Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Is DIY a western thing?

In Info on 2015/09/11 at 6:18 pm

Changxi Huang has been working on the bamboo hut project as part of his MSc project. His work has focused on the optimisation of the procedure for assembling the hut and looking for ways of best presenting the assembly instructions to those who can’t read instructions or have no previous knowledge on building huts.

He ran experiments with participants from different walks of life and, most importantly, from western and far east countries. One of the main points of discussion of his dissertation is based on his observations on the approach that western nationals have towards do-it-yourself products versus that of Far East countries citizens. In countries like China, assembling a product (a table or a chest of drawers) is left to those who perform that job for a living. On the contrary, the B&Q-isation or the IKEA-ising of western countries has made our exposure to self-assembly furniture and products an activity of our everyday life. Could this have an effect on our cognitive ability to understand instructions and our dexterity to carry out such assemblies?

Huang observing one of the tests in our study

Huang observing one of the tests in our study

Huang has successfully finished his MSc course and is going back to China for a most deserved rest. Well done, Huang!

MSc exhibition on 9th Sept (Loughborough University) and Farewell (or a ‘see you soon’):


Predicting energy demands in Portsmouth

In Info on 2015/09/09 at 5:55 pm

Brian Nwike, my placement student, has been working at Atkins on a prediction tool capable of analysing various energy drivers to create a forecast detailing the shifts and changes in energy use over a 20 year project timeframe. There are two very different locations, Portsmouth and Kano and Kaduna in Northern Nigeria, where the local governments are making use of this resource to forecast future gas and electricity demand and take educated expansion decisions.

“The inclusion of user adjustment to create unique demand scenarios demonstrates the model’s commitment to exploring the unpredictable change of the future”, Brian says

Along with his work on energy studies, Brian took part in the Good Jobs Campaign, launched by Boris Johnson and CitizensUK which Atkins supports. The campaign identifies future skills gap and the effect this will have on the UK economy if this gap remains. Brian attended to events to rub shoulders with Boris Johnson and Atkins Chairman, Allan Cook.

Brian is back to Uni in Loughborough this October to embark on his 3rd year of MEng in Mechanical Engineering.

The increasing demand for STEM graduates: a shortage or a recruitment failure?

In Info on 2015/09/01 at 10:18 am

My student Andrew Craik has spent the past year investigating the perceived shortage of STEM talent by industry and why STEM graduates are so inclined to work in occupations that are not related to their degree.

“Although evidence suggests that there is a high demand for qualified STEM graduates in core STEM areas, why do so many still stray to different sectors?”

Andrew concludes that there is no shortage of STEM talent entering the pipeline at university, it is how they are treated throughout their university life what influences their career choices and, sometimes, a large number of drop-outs to other industries. Low numbers of females studying STEM (Engineering in particular) subjects exacerbate the problem of not enough graduates available for Industry (45% of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) members declare there is a serious problem with the supply of STEM graduates (Phillips, 2013)).

The main three reasons are:

  • A realistic and perceived salary shortage in a traditional STEM career which creates an interest shortage from candidates
  • A self-inflicted shortage imposed by recruiters, in particular STEM Industries who produce far less attractive graduate offers than non-STEM recruiters (eg Financial services)
  • The fallacy of the 2:1. Staff screening applications are not often qualified to appropriately judge the level of technical expertise of the candidates and refer to artificial thresholds such as the 2:1 or degree awarding university. In most cases these are irrelevant to the reality of the role.

Andrew recommends:

“The shortage comes from these barriers imposed on the graduate market and unless there is a dramatic change in the influx of students studying STEM subjects at A-Level and subsequently University, employers must deal with the problem directly. Whether this means putting more resources into their recruitment, increasing graduate salaries, moulding more interesting graduate jobs, creating more engaging graduate schemes or considering students with a 2.2 in a reputable course from top universities then actions need to be taken sooner rather than later.”



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