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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Since last week

Nothing much has happened here of note lately, especially as our workshops last week were cancelled again.  So we again had more Maths revision.  On Friday we learned a bit about two stroke diesel engines, and it might surprise you that the biggest ship engines are in fact two stroke diesels.  I also managed to complete a 1 hour 36 minute run so just under a half marathon there.

Today (Wednesday 24th) we actually have workshop, and tomorrow too so we are all looking forward to that very much.  I'll let you know how that goes and what we do.

Also we have the Maths Exam this Friday so I'll let you know how that goes...

Monday, 15 February 2010

Burst Wheels and Fine Filing

Last week saw us doing two full days in the workshop.  Yes, they actually happened (unfortunately we have now been told that this week's workshops may not happen due to staff shortages)!  Our group was split into two, with roughly nine of us in each class.  For the first day, my group was to learn how to safely change grinding wheels on both hand held machinery and bench/pedestal grinders.  This was actually a day long short course that will give us a certificate showing we can safely change these.  Sound a tad overdone?  That's what we thought at first, however if a grinding wheel bursts (fractures) on a bench grinder, the flying fragments can actually kill you, so you do have to play it on the safe side.  So, we were taught how to check everything is in order before replacing, how to replace them, and how to identify what wheels are appropriate for what material and activity.  We learned all the information in the morning, and then had a one on one test each with the examiner so he could sign us off.  If you forgot anything a prompt was allowed to hint you may have not covered everything in full.  I passed with no prompts, and once I have my discharge book, may go and get the certificate printed.  Apparently this is a useful certificate as when you are on ship a few people are listed as being allowed to change these wheels.  Once they have been decided, only they must change the wheels and nobody else.  Most people can use the equipment, but they must only get one of those people to change the substrates of course.  

On Thursday, our second day of workshop we actually had some hands on time making a small tool called a 'drift' (see photo at bottom).  Basically, when you have a drill bit that is too big to fit in a chuck on a lathe or drill, then you use what is called a Morse Taper (  This allows the bit to fit.  You can also use a Morse Taper for chucks too as far as I'm aware.  Anyway, once you have used your piece within the taper then it will be too firmly lodged into the Morse Taper for you to remove by hand.  Thus, to remove the bit, the wedge shaped drift that we are making is tapped into a hole on the side of the Morse Taper and this removes the bit.  

We started with a roughly cut piece of metal and set about filing the edges until they were square, roughly smooth, and without burrs.  Thanks to my many many hours of filing at Paxman, this task was made easier.  Once we had squared the sides we applied red dye to one surface of the piece to allow lines to be drawn on it.  Then we used a special table that is engineered to be exactly flat and a bigger tabletop version of a Vernier Caliper, used to draw precise lines on the work piece.  We measured out 25mm by 100mm lines then set about cutting the piece down to the required size with a hack saw.  After cutting, we then spent a long time filing to get it square again and to make sure that it was level with no high or low spots.  This had to be precise to 0.2mm (as measured with a DTI - dial test indicator ).  How close the line you saw makes a difference as to how much pain you will go through getting this correct.  We used engineers blue ( in combination with the DTI and this is a very thick dark blue ink.  It's spread on an engineered level surface and then the work piece is applied work side down to it.  It will place ink on the high spots so you know where you need to file to get it level.  We kept using the DTI and the blue until we finished with a level surface.  Then we measured out the position for the hole to be drilled, drilled it a few mm deep with a centre punch (this makes sure the hole will be central), then drilled it through completely with a 5mm drill bit. We then countersunk the hole to whatever depth we thought suitable.  Once this was done, another piece was to be cut off forming a diagonal edge.  I cut this off and was filing the edge down to precision level when we ran out of time, so I'll have to finish next time.  From the photo you'll be able to see I've not got too far to go.  It's weird to think I spent almost a day doing that, as not much has been accomplished.  I relished the challenge though.

