Category Archives: Uncategorized

Engineering Mentoring: Tour of Corvus Energy

As I mentioned in the previous blog, my mentor is a senior engineer at Corvus Energy. This Monday, he showed me and another engineering mentee around their office and factory. Corvus Energy is a company that makes energy storage solutions, with their most novel product being arrays of battery banks for marine applications, from yachts to ferries. Their ingenuity comes from the robustness, reliability and modular ability of their product. Moreover, it has the flexibility meet different demands of various sizes of marine vessels, from small yachts to large ferries like Scandlines M/V Berlin, a Scandinavian fleet that travels between different ports of Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Seeing a Canadian technology emerge and be competitive in the global market was really impressive, especially when you consider the context. Scandinavia contains some of the world’s most sustainable countries that have made strides at implementing sustainable technology. Yet, it’s a Canadian company that has helped them make their ferries hybrid. Following this trend, I’m hoping that Metro Vancouver, with it’s Renewable City Action plan, will become one of Corvus Energy’s strong corporate client and partner down the road.

The tour gave me such an inspiration. The space was very bright, colorful, and full of energy. When I arrived at the office building, I could immediate tell it was an engineering work space. A section of the building was dedicated to testing and product improvement, with prototypes and instrumentation equipment laid out on work benches. What I also loved about the space was the openness. There was no barrier, no cubicle, allowing the engineers to exchange ideas, and to collaborate.

At the factory, my mentor showed us their product assembly line. On the roller table, there were numerous unfinished products, each representing a stage in the assembly process. Not only were the battery units assembled in the factory, they also underwent stringent testing and validation at every stage. A number of quality control gates were especially designed to ensure the final product will have zero defects before they are deconstructed and shipped off to clients. The cool thing about the factory was how it was expanding. Since Corvus Energy is a growing company, it required more assembly and storage space to accommodate new products. My mentor showed us how they had to build a second level in the warehouse and a new assembly line for new generation product.

With this sort of clean and organized work environment, both in the office and the factory, Corvus Energy employees can truly exert their full potential. My mentor also expressed the importance of connecting the office and factory so engineers can work more cohesively with the technicians on the floor. In my future work space, I would like to work not only with the products I design, but more importantly, establish a strong relationship with the people whose decisions I make affect.

If you want to check out Corvus Energy, here’s their website: https://corvusenergy.com. They have internships and Co-op positions available, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

Tune-in next time for more updates.

 

Engineering Mentoring Program

This year I registered for the mentoring program for undergraduate engineering students. This gave me an opportunity to connect with a professional engineer who has decades of experience in the energy industry that I am interested working in. So far we’ve chatted about the level of flexibility of my Mechanical Engineering degree. Although you won’t be able to attain an electrical or civil engineering job, there are still many positions that does not specify the type of engineering. This is often the case in mid to upper management levels. However, I can’t expect to land a job in management without much experience. The truth is, even entry-level job postings may have 3-5 years work experience as a requirement. I have only 16 months of co-op work experience, therefore it is challenging to apply. However, I feel confident that after being accepted into an entry position, I can work up the experience to eventually achieve management level. I am further assured of this by my mentor’s own experience of going from a technical-heavy job to the management position he has now. His experience has also showed me that it’s never too late to give yourself more education. After getting years of technical experience, I am looking to open up my options by getting a project management degree.

He has also offered help on reviewing resumes and cover letters that I am sending out. A few job positions that I have my eye on are with the Vancouver Airport Authority and Metro Vancouver. I am looking outside of BC. Ideally, I would like to work in Europe but I would also love to explore other places that challenge me. Having a mentor to support my job search is a fantastic resource. It has improved my confidence to apply to more challenging job positions.

We’re currently schedule to visit my mentor’s company this week. I am truly intrigued to find out more about what he does for work and what the environment is like.

This is a short blog, but as I continue my job search, I’ll update you with information about major companies hiring Mechanical Engineers, the jobs available, and tips for applying and getting through interviews!

If you want to check out the mentoring program for yourself, here’s the link: https://engineering.ubc.ca/research-industry/mentoring-program.

