Alexandre Payot: group design project
One of my main reasons for coming to study aerospace engineering at the University of Bristol is the focus on project work from day one.
Group design projects are what makes engineering a very rewarding degree to study for: they allow us to use the theoretical knowledge gained in lectures to solve real world problems. These design projects helped me understand the ‘unscientific’ aspects of engineering; from manufacturing to team management, engineering is about much more than just maths, physics and equations.
The most interesting of these is the 4th year design project. Its theme is set by Airbus, Agusta-Westland or Airbus Defence & Space; all world leading aerospace manufacturers in their domains.
This year, for the civil aircraft project, we had to design a replacement aircraft for the aging B767.
We were assigned to teams of nine students with each person responsible for one aspect of the design (aerodynamics, controllability, structures, propulsion, etc.). This organisation provides an opportunity to develop technical expertise, team management and communication skills.
The fourth year design project is a unique opportunity to get advice from industry experts while working on a project relevant to the aerospace industry. This project offers the possibility of exploring innovative ideas and puts to the test the capacity of the team to come up with an effective solution to a problem. While challenging, this makes working on this project a very rewarding experience.
The teams are responsible for the delivery of their design, and individuals must gain the expertise in specific aspects of the design, however the department is very helpful in setting up help sessions with lecturers and engineers. This project is one of the highlights of the final year of the course at Bristol, bringing industry and academia together, it provides a valuable insight into the challenges of working in Engineering.
Each year the group design project task is adapted so as to be relevant to the current challenges that the industry faces. Our task was to develop a B767 or A320 replacement, two flagship aircraft which now require updating to meet the new medium-range market demands.
My fascination with flight started as a young child: living in New Caledonia, I would test my parents’ patience on the 24hr flight back to France with innumerable questions. Later, in school, I found an affinity with science and maths as they satisfied my inquisitive nature. I decided to study engineering as I wanted to bridge the gap between scientific theory and real world application.
Coming from France, it took a little bit of time to adjust to the different teaching methods and the language, but after 4 years I’m happy to call Bristol my home. I was able to do a year abroad at the University of California in my 3rd year which was an amazing experience and would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. The course is well structured; allowing us to specialise in our areas of interest in the last two years of the degree. A large number of group and individual projects makes the course very engaging. Ultimately the individual research project was one of my best experiences at the University of Bristol and convinced me to continue as a PhD student in the department.