Friday went down with nothing much of note, except a really great four hour journey home courtesy of England's fine M25 rush hour. 

Monday, 8 February 2010

Maths Maths and some things new

I've just finished two rather satisfying hours of maths lecture for this morning.  I say satisfying, as everything we covered was easily within my grasp already and so it felt enjoyable to be ahead.  The pace of maths seems slow at the moment, however I'm sure this will change once they think everyone is up to speed.  It's also because of our 16 hours of extra maths last week.  How was it?  Wednesday was fairly enjoyable working through all the exercises, but then Thursday was a bit more frustrating, working on simultaneous equations with three variables.  However, once I'd managed to remember the method, I realised it to be fairly simple.  I just need to do a few more exercises today to make sure it's cemented into my thinking for the future. 

On Friday we had the first set of two new lectures. 
"M.E.P" (Marine Engineering Principles) was first.  The purpose of this module is to introduce us to what we are going to see on ship.  We will study various pieces of equipment and parts of ships so we aren't completely lost when we go aboard ship for the first trip away.  It certainly won't make us experts, but will hopefully mean that we have an incling of what is what on board.  However, due to equipment failure in the lecture theatre, the lecture was abandoned until this Friday.  We were handed our course books though, so I'm sure it will be a good idea to peruse this before the next lecture. 
The second new lecture was "Spiral Induction".  This is a class that will help us to study.  Therefore, we will cover, in detail, things like plagiarism (very important now) and how to write reports etc etc.  The class is taken by an ex Marine Engineer, and he seems like a really good bloke, treating us like adults.  The most pertinent ground rule set out (I think) was mobile phones - if your phone goes off in class it could end up out the window.  Don't want to forget that one!  If you don't hear from me for a few weeks then I think you can safely assume.

Anyway, after a weekend of hard graft sorting everything out in the flat Emily and I have moved into, we commenced on more Maths.  However, the big excitement for this week IS THAT WE HAVE TWO FULL DAYS OF WORKSHOP on Wednesday and Thursday.  The other group have this Monday and Tuesday so we can ask them what we are doing - I'm assuming it's welding from what has been said before.  It's also been mentioned to us that although we missed out on this last week, we will in no way be behind, as we have more than 600 hours of workshop time during the course.  600 hours of workshop time is an exciting prospect and reinforces why I think I'm doing the correct course for me.

Anyway,  more maths awaits.  After the mental workout I've had this morning I am really looking forward to going climbing today. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Week 2 - Part One - Metal Muddle + High Marks

After a great weekend this week began on a high and I was very much looking forward to the two full days of workshop on Wednesday and Thursday.  By 8:30am this had been replaced by a low.  During our "Morning Muster" it was announced that somebody had forgotten to order the sheet metal required for our workshop sessions this week.  This meant that our workshop days were cancelled to be replaced with two full days of maths.  By lunchtime on Monday group 1 looked near death (their workshop days are Monday and Tuesday, whereas ours are Wednesday and Thursday).   Anyway, once I'd got over the shock I headed to our Maths lecture to do some mind blowing transposition of formulae.  This is normally simple, but the questions they'd given us seemed to cause mass/maths confusion (sorry could not resist this) and even a Maths graduate was perplexed at some of the answers.

In the afternoon Chris and I went running for a rather gruelling hour and a quarter which should have taken us up to about the 9 mile mark now.  In three weeks I should be back at half marathon level, which should be good timing to be mentally and physically in tune, as my next maths test is on the 26th February.

On the subject of Maths tests, the results finally arrived for the initial Maths exam/"assessment" we had on the second day here...I got 97%!  After years of never really pulling my weight fully at school it was nice to get a mark of worth that resulted from study.  I could see all of the results and I came second in the year, only beaten by somebody who got 100%.  This made me feel a lot better about how much time it took me to complete the exam too.  I had finished in the last minute and almost everyone had left the room at that point.  My careful over checking defied my usual stupid mistakes and hopefully this is a trend that will continue.