Daisy Drive Capstone Project

Fig. 1 – Solar-powered tricycle, Daisy, at Burning Man

Introduction

The Capstone project is usually done during the final year of your engineering degree. Each department get projects provided by companies related to their areas of expertise. For UBC Mechanical Engineering, the projects range from fluid dynamic pipe flow testing, biomedical knee braces, to rovers that fix wind turbine blades.

All the potential projects are presented to you in the first week of September. Then you’re allowed to rank your choice of top five projects. I was matched with my second choice, eatART Daisy Drive project, along with three other Mechanical Engineering students. The eatART (energy awareness through art) foundation is a not-for-profit foundation composed of volunteers from the STEM and art fields. Our client is the Co-Executive Director who is also a mechanical engineer and UBC alumni. Our project is to optimize the design of the electrical belt drive of the largest solar-powered tricycle in the world, Daisy.

Built approximately 20 years ago by inventor Bob Schneeveis, Daisy traveled to Burning Man, an annual festival celebrating community and art and was used to drive passengers around using purely solar power. At its maximum capacity, Daisy can carry four adults in its carriage plus a driver in the front. It is steered by a hand crank and speed-controlled by a foot pedal throttle. Due to its size and weight, Daisy has only been able to travel on flat ground, such as the desert where Burning Man takes place. Now that Daisy is in the possession of the eatART foundation in Vancouver, our aim is to improve Daisy’s climbable incline so that it fits in with the hilly terrain of Vancouver.

First Term Steps to Capstone

1. Define value for stakeholders. Establish scope of your project.

Since our team is working for a not-for-profit organization, our project’s value is in the social-good generated rather than monetary value. With an optimized drive system, Daisy can be used in Whistler village, where roads are at a slight incline. Allowing Daisy to carry visitors in Whistler allows the eatART foundation actively showcases the accessibility of renewable energy technology such as solar power.

Initially, our client mentioned that the major design issue is in the V-belt that translates the motion of the rotating motor shaft to the three meter tall front wheel. When the V-belt slips from the sheave, this means that despite the motor still turning, the wheel stays stationary. This is particularly dangerous on an inclined road, since the front wheel will start to slip backwards without braking. Even with brakes applied, Daisy remains stuck on the inclined road, and cannot move forwards at all.

Another mechanical design flaw was in the belt tensioning mechanism. This mechanism provides tension in the V belt by pulling the two sheaves apart further. This is currently done by winding up a torsion screw attached to the motor and the front frame. This tensioning system doesn’t seem to be properly designed and may be experiencing induced strains and stresses. By redesigning the tensioning mechanism, we could eliminate these stresses and eccentricity, allowing the sheaves to be correctly positioned relative to each other.

To climb a hill, a certain torque is required. Imagine changing to a smaller gear on your bike while climbing a hill. You slow down significantly, but it becomes easier to pedal. A smaller gear ratio means that speed is traded off for torque. Similarly, the current motor and gear configuration could not provide sufficient torque to climb any incline because the gear ratio was too big.

Limitations also arise from the electrical system, as the batteries only provide 24 volts, the motor controller seemed to be old and out-of-date. The motor’s torque capability sets another limit. Its peak torque (stall-torque) and power could be simply insufficient to move the large tricycle.

To sum up all the aforementioned design flaws, they include:

  • V-belt slippage,
  • belt tensioning device,
  • low gear ratio,
  • and electrical power limit.

2. Investigate the problem. Define functions of your solution.

Since Daisy was quite old, the information on its components were not recorded well. Through testing and investigation, we collected data on the electrical motor, the motor controller, and the drive.

For instance, we tested the efficiency of the motor controller. Running the motor without the V belt attachment, we measured the input current from batteries to the controller, and the output current from controller to motor. Then, the power was calculated from the simple P=IV equation. The ratio of Pin / Pout represents the controller’s efficiency. Since Daisy has a throttle, we ran test trials by varying the power draw from motor, from 17% to 100% of power draw. The controller efficiency we calculated is represented in the graph below.

Fig. 2 – Controller efficiency as power draw from battery increases

Evidently, the controller efficiency was above 60% at all times. More importantly, the controller was operating at 100% efficiency near the max power draw from motor. We concluded that a replacement for the controller was not necessary.

