Engineering students get to grips with live project at University of Edinburgh

(from left) Matt McGowan, design manager for Robertson Central East; Pedro Damas; Victor Timmers and Professor David Ingram

Engineering students at the University of Edinburgh have secured a work placement with Robertson Group after lending their specialist skills to a live project.

The company is currently undertaking enabling works at the King’s Buildings Campus for University of Edinburgh, ahead of a wider renovation project.

And Robertson Central East, the main contractor, decided to look close to home when trying to solve a challenging aspect of the project.

They tasked 40 final-year students enrolled in a Computational Flow Dynamics (CFD) module to use specialist software to track the flow of air through the external envelope of the campus’ purpose-built mechanical and electrical plant (MEP) building.

The students took into account factors including wind speed, direction, turbulence and the bespoke cladding on the exterior of the building.

Pedro Damas and Victor Timmers were selected to present their findings to a panel from Robertson Group, the University of Edinburgh’s Estates Management team and CFD lecturer Professor David Ingram – with both awarded a gift voucher and work placement offers from Robertson.

Matt McGowan, design manager for Robertson Central East, said: “As part of the enabling works we are carrying out at King’s Buildings, the completed MEP building will house specialist machinery that must be kept below a certain temperature. Maintaining natural ventilation within the building is fundamental to achieving this.

“Our client’s architect suggested that we obtain CFD analysis from a third party to clarify that the external envelope was able to provide sufficient free area ventilation. After struggling to find a suitable expert to do this, we turned our attention slightly closer to home – the neighbouring building, in fact.

“We approached Professor Ingram to work with us in presenting the challenge as a final-year project to his students and, although we ended up working out the solution ourselves, the students’ results confirmed our findings.

“Both Victor and Pedro really impressed us – and hopefully it’s been as valuable for them as it was for us. We’re looking forward to welcoming them on site over the next few months, should they accept our offer.”

Professor David Ingram said: “The opportunity came at precisely the right time as we were looking for a real-life industry project that would help the computational fluid dynamics students master the StarCCM+ software in an engaging way.

“It’s a real challenge to simplify such a complex problem and to deliver high-quality simulations and the project provided a fantastic final exercise for the class – it engaged the students and gave them a real-world example to talk about in job interviews.

“Our students presented clear, practical findings that have helped Robertson confirm the results of their own desktop study. The exercise has given the students a skill not many in the country have.”

Victor Timmers (left) and Pedro Damas with the MEP building on the right-hand side

Mechanical Engineering student Pedro Damas said: “Tackling a real-life scenario makes the process much more engaging, and it was a great opportunity to take the theory, apply it and discuss my results with the panel. It was a great challenge, and took me out of my comfort zone.”

David Cairns, managing director for Robertson Central East, added: “The feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are delighted to offer them real-life design experience and future work placements.”

The enabling work is expected to complete by July 2018 ahead of the renovation of what is predominantly the university’s science campus.

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