Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-01-22 - 4:22 a.m.

I met the head of the Smallpiece Trust and agreed to back for a longer chat next week.

I also managed to call in at the music shop to find out how they handle flute repairs. Then I met up with Bob and we drove down the M1 and M10 to Hertfordshire University – where Peter C is a visiting professor.

We were met by Alan who organised the project about the Mozambique school on stilts which is on the KK site. Alan is good brass player and I have mentioned the Lullabyes concert to him (St Martins in the Fields – 30 November 2004.)

We were actually there to talk to some of his students about building racing cars – a follow up to the interview with the students from Warwick that we did just before Christmas. Alan had organised 5 2nd and final year students for us to talk to. There were two project leaders, a sponsorship specialist, a project management specialist and a brake specialist. We talked to a couple of teachers and the head technician as well as having a look at the cars themselves which are very impressive.

The earlier models have a space frame construction but the more recent ones use a novel light weight sheet material which costs £800 a sheet. The power plant is a 600cc Honda motorbike engine. I was particularly impressed by the suspension which uses gas springs and compression springs from a mountain bike and by the cooling system. They had put two radiators – one each side of the car just behind the driver. While there was an aerodynamic penalty this was unimportant given the performance restrictions on the car. However it means that the radiators, which I think were coupled in series , are extremely efficient and the lower operating temperature for the engine brings plenty of benefits. It also adds to the vehicle’s stability.

Hertfordshire have won the European competition and last year got almost half the prize money eg for things like the use of software in the project.

We asked Alan about using FMEA on the car design project. Alan has quite a good certification in this technique as he used to teach it for Ford before he became an academic. I told him how impressed I was with the statistical grasp of the people on the Smallpiece Centre course. In fact I had to admit that it was rather better than mine and I usually quite rate myself in applied statistics. Steve Pheasant used to say that he ate statisticians for breakfast and in fact in his most famous book, Bodyspace, he invented his own system of metrics.

All of this made for a great afternoon with lots of valuable data for the projects which Bob and I are working on. We got back to Leamington about 8.00pm but as Bob is on secondment from BMW riding around in his car is quite a relaxing experience. Even parking is interesting because it has got a really good radar proximity sensor system which I haven’t seen before so fully articulated. This design has only been available in the UK for about six months..

I had spoken to Stefan during the day about the priorities for today. I am going to skip the exams at the course and go to a meeting on his behalf in Birmingham, This will give me more time to prepare for the presentation the next day which I have to give in the same place. I will be driving back from Birmingham at the same time that Yvonne is driving in the opposite direction to the University where she is doing a novel problem solving project. My company is quite interested in the methodology that is being tried out.

The dhorn-airsynth piece has taken shape – currently just under two minutes long.

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