Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Posts Tagged ‘Academia’

Manufacturing Functionality: from SFF to truly SFF

In Seminars and Keynotes on 2016/04/05 at 8:13 pm

Solid Free Form (SFF) fabrication, also known as Rapid prototyping (RP) or Layered Manufacturing (LM), creates arbitrary 3D shapes directly from Computer-Aided Design (CAD) data. It has been around for two decades now. From its early age it demonstrated tremendous advantages for the Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) industry compared to traditional manufacturing methods such as CNC machining or casting. The venues for exploration appeared endless until users started to hit a ceiling; the name ‘rapid’ became almost ironic because the layering process is a very slow one, the palette of materials to handle is limited and the advertised label ‘net-shape’ is ‘near-shape’ – on a lucky day-. We are now over the hype of SFF, RP and LM but still have needs to create heterogeneous structures that have intrinsic multifunctionality. The Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing Lab in Loughborough University works on new manufacturing methods that allows a truly free form fabrication and the engineering of composition and structure for the creation of materials that are smart, responsive to their environment and possess synergistic properties that enhance their behaviour. These types of high performance materials offer great promise in fields such as bioengineering and transport (i.e. automotive and aerospace).

Venue: Department of Physics, Universitá degli Studi di Milano, Aula Consiglio. Italy

20160405_UnivdegliStudidiMilano

CDT in Embedded Intelligence at Loughborough University

In Funding, Info on 2014/01/09 at 1:07 pm

Loughborough University has been awarded the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Embedded Intelligence. In collaboration with 23 external partners (large companies, SMEs and other organisations that support training and industry impact) and Heriot-Watt as academic partner, this centre will train the engineers and scientists of the future at post-graduate level before they join industry as high calibre employees.

The research activities in this CDT are around the integration of ‘intelligence’ into products, machines, buildings, factories, work environments, transport systems, and supply chains. And nature can inspire the best examples of Embedded Intelligence.

The 4-year programme includes: (i) technical training in key areas of Embedded Intelligence; (ii) non-technical training in the ‘Double Transition’, to equip our students with the skills to be effective researchers during their PhD (from undergraduate into postgrad studies), and to become suitably qualified employees (from students to graduates); and (iii) industry interaction from early days throughout in a myriad of applied research rich-impact activities.

For more information, click here and here.

For the job ad, click here

Making sense of standardisation

In Publications on 2013/11/18 at 12:27 am

Standardisation is that useful process that allows us engineers to share a common ‘plane of reference’ on which to base our conversations. It is useful to know that a material (say, a slab of titanium) has the same mechanical properties when it is measured in Loughborough, Sydney, Lima or Granada.

But sometimes standardisation goes too far on the other extreme. The over-translation from observation to technical definitions might turn an ISO norm into a document that is no longer useful for practical purposes. This is particularly risky when ISO norms attempt to tabulate and measure in ‘softer’ areas such as healthcare and rehabilitation.

In a piece of work recently published here, my colleagues from the NHS Scotland SMART Centre and we have restated some practical insight to an ISO norm that guides the characterisation of wheelchair cushions for a better guidance to prescription by clinicians.

Our work has been well received by the practising community and we look forward to continue working with them.

Ref: Hollington J., Hillman S.J., Torres-Sanchez C., Boeckx J., Crossan N., “ISO 16840-2:2007 load deflection and hysteresis measurements for a sample of wheelchair seating cushions”, Medical Engineering & Physics, in press. DOI:10.1016/j.medengphy.2013.10.010 

Looking to access engineering expertise for your next R&D project? :: A webinar

In Knowledge Transfer, Seminars and Keynotes on 2013/03/12 at 10:21 am

Join Interface –The knowledge connection for business and Heriot-Watt University on 21st March (2pm-4pm) for this live and online event for businesses which will highlight the range of engineering expertise, new technologies and funding available within Heriot Watt University that could help your business.

Speakers:

Interface – The knowledge connection for business

Discover how to access the world class facilities and expertise available within Scotland’s academic network to develop and grow your business.

Laura Goodfellow, Senior Project Executive  – Got a business challenge? The answer could be in Scotland’s academia!

