SOUE News Issue 8

Project Exhibition 2009

David Witt

The exhibition attracted 19 entries this year, a bit more than last year's 15, but well below the 24 and 29 of the two previous years. But there was also less money to give away in prizes, since one of our regular sponsors has been feeling the effect of the recession, and another seems to have lost interest in Oxford! But Atkins and GlaxoSmithKline both contributed as in the past, and we are very grateful to them.

The judges awarded a £500 prize for best exhibit to Ken Chatfield for "Visual Search by Shape", an investigation into whether one could devise a program that would do for shapes what Google does for text. It is perhaps not surprising that without Google's resources he hadn't got as far as they have, but he was certainly able to demonstrate a start in that direction.

The £500 Atkins prize for the best exhibit in the civil/structural engineering field went to Lawrence Walton for a study of how to design footbridges so that they don't suffer from the crowd-driven vibration that plagued London's Millennium Bridge when it was first opened, and the pedestrians brought their walking into synchronism with the lateral motion of the bridge.

Lawrence Walton receiving the Atkins prize
Lawrence Walton receiving the Atkins prize

To compensate for this year's reduction in sponsorship, SOUE contributed a £200 prize for an electronic exhibit, and the judges awarded this to Gareth Lott for an "Optical Wireless Link Tracking System".

£100 prizes went to Ben Sitler for "Vertical and Horizontal Loading of Grillage Foundations"; to Rachel Swidenbank for "Computational Analysis of a Transverse Horizontal-axis Water Turbine", of the type intended to get power from the tides; and to a three-man group of Yuan Gao, Osman Darr and Edward Wang for "Sustainable 'Unplugged' House in the Shetlands", with some electrical hardware that could contribute to its self-sufficiency.

And four £50 prizes went to Nathan Ewin, David Howie, George Lederman and Zun Wang.

There were several other interesting exhibits that did not win prizes, for instance, to mention only two, Samuel Johnson's "A Better Kettle" and Christopher Wood's practical study about reinforcing masonry or adobe structures with plastic mesh so that they were less likely to collapse on to their occupants in an earthquake.

The hard-working judges, to whom we are as ever very grateful, were this year:

Richard Ashton, Balliol 1995-9, now with BAE Systems

Mike Ford, St Edmund Hall 2000-4, now with Arup

Amelia Gould, Somerville 1996-2000, now with Actica

Paul Jones, Brasenose 1996-2000.

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