Leeds students to begin creating Tour De France countdown clock

Students from the School of Mechanical Engineering are to begin the creation of a clock that will help Leeds count down to hosting the start of this year’s Tour de France.

The stylish and striking clock entitled ‘The Grand Départ Mechanical Theatre’, designed by local theatre designer Barney George, was chosen by Leeds City Council as the choice to be the public countdown clock to Saturday 5 July, when the city will host the Grand Départ of the world’s largest annual sporting event.

Chosen from a host of entries submitted for the clock, the winning submission is now being turned into reality by our students before going on public display in the Trinity Leeds shopping complex.

The chosen design is a celebration of cycling directly inspired by the mechanics of a bicycle itself, featuring a giant steel cog with a range of moving miniature cyclists of all kinds from penny farthings to modern race bikes on its outside.

With the outer cog counting down days, at the same time three inner dials will be counting down hours, minutes and seconds. As the days progress more of the miniature riders are activated before they are all in motion together. As the countdown reaches zero, the finale will feature a series of chimes and confetti cannons to signal that the time of the Grand Départ has arrived.

Senior Teaching Fellow in the School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds Dan Trowsdale said: “The clock is a fantastic piece of design which will pose some technical challenges for the students at the university. Mechanical engineers and product designers from the Faculty of Engineering will be tasked with designing, programming and building a light-based countdown which will run through to race day.

“Using our 3D Computer Aided Design and 3D printing facilities we will also be designing and building a number of mechanical cycling ‘automata’ which will cycle at various times through the day. It is going to look amazing!”

The original plan was to have the clock in place in time to coincide with 100 days to go to the Grand Départ tomorrow, but such is the intricacy of the design and the level of precision required of the metal and woodwork detailing it will now be unveiled later in May.

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