Dear Colleagues

Thanks for the flood of responses to the engineering quiz. Full answers are below and we would like to congratulate our winners:

Mr Patrick Richards
Mr Brett Dixon
Mr Mike Jones

(Drawn from all the correct submissions). All others with correct answers will be offered an e-book of their choice. Well done everyone.

Wanted: Green Engineers and Technicians

Some of you have tartly suggested over the past few years, that it would be gratifying to receive some convincing evidence that climate change is actually caused by man. Unfortunately I am not in the position to provide this (due to my lack of knowledge in the area), but what is becoming very clear is the need for more engineering practitioners focusing on the matter of climate change. Massive commitments have been made by the larger economies to address the issue, but there are now simply not enough engineering professionals to implement these radically new systems – many of which are completely different to those used in the past.

The use of coal is expected to double by 2030. In response some pretty serious carbon capture and storage technologies are required with enormously innovative geological surveying, mining, pipelining, automation and chemical engineering needed. There are obviously mixed feelings about the nuclear industry, but many governments have decided to go ahead here, and both outstanding engineering professionals and independent regulators (to ensure safety and to protect the public) are required. Renewable energy with solar and wind energy, is perhaps better understood (but whose need is perhaps not quite as pressing as carbon capture and nuclear technologies - with their enormous concentrated capital investments). Renewable energy, however, can provide an enormous number of jobs and can be extended on a vast scale (by retrofitting homes for greater energy efficiency, for example). And naturally, all engineering design and installation today requires deep thought given to the issues of sustainability, energy efficiency and minimisation of emissions.

For the first time that I can recall, engineering is in the unique position of being perfectly aligned with the environmental movement with its focus on “saving the world” and with engineers as the “good guys”. Technology will prove itself as one of the keys to dealing with the problem of climate change (otherwise we must return to subsistence living – an unlikely option).

What do we need to do?

* Drive your governments and bureaucrats to more aggressively fund research in energy engineering. This will ensure the emergence of practical, useful technologies which, as engineering professionals, we can apply.
* Convince laid off engineers and technicians or those in more somnolent areas (e.g. missile engineers) to take up green technology skills.
* Tell the world (particularly environmental campaigners and politicians), that engineers can actually “save the world”. Inform them that through the application of new technologies; emissions can be reduced, efficient energy systems designed and carbon captured effectively.
* Look at how you can skill yourself up in these new green areas to build your career and “help your world”

To rework a comment from The Economist a little:”…the best thing a bright young person can do to help fix the climate change problem is to get an education in engineering”.

Thanks to the Economist (The World in 2010) for their valuable references.

The Quiz

Q1. If the resistance of a circuit is 20 Ohms and the voltage across it is 100 Volts, what is the current?
A1. V= I * R; thus 5 amperes (or 5A)

Q2. What is the key feature of the HART protocol?

A2. It allows for bidirectional digital communications superimposed over a standard 4-20mA loop, thus providing for querying of data and diagnostic information and sending configuration data to the instrument.

 Q3. Why is the 4-20mA instrumentation standard so useful?
A3. It is an internationally recognised standard. With at least 4mA always flowing in the loop (with ability to power instruments on the same pair of wires), simplified wiring is possible. Loop resistance does not make a major impact. In addition, with a minimum value of 4mA, it can indicate a broken link.

 Q4. In terms of stability, what is the purpose of the derivative term in PID control?
A4. Particularly with loops with significant process lags (such as temperature loops), the addition of the derivative term provides for increased stability in the overall loop operation.

Q5. What is the difference between these two engineering instruments below?

(a)      (b) 
A5. (a) is a slide rule using for calculations (mainly used prior to the mid seventies) while (b) is a vernier caliper for measurement of internal and external distances and depths

Q6. A pump with a low initial cost and low maintenance cost is (select one):
Gear Pump / bucket pump / double acting piston pump / centrifugal pump
A6. Centrifugal pump.

Q7. A feeler gauge is used for measuring the (select one):

Thickness of plates / clearance between mating parts / pitch of screw threads /  radius of curvature.
A7. Clearance between mating parts

Thanks for all your submissions.

Yours in engineering learning


The winners of the quiz were: Mr Patrick Richards, Mr Brett Dixon and Mr Mike Jones. Congratulations and thanks to all those who submitted answers. The suggested answers follow each question – please note that we accepted a wide range of answers provided they were reasonable.