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Course highlights

Induction week: Egg race 

From the very first day of arriving at Brunel, all School of Engineering and Design undergraduate students are put into groups to tackle an Induction Week project. This activity allows students to meet with and get to know fellow students on their course as well as their personal tutor and other staff in their subject area. In the past, the project has involved designing a contraption from materials found around campus to successfully transport an egg down a rope to a target area. A number of challenge rules make this harder than it sounds, the constructions being released from the top of a rope structure and the egg needing to be deposited as close as possible to the centre of a target 5m away and 1.5m below the rope with minimum damage to the egg! Judges award marks for the performance and the design of each contraption, and prizes are awarded for the best projects.

 

Level one: Multidisciplinary Project 

The Level 1 Multidisciplinary Project (MDP) is a one week long project-based learning activity that takes place at the end of the first term. It involves students from across the different subject areas within the School of Engineering and Design, working together in teams to design, build and demonstrate a robotic vehicle. The MDP allows students to put into practice some of the technical skills they have learnt during their first term at university while also providing a valuable opportunity to develop key communication, time management and team working skills, all of which are highly sought after by industry.

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Level two: Electronic project

The aim of this activity is to provide experience of the processes involved in designing small electronic systems which are to perform to a given specification. It is also intended that the exercise be relevant to the EA1 requirements of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. The principal object is to gain experience in using initiative when working on an unrehearsed problem. The advantages and disadvantages of various approaches to satisfying a design specification are investigated. During completion of electronic project the students gain experience of prototype construction techniques, of the selection and use of laboratory equipment to assess prototype performance, and of PCB layout.

Case Study: Health monitoring system

Supervised by: Dr Konstantinos Banitsas

Students involved:

  • Francesco Forte (BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering)
  • Thomas Adu (BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering)
  • Yusuf Egal (BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering)
  • Mohammad Shanehzan (BEng Electronic and Electrical Engineering)
  • Mahamed Hashi-Adan (BEng Computer Systems Engineering)

The learning aims of this open ended project are to provide students with an experience with objective definition and critical analysis of various aspects of the necessary project steps, such as resource and risk analysis, and practice with the planning delineation.

Moreover, it aims to increase the practice of experimental work procedure, by teaching how to correctly collect information while working on a task and act heuristically in accord to problems encountered.

The specific project topic was to design a non-invasive Health monitoring system.

Initial objectives are set to obtain a portable device capable of analysing body parameters, such as heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, respiration rate, etc.

More advanced objectives are set to use the data collected to be used to assess an average health level.

The first of the two stages planned for the project, includes a PPG finger clip sensor as main measurement tool, an additional temperature sensor as secondary, an Arduino as microcontroller and a LCD display.

Research is performed in designing a power supply with use of battery packages. The latter are also used to provide the negative -5V supply required by the on board op-amps, after interferences are noticed with the voltage inverter previously utilised.

A full analysis of the circuitry required to ‘drive’ the two LEDs on the PPG sensor is performed, leading to a transimpedance amplifier followed by a 4th order band pass filter and subsequence amplification stage.

Calibration of the temperature sensor is implemented by mean of a researched model, after others attempts resulted in inconsistent results.

A program is realised to detect the pulse rate and for moving from heart rate to temperature measurements.

The above are executed following the initial plan, with necessary modifications.

Main achievements of the projects are:

  1. The system can provide heart rate and temperature measurements everywhere as long as batteries are available.
  2. The information can be read on the LCD and the speaker alert if something is wrong with the patient.
  3. The combination of filtering and amplification actions resulted in a signal which is comparable to an electrocardiogram as seen in hospitals machines.

This project along with others was presented at Brunel Engineers showcase - our annual showcase where students exhibit their inspiring work at the show and representatives from a number of world's leading companies are invited to view their projects, judge and award prizes. 

