Thursday, May 31, 2012

Engineering YES Pictures

So here are some pictures taken by the photographer at the event:
Our team getting some advice on our project

Me, explaining the awesomeness of our module

Us, getting grilled with questions

Matt, explaining the way the module works

Really loving the look on my face right here....

WOW!  We won!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Engineering YES - Day 4- HOLY SMOKES WE WON!

After a late night for Claire and I working on the final presentation, and a VERY late night for Nick and Matt working on the financials, we approached today's presentations with cautious optimism.  Well, I did anyway.  :)

We were the fourth team (out of seven total) to present, right in the time slot before lunch.  Our team name, H2GO, was based around the concept of a hydrogen modular fuelling station that is to be integrating into the exiting petrol station market in the UK.  This concept was related to the release of several hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles that are set to be released in 2015.

The other teams were very good, presenting ideas ranging from home lighting system, better home insulation, a anti-bacterial paint for hospitals and a new nano-paint for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC).  We were sure we were out of the running...but when it came to the awards, we were declared the winners overall!  The runner-up team, Innovink, which championed the nano-paint for SOFCs also are going to the final competition in 3 weeks time in Birmingham.  So big win for Fuel Cell Technology today!!

We are all pretty tired after the long days, so I'm going to sign off now...but here is a couple of team photos taken from lunch, right after we were done presenting:

We were all a bit silly and tired after the presentation

Aww!  Group photo!  From left to right: Nick, Matt, me and Claire

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Engineering YES Day 3

We started day 3 bright and early with an 8:30 warm breakfast.  I got up at 6:30 to do a few miles on the treadmill in the hotel fitness room, so I was nice and hungry!

The day started at 9am with a 30 minute John Cleese video, "The Balance Sheet Barrier" which comically went through a lot of the basic ideas behind business finance, including what goes into the Profit and Loss Sheet (which shows what has happened to the company money in the past), the Balance Sheet (what is going on in the present with the company money) and the Cash Flow Forecast (what will happen with company money in the future).  It was pretty basic, but still entertaining.

After the film, David Scott, one of the Rotary organizers of the event, gave us some insight on how to organize our finance side of our project proposal.  For our presentation tomorrow, we just need to organize key financial details, such as predicted sales, profits and cash flow and how much we think we might need invested from Venture Capitalists.  (VCs)

After David, we heard from Dr. Penny Attridge, a VC from Spark Ventures, who gave us good insight into what VCs look for when investing in a start-up.  The main mission of any VC is to make money for the customers that fund them within a defined time frame.  She also gave us a lot of good ideas to include in our presentation for tomorrow.  She downplayed the importance of a Business Plan, saying that what she was more interested in was a good, unique Business Model and Executive Summary, though a solid Business Plan is key for long term success.

After Dr. Attridge, we heard from Jim Wood, a former engineer in the power industry, who now specializes in underlying marketing.  He gave some good tips on how to get good marketing research that helps the understanding of the market.  He emphasized the importance of quality research behind any business, using the analogy that one should "spend seven hours sharpening his sword before spending an hour in battle."

Through the afternoon, we focused on solidifying our project idea (which I will fully reveal at the end of the competition!).  The basic idea is looking at the hydrogen infrastructure for the UK.  We met with an expert in finance, Amy Burton from Baker Tilly, who gave us some good directive on how to solidify our finance spreadsheets for our presentation.

We are now working into the evening for the morning deadline of our presentation!  We are all set to present tomorrow, right before lunch, at 12:15pm!

Here are some pictures from the day:
Claire, Nick and Matt practice "awkward balloon" and "awkward turtle" as our strategy for answering questions we don't know....

I escaped outside and found the playground!!

