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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

States and Korean Mechanics

"What is a state?": A question asked earlier this week in our first thermodynamics session.  The first explanation was, "A state is not what you are in at 3am after a Saturday night out in Southampton".  

This week we have started mechanics and thermodynamics, bringing our timetable up to 9am until 5pm everyday, except Friday where we finish at 4pm.  Last week was much the same as the previous, but in workshop I was working on the male and female interlocking plates.  First job was to get them into two perfect rectangles (think I've shown this in previous blog entries).  Next up was working on the male part.  Once this is finished I can begin the female and get it to fit the male.  I'm almost there with the male and have got it very precise, leaving about 0.05mm extra metal to play with when fitting the female to it.  

This week and last week I have been continuing my tangency exercises in Engineering Drawing.  I've put all the photos below.  I only have two more drawings to do before we move onto drawing a part we are given.  

 Below is an involute curve - definition is:   A curved line that gradually becomes more distant from a centre point. An involute curve can be traced by a point on a taut string as it unwinds from a cylinder.

Anyway, now I'm caught up, back onto this week.  Our mechanics teacher is a very young looking Korean man who assures us that despite his youthful looks, he is in fact 58.  We were very surprised.  He is very energetic and describes things in a very active way.  For example, to demonstrate force he suddenly screwed up a piece of paper (to demonstrate how force deforms objects).  Then he suddenly threw it into the wall to demonstrate a force making something accelerate.  The first half an hour of his lesson was dedicated to him explaining the Korean alphabet, how he got his family name, and some more background history about him.  A little off topic of course, but it's always interesting and a good beginning to know a little about who's teaching you.  He also explained how he used to be a pretty keen shot when he was in the Korean Army for a few years (think they do/did national service), so he did a lot of shooting, the result being a seriously reduced frequency range for his ears.  This means he cannot hear us at all if any background noise is sounding at the same time as we are.  Currently, my only worry from our classes we've had so far is how well he'll be able to explain things to us - I say this as he begun at a very slow pace explaining simple things very clearly - we already understood these principles from maths.  Then he suddenly accelerated massively and we were all left scratching our heads as to some of the things covered in the 5 seconds that had whizzed by.  I'm sure once we've had a few more classes we'll know where we stand on that.

For the Thermodynamics we have our trusty Maths teacher, who explains things in a way we can all understand easily, so we're all glad about that. 

In workshop our group have started Power Plant and have been told we will spend 72 hours doing this.  Our instructor is brilliant and very generous with his time helping us to understand anything.  In Power Plant we will study boilers, different types of pumps, engines, valves, generators, refrigeration, air conditioning etc etc.  We will learn how they work, how to get into them to fix them safely (most importantly how to isolate them to work on safely), and how to move very heavy equipment around the workshop in order to do the former listed tasks.  Today was mostly spent looking at what we will cover in the time.  We also covered "Tag Out" systems - these are the systems companies use to identify what parts of a system have been taken out to safely repair it.  Certain procedures are followed, including padlocks and labels added to parts to stop them being used and indicating which parts have been taken out.  If properly followed this means you can't have somebody turning on a machine you are working on and killing you.  What was stressed to us is that all companies have drastically different systems for this, so shortly after getting on board we need to understand how they run their system, so we can be safe.  Aside from this we learned what is considered the one Engineering Malpractice - not knowing the consequences of what you are about to do to something.  For example if you are about to use a tool in a way it wasn't designed for, then you better know what's the worst that could happen.  IF you don't, then you could do something very stupid.  The end of the session was dedicated to using the lifting gear to move a purifier (different types but some separate oil from dirt and water or fuel from dirt and water etc) across the workshop safely.  Oh, and we also covered Permits to work.  These are used by companies as a job brief when carrying out jobs at sea.  They describe what the job is, how it will be safely performed, what systems it will involve (including what "Tag Outs" will be used.  So we covered a bit about confined spaces in amongst this.  Quite a few people die every year entering confined spaces so it's something the MCA are very hot on now, especially when it comes to the end oral exam, so you need to know you stuff. 

What did amuse me today was that our instructor made a few mentions of touching wood during the session, and I did notice that he had a block of wood on the bench in front of him that he touched each time.  I found out later the piece of wood actually had another use than just  being there for safety.  He also explained to us that although the majority of our workshop time would be spent welding, turning, milling, fitting etc, we would not be doing those at sea.  What we cover in powerplant will actually be what we are doing day to day at sea.  So it's rather unfortunate that only 72 hours are spent doing this, compared to about 300 hours of the other parts. 

Friday, 23 April 2010

Exam today!

Today we have the next Maths exam which completes our first Maths module in the course.  This is worth 60% of the module (last exam was worth 40%).  Once we've completed this we don't have to do more Maths until we come back in phase 3 to do the Further Maths module.  However, starting on Monday we have Thermodynamics and Mechanics.  I'll let you know how the exam goes.  I'll also post an update soon on what we've been doing this week.  Timetable has filled up now, so we have full days from 9am until 5pm everyday, except Friday where we finish at 4pm. 