Heriot Watt University

Discover the various ways in which your business can access the engineering expertise and resources at Heriot Watt University.

Dr Carmen Torres-Sanchez – Industry-led engineering design projects for undergraduate students

Dr Dawn Beddard- Industry-led physics based projects

Dr David Flynn – KTPs: knowledge transfer goes both ways between university and companies

Professor Marc Desmulliez – Research projects with Industry in the UK and beyond

Dr Iain McEwan – Navigating your way in University for Research and Knowledge transfer

Company Spotlight

A company’s perspective! – Discover the success that three businesses have achieved from collaborating with Heriot Watt University on their engineering projects.

Mr Stephen Roberts of Nightingale Intensiv

Mr Roy MacDonald of Glenhanze

Dr Mark Zwinderman of Aboleo

Who should attend?
The event is aimed at any company in any sector, who is interested in discovering how Scotland’s academic network could support its next engineering challenge.

Participation
The online streaming will give you the opportunity to watch the presentations live, participate in the discussion forum and ask questions from the comfort of your own office.

Register here

 

Serious Games

In Seminars and Keynotes on 2012/05/20 at 5:45 pm

Being playful was never so productive.

We have felt privileged to have Dr Poul Kyvsgard Hansen at Heriot-Watt for 3 days to train us as Lego ‘Serious Play’ facilitators.

From childhood we are hardwired to tell stories and use our hands to construct stories and metaphors. The current educational system might teach us out of creativity, so it is important that we go back to basics to retrieve those dormant skills with which to face the complex problems ahead of us.

We are looking into Lego to embed in our Engineering Design & Manufacture courses communication and strategy planning content.

Lego Serious Play has been used broadly in Scandinavian countries (lead by Dr Hansen’s team) as a tool for strategic management and innovation enhancement.

We run a little dry-run workshop on ‘what do researchers do’, and this was the insightful result:

Image

Lego mini exercise – What do researchers do

(from top left to bottom right): Research for Ray is about developing new technologies and making the most of them (can you tell he works with VR equipment!?); Poul’s take was a circle which symbolises the iterative nature of research, from the knowledge acquisition, through to reflection, a hypothesis testing; Siva saw research as finding the right ‘tree’ after having to browse through many different bushes (and the flag on the miniman represents the baggage of knowledge the researcher brings on); Theo’s main points were ‘juggling’ many different ‘levers’ and knowledge dissemination; Tom thinks it is all about isolating the problem you want to tackle, and the board behind is all about dissemination, and telling the wider audience what you do. The left corner photo is the Pro-Lego set we will use in our teaching from this semester onwards.

We are bound to have a lot of fun with our students and our partner companies joining us for the Engineering Design programme. Click here if you would like to hear more, and/or get in touch.

Heriot-Watt & Moredun Research Institute Exchange

In Comment, Knowledge Transfer on 2011/02/27 at 6:17 pm

Just back from Peebles. Idyllic place south of Edinburgh and before the Borders. A great place to think, talk and meet delightful people. Some of them from my own organisation.

We spoke about these common issues:

(c) A. Miller & Wordle

 

Well into the afternoons and evenings:

 

(c) A. Miller

It is always important to keep in mind that there is a thin line that separated technology transfer (or providing a service) from true multidisciplinary research. This is always worth exploring, as one thing might take you to the other.

 

Free doesn’t mean cheap

In Comment, Funding on 2010/12/23 at 12:12 pm

The turmoil provoked by the tight vote result on the raise of the university tuition fees in England this past few weeks finds its antithesis in the clear message coming from Scotland’s Universities. We do not want the English model. Professor King, convener of Universities Scotland made an statement that most of us working in Higher Education Institutions share: “the ability to pay must not become what determines whether someone goes to University in Scotland or not”. Two options seem to outstand in this case, both of them with inherent advantages and disadvantages for the different stakeholders: on the one hand, 100% public funding for tuition fees, on the other, the ‘subsidised degrees’ formula, in which public funding is topped-up with graduate contributions. In the meantime that Scottish Government decides how to maintain student places and also keeps our Universities competitive in research in the UK and worldwide, a concurrent debate is open within Universities: how will we manage to keep offering our current and prospective students the quality of experience they deserve with a decimated funding stream from Government.

