Project work

Design is at the heart of engineering and so forms the core of our courses at Bristol.  It is the process of applying the knowledge and skills you will have been learning elsewhere.  It is creative, open-ended, depends on 'systems thinking' and individual flair.  You learn design partly through formal teaching but mainly through trying out ideas and seeing if they work.  We expose you to many different problems and situations to stimulate your imagination.

Planning the location of a Welsh dam
Planning the location of a dam in Wales

The design process is brought to life through group projects, of which one of the most exciting is the Water Resources Project.  You have to design a water supply system in mid-Wales, given some maps and rainfall data.  It is all done in three weeks and we make the project as realistic as possible by simulating the atmosphere of a busy design office. 

Last-minute 'client' changes may arise to keep you on your toes!  The final presentations are always excellent and finish the project on a high note.

In the fourth year you will do a major group design project that brings together almost everything else you have learnt on the course.

Examples of third year Research Projects

BRUNO Breakwaters

Coastal zone management utilises breakwaters and other coastal structures to defend the coastline.  Most protection schemes today use rock armour as a slope protection.  However, an alternative approach using concrete units called BRUNO‘s is being developed by HydroLab.  This project will assess, using laboratory experiments, the performance of various BRUNO breakwaters.

Blast Resistance of Buildings

Traditionally, the effects of explosions have been considered for military facilities, nuclear power plants and petrochemical plants.  With the increase in terrorism, blast effects cannot be ignored for commercial buildings with large numbers of occupants.  Such buildings must be provided with a sufficient degree of protection so as to avoid fatalities.  The aims of this project are to understand the nature of blast loading and to investigate the tools and techniques available for the blast resistant design of structures.  It is also intended to study the response of a building for different explosive events by varying the intensity and location of explosions.

Flood Forecasting With Artificial Intelligence Technology

River systems are usually very complicated and difficult to simulate using some traditional mathematical models.  Recent advancement in Artificial Intelligence technology has provided us with new tools to tackle this problem.  Generally, AI technology is very broad, including data mining, machine learning, expert systems, decision support, Fuzzy logic, Genetic algorithm and so on.  The basic methodology is to divide historical flood events into two parts: training set and testing set.  You need to build an artificial brain (basically a software run on a PC) and then train it with the training set and hopefully the artificial brain could remember the knowledge learnt from the data.  To prove your AI model really works, you need to validate the model with the testing data set.  This is a very challenging project and you should be interested in and good at computing.

Galloping Vibrations of Cables

It is well known that iced overhead electricity cables often experience wind-induced ‘galloping’ vibrations. It has recently been discovered that inclined cables (e.g. on cable-stayed bridges) can experience similar vibrations in certain wind conditions, even without ice.  This project will use wind tunnel measurements of the forces on such cables to calculate expected full-scale amplitudes of the vibrations and the amount of additional damping required to prevent them from occurring.

Residual Strength of Weathered Mudstones

The stability of slopes in sedimentary rocks is often governed by the residual strength of mudstone bedding planes but this is often hard to quantify.  An example of such instability occurred in the excavation for the new Earthquake Laboratory, and in the steep slopes along the Hotwells road.  There will shortly be a major anchored excavation constructed in Cliftonwood and it is planned to select and test mudstone from there.  When the residual strength of disturbed weathered mudstone samples is measured, considerable variation is often found and it is difficult to choose strength parameters for design.  This project will investigate the factors that influence f'R in weathered mudrocks.

(Back to top)

Examples of fourth year Design Projects

Tennis Arena (Steel Construction Institute Competition)

The brief is to design a tennis court stand and roof arrangement for an Olympic competition.  Entrants are expected to demonstrate individuality and flair in this Competition, in addition to showing an understanding of structural design, and to communicate their ideas in a written report with calculations and drawings.

Eco House

In the UK, domestic energy usage takes up one quarter of the energy consumption per annum, which is mainly sourced from fossil fuels (73.8% fossil, 23.7% nuclear, CIA, 2001).  Traditionally, conservation of energy and water was not placed among the top priorities in residential building designs.  However, with climate change and the pressure on the increasing consumption of energy and water, there is an urgency to pursue more energy and water friendly buildings, i.e. an Eco House.  This is especially timely since millions of new houses are required in the south of England in the next few years.  Although some sporadic examples of various eco houses are around in recent years, there is no systematic design methodology available for professional engineers to follow.  The goal of this project is to carry out an extensive search on the current practice in eco house designs, explore the existing and emerging technologies that will facilitate the functioning of an eco house, collect and analyse climatic data records so that a probabilistic-based design theory could be established, and design a prototype house for a typical family size as a paradigm of the proposed design framework.  Cost will be an important factor.

Landmark Foot/Cycle Bridge over Bristol Floating Harbour

There is a lot of new development beside the Floating Harbour in Bristol, to the west of the city centre, but there is no existing crossing for almost a mile, and access to Bedminster and the SS Great Britain from the north side of the river is poor.  Meanwhile. other cities, notably Gateshead/Newcastle and London, have impressive ‘Millennium’ bridges.  This project will consider the design of a landmark foot/cycle bridge for Bristol, over the Floating Harbour in the vicinity of the SS Great Britain.  The bridge will need certain permanent clearance for small boats and must be openable to allow the passage of taller boats.  The closed, open, and opening/closing cases will each need to be analysed.  Foundation design will need to consider the effects on the harbour wall.  Other issues include aesthetics and environmental impact.

(Back to top)