Thursday, 29 August 2013

Engineers Picnic a Great Success

The Engineers Picnic has been judged a great success by the large crowd who attended. The weather was not as 'fantastic' as forecast earlier in the week but it settled into a lovely evening in the Rose Garden after the initial drops of rain at the start.

People enjoying the Picnic!
We are very grateful to our Sponsors Eircom Networks, ESB and Eirgrid for their support and to our superb Picnic Committee of Karina O'Neill, Angela Treanor, Robyn Kelly and Tony O'Brien for their very hard work and dedication to see it through to such an acknowledged success. Thanks to UCD for the use of the fabulous Rose Garden - a little known amenity on the Belfield Campus beside Belfield House now known as the Clinton Institute.

Karina O'Neill & Robyn Kelly

The quality of the BBQ by With Taste Catering was excellent and the music by TradSoc in the Rose Garden and JazzSoc in the Clinton Auditorium played tastefully in the background. We are indebted to the Class of 1988 who came in large numbers including members from both UK and the US.

JazzSoc playing at the picnic

TradSoc playing at the picnic
Some friends from the Class of 1988

We are also indebted to the Energy Needs Ireland (ENI) students of Electrical Engineering led by Professor Mark O'Malley who had a superb multifaceted exhibition expertly manned in turn by most of their 21 enthusiastic members.

PJ Rudden, Mark O'Malley and ENI Students

These are highly talented 21 undergraduate students from universities throughout Ireland who are spending the Summer of 2013 working on the technical, business and social aspects of projects that are related to the "Smart Grid". The group will make unbiased findings on their views of the future for these projects.

The group includes mostly electrical/electronic engineering students but also students of theoretical physics, earth sciences, commerce, mechanical engineering, chemistry drawn from UCD, UCC, TCD, UL and QUB. It’s great to see this interdisciplinary approach with engineers not just talking and conferring with themselves but interactive and drawing expertise from other professional disciplines. This is how 'big picture' problems get solved in today's world and ENI is an excellent formative model for the students involved. 

ENI Students examining Energy Policies

A number of people who attended the Picnic were greatly taken by the ENI exhibition and students particularly by the enthusiasm with which they displayed their research, their ability to communicate and their thirst for knowledge and innovation. I too was bowled over by their individual and collective performance. Their practical demonstration as to how a Smart Meter works to save energy in the home is a good example that these students know who their real audience must be - John and Mary Citizen! - and how best to communicate this message.  I regard the ENI Exhibition as the highlight of the 2013 Engineers Picnic.

The ENI project is conducted with the financial support of Science Foundation Ireland and the Electricity Research Centre (ERC) in University College Dublin in collaboration with the Smart Grid Innovation Hub. ENI was set up by the ERC in 2007 and has operated every second year with growing success from an initial handful of students to 21 motivated young people from across Ireland in 2013.

Back to the Picnic itself! There was an excellent cross section of generations and ages there as the photographs clearly show and a lot of 'third generation' families not seen previously at an EGA event or indeed in UCD. 

Mother with future engineer???

'I'm really enjoying this picnic!'
Maria Blair, Gerry Byrne, Anne Morrissey, Seamus McCague, Anne-Marie McCague, PJ Rudden & Domhnall Blair

The event was briefly and dramatically interrupted by the landing of a giant cardinal red Sikorsky helicopter from the Irish Coastguard Search and Rescue Team bringing a man on a stretcher from where he was rescued on a Wicklow mountainside to a waiting ambulance on the UCD athletics track beside the Rose Garden.

When asked what was happening I was tempted to tell people that 'Its Pope Francis coming to the Picnic as he's a Chemical Engineer'! 'Habemus Papem' in our profession as our eminent EGA Founder Emeritus Professor John Kelly recently put it so well in the Engineers Journal!

Everyone who attended got a copy of the new Engineers Newsletter July 2013 to bring home - also a notice on the forthcoming EGA Panel Discussion on 'Engineering Manufacturing and Job Creation in Ireland' which will be opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at 6pm on October 22nd next.

Liam Connellan & Friends
UCD Engineering Graduates

Mc Carthy's, O'Brien's & PJ Rudden outside the Clinton Institute

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Fantastic Weather Forecast for the Engineers Picnic!

Great news today from the Met Office – next Saturday, 24th, will bring fantastic weather to the East Coast. We are expecting a huge crowd to attend the Engineers Picnic in the UCD Rose Garden kicking off at 4 p.m. with BBQ food, Music Fest and exhibitions.

We Are All Going to the Picnic!

All are welcome including family members and graduates attending don't have to be from UCD Engineering. This is an inclusive Gathering and you can book your tickets here.

Thank you again to our sponsors ESB, Eircom and Eirgrid for their generous sponsorship.

Friday, 16 August 2013

It Really Is Going to Be an Electric Picnic After All!

The UCD Engineers Picnic is fast becoming a real Electric Picnic with the generous sponsorship by ESB, Eircom and Eirgrid - lots of electricity there by the electrical, electronic and communications utilities! Thank you sincerely ESB, Eircom and Eirgrid for relieving our worries after our brave EGA Picnic Committee slashed the ticket prices from €40 to €20 per head to encourage as many young engineering graduates to attend as possible.

There's more exciting Electric news and that's the Engineering Exhibition on Smart Grids and Interconnection to UK and Europe which will be displayed by the Energy Needs Ireland (ENI) students under Professor Mark O'Malley of the UCD Electricity Research Centre (ERC).

