Victoria Bloodworth became a design engineer for Aerotrope in April 2009. She holds a PhD in Failure of Post-buckled Carbon Fibre Composite Stiffened Panels from Imperial College London, specialising in Aerostructures and Composite Materials. A committee member of the British Composites Society, she is also a keen martial arts practitioner.
HF: Viki, you joined the Aerotrope design engineering team last year. What do you think are the most important skills one needs to bring to this job?
VB: Firstly, good communication skills are key. At Aerotrope the team works very closely together. This suits me as all interaction is very direct, but it is also intense.
HF: Which of your skills prepared you for the job of design engineer?
VB: As a design engineer you have to gain an overview of the task in hand and apply fundamental concepts of engineering to arrive at a specific product. These days composites are not often taught in terms of design- at best you design a tiny bit as part of a module. Luckily I taught composites to undergrads and masters students in the lab, which meant I was asked about the 'basics' over and over again. I suppose you could sum up most engineering by applying Newton's laws of motion combined with maths. I use the same principle for teaching martial arts, by the way.
HF: Has working for Aerotrope given you any surprising insights?
VB: The scope of Aerotrope's consultancy projects surprised me. I thought of 'consultancy' as chunks of work you do for the industry. Your results would somehow feed into a bigger project that often concluded without your input. At Aerotrope we are lucky to be called for large consultancy packages where we are part of the whole process from concept to testing and delivery of the product. This is unusual and very satisfying.
HF: So what projects have you worked on since joining the team?
VB: I started last year with a basic structural design and frequency analysis for a small-scale turbine. Aerotrope provided a preliminary concept followed by a feasibility study on materials. Most recently I worked on a package of prototype design, spanning the whole phase from proof of concept through to prototype testing. I am busy with structural loading calculations and quantifying the statistical variations in wind behaviour. I then verify the results with detailed FE simulations that in turn are feeding back into more structural calculations. We spent several months on detailed design. Now I am looking forward to working closely with the manufacturer and to observing the testing on a rig.
HF: What else is on the horizon for you?
VB: We were approached for an independent failure assessment of some blades. This is an area that is exciting for me as it connects with my PhD. I really want to go on site and see some broken blades for myself, perhaps climb a turbine. It's good to see the real thing after spending most of my time calculating details with a computer. It's quite a different story to see the effects first hand and to assess the cause from that.
HF: Any favourite moments since joining Aerotrope?
VB: I like playing basketball with all the team at lunchtime. More, please!
HF: What advice would you give someone applying to Aerotrope?
VB: Don't hide anything, just be yourself. And be open to learn.
aerotrope image copyright: Aerotrope