Posted on 10/11/2016 by IED

The IED has once again recognised in its annual awards those final-year student projects that most caught the eyes of its panel of independent judges. Here are their projects and the stories behind them


University of Strathclyde, Department of Design, Manufacture & Engineering Management.

Project: 'Improving Spinal Health through better Sitting Habits'

“Knowing of many students and office workers who struggle with poor sitting habits, and resulting spinal aches and pains, I set out to understand how to aid those in similar situations,” says Joey Ho StudIED, of the University of Strathclyde, Department of Design, Manufacture & Engineering Management, whose project was ‘Improving Spinal Health through better Sitting Habits’.

“Through numerous observations and input from various health experts, a need was recognised for a product which would actively encourage better sitting habits in an unrestrictive, simple, and non-irritating manner.”

From this research, and through extensive prototyping and testing, ERGO was developed. It is fitted on existing office chairs, and provides fully adjustable lumbar and thoracic support to the user. Through embedded sensors, ERGO also detects poor sitting habits, and provides feedback to the user via a wireless module users can place in their line of sight, allowing them to train themselves into better postures.

Ho, 23, is currently volunteering in South Africa, where she aims to further explore the role that design engineering has within developing communities.


Newbury College.

Project: 'Gearing Assembly for Hydrochloric Acid Level Gauge'

George Collins StudIED, 24, Newbury College, started his career at Bayham (manufacturers of magnetically coupled tank contents gauges and liquid level control equipment) as a draughtsman before moving into an R&D role. His HNC project, ‘Gearing Assembly for Hydrochloric Acid Level Gauge’, was to create a gearing system for a mechanical fluid level gauge that was suitable for measuring high concentrations of hydrochloric acid in a variety of different storage vessels. It demanded the use of many new forms of technology that had never been used at Bayham before, such as FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and rapid prototyping.

“The design process was fairly straightforward, he says. “The most vital part was the initial research. Existing methods of measuring corrosive liquids were investigated, which gave a good idea of the challenges involved. Of the three concepts developed, the selected design was made from PEEK, and was highly chemically resistant and durable.”

The good news is that the acid gauge is now being exposed to foreign markets. Current enquiries suggest it will perform very well.


Newbury College

Project: 'Echelon Ankle Vacuum Management System'

Chris Prozzo, 22, Newbury College, led the ‘Echelon Ankle Vacuum Management System’ project from the initial concept ideas to creating and testing the prototypes. The aim was to produce a valve (the Echelon Vacuum Management Valve) small enough to attach to a patient’s prosthetic that would allow them to adjust the level of vacuum within their socket to suit their personal preferences.

“This was an important feature to have and an interesting task to undertake, as it gave me the opportunity to work on a more personal level with the amputees that we assist on a daily basis,” he says. “As a prototype, the valve was made from aluminium, as this made it lightweight, yet durable enough to handle the pressure inside, clinically safe, and easy to change, should a new idea arise.”


University of Strathclyde, Department of Design, Manufacture & Engineering Management

Project Name: ‘DM501 Industrial Projects – Product Design Engineering’

Project team: Michael Northcote, Amie Walker, Yee May Chau, Mairi Mitchell – all StudIED – and Muhammad Hazim Bin Fakhri.

A Cubesat is a miniature satellite which is often purpose-built according to the function at low cost, in comparison to its competitors. Currently, the solar panels that provide power to the unit are deployed utilising a series of mechanical hinges; incurring lengthy assembly procedures, utilising a large number of components.

The team, sponsored by Clyde Space in Glasgow, were tasked to deliver a second-generation deployment mechanism. The new system expands two solar panels by employing a torsion spring to create an angular displacement with a runner system to lock the panels in place. Financial benefits are significant, saving 87.5% per Cubesat, while minimising the number of parts employed.

A vertical stack assembly, including error-proofing measures, reduces the likelihood of operator fitting mistakes and shortens the lead times for production. Clyde Space are yet to comment on the project outcome. However, it is felt by the team that the second-generation deployment mechanism offers an alternative to standard hinge construction, resulting in the elimination of risk upon part reliability.

Michael Northcote, 24, is currently in the production sector of Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) as an operations engineer and has had exposure to the aerospace sector during his years of study. He is actively investigating all possible career specialism opportunities and focusing his time within continuous improvement based initiatives.