Level two: Software development 

The students enrolled in Computer Systems Engineering and Electronic and Computer Engineering courses have opportunity to explore the possibility to develop the software in the closest possible real-world environment.   Starting from ambiguous requirements from the user, the students need to identify the real needs of the customer, write identified requirement analysis and complete the UML design of the system. The engagement with potential customer by interviewing, requesting further information by email and doing research on similar systems is essential. The UML design consists of use-case diagrams, class diagram, sequence diagram. Once the design is complete, the students implement using object-oriented principles in Java and test the functionality of the system according to use cases specified earlier. The incremental development is adopted as commonly used way to develop the relatively large software. Thus, the students gain experience in developing the software in iterative matter, completing requirement analysis, implementation and testing, at each stage.

 

Level three: Engineering final year project

 

 

 

Evolutionary Strategic Optimisation of a Dynamic Transportation Network by Ms Allina Williamson

Supervised by Dr T Kalganova. 

Changing market conditions and rapidly increasing fuel costs have driven an increase in the cost of transportation and therefore, in the need to optimize transportation and supply chain networks. These networks have, however, become increasingly complex and difficult to model; therefore the commercial solutions are becoming increasingly ineffective. This project has developed an evolutionary strategic (ES) algorithm which addresses the shortcomings of the commercial solution, and when applied to a real-life transportation network has proven to outperform the commercial software.

Phase 1: Algorithm Development

The transportation network was optimised towards 3 different business objectives : producing the network with the shortest path, the largest amount of profit, and, one that is the most resilient (least likely to fail).

The results from the shortest path and profit were comparable (with only a difference of 0.0017% in total path length values and 0% in profit), but it was during the resiliency investigation that the limitations of the commercial software first became apparent.  While the proposed algorithm was able to produce results for resiliency comparable with other optimization techniques being investigated, the commercial software had no way of modelling resiliency, and therefore was not able to produce a solution at all.

Phase 2: The Dynamic Transportation Network Optimisation

Once the function of the algorithm had been proven on a basic network, it was then tested against the shortcomings of the commercial solution on more complicated and variable transportation networks.

The network was scaled up to one with a cycle value 98 times larger than the original, and a beta value 239 times larger. The stability of the proposed algorithm was proven when this network was solved in just over 3 minutes; when the same network size was fed into the commercial solution, the software failed as the network was too large.

The “energy spike investigation” explored the differences in network layout and profit produced with a sharp increase in energy prices. The commercial software solved this by optimising each energy price individually. At the same time, the proposed algorithm completed the same experiments, the profit projections were of a higher value. The reliability of the proposed algorithm is demonstrated against commercially available solutions and the linear programming approach most commonly used in commercial software.

The “lane game” experiment optimised profits over a one-year period, and considered not only a monthly increase in energy prices, (and therefore transportation cost), but also the discount provided by shipping companies if consistent lanes were utilised over a set period. The proposed algorithm was able to model these real world problems and provide solutions, but the commercial software failed as it is unable to model dynamic and changing networks.

Summary

This investigation proposed a conceptually new algorithm capable of optimising transportation networks of a larger size and complexity than is currently published, providing optimal solutions with each run. The results from experiments on dynamic and constantly changing networks are a significant area of research, due to the fact that it is an area with increasing impact on supply chain management, but one that has been overlooked so far in commercial solutions.

   

Case study: Lego Bike under control by Mr Shing Thant Aung, an undergraduate Electronic Engineering student

Supervised by Dr R Powell

A proper physical model of a bicycle was adapted for the Lego Mindstorm (copyright) bicycle. It was simplified to a fifth order model (five interacting first order differential equations). Linear control theory was used despite it being a non-linear system. The assumption of small perturbations was enough.

Notice that the bike is programmed to lean to the right and as it does so the control system kicks in to maintain stability by steering to the right. This is how bicycles and motorbikes work. The gyroscopic affects are completely negligible owing to the slow speed and light wheels. This shows that bike stability is from the "lean-steer" reaction only. (There was no remote control of any sort in this experiment.)

The Jaguar Land Rover Prize was awarded to Mr Shing Thant Aung for his work on controlling a Bicycle at Brunel Engineers (BE) showcase

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Level three: Balloon mission to the end of space 

watch highlights of our successful balloon mission to the edge of space.