Teesside University engineering students get started on Sofia blade inspection challenge

Cohort of 60 Engineering Foundation Year Degree students tasked with developing new ways to inspect offshore wind turbine blades as part of their studies.

  • 18 February 2022

Four month curriculum-based turbine blade challenge

Around 60 Teesside University engineering students will take part in an innovation challenge set by Sofia, which will see them create their own notional companies and focus on developing new ways to inspect offshore wind turbine blades.

The students, working in teams, will create their own 'start-up company', specialising in blade inspection innovations for the offshore wind industry.

They will then be tasked with coming up with feasible methods for blade inspection that minimise or remove the need for personnel rope access, working from height and turbine inspection downtime. The project has been integrated into the student curriculum but as an added incentive the teams that develop the top two concepts will receive cash prizes.

The students are all part of Teesside University's Foundation Year Engineering Degree, covering a range of engineering disciplines. 

The challenge is being overseen by Gill Lacey, Senior Lecturer at the School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies who said: "The students are enjoying working with a real-life project, delivered by working offshore wind engineers from Sofia and RWE. They are able to develop their engineering design skills on a genuine problem, which is very motivating.”

Gill is being supported by Sofia's education consultant Mike Cargill, as well as by blade, turbine and technical specialists from the project team. The students are also being lined up to visit a turbine blade factory, so they will be able to see first-hand the size and scale of the blades, helping to bring the project to life.

The challenge was launched in late January, when the students were given a masterclass by RWE experts on the specifics of turbine blades, the type of maintenance issues encountered and current inspection methods, as well as on the operations and maintenance of an offshore wind farm. The session was recorded and can be viewed here.

The students will have four-months to work on their innovations before a formal judging day that will be held at the University in early May.

This challenge is one of several initiatives that Sofia has undertaken with Teesside University as part of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the two organisations in 2020.

The project was launched in early 2022 and will run for four months.

Students getting to work on their concepts