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Snow, Sunsets, Circles And Circuits

So we're back at Warsash now getting into the routine again.  Easter was fantastic.  Emily and I climbed Snowdon with a couple of friends and it was a great time to do it.  There had been a few dumps of snow in the previous days so everything near the top was whiteout.  Near the top the mist was thick and visibility was down below 50 feet.  So, the ascent was slow near the top and if it had begun to snow we'd have to have turned around for safety.  The descent was tricky when near the top as the snow was so compacted it was very slippery.  If any of us had slid much we could have been off the edge - particularly as nothing was visible so you could easily have wandered off too far and lost it.  Anyway, a few photos below.

It was gloriously sunny nearer the bottom, and at one point on the descent we could see the summit - something fairly rare on Snowdon.

Emily and I also managed to steal three days at the end of Easter to go to the Peak District.  We stayed near a village/town called Mattlock and explored the surrounding areas with some walks.  Most notably we climbed Kinder Scout, the mountain and highest peak there.  It was only 633m so no Snowdon or anything, but it was trickier work as the ascent involves a long scramble up a lot of rocks.  The views were fantastic and due to the great visibility I'd actually rate it better than Snowdon.  It was slow coming down especially on the rocks, as they're much harder to descend than ascend.  You have to be careful as one fall and you'd probably be very injured with not much chance of getting back down.  Anyway, we were fine and enjoyed it a lot.  Unfortunately I don't have the photos of that yet as the films haven't been developed.  

Incidentally, I entered the modern era of photography this week, as Emily and I bought a Nikon Digital SLR.  I've watched a couple of sunsets with this already, and been able to take many more pictures than with my Pentax on film.  I would have paid £40 in just developing by now for what I've taken in two days!  I'll still use the Pentax though, as film rocks.  


Hope you like those. (You should be able to click on them to make them bigger so you can see them properly).

So I guess I should probably tell you what I've been up to this week.  We've started two new modules: Engineering Drawing, and Marine Legislation and Management.  So far in the latter, we've just talked about life at sea, but soon we're going to begin the important part; learning lots of rules about what we can and can't do at sea.  This is a vital part of keeping your job at sea - knowing what rules and regulations apply where.  Get it wrong and you could end up losing your job, in prison or dead (worst case scenario).  It's supposed to be boring, so we just have to learn it.  Final exam will just be a memory test as far as I'm aware.  The coursework will involve more research.  We've only had two sessions of engineering drawing, so we've not done much yet, but below are a couple of photos of what I have done so far.  (Not perfect by any means). Lots of circles to draw with a compass!

Finally, we've just had the last two days of our Fault Finding course in electronics.  We had the test today - a circuit with a fault and less than five minutes to find it.  Almost everyone passed and it took us less than a minute each to find the fault, so we were all happy with that.  Real life will not be so easy, but as far as we understand, we probably won't be relied upon for such expertise on ship.  They'll leave it to someone who knows what they're doing I expect!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Battery Deaths & Easter

Well we're now on Easter Holiday until the 12th April.  Then we go back and stay at Warsash until August 9th when the college term ends and we go away to sea.

Apart from our usual Maths, we've been in workshop doing an 8 day fault finding course in electrical circuits.    Interestingly, we were told that even a small battery can potentially kill you.  Your normal resistance as a human is about 300 Ohms.  If you are particularly tired, or have had a big night on the drink etc, then your resistance can be much lower, and this is when it's possible to be hurt by so small a voltage/current.  I've certainly never heard of it myself, and am yet to find a willing test subject.

The first two days of the course were very basic, with us just proving ohm's and kirchoff's laws.  For those of us that didn't know, we were also taught how to use a multimeter properly.  We weren't allowed to use the "big boy" expensive multimeters until we'd proved this.  The next two days we spent actually studying control circuits and how to fault find in them.  (SEE PHOTO FOR WHAT WE'VE BEEN FAULT FINDING ON).  Control circuits are in lots of pieces of machinery.  An example would be where you have a green "on" switch and a red "off" switch (you can have more than one red switch).  You press the green switch to power up the circuit and it remains powered until someone hits one of the red "off" switches - often safety circuits in production lines or workshops.  Oh, and we're not allowed to say "on" or "off" now when referring to switches etc.  "On" is "made" or "closed", and "off" is "broken" or "open".  Also we're not allowed to say "bulbs".  They are "lamps".  I'm sure you'll catch me out next time you speak to me.

So, for now I've just got the Maths exam to look forward to, and the beginning of Engineering Drawing and Marine Legislation, which both begin when we're back.  Once we've had the Maths exam we will stop doing any Maths, until we come back from our first sea tour.