Sand Ahoy! Young engineers race ‘land yachts’ on Aberdeen beachTuesday, 17 April, 2012
Over 90 students from Robert Gordon University’s School of Engineering pitted their wits against each other by racing ‘land yachts’ along a stretch of Aberdeen’s coastline on Friday 13 April.
The third-year Mechanical Engineering students have been hard at work over the past 3 months designing, constructing and assembling their yachts as part of a student project aimed at encouraging mathematical, analytical and team working skills.
The land yachts are comprised of a two-metre go-kart style body with brakes and steering with a 3.2m high sail, and have been conceived and built entirely by the students, split into nine competing teams.
Each land yacht must complete a 150m lap time trial across the beach weaving through obstacles to test their manoeuvrability, brakes, steering and the pilot’s handling skills. The team with the fastest lap and most intact yacht will be crowned winners.
The student teams researched the functionality of different yacht designs, benchmarking ideas and taking into consideration various factors including safety. After calculations to ensure the yachts were mathematically suitable for purpose, students were then given a budget of £200 per team to build their designs.
Fabricated primarily from recycled materials including old bikes, tarpaulins and wheels, the yachts have been assembled in the School of Engineering workshops. Using technical drawings created for each individual part to illustrate dimensions, students have assembled the yachts with the assistance of University Technicians who have machine-welded more complex components together.
James Cheng (20) from Westhill is Chief Group Co-ordinator of ‘Team Bold’ and has been responsible for design decisions, creating construction schedules and managing the fabrication process.
He explains: “This project has allowed us to apply the theory we’ve learned in the classroom in a more ‘hands-on’ way by constructing our own yachts. It’s created a really competitive atmosphere on the course, with everyone vying to create the fastest yacht.
“By being randomly put together in teams, we’ve also experienced how projects work in the ‘real world’ where you have to work with people from different organisations and cultures.”
Dorothy Esson (20) from Peterhead, a fellow member of Team Bold, has been hard at work on the safety elements of their design, implementing the braking system, overseeing the manufacture of their sail, and completing risk assessments for race day.
She comments: “The team have worked really well together and I can’t wait to get our yacht out on the beach to test it’s capabilities against our classmates. It will be great to see our vision finally brought to life and whether it fulfils our expectations. Hopefully the stressful moments and hard work will be worth it.”
In the countdown to race day, students have been busy fine-tuning their designs and testing them around campus. All yachts must also undergo a rigorous final inspection to asses the build quality before the time trials.
Harley Ogg (20) from Inverurie, Chief Group Co-ordinator for Team D, adds:
“We’ve had to make various adjustments and work to deadlines along the way to ensure our design fits the changing brief. This reflects the challenges we would face on a daily basis in our future careers as engineers.
“I’m pretty confident with our design and can’t wait to see our yacht perform. I’m also looking forward to seeing the other teams and their ideas, the build up to the final results will be pretty exciting!”
The project is an assessed part of the Fast-Track Masters in Mechanical Engineering course and aims to enhance students’ team working abilities and sees them learn practical engineering skills such as welding from University Technicians.
Dr Alan Owen, Lecturer from the School, comments:
“This project combines a fun activity with academic assessment and provides the perfect opportunity for the students to put their theoretical learning into practice. It also allows them to see how projects operate in industry from the original concept design to construction, testing and final performance.
“As well as engineering expertise, students gain an awareness of the importance of communication, planning and collaboration which will be essential in their working lives.”
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