Brighton Polytechnic, Faculty of Engineering and Environmental Studies

We were welcomed by Dr. Maillardet, Dean of the Faculty, who gave a’ short talk to introduce us to the Brighton Polytechnic, which is vocationally oriented. It offers courses above and below first degree level and is aligned to the “New Polytechnic” system.
The Engineering Faculty provides for 1200 students. It has a teaching staff of 100 with 60 technicians backup. The high ratio reflects the amount of research and development carried out. The Faculty has an annual budget of £8 million. Courses in Civil, Mechanical and Production, and Electrical and Electronic Engineering are accredited by most of the Senior Institutions. Environmental Studies covers courses in Building, Architecture and Interior design. A new course, for an M.Eng. degree is open to a selected small number of graduates.It has been introduced to give student engineers a higher level of training in management, an approach welcomed by Industry.
Active links have been established with five European centres, and a further three links are in prospect.
Research units operate for seven disciplines – Architecture and Building, Control and Dynamics, Heat Transfer, Hydraulic Engineering (Mainly coastal defence). Power Electronics and Electroheat, Power Engineering and Structural Timber, A large part of the research is commissioned and funded by Industry,
At this point the party split into two groups, led by Dr. Maillardet and Dr. Lane, Head of Engineering, respectively, to visit the research units.
Civil Engineering Laboratory (Structural Timber). We were met by Prof.
Hi Ison, Head of Dept., who gave us an interesting and instructive description of the work undertaken1 by the Structural Timber research unit, which is the largest in Europe. Industry and the E.E.C. support and finance research into the use of timber from renewable sources in building and construction. Timber can now be graded and identified by mechanical testing, giving reliable data from which new Codes of Practice have been prepared.
Current work includes the evaluation of the strength and properties of glued laminated timber, available for beams and portals as an alternative to structural steel. ; As a structural material, wood compares well with steel in terms of cost, and has some advantages. Used on buildings it can be left exposed to become a feature of design; it offers a big saving in the cost of fixings, and, surprisingly has superior fire resistant properties. The charring rate of wood is predictable and fairly uniform, so sufficient strength can be included in the design to avoid a dangerous collapse in the event of a fire. Steel structures fail under heat due to softening and bending.
We saw tests in progress to establish the effects of humidity cycles on laminated and other timbers. Other tests are also carried on all forms of timber jointings and the effect of loading on frames such as roof trusses. The humble balsa wood is used by students to build and test to destruction models of structures which they have designed.
Power Engineering Laboratory. A number of experiments were in progress concerned with development of electronic switching to replace the distributer on automobile engines – research commissioned by Champion Plugs.
Interesting examples of use of semi-conductors, made in the department were on display.
Other work on hand included an evaluation of transformer losses, effect of hot-spots in transformer core laimations, production and test of materials used in lightning arrestors, and the effect of the environment, particularly salt-laden air, on O.H. Line insulators.
Heat Transfer Laboratory. Dr. Achaichia, Head of Dept., said that Ford Motor,Co. had placed a contract worth £600,000 for research into improvements in car radiators, including design of tooling for the manufacture of finned elements. We were shown several types of fin under test; louvres in the fin, produced by punching a flat strip, are critical in the performance of the heat exchanger. The tools used, though hand operated at this stage, are examples of the high quality of design and manufacture needed to ensure the accuracy of the louvres.
The strips of fins are used to make up small heat exchangers, for testing in the wind tunnel, the results being fed to a computer to facilitate display and analysis. Plastic models are used to examine air flow patterns over simulated fins, a slow speed wind tunnel being employed to relate results of models to full scale.
Dr. Achaichia had gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare his “stall” and the number of examples, graphs, and drawings displayed added greatly to the interest created.
The visit concluded with a welcome cup of tea and a question and answer session, during which we learned that applications for courses in Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering (the last apparently boosted by the Channel Tunnel) are showing a high level of interest.
However, the decline in numbers of suitably qualified applicants for Mechanical and Electrical degree courses must be reversed if industry in this country is to succeed. In contrast, and maybe a reflection on the rewards available, courses in Business Studies are over subscribed, sometimes by a factor of 10.
The need to learn another language as part of an engineer’s training has been appreciated, and courses include opportunities for students to do so. Some include a year (sandwich) for study abroad.
Report by A.T. Adam.