3. Conceptualize different solutions.

After defining the functions required to perform by your solution, create various concepts through simple sketching. Aim for quantity instead of quality. You want as many concepts for each function as you can. These become your concept fragments; they are fitted together into whole concepts through mechanical mounts.

Fig. 3 – Concept sketches; (on left) treads with timing belt; (on right) pedal chain drive

After attaining several whole concepts, you should evaluate them on a impartial basis through winnowing, Pugh chart, and a weighted decision matrix. We evaluate our concepts based on a variety of performance metrics, one of which essential to any project is cost. Even though our team had lots of different concepts involving electrical components, they did not do very well in the cost criterion of the Weighted Decision Matrix. In the end, we ended with two concepts with good potential, the chain drive and added traction on wheels. The two-stage chain drive concept we came up with would eliminate slippage and increase the effective torque translated.

Fig. 4 – Two-stage chain drive concept sketch

As opposed to a single stage chain drive, two stage would allow a much greater gear ratio while staying within the recommended roller chain to sprocket contact.

4. Create a critical functional prototype (CFP).

The critical functional prototype (CFP) is designed around a selected function that’s critical to your solution. This is a great chance to see the physical (not theoretical) feasibility of your concept without investing resources into the whole concept. The CFP also allows you to detect unexpected failure modes, undesirable defects, and incalculable performance issues.

We needed to confirm that a chain drive can sufficiently translate motion from motor to the wheel, so we built a chain drive prototype consistent of a motor, a driving sprocket and a driven sprocket. The gear ratio (# teeth driving / # teeth driven) is 17:73 or approximately 1:4. We also set up the different transverse offset to see the upper limit at which the chain starts to derail, rendering the drive useless.

Fig. 5 – Chain drive critical functional prototype test rig

The motor was running at different speeds with light shocks applied. What we found was that for commercially made sprockets (with special profiled teeth), there was almost no derailment at any transverse offset or motor speed. However, for the water-jetted sprocket, there was almost always derailment. Upon closer inspection, the aluminum plate may also have deformed while in storage, so the sprocket it made was slightly bent, leading to the chain derailing.

5. Reiterate the design

After presenting to the client once more with our CFP experiment results, the chain drive concept was deemed too risky to implement. It would increase the number of mechanical components, and due to lack of slippage, could cause irreparable harm to the motor and electrical components if the drive gets jammed.

The concept we ended up with is increased traction (through additive materials and increase wheel width) and better tensioning of the driving pulley to eliminate V belt slippage.
Through preliminary calculations, we also discovered that the batteries shifted a lot of weight to the rear of the tricycle. On a hill, this would create a lifting effect on the front wheel. By shifting the position of the batteries closer to the front wheel, we could better distribute Daisy’s weight and give it more grip on the road.

We decided, along with the clients, that a prototype wheel should be built to test different traction materials such as truck bed liner, spray-on rubber, and etching notches into the flat bar metal. We will be building a section of the wheel out of steel flat bar, attached to an electric motor at the same torque and the power level as the one on Daisy. Then we can apply the various materials onto the section and run it on a ramp. If the section successfully climbs the ramp, then it proves that the material provides sufficient power. If the section slips, then there is not enough traction. Oppositely, if the section is stuck, then there is too much traction force.

That’s all for now. The design process will resume next semester with fabrication.

If you have any questions, please comment down below. I look forward to chatting with you.

Cheers,

Kirsten

Acing Finals – A Video Guide

Finals can be a stressful time of year.  Now that I’m finishing up my 3rd year of Mechanical Engineering, I’ve personally had my fair share of those panicked last minute cram sessions (and have learned to avoid them at all costs).

If you’re interested in learning about how I personally get through finals nowadays, you’re in luck!  The first ever Mech Ambassadors Vlog covers just that, check it out!

Music: Bensound – Hip Jazz

Busy As Usual – The Third Year Shuffle

Hello everyone,

I’m now back at UBC for the second term of my third year of Mechanical Engineering, which is on Term 1 of the winter session in the Co-op schedule.  Trying to explain the Co-op schedule is always complicated, so I’ve just started saying I graduate on May 2020 (assuming everything goes as planned).

I ended up taking an online course over the summer and I strongly recommend it. It didn’t feel like an extra burden on top of Co-op work since it was only one course and now I only have to take five courses this term instead of the usual six.

