Department of Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering

Guidelines on Stage 3/4 Projects


The notes in this and the associated pages will help you to plan and carry out your project.

They are an extended supplement to the handout you received at the beginning of the first semester. The project is a significant piece of individual work, probably the biggest you have ever undertaken. It may be an extended experiment, the design of a novel piece of equipment, the development of software, etc. Whatever it is, it will form an important part of your development as a professional engineer. It will certainly be of interest to prospective employers when you graduate, so this is your chance to show what you can do.

Remember: your supervisor is here to help and guide you, but it is your project.

A project requires many factors to gain a high examination mark. Marks are awarded according to a marking scheme for the management of the project and for the execution of the practical work as well as for the final dissertation.

Your project will be assessed on a range of criteria to obtain an overall mark. Your final mark will thus be a measure of your overall performance. The criteria on which you will be judged include the following.

The Components of your Project

Most aspects of the project are common to all individual and group projects at Stages 3 and 4. You will:
  • do such work as you will agree with your supervisor.
  • give an oral presentation on your work to date to a group of students and tutors part way through your project.
  • write a dissertation describing the work of your project.
  • describe your project to two examiners in a viva voce examination.

    In addition, If you are doing a four (4) module project in Stage 4 of most MEng courses you will also write an interim report on one aspect of your early work half way through your project. The main aspects of what is required of you in each of these components is described in a separate page, with extra detailed notes on the dissertation and a full breakdown of the marking scheme.

    The Timetable

    You must agree a timetable for the project with your supervisor. He will advise you on what is both sufficient and feasible.

    The Project Plan

    You must prepare a project plan which you will agree with your supervisor. This must reflect the amount of work you will do, spread appropriately over the first two terms. You are expected to spend a total of 300 or 400 hours on 30 module and 40 module projects respectively (the Degree Programme Handbook tells you how this is made up), but remember that there will be times when you will need to concentrate on other work (assignments, etc), so ensure that your plan allows for extra effort when time is available. Note that you have a light examination load in Semester 1, so make the most of the examination period when you are free of lectures, etc.

    The plan should be presented as a bar chart, with the length of each bar representing the duration of a task and its position representing its relationship to the other tasks. Ensure that sufficient time is allocated to each task, particularly when work is required from the workshops, etc. (if necessary, consult the Chief Technician, Mr S Smith). Superimposed on the bars should be milestones, fixed dates by which significant events should have occurred. These are used to judge whether or not the work is going to plan, so that if things do start to slip you can see the problem at an early stage while it is still possible to amend the plan and bring the work back on course.

    The attached project plan may be taken as an example. Notice that the order in which work is done is not necessarily ideal, but may be influenced by outside constraints. In the example it would have been preferable to read up on the theory first as that could affect the design of the test rig. But if the design had not been done at the beginning then the workshop would not have been able to start construction until December and the whole project would have been put back by a month and would not have been completed by Easter. The student would also have been left with no work to do while the rig was being constructed. This is the type of reasoning you must use when planning your project.

    A good way to go about laying out a first draft plan is to start at the deadline for completion. Put in tasks in reverse order, looking all the time for items that can be worked on in parallel and try to leave a little float (spare time) at the end. If you arrive at the start with time to spare, spread things out. If you find you should have started before the start of term, look for ways of making sequential tasks partially overlap, or reduce the objectives to make the project feasible. Remember, you have to follow the plan, so make it realistic. BAR Contents | Introduction | Timetable | Project Plan | What is Expected of You | The Project Diary | The Dissertation | Marking Scheme | Notes on Writing a Dissertation BAR

    This page is maintained by Dr J M Hale

    This page last updated September 1999