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Students from the University’s Engineering department teamed up with members of Babcock’s Weapon Technical Team

University of Exeter student project with Babcock International proves huge success

An innovative collaboration between the University of Exeter and Babcock International, designed to give students unparalleled industry experience, has proved a resounding success.

The pioneering project saw students from the University’s Engineering department team up with members of Babcock’s Weapon Technical Team.

Co-ordinated by Exeter Professor James Brownjohn, the project saw four mechanical engineering and four electrical engineering students in the final year of their integrated Master’s degree in Engineering participate in five different projects:

  • Image Recognition of Circuit Cards for identification and fault finding;
  • Using Drone Swarm Technology to Test Anti-Drone systems;
  • Early Leak Detection in Noisy Environments;
  • Reliability Improvement of a Solid State Contactor;
  • Structural Health Monitoring of Complex Structures.

The students were supported by both Professor Brownjohn and Mark Westcott at Babcock, with regular meetings and visits to assess and direct progress. During their time at Babcock, the students had a tour of Babcock’s factory and offices, as well as access to all facilities at Devonport Royal Dockyard.

They could liaise with subject matter experts at Babcock and had funding available for building and testing prototypes. When the UK entered lockdown at the end of March, the students quickly adapted to working online, maintaining contact with Babcock through video conference calls.

The project has been a huge success for all parties involved. The students greatly contributed to the projects they were involved in and Babcock will use the information they produced to develop these projects further.

Mark Westcott, an Exeter alumnus, is now Senior Mechanical Design Engineer for the Weapons Technical Team at Devonport Royal Dockyard.  Inspired by his own Masters project at SC Group, Mark first brought up the idea of a student project to the Engineering Industrial Advisory Group.

He said "Combining my experience as an Exeter Alumnus and Babcock Engineer I wanted to create a successful partnership that helped support student career development as well as design innovative solutions for complex assets using the latest technology.

“I was impressed by the professionalism and commitment the team gave in supporting the projects.”

The students enjoyed the flexibility they were given in choosing the project they wanted to work on based on their own interests and were grateful for the support provided. They indicates that the project provided the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge in a professional environment.

Ryan Thomas, a final-year Mechanical Engineering student and part of the project said: “We were able to pick from around 8 different projects related to structural health monitoring, we picked the projects we thought suited us well, this meant that we all enjoyed the project throughout the year.”

Joel Fryer, a final-year Mechanical Engineering student, added: “The project briefs provided by Babcock were refreshing, and enabled us to complete interesting research that actually had real-world applications. Providing beneficial research for a company as prestigious as Babcock really leaves me with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great ending to my life at Exeter”. 

All students worked to industry standards on a real R&D project, which was an incredible opportunity for them not only to apply their skills and knowledge to real-world engineering problems, but also to improve their employability as recent graduates entering the job market. For many of the students this project has been an important talking point during job interviews that have turned out to be successful.

Joel added: “I’ve been offered a graduate role and I owe a lot of the success with this application to my time working with Babcock. Employers are always looking for candidates that have experience, and providing research for Babcock International naturally comes in very useful. Not to mention, liaising with a qualified engineer provides crucial professional skills.”

Professor Brownjohn, who coordinated this project, was impressed by the calibre of projects and the support provided by Babcock. “We feel lucky to have such a strong, long-standing relationship with Babcock,” says Professor Brownjohn. “It allows us to exchange knowledge, skills, and expertise in a way that is truly beneficial to all, and to create a stimulating and supportive environment for our students to grow both personally and professionally.”

This student project has been an excellent example of the fruitful collaboration between the University and Babcock and is just one of the many ways in which students and recent graduates can get involved and kick-start their career with Babcock. The company offers industrial placements in Plymouth, Bristol and Leicester and multiple graduate programmes in Engineering and Science, Business Management and Project Management throughout the year.

Date: 6 July 2020

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