And the best part?

Only one course starts at 8:00am.  A dream come true.

Now, when I was first looking at this semester on paper it seemed like an easygoing semester. Only five courses? Sounds like smooth sailing to my final year. But engineering being engineering, this term is just as packed as all of my other ones. Here’s my quick student perspective off the courses this term.

MECH 325 – Mechanical Design 1

This course applies to all options of the Mechanical Engineering program (Thermofluids, Biomedical, Mechatronics, and General.  More info on those here).

You learn all about gears, pulleys and all sort of mechanical systems.  There’s tons of information and equations coming your way so get ready to soak in all types of variables.  There’s group work involved with designing components and small mechanical systems, but not every week.

MECH 327 – Thermodynamics 2

Oh boy, here we go again. Thermodynamics 2: 2 Hot 2 Handle

Only students in the General and Thermofluids options of the program have to take this one.  It’s one of the most important and applicable courses for the field I want to go into after graduation (energy).  That first midterm didn’t go so well though, so this class has been my top priority.

The second midterm is two days from the time I write this, so wish me luck.

MECH 328 – Mechanical Engineering Design Project

This one applies to all options and it’s the main design course this term.  The project this year is to design an autonomous ocean microplastic sampler.

Here’s a little information on microplastics and why they are increasingly a problem in the ocean: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html

The project is actually pretty neat, but it’s quite a bit of work.  We don’t have to build anything, but we do have to develop our design using engineering design principles.  This means that we have to be very thorough with our decision process and there’s tons of documentation is involved, so it’s good preparation for the engineering field.

MECH 386 – Industrial Fluid Mechanics

This course only applies to the Thermofluids option, so it is one of the more interesting courses for me.  It’s essentially a continuation of previous fluid courses, but more grounded in industry applications.  There’s a semester long project involved where you contact companies and try to solve problem they are having specific to fluid mechanics.

I did pretty well on the first midterm, so the course is currently on my good graces.  The turbulent flow midterm is just around the corner, so I’m not sure that good grace will last.

PHIL 101 – Philosophy 101

This is my non-engineering course this term.

I highly recommend taking Philosophy.  It’s a nice break from the regular engineering courses were we get smacked over the head with all of the rules that we have to follow.  The physics and math with equation after equation after equation.  I feel like this course provides a different perspective on things.

It’s nice to take a step back and go “Wait, do I even exist?” If I don’t exist neither does that grade I got on the Thermodynamics midterm.  There’s comfort in that.

__

And that’s about it. Two design courses, two regular engineering courses, and one humanities for a total of five courses.

Like I said, it looks like a pretty straightforward semester. After this it’s an 8-month Co-op and then my final year.  I just have to make it through this term first.

Denmark Study Abroad Experience

HEY readers! I missed you all. It’s been almost three months since I’ve come back from Denmark. There’s so much to cover. One of the topics in this blog are the Mechanical and Energy Engineering courses I took at Denmark Technical University (DTU). Furthermore, I will talk about the job market in Copenhagen. Of course, there are also the people I’ve met, whether professors, students, or industry professionals.

So firstly, the courses I took at DTU included some of the standard requirements for UBC Mechanical Engineering, such as Mechanical Vibrations and Manufacturing Technologies. These courses covered the standard content and material. Perhaps the only difference is that Mechanical Vibrations course did not have a laboratory portion at DTU. Instead, we had assignments in Matlab that simulated the displacement and velocity measurements we would get from real life vibrations. Manufacturing Technologies was a distance-learning course. It also had a more interesting content, covering metallurgy (the design and manufacturing of cast components), glass-making, and how to select the best processes for a desirable product function and performance. Both of these courses were considered to be Bachelor level at DTU. However, most of the technical electives I chose were at Master level.