In a highly competitive jobs market, Universities and Higher Education Institutions have a large share of responsibility in ensuring that our graduating students are equipped with the skills and experiences to support their chances of securing employment upon graduation. In Heriot-Watt University we are aware of the necessity to have transferable and lifelong learning skills in addition to in-depth factual knowledge of the different subject areas. Being entrepreneurial ourselves, there is an emphasis on active participation and innovative problem solving that we transmit to our students. Practical applications, learning by doing; enterprising students who interact with companies as early as during their undergraduate degrees and are exposed to work in industry from early on. In all of this we believe, as these are essential when a newly graduate tries to position herself in the competitive market place. We want to continue doing this, and to encourage enrolment of motivated and ambitious students from all social backgrounds. Although this will certainly become tougher with less funding and less resources, we all (i.e. lecturers, researchers, students, admin personnel) must continue delivering the same excellence that Sottish Universities are renown for.

Students coming to study in Scotland have to be aware that ‘free’ (or quasi-free) does not mean cheap, and consequently make the most of the opportunity that they are given, valuing it as much as if they were paying £9k from their own pockets.

Company-led UG Engineering Design Projects

In Comment, Knowledge Transfer on 2010/09/18 at 5:06 pm

The official start of the 2010 company-led UG engineering design projects for mechanical engineering students at Heriot-Watt University was officially launched yesterday at the Postgradute Centre. A superb business breakfast was organised by my very lovely PA, Ms Rebecca Crawford (she is a star!)

The 14 companies partnering for this initiative gathered in the morning and met the students who will work in the R&D projects allocated to them.

The companies taking part in this initiative are: Aboleo, TouchBionics, Macphie, E&H Building Contractors, Panton MacLeod, Turnbull&Scott, TomAllan, LandLab, Chocolala, Seeking Simplicity, Pyemont Design, Readman Lighting and Sabic Innovative Plastics. I want to sincerely thank them for their support and enthusiasm for this brand new inittiative.

The organisation would not have been possible without the generous help of Dumfries College (via Ms Eva Milroy), Borders College (Mr George Foster), UHI (Dr Fiona Grant), RenewNet (Mr Steven Earl), EDTC (Mr Stephen Burns), and last but most importantly, TRS in Heriot-Watt (Dr Iain McEwan)

I have been proudly reading the references in the news and these are some links:

South of Scotland Innovation Project: http://knx.astranet.org.uk/knx/news/index.asp?newsid=28

The Scotsman: http://www.flickr.com/photos/15451319@N00/4996309117/

South of Scotland Business Solutions: http://www.sosbus.biz/enx/news/index.asp?newsid=12

I wish the best of luck to the students. I hope they will have as much fun with these projects as i had setting this up this programme.

New academic year and the opportunities ahead

In Comment, Knowledge Transfer on 2010/09/05 at 7:32 pm

Even when recession is still in full swing for the Scottish industry, we are already starting to envision what tomorrow will bring. The current shortage of technical placements, apprenticeships and engineering graduate jobs will start showing its impact in only a couple of years down the line. Companies are not only having to make skilled engineers and technical staff redundant, sending their know-how to waste; they are also losing the opportunity to hire bright, energetic, highly motivated newly graduates who have to apply to jobs in a different industry or sector (e.g. banking). I have nothing against bankers (sarcasm) but they are really enticing our brightest, best of the best students and taking them to the City.

Universities have to work hard to attract good students. In the present climate of budget cuts and limited places up for grabs, we face the painful task of cherry-picking those who we think will take full advantage of their academic degree training, and offer them a place in our courses and programmes. Going back to the banking simile, it is the closest thing to buying shares, and trying to invest with a low degree of risk. But, how to be sure? We are certainly missing out some brilliant individuals. And once those ‘stars of tomorrow’ join us, we have to make sure their academic experience is really worth-while and enriching, and they become fully equipped for the best graduate jobs in engineering and technology.