Amie Walker, 23: intends to pursue a career in the manufacturing sector, with future ambitions to become a chartered engineer.

Yee May Chau, 23: as a recent graduate of engineering design, she recognises the wide variety of work she could undertake to apply the knowledge and skills obtained at Strathclyde University. She intends to explore different fields of work and “identify an area in which I excel and therefore will enjoy doing for many years to come”.

Muhammad Hazim Bin Fakhri, 25: after graduating from the University of Strathclyde with an MEng in Product Design Engineering, he is now ready to further his studies, focusing on sustainable product design. “Currently, I am familiarising myself with the entrepreneurial world, in order to become a successful technopreneur in the future”, he says.

Mairi Mitchell, fifth member of the university team, which was sponsored by Clyde Space in Glasgow.


University of Bristol

Project Name: ‘Improving Performance of Remotely Operated Vehicle for High Tidal Flow Environments’

Project Team: Peter Collen StudIED, Tom Lawson StudIED, George Sleath

Course: MEng Engineering Design with Study in Industry (University of Bristol)

Tom Lawson, 23, is employed as a systems engineer on multi-disciplinary military projects.

Peter Collen, 24, has just begun postgraduate research investigating heating effects on space vehicles during atmospheric re-entry.

Final System

The final system, in which the original vehicle sits within a hydrodynamic shell. The thrusters are mounted such that they operate outside the shell, with the rear propulsors also possessing a vectoring capability. The UDS (right) consists of a locking mechanism mounted on a ballast bag, which rests on the sea floor. This prevents the umbilical drag force from being transmitted to the vehicle.

Mechanism Assembly

The umbilical passes from the support vessel to the ROV from left to right. Due to an inequality in the lever ratio, the vehicle can pull the umbilical through, but load on the cable connected to the ship cannot be passed onto the ROV.

Exploded Mechanism

The mechanism consists of four key components. The base (red) is mounted to the structure of the UDS. A high-friction insert (green) fits into the base to prevent cable slippage. The lever arm (blue) holds the umbilical cable in place against the tidal flow whilst still allowing the ROV to pull the cable through. Finally, the entire assembly is fastened with a single bolt (grey) allowing easy installation and repair.

Tidal stream turbine array.

Tidal energy is a promising future energy source for the UK, which possesses approximately 50% of Europe’s tidal energy resource. A major barrier to the growth of the tidal industry is the associated installation costs. Many turbines are installed using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) – submersibles connected to a vessel by an umbilical cable. Although functional, these vehicles are not optimised to work in high flow velocities, which limits operations to short windows around slack tide.

This project aimed to produce a design solution that would increase the operable duration of this deployment window. The overall design development followed a double-diamond process with a staged down-selection strategy employing several stages of increasing fidelity, ranging from simple feasibility studies to detailed analysis and prototyping.

The final system developed consisted of an after-market ‘modification pack’ for existing ROVs. This incorporated a hydrodynamic shell to reduce vehicle drag, a vectored thrust system to better utilise currently available propulsive power and an ‘Umbilical Divider System’ (UDS). This would react the drag load from the umbilical cable, ensuring minimum loading on the vehicle itself.

Each sub-system was initially designed using hand calculations and empirical methods, before the functional performance of the components was verified using computational methods, including structural Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). A key mechanism in the UDS was also prototyped to allow for testing. The final system was compared to a benchmark ROV using Mermaid, a marine operations simulation tool produced by Mojo Maritime. The results showed that the team’s design solution increased the maximum operating flow velocity by 170% and reduced the average installation costs of a large array of turbines by 65%.

Their tutor Paul Harper, lecturer in Engineering Design (IED Affiliate), comments: “The group produced an exceptional project, creating innovative design solutions that have real potential for future commercial development. They demonstrated excellent application of systematic design processes and were highly effective in liaising with the project's industrial partners to ensure the key design requirements were accurately captured and addressed in their final design.

"I know the students were also extremely grateful for the outstanding support received from Mervyn White, their academic advisor, as well as Babcock International Group, Mojo Maritime, Saab Seaeye and Liam Warren, a tidal turbine installation specialist, throughout the course of the project."


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