Wind Turbine Racer

Trying to get a grasp around how wind power operates in Denmark, I selected technical electives tailored towards my goal. The Wind Turbine Racer course was one of the most interesting courses I’ve ever taken. It was the equivalent of a design team at UBC, but with the added support from a professor and an assistant professor and the resources provided by DTU. The class was very small, containing only 7 students. However, only 2 of them were Danish; other students in the course were from Columbia, US, and Spain. Just like most of my other courses, I was the only Canadian. In this course, we were trying to optimize a wind turbine racer that generated forward propulsion when wind speeds were high. It could drive up to 113.1% of the wind speed (which is between 6m/s and 10m/s or 22km/h and 30km/h). The turbines spun on a shaft connected to bevel gears and would in turn translate the rotational energy to the rear axle of the car. There are many potential areas for optimization. We learned that we can perhaps install a feedback loop that angles the turbine perpendicularly towards the direction of the wind. That was a major implementation. Smaller ways of improving the vehicle was to play with the curvature of the turbine shield, length of turbine blades, and the efficiency of the gear train.

Energy Systems Analysis and Optimization

Another course I took was very relevant to a potential career path. In Energy Systems Analysis and Optimization, we used thermoeconomic modelling to design cogeneration plants that were more efficient than conventional power plants. Approximately 11% of electricity and heat demands in today’s European society are met using cogeneration technology. In Denmark, electricity supply system operates at 65% efficiency overall [1]. This proved to give more than environment improvements, but it also has long term economic implications that electrical power corporations are interested in, especially when implemented at a regional or national level. We used Engineering Equation Solver (EES) to simulate the power and heat outputs of real life systems of heat exchangers, steam turbines, and boilers. Heat recovery steam generators (HRSG) are used to absorb the energy from hot exhaust gases released by gas turbines. Using thermoeconomic models, we designed HRSG for a real life gas turbine cycle. Overall, this course taught me how to design components of energy systems at a micro level. At a macro level, I needed to know how electricity generated was distributed in the Danish and Scandinavian power systems.

Power Systems Balancing with Large Scale Wind Power

Starting with basic concepts of different types of wind turbines, Power Systems Balancing course built up to the dynamic simulation models for power balance control. With large scale integration of fluctuating wind power into conventional power grid, the challenge arises concerning whether operation can be reliable [2]. When wind power decreases unexpectedly, an imbalance is created in the power system that could lead to power outages and dangerous shutdowns. To prevent this, conventional electricity generating units are necessary as backup that can respond quickly. By creating a feedback loop, measurements of wind power output is used to regulate amount of power produced from conventional power plants [2]. This sums up the technical electives I took at DTU.

Job Market in Copenhagen, Denmark

Two fields of engineering jobs stood out very clearly above others, pharmaceutical and information technology. Copenhagen, and Denmark at large, is home to some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, such as Novo Nordisk. Surprisingly, Denmark is ranked one of the lowest users of pharmaceutical products among OECD countries [3]. The result is a huge export to other countries. The amount of pharmaceutical product exported has tripled within the last decade [3]. Even though this field is not blatantly related to Mechanical Engineering, there are opportunities in quality control and process validation. One of my friends in Industrial Engineering landed an internship with Novo Nordisk using his skills for industrial layout optimization.

The second most frequently posted jobs relate to information technology. This includes software development, data management, and network architecture. Companies like Cisco, Microsoft, and even non-software dominant companies like Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has many job postings within this field. How does that relate to mechanical engineering? Computer simulations like computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, and dynamic modelling are some key technical electives that the department provides. Outside of the courses, I’m learning Python and other software languages on my own, and will take exams to attain certificates. Evidently, the job market in Denmark isn’t tailored towards mechanical engineering. This challenge simply means we need to be flexible to changes in the society.

Life in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a curious city. It has all the charms of Scandinavian architecture, with its green spiraling church tops and rustic brick exteriors. The infrastructure was an old legacy, but everything else was new. From trendy restaurants and cafes to the brand name clothing lines, the gleaming store fronts belie the closeness inside. Every nook and cranny of space was precious, as seen by the tiny washrooms that seem to be carved into the walls. As always with older infrastructures, retrofitting was not the only challenge. Reliability of electricity supply was also a question. Sometimes an intersection in the middle of the city would not light.

