A Journal of Applied Mechanics and Mathematics by DrD
© Machinery Dynamics Research, 2016
Becoming An Expert -- Part 2
In the previous article on How To Become An Expert, I covered a lot of points in generalities with some short anecdotes from my own experience. In this article and the next, I will describe in considerably more detail a critical period in my own formation, an time of considerable professional embarrassment which was a real spur to learning.
In the summer of 1974, I took a position as the head of the engineering analysis section with a large diesel engine distributor in Houston, TX. This company purchased diesel engines, mostly from General Motors (GM) and packaged them on a skid with some driven machine such as a generator, a pump, air compressor, or other driven machine, along with the required controls. For me, it was a fascinating place to be as I had always been intrigued by diesel engines. I soon found out how little I actually knew about the whole matter.
The analysis section consisted of three other engineers (two men from India and a lady from Turkey) and myself. The men were there before I came, and I hired the lady. They were all good workers, but they were best at following directions. They did not ask "Why?" very often. If this is the way it had been done previously and nobody objected, they would repeat that same pattern over and over without wondering why we do it that way. More about that aspect later.
This was a time of great activity in terms of nuclear power plant construction in the USA, and the company was building a lot of very large engine-generator sets to serve as standby power in nuclear power plants. In a nuke plant, pumps continuously supply cooling water to the core to take away the heat and as a means to move heat to the steam generators. If those pumps fail for any reason, the core can over heat and meltdown, a major catastrophe. The great fear was that the pumps would lose power from their regular supply, in which case the standby generators would need to start up and provide power to the pumps. The proposed cause of loss of power was an earthquake, and that meant that the standby generator set must survive the earthquake and be able to start and run.