest lasting was lithium. However, once you add in the cost of run time/p, the alkaline out performs the others.

These are interesting test results and it shows that it is the chemical recipe within a battery that determines the life it has, as well as what item it is being used in.

So depending on what you are using an AA battery for you might want to think about the type of battery you buy. For example if you want a torch or small toy to last a reasonable amount of time, then an alkaline battery is the best for the job based on cost, with an average run time of 80 minutes at 500 mA and a price as low as 15 p/cell. However if you are using a camcorder or digital camera and don’t want to run out of battery, then a lithium battery is the best choice, and will last up to 350 minutes at 500 mA.

Here are our test results:

Battery Facility Testing 2 Battery Facility Testing 1 Battery Facility Testing 6


December 09, 2014

People get ready …

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/wmg/idh/

wmg_idh_logo_rgb-300.jpgPosted by: David Bott, Principal Fellow, WMG

Being healthy is one of the basic needs of humanity. For centuries we have treated illness once it occurs but are increasingly aware that we could prevent it and preserve good health. Meanwhile the risks to health are changing, our understanding of diseases is increasing and the tools of technology are evolving to meet our needs, so we ought to have a plan.

There are three, very different, factors that are causing us to have to look again at how we approach health and care.

The first is the changing nature of the health challenges we face. Having mostly addressed childhood diseases in the developed world, and identified some of the more common self-inflicted problems, we are now living longer. That means we are running into the degenerative diseases that affect older adults. We are also travelling more and therefore spreading exotic diseases into populations that are not immune or at least resistant to them. This alone means that the way we approach health has to change.

The second factor is our growing understanding of how diseases affect our (human) biology and the way they impact on individual patients. We have realised that the symptoms we observe are indicators of the underlying biological problems that cause disease, and are exploring these – even down to the molecular level. However, we have also realised the complexity of most diseases and the need for co-ordination of multiple diagnostic techniques to identify the specific way a disease affects a specific person.

IDH ResearchersThe final factor – and one that we can use to offset the extra challenges caused by the first two – is the huge developments in digital technology. We can now collect, analyse and interpret information about ourselves (sometimes called “biomarkers”) and see long-term trends about our basic physical well-being and the progression of diseases. However, making this work inside the existing way we do things can cause its own challenges.

There are three main types of information that we can identify within the evolving health and care system:

There is the information that we increasingly collect ourselves. A growing number of people use a whole range of self-monitoring devices to collect information about their own health over time. Whether it is your weight, the number of steps you take, the changes in your pulse rate when exercising, your blood pressure or your blood oxygen level, all these data can be used to indicate how healthy you are. At the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, you can even have your genome read – although the detail depends on how much you are willing to pay. However, this is an unregulated and non-standardised market and the accuracy of the data and its ownership is still a matter for debate.

There are also data collected by doctors. This is part of the diagnostic process – a process which is getting more complicated. As well as measurement of parameters we are used to (temperature, pulse, blood pressure, blood components and so on) we are increasingly using imaging to understand the physical nature of disease effects. We are familiar with X-rays, but have learned the power of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and a whole range of more specific ways to see what is going on inside our bodies – as it happens. All these different sets of data have to be shared between doctors and consultants, GPs and hospitals and used in combination to identify the specific effect of the disease on the individual patient. And all this has to be carried out in a confidential and secure manner.

Digital HealthFinally, the pressure on all health services caused by the increased number and complexity of unhealthy patients means that we need to improve the efficiency of the medical system at many different levels. This is analogous to the change from craft to industry in manufacturing and it is not surprising that there is crossover between the established field of manufacturing efficiency and hospitals and general practice workflows.

The developments in these three areas are not separate. Although the personal information is currently not routinely used in diagnosis, if its provenance and quality could be better assured and securely communicated, this information about a person’s health over time could be an important input to accurate diagnosis. Also, feedback from the data provided by the doctors and hospitals could be used to modify self-help health regimes to make them even more effective at keeping people healthy and fit. Similarly, knowing the average journey patients with specific diseases make through the health system is vital to ensure the system is optimised for the real world and not an “average” patient.

So, there are plenty of opportunities to make the health system that looks after all of us more effective at preventing us from falling ill in the first place, providing early therapy to inhibit or stop the progression of a disease and treating us as quickly and effectively as possible if we do fall ill. The problem is that we already have a system designed for an older approach – to treating sick people. It has legacy systems for collecting and communicating patient data that cannot cope with the scale and complexity of what we need for this new approach. And it seems to be permanently short of money. The new frontier of user-collected health data needs to recognise its potential contribution to healthcare and either standardise itself or submit to government regulation.