Despite its modernity, available products were not as abundant as in Vancouver. It took me a while to discover that underneath the veil was an undeniable better quality of life. The Danes might not show it in the fancy products they use, wear, and consume, but they show it in how much they enjoy what little they have. I discovered you can pick up anything in a store and it would be of great quality. For instance, a variety of the cheapest store brand food like oatmeal, vegetables, fruits were organic. Organic wasn’t just a healthier alternative, it was pretty much integrated in everyday life. Consuming these affordable organic food products actually made a difference in how my body feels. This led me to think that maybe it is exactly this brand-driven, commercialized mentality that’s hindering us to get money’s worth of quality in Vancouver.

Aside from commodities, the quality of life in Copenhagen was much better because of the social securities that Danish government provides. All of my Danish classmates received free university education. In addition, they were subsidized with monthly living allowances that they did not have to pay back. This enables such them to be financially stable and stress-free during their university years. Being a Canadian student, I could not enjoy the financial benefits. However, I found a job and was able to take advantage of the high wages in Copenhagen. I also appreciate seeing this social system in action and the massive impact it has on way of life.

I really enjoyed writing about my study abroad experience and hope you enjoyed reading it. If you have any questions, please comment down below. I look forward to chatting with you.

Kirsten

Advocating for a World without Poverty

May 2018 was one of the most exciting months of any year in my entire life! You ask why?  In a single month, I was able to travel to 3 different cities to advocate for a world without poverty! Crazy,  right? (If you don’t think that’s cool then sorry we can’t be friends)

I have been an active member of Engineers without Borders (EWB) for 2+ years. I act as the Advocacy Representative for the University of British Columbia Chapter. My duties in this executive position are as follow:

  1. Educate Chapter Members about campaigns that help develop Canada’s International Development Portfolio
  2. Educate Members of the public about these campaigns
  3. Meet with Member of Parliaments to ask them to bring these matters to the Parliament

So I work on a wide variety of levels to help develop Canada’s International Development Portfolio.

Meeting with MP of Vancouver Quadra, Joyce Murray, about Innovative Financing

Every May, chapter members from all across Canada gather in Ottawa to meet with Members of Parliament to push for more international aid and financing. This year, on May 1st 60 EWBers met with about 90 Members of parliament to convince the government to invest more in small scale businesses in developing countries. In federal budget 2018, Canada allocated about $876 million to innovative financing and we at EWB want to make sure that a large portion of this money goes to small scale businesses and social enterprises especially those led by women. Innovative financing helps provide resources for developing economies while generating return for the investor nation. I met with 3 members of Parliament to discuss this. At the end, we had most of the MPs on board with this ask and our campaign was a success.  

After a fun filled weekend, I was back in Vancouver to start my job at MECH Student Services. About 3 days later I get an email from the Policy and Advocacy Director at EWB inviting me to Toronto to attend a week long workshop centered on effective leadership. About a week later I was on a flight to Toronto! (Huge thanks to MECH Student Services for giving me this time off). I attended this week long workshop where we explored leadership through a different lens. We defined effective leadership as the identification of your inner capabilities and the ability to recognize the inner qualities of the team you are leading. It’s safe to say, I learned loads and will be bringing this material into the meetings at our EWB chapter on campus.

At the Toronto 3D sign at Nathan Phillips Square

And here I was thinking that’s it. Now back to normal everyday life. A day later, I get an email from the United Nations HQ in New York inviting me to attend the Presidential General Assembly’s Youth Dialogue 2018 to represent Engineers without Borders, Canada.

3 days later I was on a flight to New York!

With the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák

Over an entire day, I had the exciting opportunity to meet with advocates from all across the world and discuss how they thought we can achieve a world without poverty!

And with that I concluded the month of May! Nothing but adventure and learning!

On June 1st I was back in Vancouver. Working full time, completely sleep deprived and living off coffee. But it was all worth it!

Moving like an Engineering Student

This post is for you if you’re a globetrotting student that is crazy enough to bring their own specialized equipment across the world. Whether it’s instruments, bikes, or other gear, your education has provided the skills to get your life across the pond at minimal cost.