All I have left to look forward to for this week now is the 16 hours of maths that awaits me in the next two days
...oh and also my climbing assessment tomorrow evening to show I can climb and rig ropes safetly.  I'm excited that I'll be able to test my new harness and climbing shoes!  I'll let you know on that one.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Day 5 - Pain, Rain and Dung

Today (Friday 29th January) we went to "Ambush" paintballing ( which took about half an hour by coach.  Incidentally, and I don't think I mentioned this with the Southampton Solent visit, but I feel it worth a mention now...they must have designed these coaches for inexplicably thin people.  As you will probably know, coaches normally sit two people each side of the aisle, so four across the coach in total.  This one was certainly no wider than your average tin can coach, however some ambitious fellow (who could be inexplicably thin himself) had decided to design the coach with three seats on one side of the aisle and two on the other side.  As clever as this is (you can have about 25% extra paying customers), we did not find leg numbness to be an enjoyable part of a journey.  Anyway, enough said, we must gloss over this.

We arrived at the paintballing site, which was within a farm with woodland areas.  Teas and coffees were provided by way of a "brew area" which meant it was free and we could have them whenever we liked - this was a good feature.  We were distributed our gear (camouflage boiler suit, face mask, woolen gloves), changed and attended the all important safety briefly.  It was stated clearly, no less than twice, that the paintballs travel at over two hundred feet per second.  Once we were in the "live area", if we were to lift up our masks to desteam the goggles or for any other reason then we would be putting our eyes at risk.  Eyes turn to mush when hit with paintballs and apparently it can even head a bit further back than your eye too!  We were assured that the paintball always wins in this scenario.

After the safety briefing the day went really quickly.  The format of the games was a twenty minute duration, with the first ten minutes being open play - you could get shot and return to base to respawn, then the final ten minutes being if you're shot you're dead scenario.  First game I did well, and managed to slow down a bit after firing off my first 200 paintballs within ten minutes (we were given 500 for the day and could buy extra).  I took out four people before flanking very wide and then coming up on the enemy base from behind.  Nobody seemed to be about until I got very close to their base.  Then I had a bit of a stand off with someone which ended with us both shooting each other simultaneously.  I got hit directly in the face mask which resulted in a mouthful of paint and little plastic bits from the paintball shattering...nice.  What I should have remembered at the time is that head shots don't count, so I should have stayed in the game rather than being knocked out.
The next game was more of the same (but with the teams swapping ends of the wood), but with me not doing quite so well this time.  After being shot early on I flanked round again with someone from our team and we came back onto the enemy base, but unfortunately there were many of the blue team about and my life was over when I took a close range shot to the lower spine.  This was a painful end to the game for me!
Third game was a different format set in the bunker complex.  We were to defend the complex.  Each member of our team had one life each as defenders whereas the attackers had infinite lives, so it was a case of holding off the attack for as long as possible.  We held them off for sixteen minutes before they had got in our base and decoded the "bomb mechanism".  Luckily I was shot in the gun, which avoided some pain on my part. 
Fourth game was the same, but with our team on the attack.  We didn't do so well and lost the game.  I learned three things (spot the reference Jack Trodd) during this game.  One, don't run through a heavily guarded area and do a hero dive by a wall only to find it is not covered but in the line of fire of a guard tower...for this I received an absolute pummeling and luckily after I'd taken about five hits one of the marshals got me straight out of there.  Two, don't head into a dark tunnel in the enemy base while all your teammates are standing by the side...this was again greeted by another volley of bullets.  Two shots to the head, one to the neck and other body shots.  Three, I learned not to rely on teammates to actually try and rush the base - they were much more likely to hide behind objects while firing at the enemy.

It was a fun and painful day and I think everyone enjoyed it, including a few members of staff who joined us.  My boots smelled a bit funky after being submerged in mud by the bunker; I expect it wasn't just mud. 

See below photos (these are not from our day as we didn't have camera).