Sales pass 1500 copies

I recently received first sales report from Taylor and Francis for the book.  Over 1500 copies sold.  Thank you so much all those of you who bought copies.  I hope you have enjoyed reading the book and found it useful.  Lots of people have given me verbal feedback, all of it extremely complimentary.  Some have sent nice written reviews that you can read here.

Time to Share the Load and that Empty Car Seat

An edited version of this piece appeared in The West Australian, Opinion Section, Thursday May 26, 2016.  It has been written for a Perth audience.

Once again, politicians are seducing us with money to fix transport in Perth, and it’s our money of course.  Yet both main parties are still offering solutions from the last century: more roads and railways.

Self-driving cars will soon be here. They will bring disruptive changes in urban transport, possibly within a decade, sooner than a Metronet or Freight Link could be completed.

Public transport is expensive and infrequent in Perth and needs large government subsidies because we have such a low population density.  According to a 2011 report, 30% of people in Sydney live in densities of 44 persons/ha or more – compared 12% in Melbourne, 5% in Brisbane, and less than 2% in Perth.

That’s we use cars.  As a consequence, Perth freeways and main roads are clogged every day with hundreds of thousands of slow-moving empty seats.  What a waste of expensive roads and cars and valuable time!

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Lost in Urdu translation?

Today with the internet and web sites like Freelancer.com, you would think it is possible to find native speakers of any language who can readily do translation for you and prepare documents like instruction manuals.  And with computer packages like InDesign, you would think that the job of setting up a professionally printed instruction booklet again would be trivially easy.  Well, maybe in some languages, but not in Urdu.  This has been a fascinating learning experience, and frustrating too at times.

I never imagined that translating our air conditioner user manual and getting it designed ready for printing would have been so difficult.  This manual is critical for us: few people will read it, but the few who do will pass on that knowhow to lots of other people.  It’s really important that they get it right.

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Why graduates have poor business skills – part 3

On repeated occasions, surveys in Australia and elsewhere report business leaders complaining about graduates without appropriate skills.  Most recently, Dr Simon Eassom has proclaimed this in an article ‘What will the Uber university look like?’ in the Australian Campus Review newspaper.  He thinks that traditional universities could be swept aside just like Uber is transforming the taxi industry in many countries using new technology.

Recently I wrote about two factors that could explain this: the implicit privileging of writing about all other forms of communication and implicit relegation of collaboration throughout our education system. Graduates, therefore, tend to have weak skills in listening, seeing and reading, even drawing and visual communication, all of which are critical for engineering and most other professions.  Especially for engineers, it is unlikely that they know how to collaborate effectively since this is rarely if ever taught. Even though students practice teamwork in many group projects, in the absence of explicit teaching and assessment, bad team behaviours will be reinforced just as much as good ones. And teamwork is different from effective collaboration in a technical context such as engineering.

In our research, we observed that young engineers rarely practiced effective collaboration techniques.  Some older engineers developed remarkably effective skills but without being able to explain them.

This helps to explain why the reputation of graduates is so low, particularly in the minds of business employers. And it is not just engineers, apparently, that are said to have terrible communication and collaboration skills.

My research on engineers provides some novel answers that lie deep within the structure of our education systems. There are some other factors that have emerged from this research affecting not just engineers, but all graduates.

In this post I will describe the third of these factors: the implicit devaluation of ideas about money in universities.

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Power Storage Costs in Pakistan – Part 1

For readers in many countries, it may come as a surprise to learn how much of the world experiences grid electricity supplies. Those starry night-time maps of the world showing all those brightly lit mega-cities and villages across the less developed world are quite misleading. At no time would all those places be lit up. Particularly in rural areas, darkness is more prevalent.

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(Click for full resolution image at http://www.geni.org)

That’s because in much of Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and several other countries, electricity supplies cannot meet the demand. Power utilities have to impose “load shedding” in a regular or irregular rotating schedule, cutting off power in less politically influential districts to keep demand within supply limits.

