Juan Sagaseta

The next few weeks we will be having the MSc oral exams in the CCE Division in which students will have to summarize and defend their work in front of the examination panel. I am sure every person has his own list of tips and “do’s and don’ts” on how to face these type of exams although a viva can go in many different directions depending on your work, the examiner and other factors. We all have heard the typical wise advice of “be relaxed, be confident, be prepared”, tips which might lead to the exact opposite: that would be panic.

What are you best tips for a successful viva?

Here are some random thoughts I had on this based on my experience which you might find useful or not towards preparing for you viva… Continue reading »

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Can we build concrete boats? At first, one might think that this is impossible since regular concrete is 2.3 times denser than water. However, steel is even heavier than concrete and we still use steel to build large boats. The answer to this physical problem was given by Archimedes over 2000 years ago; his principle states “a body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyancy force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces”. Therefore, to build a concrete boat we only need to design a concrete container so that the buoyancy force balances the vertical force (including self weight).

Indeed, we can build boats made out of concrete. Civil Engineering students in the USA know this well as concrete canoe races between rival Universities is a very popular event. First concrete boats were built in the 19th century in Europe by J.L. Lambot (Southern France, 1848) and C. Gabellini (Italy, 1890s). An interesting historical application was the portable floating reinforced concrete (RC) harbours used during the WWII on the D-day in the “Operation Mulberries” which were used to transport troops and heavy vehicles from England to Normandy (see here for details about construction).

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A few weeks ago, the Fédération Internationale du Béton (fib) sent me the pictures from the fib Symposium in Prague which I attended. During this conference I had the enjoyable experience of receiving the 2011 fib Achievement Award for Young Engineers in the research category (see fib website). The award was given in memory of Ivar Holand an outstanding structural engineer and professor in Structural Mechanics from Norway best known as one of the pioneers of computer-based finite element method for structural analyses with significant contributions in the field of large offshore concrete structures and development of high strength concrete.

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Lord Alan Sugar (picture taken from Wikimedia)

Having followed The Apprentice for quite a while I felt highly disappointed a couple of weeks ago when Lord Sugar fired senior software design engineer Glenn on the basis that engineers make bad businessman. Lord Sugar mentioned “I have never yet come across an engineer that can turn his hand to business”. If I had the opportunity I would like to invite Lord Sugar to Madrid to watch together a football game in the Bernabeu stadium, home ground of Real Madrid football team. Perhaps whilst watching the game I could explain to him that 10 year ago Real Madrid had a deficit of 270m€ and were struggling financially. Lord Sugar would be surprised to know that it was the entrepreneurial vision of a civil engineer called Florentino Perez who managed to turn around the situation. Currently Real Madrid is the wealthiest football club in the world with a revenue this year of around 400m€ even though they have spent fortunes on buying megastar players such as Zidane and Ronaldo most recently for the small amount of 90m€.

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