Between July and September 2021, a number of physics and engineering students studying at Nottingham University began internships based at Hexagon’s Ruddington offices in the UK. Working across Applied Solutions and the System Dynamics Centre of Excellence, Toby Cowan, Ellie Staton, Alex Goodhead, Patryk Chlopek, Harry Shakesheff and Ben Langford tell us about what they’ve been doing during the internship and what they’ve gained from the experience.
What are the main responsibilities with your role? Explain a day in the life.
Alex: The overall aim of the project I am working on is to integrate drivetrain models from Romax software and vehicle models from Adams software in order to model the effects of such phenomena as torque ripple. On a day-to-day basis, I spend most of my time either researching or on Visual Studio writing code.
Ellie: After a few weeks of training, I’ve been working on a project with another intern to design a high-performance electric powertrain of the future. We began by conducting plenty of research into the electric vehicle market and electric powertrain technology so that we could produce detailed requirements. We then started to explore and compare different powertrain architectures using Romax tools and software, with the end goal of producing a design for dissemination. We work quite independently as a pair and have meetings every so often with the engineers involved in the project to discuss our progress, share ideas, and decide the next steps. We also document all our work on the intranet system.
Patryk: My work has mainly been focused on the detailed design of a gearbox concept for aerospace application. The main tasks involved CAD design, FEA, gearbox design and performance analysis.
What have you liked most about working at Hexagon?
Ben: I’ve really liked how friendly and supportive everyone I’ve worked with has been. Coming from a physics degree, I hadn’t done anything specifically engineering related in a professional environment before, but everyone was willing to help me get settled into the company and understand what was going on and what I was meant to be doing.
Toby: One thing I have really appreciated is the responsibility and self-determination we have been given with regard to going about the project; it has allowed me to take ownership over the work I have been doing, making it very rewarding and enjoyable. I have also enjoyed the culture in the office as everyone has been very welcoming and incredibly helpful anytime we have any queries or problems. It has really felt like we are part of the team.
Patryk: Being exposed to a range of different software packages was a great experience. I found it very interesting how you can readily analyse and optimise your design for a variety of conditions early in the development process.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of your role?
Alex: Having to quickly get to grips with a wide variety of new systems and software. While probably the most challenging part of my role, it’s definitely the most rewarding as well.
Ellie: Unlike the design projects I have done so far at university, we have a lot of freedom with the project at Hexagon because we are writing the requirements ourselves. Having so much freedom has meant the design process is very iterative and the plan of action has not always been clear. Although at times challenging, it has been useful to work on a conceptual project with no constraints because with guidance from the engineers and methodologies used in past projects, I have learnt new ways to approach problems.
Toby: The freedom we have been given with this project has meant we have had some difficult problem-solving challenges. Deciding how to narrow down from a completely open design is challenging, however overcoming the challenge was the most rewarding.
Harry: I think getting to know electromagnetic analysis software and process was the most challenging aspect. The software is designed so everything you do has to be from scratch, which is great for learning the fundamentals of how the motors work but makes it difficult to use. However, once I got to grips with how it worked, I found getting the motor simulations to work on it was one of the most fulfilling parts of the job.
What have you learned during your time with the company?
Patryk: Apart from the technical knowledge I have gained, it has been particularly useful to learn about the management processes in product development. It gave me a perspective on how complex projects are structured in industry.
Ellie: This was my first engineering work experience, so I have learnt a lot about what goes on in an engineering company in terms of how everyone works together, how projects are organised and what a typical day looks like. I have gained much more technical knowledge about electric vehicles and the mechanical and electronic engineering behind them. I have also learnt about how to apply systems engineering to projects.
Harry: I have learnt a lot about electric motors and have expanded my knowledge on the different types of motors and how they work. This will help me in future years in university, as well as in future careers. Furthermore, I have been able to see what working in an engineering company is like and I now feel I have a much better idea of what I may be doing in the future.
Alex: I have learnt a great deal about the simulation of mechanical systems in an industrial setting, as well as about how modern companies function. Regarding technical skills, my knowledge of C++ and my programming ability more generally have improved no end since I started my internship.
Ben: I have learnt a great deal about the process of an engineering project, how something can go from concept to finished product. I have learnt how requirements are determined, and how they are addressed in development. I have also learnt about the documentation and tracking of engineering projects, and about how a project is structured.
Toby: I have really learnt about the engineering process and how an engineer functions within a company. I have also really enjoyed learning about cutting edge technologies that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.