Mechanical Engineering

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Imperial College, Bath, Bristol, Manchester

I am attracted to engineering because I love being able to apply theories learnt in the classroom to a practical framework. Over the summer I worked for two weeks at an engineering consultancy with a team of civil and structural engineers. All the engineers were working on the same project but from slightly different angles. This project involved designing a new wing for the Tate Modern Museum, one of the largest arts projects in Europe. They had to help create a beautiful building while trying to minimize costs by using prefabrication methods to the maximum. I had to check their drawings against those of contractors, from abroad, who were in charge of building these prefabricated sections. Last year I worked on an engineering project at my school seeking to build a bicycle entirely out of wood and glue. I was in charge of developing a system of propulsion to transfer the cyclist's power from the pedals to the back wheel. We ended up using used only two cogs to link these two points together, instead of a possible three. This meant that although the cyclist had to pedal backwards to push the bicycle forwards, the whole friction of the system was massively reduced. We recently finished building a scale model and are now gearing up to build the full size model. My experience over the summer showed me qualities engineers require daily, notably creativity and determination, qualities we certainly needed during the wooden bicycle project.

Recently I read Henk Tennekes' book 'The Simple Science of Flight'. Equally fascinating was David Tremayne's 'The Science of Formula 1 Design', presenting all the principles behind some of the most advanced cars on earth. Linking the two books together were sections on aerodynamics and the use of wings on cars, especially the front wings and the nose, in order to try to limit turbulence around the wheels and reduce one of the main sources of drag. The problems associated with such developments, notably the sheer cost of wind-tunnel testing and the use, therefore, of ever more sophisticated computer models to predict the flow of air around the cars, were also well described and discussed. I used relevant sections of Tennekes' book while writing an essay for a school competition. My essay discussed the commercial viability of supersonic flight and specifically the use of SCRAM jets.

As part of my AS electronics course, I built a guitar tuner using PIC programming methods. Despite not taking the full A-Level this year, I decided to build a signal generator, again using PIC assembly language so as to deepen my understanding of the subject. The PIC chip in my signal generator used a table of approximate digital values, making the production of accurate sine waves difficult. I used a digital to analogue converter to smooth my output and generate an accurate waveform. These projects, combined with my reading and work experience, increased my understanding of engineering, notably the importance of the research phase before any project is begun. This research phase was also very important during my electronics projects, where it forced me to consider alternative methods to arrive at the desired result.

Apart from the practical aspects of engineering, I am also attracted by the theoretical side of the subject. I enjoy studying mechanics in Maths and Physics and achieve consistently high grades in these subjects. I have no problem with working hard to achieve my goals; last year I juggled my work with the fact that I also had to cox my school's first eight in most of my free time, and ended up winning a gold medal at the National School's Regatta at the end of the year. I also run in my school's cross country team, and am currently completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, having done the expedition phase of the award last summer. For this award, I volunteered weekly in my local community at a breakfast club, helping young children complete classwork.

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