Saturday, October 03, 2015

Knowledge – Skill Dichotomy in Engineering

Yesterday I spoke at an engineering college festival. The creativity and enthusiasm of students was heartening. In the afternoon they had planned a workshop on use of a popular software tool for heat exchanger design. My task was to prime them for this workshop. During the Q&A session at the end of my talk, I sensed a significant lack of grasp of fundamentals among students. Later while having lunch with some of the faculty, I learned that the popular software tool has now been appropriated into the syllabus; the intention being to enhance the employability of students. This revelation was quite disconcerting. 

Universities are where students seek knowledge. They gather knowledge and hone it by interaction with teachers and other students. Universities also build character, but that is not the subject of this blogpost. When teachers and students are already struggling to complete the traditional chemical engineering curriculum, any new initiative to impart skills on software application has to be at the expense of time allotted for fundamental studies. 

In engineering, unlike trades, skill cannot be a substitute for knowledge. Teachers also probably find it easier to impart skills rather than knowledge. This is an adverse fall-out of the burgeoning coaching class industry. It is also a collateral damage of the IT explosion, which is more skill than knowledge based. An obsession with tool numbs the mind and makes it less open to new ideas. Chemical engineering, which is more science based than other engineering disciplines, can ill afford such a mindset in its practitioners. 

Do skills, like mastery of a specific software tool, increase the employability of engineers? The answer is an unequivocal no. Skills are best learned on the job and industry is more than willing to invest time and effort towards this. Skills are also job specific and there is no one shoe that fits all. Once engineers enter industry, they will have very little time and inclination to revisit the underlying principles of their practice. Universities are the best place for engineers to acquire knowledge and this is a tradition worth preserving.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Control Valve Selection

I learned a golden rule of thumb on selection of control valves that I cannot resist sharing.
Here it goes:
Select linear valve for controlling flow, level, pressure and composition. Select equal percentage valve for controlling temperature.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rediscovering the Joys of Chemical Engineering - From Laboratory to Kitchen

I delivered this LECTURE at the Chemical Engineering Conference (CHEMCON - 2011) on 27th December, 2011 at Bangalore. It is not too technical and is as much about food and cooking as about Chemical Engineering. So it should appeal to even non-engineers.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Coriolis Meter

Don't miss this fine 8 minute VIDEO on Coriolis Flowmeter.


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hazardous Area Classification

Haven't posted in a long time; this is actually my first post of this year. I want to share a link which provides a 5 minute primer on Hazardous Area Classification, a subject that many process engineers find technically challenging and confusing. This primer should help in clearing some cobwebs and stimulate further reading for a deeper understanding of the various codes and practices that are followed in the industry. There is considerable amount of theoretical understanding behind the practice of Hazardous Area Classification and I would like to see it included in undergraduate chemical engineering curricula. Industry should actively push this case to get "safety-primed" process engineers.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Double Volute Pump

I had a question regarding Double Volute Pumps and found some excellent references on the web:





One line summary : Consider Double Volute design if the pump has to operate away from its BEP for most of the time, it will eliminate most of the radial thrust due to such operation.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Ecstasy of Commissioning