Summer Again

It’s summer (but it’s not me in the photo): the magnetic needle inside my old-fashioned max-min mercury thermometer shows the temperature on my veranda reached 47°C recently. Close Comfort, an old PC8 model made in 2015 improved with the latest compact focus enhancer. It sits at the end of my bed each night and my Igloo tent is in the wardrobe should I need it. I move it to my study if I’m working from home.

As the inventor, it’s nice to be able to tell you that I use it practically all the time I need cooling.

It’s not just that I invented it.  Or the knowledge that even one small tree absorbs more CO2 than is created at the power station by the electricity that it uses. Even less CO2 with solar electricity.

I have even noticed that I adapt to the heat more easily when using Close Comfort, so I don’t have use it all the time. There is evidence emerging from physiological studies that might support this perception. It’s good because my wife uses it too in her study: the kitchen where she just has to reach across to make herself cups of tea.

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Five Star Reviews for Close Comfort

These two reviews arrived today within minutes of each other. They made my day!

“As we like to caravan comfortably no matter what the weather we installed a diesel heater which didn’t need mains power to work so free camping was possible. Now we needed to be able to sleep on hot nights, but how? We have been looking at portable airconditioning for quite some time. The ones out there were not real aircon, evaporating water run units are no good in humidity. We wanted something to use in our caravan. Our generator was not powerful enough to run the unit on the roof of the van. With this little beauty using only 300watts of power we can even run it on an inverter 12-volt battery system with gen backup if need be. Had it on all night the other day down in Tassy with mains power from family. Just had to try it out in the van. The setting was set on low and it worked just great. The inside temp was around 30 deg c yet on us it was cooler a lot. Slept so comfortably cooler. The settings are very simple to work out to use and our model had the three speeds controller. When we get home she will be used more than our split system to save on power costs thus helping the invironment more.
We cannot thank Professor James Trevelyan enough for this fantastic invention.
Honestly, we cannot have enough praise for this air conditioner.”

“This is a short review because we don’t need to say much – this works better than expected. I love it. Make sure you understand it cools a small area, not a whole room. I sit right beside it at my desk, my wife sites beside me and it cools us both. This is not an evaporative cooler, it is a real AC in a simple, economical form. I love it. I’m telling everyone about it. I’m sitting beside it right now, it’s beautiful. I live on the Gold Coast, crazy hot and steamy right now here. I only need the lowest setting, it’s quieter like this and still keeps me so comfortable. There’s payment options, if this is in your budget then just get one. Oh – postage is included in the price, this was a great surprise at checkout, well done Close Comfort. Did I mention I love it?”

New book “Learning Engineering Practice”

If you are a member of Engineers Australia you can order with a 30% discount here. If you’re not a member of Engineers Australia, email me for a discount voucher.

Why buy this book?

Cover design for Learning Engineering Practice

If you’re a student or recent graduate, the book will help you get ahead in the search for paid employment, and the more you work at it, the more attractive you will be for employers.

If you’re an early career engineer, this book will help you navigate the complexities and frustrations of engineering workplaces, and get your career advancing more rapidly. You will soon be far more valuable for your enterprise. As one recent reader wrote “if only I had access to this book earlier in my career I could have avoided so many difficulties”.

Lots of companies struggle with on-boarding graduate and early career engineers – this book will help them and their supervisors. They may not hit the ground running, but they soon will be, and generating greater value for their employers.

Want to know more?

Here is the contents summary.

How is the book different from “The Making of an Expert Engineer”?

a) About one fifth the price (paperback), and one third the length;

b) Short, easy to read chapters for students and early-career engineers;

c) Includes guidance on commercial and social value generation that came from more recent research;

d) Includes a detailed curriculum and performance checklist for early career workplace learning;

e) Updated material on sustainability and work in low-income countries.

Naturally, as an introductory book, there are many references to “The Making of an Expert Engineer” for a more advanced treatment of topics such as engineering financial decision-making.

Invisible engineers … again!

This week televised ceremonies announced the Australian Engineering Excellence Award winners.  Once again, the engineers and engineering were invisible. Just like the tunnel photograph. Tunnels are invisible from the outside, and we pass through them in darkness.

Here is the Create Magazine article that announced the winners. I read it and immediately noticed that both the engineers and the engineering were absent from the stories and photographs. None of the photographs of the winning achievements show any people, let alone the engineers whose efforts we are supposed to celebrate. There is little about the value generated by these achievements. None of the descriptions tell us inspiring inside stories from the inside. Other than the implication that these were recently completed projects, there is not even much we can discern about the reasons these achievements were chosen ahead of others.

These awards could be such an amazing opportunity to engage with our community, especially the opportunity to inspire school children thinking about engineering as a career. Naturally, with some achievements representing combined efforts by perhaps hundreds or thousands of engineers, it’s not possible to tell the full story in a series of online articles for short attention spans.

