Engineering is the science of compromise. For an aircraft, this entails not only the right balance between aerodynamic and structural performance, but also includes maintenance and cost of purchase for an airline. Studying engineering involves not only a great deal of mathematical study, but also practice at striking the right compromises in the real world.
One of the projects we have been developing at Bristol that is aimed at giving our students experience of these compromises is our second year wing build exercise. Teams of 20 students design, build and test a 1.5m semi-span aluminium wing of riveted construction. The objectives are complicated - the wing must be light, strong enough to withstand a set tip load and yet still produce good lift to drag ratios as measured in our wind tunnels.
Engineering is not just theoretical; it certainly involves maths and physics, but it also involves working as a team, making mistakes - then correcting these mistakes - and improving your understanding and design solution. It is the day-to-day story of evolving ideas and the people those ideas came from.
To put this in perspective I've uploaded a movie one of our teams made during the exercise last year. Keep in mind that although this covers perhaps thousands of rivets, it also covers two terms, and the work of a group of 20!
If you'd like to know more, please visit us on one of our Wednesday UCAS afternoons and we'll be happy to show you the details of this work and the wing featured here.
(Note: although the original featured a fabulous soundtrack, for copyright reasons I've removed this).