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Winner of the annual IMechE railway challenge features Rockwell Automation technology

Published: 1 August 2013 - Rachael Morling

The winning locomotive at the IMechE Railway Challenge was designed and built by students at Huddersfield University’s Computing and Engineering School. It was judged to be the premier entry based on their combined sales, business and project management skills.

The Railway Challenge offers young engineers a glimpse of the engineering opportunities in the railway industry and a chance for the railway industry to see the next generation of engineers and innovation at first hand.

Independent judges from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers judged Huddersfield’s narrow victory over entrants from the University of Birmingham, Interfleet’s graduate team and Manchester Metropolitan University, based on performance throughout five challenges during a weekend at Stapleford Miniature Railway.

There were three track-based challenges measuring energy reclaimed under braking, speed across a set distance and ride comfort, while two presentation based challenges assessed the design quality and the business case put forward by each of the teams for the locomotive they built.

Huddersfield’s winning design was a four-axle machine with a three phase AC traction package which allowed the considerable power available to applied through the wheels without traction loss. The power and control system aboard was specified and sourced by the students themselves directly from Rockwell Automation.

The CompactLogix Controller, PowerFlex 755 AC drive and an MPM series Permanent Magnet Servo Motor provided to the Huddersfield team were tested at Rockwell Automation’s facilities in Milton Keynes before being transported to the University for installation into the locomotive.

Simon Iwnicki, director of the Institute of Railway Research at the School of Computing and Engineering at Huddersfield University, has been involved in The Railway Challenge since its inception in 2012. He said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the students enjoyed and benefitted from the whole process. Not only does it make their studies feel much more real, but it also helps build teamwork skills – traditionally difficult to replicate in engineering based courses.

We now have 16 students who are in the perfect position to approach potential railway employers with a competition winning, designed, developed and built locomotive on their CVs. Perhaps even more importantly it has changed their perception of the problem solving challenges and attractiveness of a career in railway engineering.”

The Challenge is already laid down for next year and Iwnicki is already casting his mind forward to the innovations by competing teams in 2014. “All four locomotives this year were chain-driven systems- I’d love to see a team developing a different drive technology and perhaps look at making the locomotives lighter to improve efficiency.”

Industry Connections: Rockwell Automation Ltd

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