The enhancement of employability skills is a two-way road. On one hand, Universities need to make sure that the students are exposed to relevant experiences, real-life situations that encourage creative thinking, original problem-solving, and teamwork. In that way, we are not only teaching them the first principles of Thermodynamics or the governing rules of Fluid Mechanics; we are inviting them to develop lifelong learning skills, teaching them how to learn, as we don’t know what we are training them for. Technology moves so fast that what is cutting-edge now will be obsolete even before their graduation ceremony. Heriot-Watt University, with her ethos for ‘applied knowledge’, has always been pioneer in this academic style of teaching. In particular, the new initiative for company-led engineering design projects for Mechanical Engineering students epitomises Heriot-Watt’s character as ‘useful knowledge’ entity. In these projects, students work get to put into practice their theoretical knowledge by assisting R&D activities carried out by Scottish SMEs, experiencing real-life situations and having to behave like professional engineers before they complete their degrees.
Simultaneously, those companies benefit from this program by interacting with the students and coming closer to the skills and knowledge available in academia. In the larger scheme of things, the Scottish economy benefits from this ‘win-win’ situation: our students improve their skills, and the companies obtain a piece of useful research, tailor-made to their business, that can assist to their competitiveness in the market.

However, this is not possible if our students (current or prospective candidates) are not up to the challenge. I said that employability skills are a ‘meal for two’. Universities carefully prepare their curriculum, in consultation with the employers and learned bodies (e.g. Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Chemical Engineers, or Civil Engineers, etc).  No matter how delicious that meal might be, if the students are not hungry, not even the best roast dinner will turn them on. We need proactive, enthusiastic, open-minded students who are ready to take on those challenges, who are willing to learn and be taught. It is our job, as academics and lecturers, to make sure they have a broad variety of experiences that will help them become rounded, highly-skilled engineer. And it is their job as a student to make use of all those opportunities. I always say that University is like a gym: you pay a flat-rate membership fee so you can use all the services available. You end up paying the same money whether you go 3 days a week to exercise, or you only go once a month. University, like the gym, has so much to offer, but it is up to the student to make the most of it.

The academic year is about to start and we are so looking forward to welcoming back our returning students and see the faces of our freshers. Because they are the engineers of tomorrow and the world is in their hands. It is a great honour to us to be part of that exciting journey. I can’t wait to get it started.

(An article based on these thoughts was published on 26th August 2010 in the Scotsman. It can be found here: Scotsman Platform CTS 260810.)

‘Does Sex Matter Any More? Gender Segregation at Work’ at Scottish Parliament

In Comment on 2010/06/18 at 2:54 pm

A small group of high profile public figures gathered last evening for a session at the Scottish Parliament, in Edinburgh. The discussion was around the barriers that are hindering more girls to study engineering and science and, even more important, why there is such a large drop out as their careers progress.

One of the figures that struck me the most was the 5% female students in undergraduate (UG) engineering studies 25 years ago (personal statement by Dr Sandra Cairncross, Dean of Engineering, Computing & Creative Industries which coincides with the figures i provided on the current situation in Mechanical Engineering.

Engineering studies are particularly bad at attracting female students. This is not the case in Science (e.g. Biology or Physics). Despite almost parity percentages male:female in UG studies, e.g. 30% in Physics, 50% in Biology, these percentages drop by the time people progress into postgraduate or PhD studies, and it is even lower at post-doc researcher stage. The percentages are as bad as in Engineering when comparing female chairs in academic deparments.

Both the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, Jim Mather, and Alison McInnes MSP draw our attention to the barriers that female encounter when they access power position and enter board rooms. Although being common knowledge, there is not a drive from Industry or Academic Senior management to tackle those issues.

Many in the group still address difficulties in balancing work and life and long working hours as main hurdles. However, recent research is starting to bring light to the key issues: lack of supporting networks and mentoring. See this article by Jennifer Hunt, ‘Why do women leave Science and engineering’.

The event was organised and facilitated by the Scottish Resource Centre, based at Edinburgh napier University. The UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), with its Scottish Centre, is the government agency whose remit is to lobby for parity and ‘fair play’ in the job market.

Links:

UKRC for Women in SET: http://www.ukrc4setwomen.org/

Scottish Resource Centre for Women in SET:  LinkedIn group