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Dwyer stresses communication skills to student finalists

COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY with lay audiences is vital in today's engineering environment, ICE president Sir Joe Dwyer told delegates at the Civil Engineering Students Papers Competition 2001, this week.

Presenting ideas and drawings effectively is key to avoiding misunderstandings and conflict with audiences at public meetings and inquiries, Dwyer said.

A modest audience gathered at One Great George Street to witness the traditional grilling of this year's four Papers Competition finalists. Each of the contenders gave a strong performance, displaying cutting edge technical knowledge and deep understanding of their subject in the face of searching questions from the judging panel.

Glasgow University's Antje Sydow and University of Durham student Ian Symington drew for first place in the competition. Sydow proposed: 'BÚzier splines (an analysis technique) is a powerful and intuitive tool for the analysis of arches and shells'. Sydow detailed the process by which the analysis enables particularly slender and aesthetically attractive structures to be achieved.

Shells can be extremely efficient, with the American Concrete Institute recommending span to depth ratios anywhere between 282:1 and 900:1 - eggshells have an average span to depth ratio of 230:1.

BÚzier splines can analyse any shape and may 'form the basis of exciting shell designs in the future', concluded Sydow.

Finite element analysis formed the basis of Symington's presentation. Entitled 'The ride of your life and the life of your ride', his presentation was on 'The Ultimate', Lightwater Valley's dramatic 2.3km, 95km/h roller coaster.

Symington input vast quantities of data to produce macro models for structural sections and micro models for critical members. Corroded cross members were identified as a potential problem, although by conducting detailed analysis of the track he concluded that this alone would not induce failure.

Summing up, Symington said: 'Although the structure is essentially bomb proof, the analysis identifies where the critical members are and the precise effects of cross member corrosion upon the track.'

Vague reference in BS 5400 to one side fillet welds (OSFW) led Aberdeen University's Ian Downie to undertake a review. Limited access often leads to the use of OSFWs, especially in trough-stiffened structures, cranes and ships.

The 'Class W' curve used for the design of fillet welds was formulated only using data from double fillet weld testing. However, the code states that it may be used for OSFWs, while also warning against it. Downie's work concluded that the use of the 'Class W' curve was justified, though he called for better guidance for designers.

Low flow data modelling was the theme of Michael McCauley from Queen's University, Belfast.

In his presentation 'A regional frequency analysis for Northern Ireland catchments', he proposed that, due to its homogeneous environmental characteristics, the whole of Northern Ireland could be treated as a single catchment.

Linear moment modelling, a relatively recent development in statistical analysis, was used to model the low flow data of Northern Ireland's rivers. Linear moment modelling has only previously been used for flood estimation. McCauley concluded that the generalised logistic distribution method yielded the best fit to the low flow data and that his redefinition of the catchment was indeed justified.

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