May 21, 2009

What makes engineering fun

What do you think makes engineering fun?  Here is my list for starters please add your suggestions.

- Competition (i.e motor racing, robot wars, scrapheap challenge, ...)

- Making a difference to the world (mobile phones, dialysis machines, sustainable energy systems, ...)

- Teamwork (multidisciplinaryi.e. electrical, electronic, mechanical and software engineering combined)

-Things that move (robots, cars, bikes, machine tools,.....)

It doesn't sound too difficult does it.  Here is a list of projects that I think matches with most of that and could be done as group projects for undergraduate engineers.

Build a robot to search for survivors in collapsed buildings. (robocup rescue competition)

Warwick Rescue Robot

Build a team of robots to play football (any number of different FIRA or robocup leagues to enter)

Warwick Robot Football Team

Build a formula student race car

Warwick Formula Studen Car

Build an electric bike to race at the Isle of Man TT

TTXGP race bike


May 19, 2009

Making Engineering Fun

Writing about web page www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/eng/meng/wmr/

I am a strong believer that in order to learn anything you have to be having fun.  One of the big problems of teaching engineering is that the practical bits (which are also the fun bits) tend to very quickly get expensive.  Because of this many University courses tend to concentrate on theory and turn out graduates that are great analysts but have no confidence in their ability to do practical engineering.  I am determined to buck this trend and an example of this is the mobile robot project run for fourth year engineers at Warwick.  Here a team of eight engineers from the diverse engineering disciplines come together to build and compete a rescue robot in the robocup rescue league.  This requires them to work to budgets and deadlines and produce a product with electronics, mechanical and software components woorking together and prepares them perfectly for a practical engineering role.  We have been running this project for a couple of years and experience shows that in interview the confidence they display in discussing their work and achievements almost guarantees a job offer.

The down side is of course that running projects like this costs money.  The materials, travel to compete and technical support required go way beyond what the University can provide.  In order to run such projects we rely on sponsorship from companies and individuals who can see the merits of this approach.  The one thing I am sure of is that if the UK is to maintain a manufacturing base we need to be putting graduates out there with not only the skills but also the confidence that this approach produces.  There are lots of similar projects that could be run if only we can get the support to do it.  All of them also have the possibility to change our future world with both the technology created but also the UK skill base produced.  If anyone out there agrees with the approach and can help in any way please get in touch.


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