Here’s my personal example of “Things I didn’t need to bring but wanted to”. Most of these are items I figured would have high mark-ups in Zurich if I were to buy them locally (spoiler – turns out that includes pretty much everything):

  • Full road bike with touring accessories and tools
  • Touring panniers, helmet, shoes, cycling clothes
  • Soccer and Futsal boots
  • Fly fishing rod, reel, and tackle
  • Trekking essentials – boots, cooking kit, knife + field sharpener (invaluable, as it turned out),

I bought my itinerary through a travel site that I cannot recommend to anyone, despite being an absurdly low cost (~$350 CAD one way to Zurich). The journey was three separate flights with separate security checks at each airport, totalling 25 hours to get here. I had to call each of my three airlines to confirm maximum luggage sizes. On the plus side, I was somehow afforded a free checked bag on top of the one I purchased, so my limits were as follows:

1 checked bag at 20kg,
1 checked bag at 15kg,
1 carry-on and 1 personal item totalling 10kg for both

I’m guessing most people will be weight limited rather than volume limited unless you want to bring a sleeping bag or gigantic teddy bear. This posed a problem for me, as most commercial bike boxes were 10-15kg by themselves and priced at $500-$800.

Protip: As cycling season rolls in, some shops can provide double-corrugated cardboard shipping boxes for bicycles when needed. These boxes are within the dimensional limits of checked luggages for most major airlines, so you just need to figure out how to pack them effectively. They weigh in at ~4kg and are priced at $0 + numerous thank-yous.

My next problem was transportation through all my security gates. I didn’t want to drag the thing or be limited to those airport carts. The next idea was to install a set of lightweight wheels. UBC is a treasure trove of useful spare/scrap materials, from which I found a set of rubber cart wheels, structural PVC foam, and PVC pipe. The MECH machine shop had scrap rod stock and hardware to bolt it all together. Here’s the first mockup:

First box mockup for dimensioning and cutting templates, approx. center of gravity marked

I wanted the box handles to sit naturally at my hand when I walked, creating just enough tilt to get the wheels rolling. Placing the wheels on the corner allowed for less-squirrely control and more adhesive surface area to bond to the box walls. To minimize the risk of catching edges or creating problems for luggage personnel, I hid the whole assembly within the box (improved aerodynamics too, ya know).

My main concern was smooth load transfer between the axle and cardboard walls. Cardboard is fairly good for abrasion resistance but I’d be putting the structure under bending . The PVC foam was a good material for high bonding surface area, stiffness, and low density. It took a while to find an adhesive that could confidently bond PVC to cardboard. A larger-diameter PVC pipe was used to house the thin aluminum axle to reduce stress concentration from foam to wheels, with aluminum bushings bridging the space between the axle and pipe.


Foam insert with wheel axle; CAD versus quick-&-dirty assembly. I realized it’d be impossible to install the solid foam chunk so I split it.

Packing night, wheels installed, and obligatory decals

Wheels were screwed into the ends of the axle loosely, so they could rotate independently for better steering. I loaded the box with weight over the axle as much as possible to minimize bending loads. Spare hardware was brought along in case the whole thing fell apart but the journey went smoothly. Unfortunately and despite my extensive (read: sparse) napkin calculations, some yielding occurred by the end of the journey between the PVC pipe and foam. I never considered bump/impact loading through the foam and should have added adhesive to the PVC tube for full bonding with the foam, rather than just press-fitting it.

The box survived the various layovers and multiple TSA inspections. The idea is to keep it around and get other exchange students to leave notes and stupid comments on it for the trip home.

Now that Spring’s arrived, I’ve taken the bike a few hundred kilometres around Switzerland and Germany thus far. It really is one of the best ways to explore this country, so whether you bring your own or rent one here, I’d highly recommend cycling for any European exchange.

Classes, cultures, and travels for the next post. Ciao for now!
Jason

GOODBYE, FAREWELL MECH

On a day like today when the breeze moves the branches of the trees and the clouds extend over the sky in a sea of pastel colours, I get flash backs of the days when I thought school would never be over, when I thought school was too hard for me to handle. I let out a big sigh today and I get nostalgic for ever thinking that I was not capable of achieving my dreams and giving up on myself before I had the chance to try.

I have had a dream for such a long time: I dreamed about being a Mechanical Engineer from UBC, having friends to share my daily experiences and learning about how the world around me works. Today I can say I have successfully accomplished this dream. I am so thankful to the people who have helped me make this happen, because if it wasn’t for their push and support, I would have given up a long time ago. For the past two weeks I have been thinking about my years at UBC, and how it has changed me for the better. I have faced so many challenges along the way that taught me how to be strong and to never give up. I have literally grown thick skin, which I hope can help me in future adventures and professional careers.

