Matthew Torok, a first year MEng Automotive Engineering student, recently attended the National Finals of the annual Land Rover 4X4 In Schools Challenge. The event was held at the British Motor Museum in Warwickshire on 6th and 7th March. Matthew was representing the Harper Adams Engineering department and presented the winners with their prize which was a £1500 scholarship to study an engineering course at Harper Adams University should they choose to.
Matthew was already familiar with the competition after competing as part of the Panthers team from The Thomas Hardye School for the last three years as their mechanical engineer. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to take part in future competitions due to starting university, organisers offered him the chance to judge the south west regional final. After judging the regionals, organisers invited Matthew to give a presentation to participants at the National Finals as well as inviting him to judge there. Due to other arrangements Mathew wasn’t able to judge on the day however he did give a presentation covering life at university, engineering courses at Harper and the opportunities on offer.
For the competition students had to design, build, test and improve a 1:18 scale 4x4 remote control car. This meant working in teams of 3-6 people to create the car, as well as a pit display, portfolio and presentation. Every year the standard of competition increases, and this year was no different. There was automated active suspension being demonstrated on one of the cars. Other teams had been developing their own tyres, prototyping radically different chassis designs and 3D printing custom bearings.
For the first time there was a joint win. The Panthers from The Thomas Hardye School and Fractal 4x4 from King Edward’s School claimed the National Championship in a tie. Third place went to Team Atlas from Merchant Taylors School.
Matthew has been invited to judge the Global Final competition, to be held at Warwick University, 13 -15 April 2019. “I am currently planning to judge at the Global Final in April. Harper Adams should still have a stand at the event, and we are currently planning to have a staff and student presence. The scholarship offer has been extended to include the Global Final this year, and I hope this means more people can benefit from the deal, as well as raising awareness about the University. Looking further into the future I would like to continue being involved in the competition. It is a great event, developing future engineers’ initial passions, whilst also getting students, teachers, Harper Adams, an examining body and members of the engineering industry together in the same place.
Matthew took his own Rube Goldberg machine, a project he has been working on in first year, along to the event at the British Motor Museum to demonstrate the tasks faced by an engineering student. The task is given to first years studying the Problem Solving module and asks them to build their own machine with the aim to transfer motion inefficiently across a board. They must also produce a technical drawing to accompany it. The machines have to meet strict criteria, including a minimum of five transitions within the mechanism as well as it having to be reset in under 30 seconds. Students are not allowed to interfere with the board once it is in operation.
Problem solving is key for engineers and the module helps teach students how to define the problem as well as communication and the ability to understand what the customer wants. The task is designed to develop motivation within students. It is not an assessed piece of work and it is left up to students in terms of how far they want to go with the project.
“It provides a very good opportunity to practice some of the problem solving techniques that have been taught to us during our problem solving lectures. It is also a task designed to get everyone into the workshop, safety trained on some machines and more comfortable manufacturing their own parts. It is also an interesting challenge to solve. The machine has taught me about project management, as well as some important team working skills, as we are in groups for certain tasks. We have to find the time, and whilst help is available if we need it, it is our job to seek help. This means that we are in control of the project, there is no longer a teacher watching over us ensuring we do our work. I think this makes it a really good project for the first year.
“The project really set’s students up with the mind-set they will need throughout the engineering course, and through industry. Where it is their job to get things done, and there won’t be people pushing them to keep working all the time. I didn’t have many challenges creating this machine, as I have been very practical in the past. Projects like the 4x4 In Schools Challenge have already taught me a lot of the management, planning and problem solving skills that I used, although it was useful applying new techniques and testing to find which tools worked for me.
“It is important to be active within the industry as that way the university can ensure that their course continues creating industry ready engineers, as opposed to just engineering graduates. This is something that Harper Adams really focusses on, and ensures that the quality of engineers graduating from Harper Adams is consistently high.” - Matthew Torok