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---=== My Education ===---

Here can be found many, but not all of my higher education course notes, which maybe helpful to some people, particularly in remote regions of the world. My Aluminium Thesis was written during my final year at secondary school. Like many of the tasks listed here, it was never assessed. It never occurred to me at the time that I would end up working in an aluminium foundry. I have no idea where the information came from for this thesis.

My Space Dissertation was researched during my four year apprenticeship in the merchant navy. I had and still have an intense interest in technology, especially space research. The School of Navigation, a department of the Plymouth Polytechnic, now a university, awarded me a prize for the best dissertation in that year. The prize was a book on the sea ports of the world. The only trouble was, I visited very few ports listed in it. Most destinations turned out to be remote oil terminals, off-shore platforms or single buoyed moorings, with not even a tree in sight.

My Cadets Journal was filled in during my two years at sea as a navigating apprentice, except for the time I was working on my Industrial Experiences book. Unfortunately the ships had no technical library, which limited my ability to learn about ship's systems. These days I would assume that shipping lines provide such information to all their staff on CD, or maybe that's too much to hope for. The cut-away drawings in it, and in my space dissertation, were from Eagle comic, a publication that triggered my interest in engineering. For that reason, I believe it should still be published today, on the internet, in order to encourage young people to become interested in new technology. My uncle, Les Millard, worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford, near Thurleigh. He would take us there during open day, and also to see the very interesting static displays in the exhibition halls and air show at RAE Farnborough. I would have loved to have worked there after finishing school, but the opportunity never materialized.

Industrial Experiences task was ordered by the company, Royal Dutch Shell Group, but it was never seen by any Shell official.

Physics, Seamanship and Boatwork were not examined in the Second Mates Foreign Going Certificate exams at the end of my apprenticeship. These exams were over three days in London. They consisted of English, Maths, Navigation, Chartwork, Signals and orals on the highway code for shipping. I failed the latter three times. However, Boatwork was important when taking the Lifeboats exam, whilst Seamanship was relevant to the Efficient Deck Hands Certificate. We also took Radar Observer's, First Aid and Fire Fighting courses.

In addition to wasting our time running across the moors, playing rugby or sailing in Plymouth Sound, we also attended Plymouth Aquarium on a Monday evening (the working day finished at 8pm), to listen to lectures on oceanography and meteorology. I must admit that I found it very interesting, and cannot help thinking that I should have been a research scientist. Plymouth is a very beautiful city. Well worth going on holiday to see the old harbour, Pilgrim steps, Plymouth Hoe, Devonport royal naval dockyards, the modern shopping precinct, Plymouth Aquarium and coach trips around Cornwall, including the Eden Project at St Austell. The best holiday I ever had was with my brother, as my mother drove us around Cornwall from Falmouth, whilst I was still a school kid.

After my apprenticeship I became a work study engineer, after completing a correspondence course in it. I did a number of courses that are not listed here, such as City & Guilds of London Institute Electro-Mechanical Maintenance Parts 1 and 2, I also abandoned the following courses; PC Maintenance at Kalamazoo because there was no practical, Gas Installation & Maintenance at North Birmingham College because I progressed no further than the gas meter in one term, an Internet course at Matthew Boulton College. I did all the work but I didn't hand it in. By then I was sick of all the certificates I had. I also did two evening classes in Desk Top Publishing and Website Creation. I wasn't one for giving up, but everything eventually became stacked against me. These courses became an acceptable alternative to real employment, and the abominable working conditions which made me ill. The government did nothing to improve things.

By far the best course I went on was at the Government Training Centre, Handsworth, Birmingham. GTC's were started during WWII to train women for men's jobs. The workshop notes are hopelessly out of date. During my course, CNC machine tools were not present. Injection moulding, vacuum forming, blow forging and sintering were not included either. Eventually companies employed DNC machines assisted by industrial robots, including electro-discharge machining. HMG balked at the cost of upgrading the courses and eventually shut down the GTC's and Skillcentres in 1989. These technologies are presently being superseded by 3D printing machines (previously called rapid prototype machines), a technology known as additive engineering. My engineering draughting course at the GTC was an eleven month full time, 37 hours per week, course in mechanical engineering draughting. It should have been two years in duration to cover electrical building services, process control, process plant, Heating Ventilating & Air Conditioning, press tool, aerospace, automotive, technical illustrating, structural steelwork, and materials handling, minimum. Unfortunately, HMG does not take job training seriously, so the courses simply aren't long enough, or in the case of higher education, taught to a high enough and relevant standard. When you see nuclear reactors built in earthquake zones, or not designed for easy and cost effective dismantling after use, and when you see materials like plastic contaminating the planet, with not one scientist or company director in prison as a result, you realize the difference between education and training. The fact is that government's don't give a toss about the environment that you live in. Outside my previous home, after living there for twenty-four years, I could not run across the ring road without collapsing, due to years of breathing in exhaust fumes. You try telling politicians that air pollution kills. Most of them simply don't want to know, be it in Birmingham or Beijing. He may have a big button, but I'll only take him seriously when I see him metaphorically kick the arse of the CEO's of the US petro-chemical industry which created this environmental disaster. At the very least the industry should receive a nominal fine, whilst the products should be banned, replaced by kelp and other biodegradable alternatives. Of course bio-degradable plastic has been around for decades, but for reasons that I fail to understand HMG will not outlaw traditional plastics. In higher education one is constantly told that safety is everyone's responsibility. That message appears to float out of the window as soon as students have passed their exams. None of the drawings I did at the GTC survive.

