Category Archives: Curiosity

Creative Coursework Submissions

DesignI have just finished teaching Structures 1 to first year Civil and Aerospace engineers.  This unit covers a lot of basic material like bending moment and shear force diagrams.  In the detail of all this it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of why these topics are interesting and useful. So, for the coursework element of the unit, I set an open-ended brief asking students to research any structure (widely interpreted) of their choice, and explore it in a conceptual way.  I also gave marks for creativity in communicating the findings.  After last year’s investigation of the structure known as “Martin Gillie“, this year’s submissions are no less imaginative. Continue reading

AECOM Competition Entry

I have been working over the summer with a group of students on an entry to this competition run by design consultancy AECOM.  The brief for the competition was very well conceived and deliberately intended to bring to together multi-disciplinary groups of architects, engineers, planners and others.  The team from Manchester consisted of two engineers, an architect and a planning student, working with academics from each School.  Although unfortunately the entry didn’t make the final in New York, it was selected for a regional competition – we will see!

Whatever the outcome of the competition, developing links between all those who work in the built environment in universities is very welcome.  Civil and structural engineers tend to get “stuck” in departments where interaction with other engineers is easy but interaction with architects is difficult.  This may be simply because they are in different buildings but commonly there are bureaucratic barriers, such as being in different faculties, too.

Circles and structures

220px-British_50_pence_obverseHow is a circle defined?  Something like

“A shape that is the set of all points on a plane equidistant from a given point (the centre).”

This effectively describes a circle as a shape having a constant radius.  It is tempting to assume that a shape with constant diameter is therefore also a circle but this is not necessarily true.  Continue reading

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