As Innovation Garage continues its series on the final year project advice, here’s one for the students of Civil Engineering.

In Civil engineering at NITW, following is the priority order of specializations based on the amount of time a professor could invest on a final year undergraduate project: structural engineering, water resource and environmental, transportation engineering, geo-technical engineering.

Selecting a discipline is one of the most difficult steps in the entire project. Following criteria should be considered in choosing a topic for the project:

  1. AREA OF INTEREST: The most important criteria in selecting a project is the student’s (or team) interest. Unfortunately, in the Civil engineering department, a guide (or adviser) is allotted based on the average GPA of a team, not a lot of flexibility in choosing your adviser and hence the area of research. If you have a chance of choosing your adviser, chose that professor who works in your area of interest (usually a student is not aware of the area of interests of a professor, department’s website should be a good start in this regard).
  2. INFRASTRUCTURE: Your idea might not always always be feasible given the available infrastructure. Like materials, testing facilities etc… Sometimes, even if the materials (e.g. cement, aggregate, admixtures) or infrastructure (e.g sensors, UTM) can be arranged, it might take a long time for you to procure them given the institute’s tedious purchase policy. Keep in mind, you are working in a government funded organization, it might take some time to arrange for things. Be patient, hopefully it should work. Support from your guide is key for getting things done in this case. Working on simulations (finite element, matrix based methods or coding) will be a safe bet. If I am not wrong, the institute has a license for software like MATLAB, Abaqus, Stadpro etc. Simulations these days form a very important part of research. Quality work can be done, given you spend some time.
  3. INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH: Students in the Civil engineering department should definitely consider working on interdisciplinary projects. Unfortunately, the curriculum doesn’t stress/insist on doing this. I consider this to be very important. Get out of your comfort zone and start working on coding in MATLAB, start working with electronics (working with arduino’s, signal processing etc..). If you are considering taking up Master’s or PhD this is very very important. I cannot stress more on this.

Identifying which professor among the faculty in your department is proficient in your chosen discipline is very helpful as you will always have someone very qualified to approach to and get an expert’s view on any issues. Check the research papers uploaded on the institute website by various professors and identify which one of them has done the most research in your field of interest.

The grading of your project varies from the first semester of your final year to the second. In the First semester, grading will be based on your interaction with your guide, literature review and discussion with him/her. Whereas in the second semester it is purely based on your presentation in front of the committee.

Finally, with regards to the execution of the project, there are many approaches for you to choose from. Here is one effective approach:

  1. Literature review: This is the part where you review previous work done on your idea/project. The institute subscribes to lot of journals, this should come in handy. You come up with what the researcher has done, what are the shortfalls, what was the strength. This is a very important part of your work.
  2. Improvising: Based on the shortfalls of previous work done in your area of interest, you improvise. Also, you can apply a principle to a different application, something which has not been previously explored.
  3. Simulations: You try simulating material behaviour or circuit behaviour using software based on concepts like finite element methods, finite difference methods or coding. This is the step where you try describing what is actually happening using a bunch of equations.
  4. Experiments: You perform experiments to improvise on previous work and show results that actually prove you are improving the previously used methods/models/techniques. You also perform experiments to validate simulations basically to see if your equations describe the actual behaviour.

The above suggestions and techniques should give a valuable insight to the final year project work and hopefully provide a helping hand to the students as well.

Contributior: Sai Kalyan Evani