Everyone knows that we have to change, but change will be difficult and cost money. The change is coming, it’s just a matter of how long it will take, and since it is the patients who will lose out if it takes longer, we need more information about what is possible and when we will currently get it, and a debate about whether that’s good enough.


February 20, 2014

Competition – Day 4 (Sunday 15th December)

And so the event we've all been waiting for... the final day of competition and a day to test the cars endurance round a track.

Warwick Racing have not completed an endurance event since being branded as 'Warwick Racing'. We've spent a lot of money and time making this international trip happen, and were just hoping for an endurance finish. One positive of the Australian competition is that there are two endurances - you only need to complete one of them to count, so we have two shots at completing all the events.

The running order of the day meant we were out first. Our first driver David Pearce went out, and we were looking good out on track. No stoppages in the first few laps, but we did have a total of 32 to complete in the first go.

Dave went off track. Hearts in mouths, he managed to pull it back onto track. We suffered a minor time penalty, but at least we were back on track and still in the race. Dave nursed the car home, finished his 16th lap, and it was time for the Chief Engineer, Oliver Adams to jump in the car.

Endurance finish

A quick driver change and restart later, Oli was flying round the track. The car was looking good and going strong, then it stalled. That familiar sinking feeling happened, but thankfully Oli was able to restart the engine and bring the car home.

We finished our first endurance in 4 years. Ecstatic was an understatement. The whole team were on Cloud 9. The pressure was off, we had finished all dynamic events and could go into the second Endurance knowing we could try and be more competitive.

Paul and Luke drove in the second endurance, finished it without too much difficulty (we did pick up a few more cones on the way though!!) and managed an overall faster time.

This was such an amazing way to end our trip - we finished not one but two endurances and thus all dynamic events at the competition (one of only 3 teams to do so!!).

Time to wind down and head home. What a way to end our trip to Australia.



February 04, 2014

Competition – Day 3 (Saturday 14th December)

Early start, gates at 7am, prepping to get to Brake test first thing.

I used this opportunity to have a welcome break from the boys and catch up on some much needed admin.

I was back in Werribee by 10am - we still were not starting reliably (if at all...) and I could tell it had been a painful few hours for the guys. The cause of this was identified as a Bosch cam sensor. This was the only sensor on the car we'd been unable to replace post FSUK 2013 because Bosch do not make them anymore.

The main sponsor present at the Australasian competition was Bosch - the guys present weren't the same as the guys we met at the Bosch test day, but they were just as friendly. They were helping us out with our problems and lo and behold... they had the sensor we needed in their 'vintage' display cabinet. I mean, what are the chances?!?!

My good friend Dave Cooper has always told me that racing is 50% luck and 50% hard work. We definitely maxed out on luck when finding this sensor. The Bosch guys let us use it for the rest of comp and - shock horror - the car was starting reliably!!!

A quick jog over to Brake test and we were ready to go. Having seen the 2012/2013 team attempt and fail the Brake test at FSUK 2013 for hours before passing, we were up against the clock to get to the Acceleration and Skidpan events before they closed at 12.30. It was 11am, and magically on our 3rd attempt, we passed Brake test! Just don't ask what the PSI was in our rear tyres...

A couple of Acceleration runs and a skidpan run later, we managed to record times for both events before they closed.

Time to prep for the afternoon event - Autocross.

Autocross went smoothly, the car was still reliably starting, and we were in much happier spirits than we had been just a few hours earlier. If Formula Student does anything, it messes with your emotions. Feet draggingly downtrodden to over the moon ecstatic in the space of 10 seconds (or however long it'll take to get the engine running...).

We were able to enjoy the rest of the afternoon with Monash Motorsport, and watch their epic Autocross runs. Their car is so impressive, and you can't help but share their happiness at doing well throughout the competition.

We headed back to the cabin, had a brief late night trip to the beach for a bit of a fire show, and had another BBQ for dinner (this time it was kebabs).

Aus comp has 2 heats of Endurance, and we're first out in the morning, so we all got an early night to let the drivers rest for the busy day ahead. 22km in the scorching Victoria sun in a cosy racesuit was not looking likely to be a comfortable experience...


Competition – Day 2 (Friday 13th December)

Bright and early start of 5.30am to make sure we get to competition when the gates open at 7am.

The team did not appreciate the early wake up. Gotta get used to it as part of Formula Student life I'm afraid...

A breakfast BBQ with the Monash team (they sure do know how to eat...) and it was back to the pits for the Design and Cost event. We were the first team to arrive, and got set to presenting ourselves the best we could under the circumstances of limited time, resource and money.

