Monthly Archives: November 2013

What is the longest column possible?

How long can a column be if it is loaded just by self-weight?     This is a rather different problem to those solved by the well-known Euler buckling formula and its variants.  The difference lies in the fact that under self-weight, loading is uniformly distributed along the length of the column, rather than being a point load on the column end, as the Euler formula assumes. This makes calculating the maximum length more complex. Continue reading


Assessing when we shouldn’t?

More crane buildingIn an earlier post I outlined the TED course I have recently developed and delivered with Tim Stratford and Martin Crapper.  Yesterday was the final session of this course when we handed out the end of course questionnaire.  Responses from students were all very helpful and mostly positive (a response is given here).  However, one point that came up several times as an area for improvement was the vagueness of the assessment criteria for the course.  Students didn’t have a clear idea about how their work was to be marked. Continue reading

How Hot are Fires?

I have been working for several years now with Guillermo Rein, Angus Law, Jamie Stern-Gottfried and others on “travelling fires” for structural design – that is, design fires where it is not assumed that the temperature remains the same in all parts of a fire compartment.  This research has been highly successful and resulted in prizes and journal publications.  However, for me, there remains a problem – the temperature of the travelling design fire is too hot! Continue reading

Tools for Civil Engineering Design


Crane building

I am currently nearing the end of teaching a new course with Tim Stratford and Martin Crapper – Tools for Engineering Design.  This is delivered in second year to Civil Engineers at Edinburgh with the aim of giving students confidence in working on complex, open-end problems that occur later in the curriculum and in engineering practice.  We tried to do two things Continue reading

RAENG Teaching Fellow Wrap-Up


Yesterday Oliver Broadbent from ThinkUp visited the University of Edinburgh for the final meeting of a 2 year Teaching Fellow grant scheme funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.  Oliver has been working with me and Tim Stratford on developing approaches to teaching conceptual design, particularly in structural engineering.  This has been a highly successful project that has transformed our  teaching in this area, resulted in freely available project packs being published, a presentation to IStructE and also a paper describing our thinking.