Derby’s engineers of the future take top two spot in international Rail Challenge

6 July 2023

A team of engineering and computing students from the University of Derby and graduates working at Alstom have taken second place in an international competition organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The annual Railway Challenge competition sees teams working together throughout the academic year before they take part in a weekend of track-based challenges and presentations to showcase their engineering skills and business acumen. The teams plan innovation projects, design, implement and test them and demonstrate them to the judging team on the track days in June.

Challenges are based on areas of importance to the rail industry, such as operational reliability and safety, energy efficiency and passenger comfort. Among the innovations developed by the University of Derby/Alstom team – made up of undergraduate and postgraduate students and recent graduates working at Alstom - were train control changes to improve the driving experience, and a new composite roof which provides better waterproof performance and durability.

Eight teams from across the UK and Europe took part in the final competition weekend, which was held at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire. With the judges describing the standard of entries as the highest ever, the University of Derby/Alstom team finished in second place, narrowly behind a team from Poznan University of Technology, Poland, and the only UK team in the top three.

The Derby group also won a number of challenge trophies, including the Ride Comfort Challenge, Energy Storage Challenge, Traction Challenge and Auto-Stop Challenge.

A group of people in high vis jackets with a miniature engine and trophies
The Derby team with their trophies

Phillip Warner completed his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Derby and is in the first year of the Alstom graduate scheme. He said:

“My role on the challenge weekend is as the train driver so I have been busy with both static and dynamic testing. I have enjoyed working on the project and hope to take on the leadership role in my second year of the graduate scheme.”

Professor Chris Bussell, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Derby, said:

“These are brilliant results from the University of Derby; they are evidence of the positive impact of applied learning and the benefit of collaboration between our students, academics, technicians and colleagues at Alstom – all of whom have played their part in this achievement.”

The University’s Rail and Research Innovation Centre (RRIC) provides support for the Derby team – this year that included access to the RRIC’s composites assets to support development of the new composite roof. Established in 2019, the RRIC provides assets and software to support research, innovation and technical demonstration to meet rail sector innovation needs, and provides a link between industry and research with opportunities for students to take part in work placements. The growth in rail research and innovation at the University has recently secured its membership of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) Centre for Excellence in Digital Systems, strengthening national academic collaborations in rail research.

Find out more about Computing and Engineering degrees at the University of Derby.

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