Meet Engineering Intern Hannah Mitchell

Published 23 June 2017

My name’s Hannah Mitchell and I’m in my fourth year studying mechanical engineering at the University of Edinburgh. I’m on a six-month placement at ORE Catapult after being here for a ten-week internship last summer.

The Catapult treats their placements and interns differently – I get to work on the organisation’s ongoing projects, rather than being given a standalone project that’s not related to what the company is doing like some of my friends have experienced. I’ve been able to contribute to projects like TIDAL-EC and ACT Blade – I think this is a much better way of doing things. It’s far more interesting and engaging when you can see the work you’re doing is having a tangible impact on a real-life project.

For example, on my ten-week internship, I helped with the design of the Catapult’s 1MW drive train test rig. I was involved in the mechanical design calculations and CAD modelling of the torque tube and the test tank. And when I came back for my placement, I was shown the finished rig. It was great to be involved with a project where I could see the end result of my work. It might sound nothing special for engineers who are used to that – but for an intern, it means a lot having something that you worked on actually make it to real life. It’s a fantastic feeling!

I’ve also been learning about all of the SMEs that the Catapult works with, which has been one of the most interesting aspects of working here. It gives you an appreciation of what’s going on in the industry with regards to technology development and innovation. I’ve been helping with the technical design of a test rig for the ACT Blade project, which has been especially exciting to be involved in. They’re really technical and it’s refreshing that we’re looking at things from a research perspective rather than purely commercial.

At university, the problems generally have closed outcomes while this one is very open-ended. Things keep changing – the blade and the test rig are being designed at the same time, so getting the interfaces right can be challenging. That keeps me on my toes.

The blade’s potential to reduce the cost of offshore wind is impressive – it’s an exciting project to be a part of. And I doubt I would have learned about it had I not been here at the Catapult.

I’m also involved a project where I’m using MATLAB software to analyse SCADA data from the turbines at an offshore wind farm and performing sensitivity analysis to look at its performance. I’ve also been able to improve my technical engineering capabilities ­– be it through MATLAB (which I struggled with before, but am now pretty competent), Solid Edge (a CAD package), or through practising fundamental engineering calculations.

I’ll be able to go back to university next year and apply all this learning to my work, which is going to be a big help. And on top of all that, I’ve been able to build contacts within the industry, both in the Catapult and with our clients. It’s going to really come in handy when I’m applying for jobs in offshore renewables after graduation.