In Pakistan, people living in rural communities are hardest hit with only 6-8 hours power daily – they make up about 70% of the population. That’s because governments know that city voters know they can vote out a government: rural voters are more compliant (but are becoming less so).

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Lahore Book Launch

“The Making of an Expert Engineer” was officially launched in Lahore at the Avari Hotel on March 3rd before a gathering of 120 engineers, engineering faculty, aspiring engineers, and friends.  Prof. Fazal Ahmad Khalid, Vice Chancellor of the Lahore University of Engineering and Technology (UET) presided at the launch.  The launch was sponsored by the author’s company Close Comfort.

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James Trevelyan demonstrating the Close Comfort bed tent with air conditioner.

Audio Recording:

Selection of photographs taken at the event

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James Trevelyan speaking about the book

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Prof Fazal Ahmad Khalid

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Why graduates have poor business skills – part 2

On repeated occasions, surveys in Australia and elsewhere report business leaders complaining about graduates without appropriate skills.

Recently I wrote about one factor that could explain this: the implicit privileging of writing about all other forms of communication throughout our education system. Graduates, therefore, tend to have weak skills in listening, seeing and reading, even drawing and visual communication, all of which are critical for engineering and most other professions.

This helps to explain why the reputation of graduates is so low, particularly in the minds of business employers. And it is not just engineers, apparently, that are said to have terrible communication skills.

My research on engineers provides some novel answers that lie deep within the structure of our education systems. There are some other factors that have emerged from this research affecting not just engineers, but all graduates.

In this post I will describe the second of these factors: the implicit relegation of collaboration. Continue reading

Pakistan Launch: Islamabad

“The Making of an Expert Engineer” was officially launched in Islamabad at the Serena Hotel on January 7th before a gathering of 120 engineers, engineering faculty, aspiring engineers, and friends.  The Hon. Ms. Marvi Memon, Minister Chair of Benezir Bhutto Income Support Fund spoke about the potential impact of the research on the poorest 5.8 million people in Pakistan served by the fund. Lieutenant General (R) Syed Shujaat Hussein, former rector of National University of Science and Technology presided at the launch.Close-Comfort-FB-Logo-151207

The event was sponsored by Close Comfort Air Conditioning

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James Trevelyan speaking about the book – transcript of speech appears below.

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A Bright Energy Future for Pakistan

Despite current on-going energy shortages and load shedding, Pakistan has energy wealth that could be unlocked just by thinking differently about electricity distribution.

Electricity distribution

Electricity distribution systems are large engineering enterprises (photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission)

Electricity supply is capital intensive engineering. Pakistan built the existing electricity supply network with the help of large loans on favourable terms from the World Bank and other international institutions.

In addition, Pakistan has benefited from the generosity of Saudi Arabia in providing low-cost fuel.

Pakistan has reaped the benefits of large hydroelectric generating plants at Mangla, Tarbela and other dams: they generate electricity with no ongoing fuel costs.

As fuel and capital borrowing costs rose for Pakistan in the last 20 years, and the proportion of cheap hydro power reduced, Pakistan governments shielded people from the real cost of electricity generation with generous subsidies but these cannot continue.

Another factor that frustrates efforts to find energy solutions is the high cost of engineering in Pakistan. Through research we have identified many factors that Pakistan engineers struggle to overcome, such as the deep social divides that inhibit effective collaboration and knowledge sharing between engineers, investors and labour. Given the same requirements for product availability and service quality, the cost is almost invariably higher in Pakistan than in industrialised economies like Europe and the USA. Just as an example, when indirect costs are taken into account, the cost of safe drinking water ranges from US$50 to $150 per tonne in Pakistan while the cost in Australia, the driest continent, is US$3 per tonne.

(This is an updated and extended version of an article published in The News, Pakistan, 31st May 2013)

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