A few of the Monash team helped us out with putting up logos and assembling our display stands. It was quickly becoming apparent that 6 people was not enough to run a smooth competition with, especially given the problems we'd suffered in the past few days.

The judges arrived and it was time for us to present 'our' design. Given that we inherited WR3 from the 2012/2013 team, none of us at competition had designed this car. The experience of completing the Design and Cost events was a great way for a few of our 2013/2014 team to gain some invaluable competition experience. We knew we were unlikely to place highly in these events, and the judges helped us in the learning of competition, and helped us identify some key features of WR3 that could be looked into further.

With Design and Cost over, it was time to look at the bane of every Formula Student teams life - Scruitineering. Courtney and I left the lads to handle it whilst we prepared for the Business event, due to start at 2pm. Time to suit up and practise, as we'd not looked at the presentation for a while...

Note to self for FSUK 2014 - allow 500% more time than you think you'll need to the static events. They are relatively easy points, but also easy to miss out through lackof preparation.

We suited up, learnt the presentation and went into the building where the judging was being held. Lucky (or unlucky) for us, we followed Monash's presentation. Once they'd finished, we were invited inside and presented as well as we could muster. Some tricky judges questions later and it was over in a flash. Results are to come out in a couple of days time...

Back to the boys and they've passed general scruit, following a few modifications, and now just have the Tilt, Noise and Brake tests to go.

We passed Tilt first time, and following some niggly starting issues, we passed Noise too. Following Noise, we have to kill the engine. Unfortunately, we were unable to get it started again to run Brake test today.

A few hours of figuring out what was wrong meant we had a plan of action to try and pass Brake first thing on Day 3. With the static events over, and 675 points up for grabs in the dynamics over the weekend, Brake was the only thing between us and racing.


February 03, 2014

Competition – Day 1 (Thursday 12th December)

First thoughts arriving at Werribee - Are we in the right place?

In comparison to Silverstone, the home of Formula Student in the UK, the site for Formula SAE-Australasia was not what I expected. There was no official race track, no pit lanes, no scruitineering bay, a limited number of sponsors and a quarter of the number of teams.

All cars were stationed in one large outhouse, which in many ways was a lot nicer than the set up at Silverstone. There was instantly a sense of community, and having 23 teams under one roof, rather than 100+ teams separated into groups of 6 in the pit lanes. It was also a lot more convenient - scruitineering was in the same location, so there was no 20 minute walk to scruit and back like we experienced at FSUK 2013.

Sleep deprived and set up, we left the pits at 5.30pm when they were locking up. (This is another massive difference to other competitions - at UK, the pits close at 11pm and in Germany, they never shut during comp). We went out for a joint team meal, with the whole Monash and Warwick teams assembling in the town of Werribee for a parmigiana. It tasted good.

We headed back to our new accommodation for an early night beofre the static events in the morning. We were starting with Design and Cost from 8am - 10am, followed by our Business presentation in the afternoon.

The cabins we had overlooking the beach were ideal, and a far cry from the muddy camping fields at Silverstone. Getting a real shower and sleeping in a bed during comp was not something I'd been able to experience before...


Competition Preparation (10/12/13–12/12/13)

Tuesday the 10th December.

The weather was sunnier today, but as soon as it hit 9am, I was off in search of an Aluminium bar to machine our new hubs out of.

Another observation about competing at a foreign competition, is just how helpless it can be when things go wrong. In the safety of the Midlands in the UK, we're never too far from a supplier. In Melbourne, not knowing the local area or any possible last minute suppliers put us at a massive disadvantage. The Monash team were helpful in recommending a few places, but it still was going to result in a hefty sum and a lot of driving to find the Aluminium bar we needed. Surprisingly, there wasn't any 6061 T6 160mm x 300mm round bar hanging around...

AUD$200 and a 30 mile round trip later, we had the Aluminium we needed. It was so heavy!!

I drove back to the guys working tirelessly at the workshop, gave them the bar and Hugh was able to get to work following the drawing we'd quickly mocked up for our hub replacements. Weight saving was no longer a concern - we just needed something to work for competition. Simplicity was key.

I left the guys to finish off a few pre-scruit checks on the car, and went in search of more competition necessities. Fire extinguishers, spray paint, fuel tank foam, nomex socks, the list was seemingly never ending. A lot of this we hadn't particularly thought about. I kept a record of every consumable we ended up needing, so that we can budget this for UK competition next year, and not be caught short!

