A 'transformer' car custom-built by University of Derby students to help firefighters with rescue training is already attracting interest from other emergency services. For their final year project Motorsports degree students have redesigned a Toyota Avensis so that hydraulic motors will rotate the front, and so that the roof can be folded back or lifted off and one whole side can be removed. It will be used by Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service to train their officers in how to extract people trapped in vehicles during a road traffic collision. It is believed that the transformer vehicle is the first of its type designed for use by emergency services.
Steve Hill, Programme Leader for Motorsports courses at the University, said: "The students have worked very hard on this project to make sure the fire and rescue service got exactly what they wanted. Much of the vehicle's 'transforming' is done using hydraulic motors, duplicating the actual procedures and making it easier to use for those training. We don't believe there is another training rig like this in the UK. Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service are looking for us to produce a single-decker bus or truck version for them next year and have told us that they have had interest from other emergency services."
The original idea came from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service. Four Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) Motorsport Engineering degree students - Mike Barlow, Emily Bell, Mark Upton and Antony Wan - were involved in its design and realisation for their final year project. Challenges included being able to remove large sections of the car, and getting its front to pivot under the dashboard, and for it all to fit back together again properly. The students used structural analysis, computer simulations, built-in supporting frameworks and hydraulic rams to overcome these problems.
Organiser Watch Manager Mark Burnham, of Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, added: "A large part of firefighter training is to extricate casualties as safely and as quickly as possible from vehicles involved in road traffic collisions. Currently, we get through a large amount of vehicles which can only be used once. The transformer project has created a re-usable training vehicle which allows our trainees to observe the techniques and methods used to extract casualties, over and over again at a minimum cost to the fire and rescue service."
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