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Personal profile

Research interests

My current interests are centred around pedagogical practice, especially project-driven learning environments as a route to encouraging innovation and partnership, and delivery modes which take the best from physical and digital interactions. This is applied primarily through the theme of light electric vehicles; from propulsion system specification and matching, to whole-vehicle thermal management, low drag bodywork aerodynamics, and onboard methods for collecting airborne particulates emitted from tyres and brakes.

Recent research has involved in-cylinder air and fuel motion studies in reciprocating internal combustion engines, using fully optical single cylinder research engines and high-speed photography. This interest is maintained by means of historic racing car engine development project work, especially cylinder head inlet port and combustion chamber design.

Previous research work focussed on gas turbine aero engine internal air systems, using an experimental approach with non-invasive instrumentation to better quantify the flow physics of the rotating 3D flow fields present, improve cooling effectiveness, and minimise windage heating. This interest has continued through the role of reviewer for ASME and IMechE papers.

Teaching interests

I have developed a personalised approach to the teaching and learning of the subject of engineering, which is informed by academic and industrial experiences, and aims to encourage a life-long interest in problem solving. Why? What? How? These seem like good questions to start off with if useful teaching and learning is to occur: Why am I doing this? What is the problem that needs to be solve? How can I solve the problem?

‘Why’ must be linked to a strong personal motivating factor, and this can be addresses by picking inspirational themes. Whether it’s cars, trains, aeroplanes, boats, bridges, spaceships, propulsions systems or solar power, that takes your fancy, there are plenty of exciting things to get involved with in the fields of mechanical engineering. At our university, and in our labs, there are lots of those kinds of things, that you can see, touch, adjust, read about, or listen to, as and how you prefer. These can be thought of as visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learning opportunities.

‘What’ means getting to grips with some problems. They are probably unclear at first, and if they are not, then you have quite probably missed something. Talking this through with a tutor, and seeing the fundamental physics that underpin the practice of engineering by means of test rigs, lab experiments and lectures, is a good way to expand the range of your knowledge. If this is implemented with time to think, discuss with peers, and reflect, it is a good way to expand your understanding too. This merits of this approach have been highlighted by Gert Biesta. With practice, problems become more easily recognised and defined. Human beings are not machines and there is only so much ‘accelerated learning’ that can be implemented before the intended deep learning is skipped. This is something which is discussed by Guy Claxton in ‘Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind’.

‘How’ should you solve the problem that you have found? A good way to proceed is to apply the principles of The Scientific Method to your problem; to poke, prod, or provoke a response which can be observed, as a way of building up a more detailed understanding of its characteristics, and then identifying adaptations or changes that could lead to a good solution. This is not a passive method, which can easily be automated, but that is what makes it so interesting; allowing the creative aspect of human nature, and engineering practice, to be recognised and gainfully employed. This becomes even more interesting and powerful when utilised to tackle real-world problems, where complex mechanical systems, economics and ethics are considered holistically. If ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘How’ are practiced well, then iteration, evolution, and sometimes revolution, will result, leading to a perpetual cycle of enquiry and learning, a key ingredient for success whichever career trajectory the students might pursue.

I have put this into practice by means of project-driven approaches for integrating theme based project activities with unit based teaching materials. This approach, where the full design-make-test cycle is experienced, is referred to as Science Informed Practical Problem Solving (SIPPS). I was awarded Higher Education Academy Fellowship teaching qualification in 2018.

Other responsibilities

I am interested in forming new research and design partnerships in the following areas of low carbon transport: Light electric vehicle design, niche electric vehicle conversions, active automotive aerodynamic bodywork for drag reduction, internal combustion engine in-cylinder air motion, rotating flows in gas turbine engines, historic racing car engine development, problem identification techniques, pedagogical best practice, and the future of the car.

Keywords

  • TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
  • TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
  • QC Physics
  • HE Transportation and Communications

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