The hubs were finished Wednesday afternoon! So many thanks to the guys at Monash, especially Hugh Venables who turned down our Ali bar. The rest of Wednesday was spent running around making sure everything was ready for competition. Due to the hub failure, the preparation I had planned for the static events flew out the window... Fortunately it meant I could get everything else in place ready for the drive to Werribee on Thursday, and the start of Formula SAE-A 2013. The lads didn't get to sleep on Wednesday before comp on Thursday, making sure the car was as ready as she'd ever be for scruit following a check from MMS.

Thursday morning came and quickly went as finishing touches were still being done before the hour long drive to Werribee. The car was running again, and we were in a much better place than 60 hours previously. Time to head to comp!


Monday 9th December (Part 3)

Time to go back to the Monash workshop, and fix this temporary glitch in our run up to Formula SAE-A. We called ahead to the guys at Monash Motorsport so they were aware of the situation, and we arrived back to a team of people inspecting the damaged hub and helping us find a way to replace the damaged part in time for competition.

On closer inspection, it was seen that the front right hub was on the verge of failure. Cracks were propagating in the same place as the left hub had failed, and it seems we had a lucky escape that they didn't fail at the same time. We disassembled the front and rears, and crack tested the rear hubs as we could see no visible signs of imminent failure.

The rears passed the crack test, so we only had two new hubs to make. Phew!

Along with a few of the Monash guys, new front hubs were designed, and Hugh Venables, one of the Monash University workshop technicians, agreed to help us machine new hubs the very next day. It was heart-warming to see our two teams working together so closely to solve a massive problem. If we hadn't been offered the kind support the Monash team gave us, our hopes of competing would have been over. It was a great reflection of just how strong our partnership is, and I can only hope we're able to extend the same kindness when they come to the UK in July 2014.

With new hubs designed, it was late into the night. A few of the team went home to get some much needed sleep, with the rest of us staying in the workshop late into the night to take this opportunity to spruce up WR3. With the corners off, we sanded down the tie rods and wishbones ready to be re-sprayed the following day.

Our Warwick Racing contingent really pulled together following this incident. Maybe we had been getting complacent having had no drastic faikures thus far, but it was clear there was still a long way to go til Thursday. Everyone got their head in the game in preparation for the inevitably stressful days ahead.

Home beckoned for the few of us that stayed behind. A couple of hours sleep and then it was time to head back to the workshop...


Monday 9th December (Part 2)

We arrived back at the workshop, and prepared the car for testing in the rain. A short trip to the local netball courts, and we were ready to go. The main purpose of this excursion was to get everyone driving before competition, and drive out a mock endurance court, helpfully set out by one of the Monash guys, Biv.

We were having some throttle issues as the recently replaced cable kept getting stuck, but this was sorted and it was time to get behind the wheel.

Driving WR3 felt great. I've not had much experience in the car, so it was good to drive a laid-out track and I definitely felt more comfortable in the car once I'd driven it around a couple of laps. I got out, and Biv took to the wheel to give us some feedback on the car. About 3 laps in, there was a spray of sparks and a wheel flew into a nearby field.

The car ground (quite literally) to a halt.

Worst case scenarios were running through my head, and our trip to Australia looked wasted, just 3 days before the start of competition. All the money spent in getting the team and a car to Melbourne, all the time invested in this excursion, seemed utterly pointless.

Thankfully, upon retrieving the wheel and inspecting the damage, it was identified that the front left hub had sheared where the wheel studs bolt through. I say fortunate, as it could have been a lot worse.

Time to re-design, source material, and find a way to make a new hub in 2 days.


December 31, 2013

Monday 9th December (Part 1)

DanaMonday 9th December was a rainy day.

After the beautiful weather we had had at the weekend, it was unfortunate for us to be subject to the typical British weather again, but it did give us the opportunity to test in the rain on the off-chance there'd be downpour at competition!

We started the day with a visit to Dana, a main sponsor of Monash Motorsport. They provide the team with financial and technical support, and we were shown around their facilities, by an Australian for a change! It was interesting to hear the employees there talk about the struggles the Australian engineering industry is going through, with the announcements of Ford and Holden factories closing. It definitely reminded me that there are real-world crises outside of my world of Formula Student, and made me thankful for the opportunities in industry available to graduates in the UK. We complain there aren't as many as there used to be, but they are amazing in comparison to the opportunities in Australia right now.

It also reminded me of the position that this exchange puts myself, the rest of Warwick Racing, and Monash Motorsport in - we're a rare percentage of engineering undergraduates gaining global experience in our fields, and it will definitely see us in greater stead when getting a job. Securing a job in industry or continuing with masters or doctorate studies doesn't only need a good degree from a good institution anymore!

With that humbling reminder, we headed back to the workshop to get the car ready for an afternoon/evening of testing.

It had been going so well...


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