Whilst living in north Wales I paid for a number of courses in Non-Destructive Testing at West Bromwich College. As a result I was accepted for a three month government sponsored Training Opportunities (TOPS) course in NDT at the same location. There were few handouts, whilst owing to the speedy presentation, the notes are wanting. Most of these notes do appear to be relevant today, unlike my workshop notes in my draughting course. In the days before the internet, the root problem in getting a job was in not knowing whom to send a curriculum vitae to.

I have a few blue prints of drawings I did at various places, some of which appear here. Some are a montage of A4 photo-copies. The drawing of the British Aerospace HOTOL space shuttle appears here. This project has been superseded by Skylon at reactionengines.co.uk. This drawing was produced during a three month full time course in Computer Aided Design at the Skillcentre, Handsworth, Birmingham, employing mld2 CAD software on Apricot 15 inch monochrome computers. The best CAD design I did there was of a parameterised pressure vessel. I pushed myself really hard on this course, and that was particularly true with this drawing. After working on it for a couple of hours, the drawing suddenly disappeared from the screen. I called the instructor over, who zoomed right out of the drawing. It was nowhere to be seen. I had no choice but to start all over again. A couple of hours later, the original drawing appeared in the top left of the screen. No one could fathom out where it had been hiding. A parameterised drawing contains formulae instead of fixed dimensions. It is useful where a company produces the same product but in a range of sizes. Type in the performance figures and the computer will produce all the drawings including a list of parts known as a BOM (Bill Of Materials). CAD is also useful for producing an assembly from a list of standard components, and as a means of listing an organization's assets (Facilities Management System). I never worked at a company that used CAD this way. The dumb fuckers always used it like a drawing board. Most inefficient!

My BTEC HND Engineering course at Sandwell College, Smethwick was full of misfortunes. It was originally a one year part time HNC course, but at the end of it I was told that BTEC had decided it had to include maths and mechanical science, neither of which the college wanted to teach. I therefore decided to do a second year and go for a HND (Higher National Diploma). The modules in basic programming and multimedia faded away due to software problems, whilst the maths and mechanical science could have been organized better. The staff wanted two of us to build a 3D printing (rapid prototype) machine for our project. I never saw the other student again, so I got the staff to agree to my CAD drawings of a transfer arm instead.

Of all the courses at college, my BTEC NC Building Services Electrical course was the best taught. I felt that I was educated enough to be able to do it, but it was not to be. In addition to the problem of locating possible employers, it became obvious to me during the interview, that most construction companies were engaged primarily in government contracts, and therefore needed people with no criminal record.

The last course I did was at the Engineering Employer's Federation training centre, Tysley, Birmingham. This was the site of the old Delta electric motor factory. The course was good but limited in scope. There were no lectures, so it left many students thinking that they knew it all, before embarking upon a career in wiring up houses, factories, etc. There was no use of pull through cables, no mention of relevant British Standards (BS7671, etc.), On Site Guide, luminaires and bulb types, BMS (Building Management Systems), process control cabinet layout and PLC's (Programmable Logic Controllers), portable appliance testing, electro-pneumatic actuators, structured cabling (computer networks), MIMS (Mineral Insulated Metal Sheathed cabling) for CCTV (Closed Circuit Television), fire detection alarm and secondary lighting, distribution board and consumer unit (fuse box) assembly, building interaction during rewiring of domestic circuits, and selecting electrical components from catalogues. As you can see, a great deal was left out. Do you know what a grid switch is? Do you know what your neutral wire is ultimately connected to? Many electricians don't.


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