Energy Needs Ireland at work

Added to that will be quality BBQ food by highly reputable caterers and a music medley by a combination of TradSoc and Jazzsoc, both of UCD, running from 4pm to 9pm - all in the ambiance of the UCD Rose Garden.

Book your ticket now here and see you in the Rose Garden. All are welcome not just UCD grads!

Project Maths is having Positive Impact

The new Project Maths approach to the learning and teaching of maths at Second Level is a good start but cannot be an overnight success. Reading the national media this week on the 2013 Leaving Cert results, one would think that Project Maths and bonus points are magic wands towards high maths literacy! They are not! It’s a whole new applied approach that will take years maybe a generation towards us fully understanding the everyday usage and value of maths in our everyday lives.

I gained an appreciation of the challenges faced by students and teachers of maths when, as Vice President of Engineers Ireland a few years ago, I chaired a Report on the Learning and Teaching of Maths and Science at Second Level Report. This Report led to a lot of welcome changes in the new approach adopted by recent Ministers of Education.

Everyone uses maths even when buying food in the supermarket. At higher level, complex maths systems lie behind modern day inventions like the iPhone, chemical processes, water treatment, flying aeroplanes, PC’s, electricity networks and Google on the Internet. Most of us don't know or care what maths lie behind these modern gadgets or systems and don't need to know as long as they work! When the lights don't switch on, then we tend to blame the engineers but when the lights do switch on (as in 99.9% of the time!) we rarely appreciate their value.

Project Maths is designed to help us gain a deeper understanding of what we are learning - to get us away from the 'rote learning' school systems of the past. Generations of students and teachers have been brought up to apply a diet of formulae and theorems 'learnt by heart' without needing to understand what they were doing. We are not going to change this overnight.

The early signs from Project Maths are very positive. Helped by extra bonus points for Grade D or better on the Honours Leaving Cert, the numbers sitting the Honours Maths paper this year are up more than 50%. That's good news. Also, the fear of taking the Honours Maths paper and not getting at least a Grade D and thus completely failing the Leaving Cert is now gone. That's more good news!

If suddenly the Leaving Cert grades were to dramatically improve overnight with Project Maths then we would say that the marking systems were now easier than before to make the new approach look good. The media would cry wolf again!

Of course, we can train our kindergarden and Primary school children to 'understand and think maths' from first principles. But this would take over 20 years before this year’s Junior Infants go into the workforce.

Even then I worry more about the teachers than the students. It was discovered lately that approx 60% of maths teachers in Second Level Schools had no degree in maths. They were unqualified to teach maths or were 'out of field' as a learned University of Limerick research report euphemistically put it. That issue once known is also now being addressed with extra teacher training which will also take years to embed. For instance many of the better teachers of the old system have no PC or lack any IT skills to take the new on-line learning on board. Many simply did not see the new unfamiliar Project Maths approach coming down the track.

Maths is a sensitive and critically important subject to get right as it will greatly impact on our future economic development as a nation. Decades of national systemic failure in the learning and teaching of maths will not be solved overnight but we have made a good start. Our failures in this respect were firmly understood by the previous Government who introduced the extra bonus points to improve student uptake at Honours LC level. This has certainly worked but as Minister Ruairi Quinn stated this week it’s only a temporary measure until we embed the Project Maths approach. The Minister is correct in defending the new syllabus as a work in progress that needs ongoing support by industry particularly in the engineering profession. I'm glad to see in yesterday's Times that he acknowledges Engineers Ireland to be one of the industry leaders on this issue.

I am delighted to report that Engineers Ireland are still giving the free Leaving Cert Maths Grinds on Saturdays during the school year and have extended the service beyond Dublin to the other major cities.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

New UCD Engineers Newsletter launched by EGA

A new Engineers eNewsletter has been launched by the UCD Engineering Graduates Association to keep Members and potential New Members fully informed on happenings in UCD and in Engineering in general.

The first Summer Edition dated July 2013 is available (here). Its up to date on all the main stories from the New UCD President, our latest Distinguished Graduate Award and of course the upcoming Engineers Picnic BBQ in the Rose Garden later this month. Don't forget to book the Picnic online on the EGA website homepage (here)! There's also a call to join the EGA at reduced cost (here)!

EGA Newsletter

The new Editor of the Engineers Newsletter is Dr. Ciaran McNally of the UCD Civil Structural and Environmental School. Ciaran has put together a superb e-publication in a short space of time. It is hoped to issue the Newsletter quarterly in July, October, January and April of each year. Members of the EGA are invited to contribute Articles, Letters to the Editor and Opinions directly to Editor Ciaran.

Editor Dr. Ciaran McNally

I would like to thank Dr. Liam Madden, Vice President Xilinx Corp in Silicon Valley, California. Also, EGA Board Members, Cormac Mannion for his piece on Energy Efficiency and Angela Treanor for publicising the Picnic also through Facebook. I've mentioned it myself on Twitter (@PJRudden) a number of times. The administration of the Picnic is now in the very capable hands of Karina O'Neill, Marketing Manager for the College of Engineering and Architecture assisted by Robyn Kelly on Entertainment and Tony O'Brien on Sponsorship. Karina, Robyn and Tony are also on the EGA Board.

I hope you enjoy the Engineers Newsletter which will keep up updated on what the EGA are doing. The idea of restarting the Newsletter came to me from a very informative meeting I had earlier in the year with 6 EGA Past Presidents - Tom Hardiman, Des Green, Liam Connellan, Colm Bannon, Tony O'Brien and Michael Loughnane - together with the UCD Dean of Engineering Gerry Byrne.