Most of the real challenges in these achievements were just as much about people and relationships as finding technical solutions, the stuff of fascinating human stories. Stories waiting to be told.

Think of the money spent on video presentations for every division, and how much more benefit we as a profession could have gained if only we had seized the opportunity to inspire a new generation of young Australian engineers. Well, there’s always next year….

Image Credit: Ricard Gomez Angel – Unsplash.com

Has Engineering Divorced?

I came across this report on the economic contributions of engineering prepared by PWC for Engineering New Zealand. In preparing the report, PWC and Engineering New Zealand assembled about 20 senior engineers from a representative sample of industries and asked them to write a brief description of engineering.

Fascinating.

Here’s a word cloud summarising the result.

Now, what’s gone missing?

Remember that this was an exercise in assessing the economic significance of engineering in New Zealand…

Still wondering?

Read more to see what I think is missing

Pothole in Australia’s Emissions Policy?

Over the last few weeks I have been studying Australia’ climate and emissions reduction policy. Remember the bush fires before Covid-19 took over the news media? Few disagree now that we have to hurry up and got on board the world-wide push towards zero net emissions by mid-century… except perhaps Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister Taylor assert that Australia will meet the 2030 emission reduction target “in a canter”. We may just do that, but in 2031 or soon after we will hit a massive pothole unless we make changes very soon.

Australia is relying on emission credits carried forward from the 1997 Kyoto climate accord to the December 2015 Paris agreement. We undershot our emissions targets over several years, partly because of the cap and trade scheme we started in 2012 which Tony Abbott labelled the ‘carbon tax’ before abolishing it.

Never mind that carrying forward credits is not mentioned in the Paris agreement. Our government is going to try and float this one anyway.

According to the 2019 projections available at the Industry Department web site, we can maintain our current level of emissions with no further reductions right out to 2030 using these credits. But, then what?

Read this op-ed piece and see if you agree with my assessment. Comments welcome!

Did you see or comment on the government’s low emissions technology roadmap? In a few days I will post my comments and submissions.

Blinded by Tech?

These days, apparently, “tech” is ubiquitous.

Technology will save us?

Yet technology, the word, now means much less than it used to: it has been slimmed down to mean mobile phones, apps and gadgets. I asked a few friends: they said tech means an electrical gadget like a phone. Is an electric toaster technology? Oh no, they said, it’s too simple, too ancient. So “tech” has to be complex? “Ah, yes!”

Read to learn more

Can Indian engineering regain its former shine?

India has produced some of the world’s greatest engineers and scientists and graduates hundreds of thousands of engineers annually. Mughal Indian civil engineering led the world 500 years ago. Therefore, today’s relatively slow progress towards a modern, sustainable, industrialized society is puzzling. India’s national productivity, along with many other low-income countries, lags advanced economies like USA, Japan, and Europe by a factor of about 5, a gap that has hardly changed in many decades.

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Engineering graduates will need help very soon

The most critical issue for engineering right now is a collapse in short and medium term employment opportunities for engineering graduates.

27th July 2020: Since this post went up, I learned something. The only response came from an engineer who regularly writes on LinkedIn, suggesting that this problem was caused by universities who graduate too many engineering students. I learned that readers of this forum and my posts exhibit a disappointing lack of empathy for others less fortunate. I am unsure why. If you have suggestions on how to evoke a more positive response, please let me know. My suggestion was declined by Engineers Australia on the grounds that they do not have resources…. even though the hard work would be done by volunteers.

It’s not just the Corona Virus. Mobility restrictions and the oil price collapse are stopping engineering projects around the world.

Project cancellations and a loss of investor confidence will force engineering firms and suppliers to curtail hiring and many will close or stand down existing employees.

What can we, as a global community of engineers, do to help the next few cohorts of engineering graduates, many of whom will find it nearly impossible to find paid engineering work? If we don’t find ways to support these people, we risk losing a generation of engineers and stifling an economic recovery with critical engineering skill shortages.

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Corona virus will be more lethal for startups than bushfires

Update May 1st 2020: A modest success. With the help of friends and politicians, I and others managed to persuade the Australian Treasury to modify the JobKeeper scheme to include startups like Close Comfort and many others. A lifesaver for us. Thank you to all those who listened and acted!

The Australian government’s business rescue packages, while welcome, have overlooked the future: thousands of small and successful startups. Startups in many other less fortunate countries may struggle to survive.

Our company, Close Comfort (www.closecomfort.com), a small family-owned business, cannot demonstrate a 30% year on year loss of business to be eligible for assistance because we have invested to grow our sales. Now we face a similar financial catastrophe like tourism and hospitality businesses as our sales and sources of investment capital dry up simultaneously.

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