Matt does some serious work for a minute

Short moment where we try to figure out EXACTLY what we are doing...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Engineering YES Days 1 & 2

The four of us: Matt, Claire, Nick and myself, all got to the Holiday Inn in Coventry Sunday afternoon, ready to get started with the Engineering YES competition. We started meeting up with the six other teams here, from other West Midlands universities, Loughborough University, University College London, Lincoln, Leicester, Huddersfield, and Birmingham. We started with a discussion led by former Rolls Royce engineer and consultant, John Boyes, who discussed our ideas about networking. We then had a nice dinner and tried to practice what we had learned with the other teams after dinner.
We got up early the next morning for a proper English breakfast at 8:30 for a 9am start of the day's program. We started by listening to a talk on Setting up a Spin Out from Dr. John R Tyrer, a professor of Optical Instrumentation from Loughbourgh University. He discussed types of spin outs from university research and noted that Entrepreneurship was a skill that could be learned. He noted that "Good entrepreneurs inspire, rather than direct, lead rather than manage."
After Dr. Tyrer, we heard from George Rice from the University of Nottingham, who discussed spin out case studies in Engineering Technology around processing of vermiculite and heart rate monitors for babies. He gave a lot of good insight on critical components needed for a good pitch to get investors in on an idea or concept.
Our third speaker for the morning was Jason Teng, a lawyer from Potter Clarkson LLP, who spoke to us about the various types of intellectual properties, most extensively in Patents. We were also able to have a one-on-one with Jason in the afternoon, who gave us a great deal of insight on the way to approach the IP with our idea.
After the speakers, we were given a team exercise that dealt with a series of cards that gave certain bits of information, and from these cards we were supposed to answer two questions. It was much like a logic puzzle that I used to do as a child. We were the first team out of the seven to solve the puzzle and answer the questions correctly. In fact, only three of the seven teams were able to solve it at all in the time allotted. This helped our team spirit!
After lunch, we met with various mentors in our designated syndicate room. We saw five experts on the topics of business planning, finance, IP, licensing and marketing. The feedback for our idea was mixed- we got a lot of challenges to the concept that we discussed in detail before making our elevator pitch right before dinner.
Matt was designated to give our elevator pitch for our idea, which was a bit shaky from the critism we had received earlier in the afternoon. However, he did marvellously, and I personally think that we are in a good competitive standing with the other teams!
Now, we are working on the details of our idea, getting quantitative figures organized and hashing out the feedback we received today, but we don't plan on working too late into the evening as we have another early morning tomorrow!
The group gets ready to listen to talks in the morning.  From left to right: Claire, Matt and Nick

Matt and Nick working away in our room

Claire and I discuss various ideas for our presentation

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blog Post 1 of Many to catch up! PTC News!

So I've been REALLY busy lately but in a good way.  I am going to write in this post about stuff going on with the EngD program and my sponsor company, then I'll do another post about Melissa's visit and how that's going.

First of all, last week was a good week for me working on my EngD.  Last Wednesday, I got to a Live Tech Forum that was sponsored by PTC so I could learn more about my sponsor company.  Tim Brotherhood was kind enough to give me a ride to and from the event, which was at the Heritage Motor Center in Gaydon, Warwickshire.
During the day, I got to hear a lot about the software that PTC produces, particularly their PLM software, Windchill.  I am pretty excited about being able to learn more and work with the ideas of collaboration that is the driver behind a PLM like Windchill.  I also learned a lot about PTC in general- that it is a company with 6000 employees and 30,000 customers using their software.  One of the main messages of the presentation was that PTC was looking to be a partner for companies who want to be technologically innovative, particularly as it relates to product design.  A lot of this aligns with the preliminary research that I've been doing, so I am getting ready to really move forward and organize myself more towards a working goal in the next few weeks.
Also, the Heritage Motor Center was REALLY cool.  I would love to go back and look around sometime!  Here are some pictures from the little time I did get to poke around:
An old Triumph!


World's first car to go faster than 200 mph

On the way in to the Heritage Motor Center

Smallest car in the world!

Solar Car!

Last Thursday, I gave a presentation to the Steering Committee for the EngD program at Warwick and then I got to meet with John Stuart, Tim Brotherhood and Laura Pintilli from PTC in the afternoon to discuss my project direction.  My presentation, though brief, helped to paint a picture of how the new International EngD program is going at Warwick, and I've gotten good feedback on it, so I think I did well!  I also was really happy with my meeting with the guys from PTC and I am going to be working on a clear outline of my research delivery by the middle of June.  They are most interested in ways to make collaboration work, and they also share interests in alternative energy and education, so I think I have a lot of opportunity to tackle things I am very interested in.  I think my biggest hurdle will be narrowing down and focusing on just one thing.
Ok, post again soon with pictures from Melissa's visit and our trip to Ireland last weekend!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cambridge, Fuel Cell Talks, Tea Time and Formula Student...always Formula Student...

