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Engineering students get hands-on for cycling land speed record attempt

Posted 4 November

Projects such as these allow our students to put their theoretical knowledge to the test and gives them an edge when it comes to finding employment. Their real-world applied engineering is a fantastic case study to take to potential employers

Engineering students at Harper Adams have a client with a difference for one of their real-world projects this year – as they attempt to design and build equipment that will be used in a bid to set a new cycling land speed record in 2021.


Despite adverse weather conditions, British cyclist Neil Campbell reached a top speed of 174.3mph at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire in August 2019, setting a new men’s cycling land speed world record – but he now has his sights firmly set on the outright world record, attempting a top speed of 200mph. Harper Adams University lecturer and aerodynamics engineer James Croxford, who supported the 2019 record, has enlisted the help of four MEng Automotive Engineering students, Emily Jones, James Seymour, Martin Campbell and Will Mosley, to design an aerodynamic ‘slipstreaming’ shelter to protect Neil, for their group research project.


Neil’s custom-built bike will be tethered via bungee to a car which, due to the high gearing on the bike, will pull him off the line before he is disconnected and begins to pedal. The design of the slipstream shelter will be integral to the project, offering a stable air pocket to Neil while he attempts the world record.

“For the project, the students have to work with their client and negotiate their deliverables,” explained James.


“A significant percentage of their final mark comes directly from their client, so they gain real experience of what it is like to work in industry. The students will have to look at a number of different components, and go through a rigorous testing process, using both key software simulations and physical testing to ensure the safety and efficiency of the end design.


“Projects such as these allow our students to put their theoretical knowledge to the test and gives them an edge when it comes to finding employment. Their real-world applied engineering is a fantastic case study to take to potential employers”, he added.


The date for the new land speed world record has not yet been set, but it is anticipated that it will be late summer 2021.

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