I just wanted to write this blog to thank you all for making my time at UBC memorable. Thank you to the Mech Student Service Office for their years of support and help, thank you Mech staff for always being kind and generous, thank you to the best facilities team that with dedication have made us feel proud of our department. Special thanks for those professors that multiple times encourage me to learn for the sake of learning – not to get good grades, especially those that saw potential in me when I didn’t think I had any. Thank you to Larry, the janitor in the second floor of CEME who always greeted me, and helped me keep the club room clean. Finally, I would like to thank my amazing team of executives in Club Mech, my family, and friends for motivating me to keep going.

Well, it is almost the end of this term and I am getting ready to write some of my last finals EVER and finishing Capstone documentation. Cheers to my last year, and believe me when I say that in no time, it will be your last one too. Feel free to ask any questions to the future Mech Ambassadors at ambassadors@mech.ubc.ca.

“Good morning! Oh, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight”

Truman Burbank

 

Diana Nino

 

Reflecting Back On The Semester

Now that I’m done with finals, I have some time to reflect back on the first term of my 3rd year.

I haven’t gotten my final grades back, so I’ll have to hold on making a complete judgement, but overall I think this semester went smoother than MECH2.  If MECH 2 was a 10/10 on a difficulty scale (for the sake of argument) this semester was probably a solid 7/10.

Here’s my overall impression of my classes:

MECH305: Data Analysis and Mechanical Engineering Laboratories

The class has recently been redesigned and this year was its first run through.  It’s essentially labs and statistics.  There are five regular labs in total, which draw on concepts from other courses.  You go in, follow the procedure, and write up a lab report.  The next week you expand on one of the regular labs by setting up your own objectives, and deciding how you’ll carry the experiment out.

At the very end of the course, there was one big exploratory lab report in which we were free to explore anything we wanted using the techniques we learned throughout the semester.  My team ended up wiring strain gauges to a hockey stick in order to determine the forces applied to it during a slap shot.  We even had someone that had played hockey semi-professionally take some shots with it, shot-out to Jackson. It was pretty neat.

MECH 358 – Engineering Analysis   

This class was by far the most abstract out of all of the classes this term, since it builds on linear algebra concepts. You learn how to solve equations that can be incredibly hard/impossible to solve numerically, like the heat equation which you’ll come to know and love (here’s a quick preview of that lovely equation).  I didn’t particularly enjoy linear algebra back when I took it on 1st year, but I actually enjoyed this class.  My biggest takeaway from the course was that even though we have large amounts of computational power, you have to be clever in how you go about computing certain problems.

Homework consists of matlab and lots of “why doesn’t my code work.”

MECH360: Mechanics of Materials

This class is a continuation of solid mechanics in MECH224.  There’s a lot of material covered, so doing the practice problems and tutorials is a must.  Luckily, there are tons of online resources.  There’s not much to say about this course except study hard for that final. I got completely blind-sided by it, and I’m still sweating about it.  Don’t let that happen to you.

MECH 375: Heat Transfer

The class is technically called heat transfer but we all referred to it as thermo.  We covered a lot of material, and in my opinion it was one of the more challenging classes this term.  There’s correlations and numeric tables all over the place.  Prepare to sprint with your hands during exams.  For the final you get a crib sheet, which is a 40 page formula packet.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the topic as a whole.  The class was held in the MATH building and I hope for the sake of anyone reading this that you never have a class in that building.  The seating arrangement and the size of the chairs is terrible.  That classroom get a -1/10 from me.

MECH 380: Fluid Dynamics

Here’s another class that I really enjoyed.  It felt like an intro to aerodynamics.  You gain greater insight into drag/lift and learn about mach numbers and shockwaves.  The concepts can be tricky, but I found it manageable.   Engineering Analysis, Heat Transfer, and Fluid Dynamics all tie into each other, so if you understand one it can sort of help with the others.

Like I said, I’m still waiting for my final marks so I might be singing a different tune once I get them back, but this year wasn’t so bad.

Now it’s back to Co-op for the summer.

Wish me luck,

Rigoberto