So a week ago Sunday, I went with Sagar, Andy and Ryan from the Formula Student team to Cambridge to meet up with last year's chief engineer, Will Playford, who is a PhD student at Cambridge now.  Will has set up his own small CNC business and is going to help the team manufacture the pedals for the car, we went to Cambridge to take him some aluminium for this task.  We also got a tour of his workshop, which was pretty interesting.  You can check out his website here:  It was inspiring to me to see a PhD student also working on a small business, this is starting to become a bigger interest for me.  Just need to find a good idea....
The CNC machine

Sagar models a gear made by the machine

Will explains to Ryan how the machine works.

I found Jaffa Cake BARS at the Petrol (gas) station!!

The river in Cambridge from the car

Over the course of the week, the whole team had various assignments due in, as they prepare for the annual exam period.  The UK system is much different than the US system.  Whereas we have exams at the end of each semester (term), they have all their exams for the year over a few weeks in May and June.  So courses (modules) they took in the fall (autumn) they are just now going to have a final (exam) for.  This means heavy studying (revision) for the team members.  Everyone on the team is in their fourth year.  Unlike our system back home, a bachelors degree only takes 3 years here, with the option to stay another year for a masters.  The team members will graduate in July with Masters (in either Mechanical or Automotive engineering - about 75% of the team is Automotive).  This means they don't have a bachelors degree.  It's an interesting system.  I don't think I like the idea of the stress of exams being compacted over such a long time (3-4 weeks) and only once a year.  Needless to say, the stress levels are a bit high.  Glad I'm a post grad with no exams....

Anyways, towards the end of the week, the team decided it would be good to try to put in some effort to get the chassis ready for powder coating.  We went in early on Friday and worked all day, but unfortunately, there was just too much to be done.  The team is now no longer allowed to work on the car until June, after exams.  I however, will be working a bit (when I am not hanging out with Melissa) with the technicians to hopefully ease up the workload a bit for when the team can get back to working on the car.
Harness mounts in the chassis.  I made those bad boys.  Boo yah.

The resulting hemp fiber structure that was made at KS Composites a few days earlier.  It did not pass the crash test......

Me in the spaceframe!

Sagar, angle grinding wishbones for the suspension

Some of the pieces for the harness mounts that I made on the lathe.

On Saturday, I went to the monthly meeting for the Renewable Energy Club in Warwickshire, which was held conveniently at the Methodist Church down the street from me.  I was supposed to give a 20 minute talk on Fuel Cell technologies and applications...and I ended up talking for over an hour.  It was really good though, there were a lot of interested people in the group.  I'd say there was about 15-20 people, so I really enjoyed chatting with everyone about my past research and current developments.  It's a really good group of people I hope to get more involved with during my time here.

On Sunday, I went to the afternoon service at church, which was a bit more informal.  It was a lot of fun, and I was asked to read the closing prayer, which was really nice.  Afterwards, Anne invited me over for tea at her house.  Anne and John have had me over before for Sunday roast a few weeks ago, and they are a great couple to chat with.  John teaches a German course at the University and does various translating.  He has a very cool model train set up in his garden shed, with all sorts of switches and such that I got to see yesterday as well.  Their garden is lovely too, I should take pictures the next time I visit to put up here!

Today was a bank holiday and I had plans to bike into campus today, but it started raining this morning and has been raining all day, so I ended up staying home and cleaning a bit.  Aurelie is finishing up a paper that she has to turn in tonight (I'm going to proofread it in a bit) and we are going to go for a run soon.

Melissa comes to visit a week from Tuesday!!  WOOT!
Pizza from the local pizza place.  It was really good (veggie).  Never had corn on a pizza, which is surprising, coming from the midwest and Indiana, but it's actually really good.  I recommend it.