Monday, 24 March 2014

Minister Rabbitte to deliver Annual Spring Lecture

We are honoured to have Minister Pat Rabbitte to deliver the UCD Engineering Graduates Annual Spring Lecture on April 3rd next in the Clinton Auditorium Belfield at 7pm on the topic "Meeting Ireland's Energy Challenge".

Minister Pat Rabbitte

Last year we had Regina Finn for this lecture then Chief Executive of the Water Regulation Authority for England and Wales and that was another highly timely and eventful gathering as will be this year's Lecture on a timely and critically important economic and social topic.

Pat Rabbitte TD is the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources which is a huge Government portfolio covering Energy, Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Postal Service and Oil/Gas Exploration. He is responsible for a huge number of semi-state bodies including ESB, EirGrid, Bord Gais, RTE, TG4, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), An Post, Bord na Mona and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

He is a TD for Dublin South West since 1989 and was leader of the Labour Party from 2002 to 2007. He was the Dail's longest serving member of the Public Accounts Committee. He was previously Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for Commerce, Science and Technology.

Energy policy traditionally concentrated on 'ensuring a secure, sustainable and competitive energy environment'. That is so but the current Government have a higher ambition and that is to ensure that energy policy also supports inward investment, growth and jobs as part of economic recovery.

It’s the same strong message we got last Autumn from the Taoiseach when he came to address us on 'Manufacturing Engineering and Job Creation' - where he said 'the Government's top priority and a strong manufacturing sector is essential to growing our exports to sustain and create jobs in innovative home grown business as well as foreign companies who locate in Ireland'.

It’s reassuring to see that in this area of Job Creation in Ireland there appears to be very strong 'joined up thinking' among the Departments at Government level.

We expect the Minister will concentrate on the 'big picture' policies that will inform the Energy Green Paper from Government later this year and make reference to the current strategies for onshore and offshore renewables. The Minister may also make some reference to the implementation of the North South Interconnector, Grid Link and Grid West projects which are at different stages of development.

Media commentators are firmly linking the roll out of new grid projects with new onshore wind projects in the Midlands and assuming that if the onshore wind export projects do not proceed that this will obviate the need for the new grid development projects. Not so - as I'm reliably informed that these projects are quite independent of each other. The new EirGrid projects are still all required whether the export wind projects proceed or not.

Onshore Wind Farm

The vast majority of Engineers accept the need for the new Grid Development projects as part of the Grid 25 Strategy approved by Government. The vast majority of Engineers also support the ongoing development of onshore and offshore wind as does the Government. There are a small number who don't and they are often mischievously quoted by opposition groups against wind farms and grid development as being representative of the engineering profession when they are not.

Overhead Power Line

These are primarily issues for the development organisations and not for the Minister who sets Energy Policy and an implementation framework in which the transmission projects are developed. One such framework policy was the Government Policy Statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and other Energy Infrastructure published in June 2012.
We greatly look forward to what the Minister has to say at this critical juncture in our energy infrastructure development. One thing is clear - we need ongoing energy infrastructure development to match our ambition to regrow our economy, to encourage national and international investment and to accelerate job creation.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

EGA Spring Newsletter Published

The Spring issue of the new look Engineers Newsletter has just been published and circulated to all EGA Members.
It was fabulous to see a UCD Electronic Engineer Professor Orla Feely appointed UCD Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact. Note the last word 'Impact'! That tells me three things - firstly that Orla's track record is one of 'impact' on all the academic and industrial roles she has occupied. Secondly it also tells me that our new President Dr Andrew Deeks clearly wants very tangible research outcomes from future UCD Research.

Professor Orla Feely
Finally and most importantly I believe that the research efforts of the UCD College of Engineering has not received the finance and support systems it deserves - from Science Foundation Ireland and from UCD. I believe that both organisations now realise that and the appointment of engineering Presidents and Vice President will ensure that the mistakes of the past will not happen again.
If you look over my Blogs of the past year and indeed my Blogs two years ago as President of Engineers Ireland you will find repeated complaints from me on this very issue. Even the Irish media together with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland were rightly supporting the "Life Sciences" as driving Ireland's growth even in recession but perhaps not realising that it was Engineers and Engineering Manufacturing of products for export in IT, pharma and biomedical devices that was keeping the Irish economy barely alive for the past five years.
Of course the foundations sciences for this manufacturing were chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics but it was Engineering Design and Innovation that delivered the products for export. That message now also seems to have got to the Irish People as the huge surge for Engineering courses manifest themselves in this year's CAO applications.
Also we recorded the award of the UCD 2014 Foundation Medal to Dr David O’Reilly a 1968 Chemical Engineering Graduate who rose to become Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation based in US. He has been generous to UCD with setting up of the new UCD Energy Institute. Previous recipients of the Foundation Medal include Peter Sutherland, Maeve Binchy, Brian O’Driscoll and Bill Whelan.

Dr David O'Reilly
I was also delighted to see in the Newsletter a Memorial Symposium in honour of the late Professor ET Hanrahan. Eamon was certainly one of the 'founding fathers' of Geotechnical Engineering in Ireland. He lectured me for my Civil Engineering Degree and was fascinating to listen on the strength and behaviour of the glacial soils that overlay our bedrock in Ireland. I was also lectured on waste and wastewater by Professor Tom Casey who is also in the following photograph together with current Head of School Dr Mark Richardson and the Hanrahan family.

Pictured  (l-r): Dr Mark Richardson, Head School of Civil Structural
and Environmental Engineering; Prof. Máire Ní Annracháin, Professor of Modern Irish
Language and Literature; Emeritus Professor Tom Casey; Mrs. Deirdre Hanrahan;
Prof. Mairéad Hanrahan Department of French, University College London; Dr Tadhg
O'Hannrachain, Senior Lecturer, School of History and Archives; Dr Mike Long,
School of Civil Structural and Environmental Engineering
I was also much taken by the adventurous story of one of our most recent graduates. Fionán O'Sullivan graduated in Electronic Engineering only last year and went to work in the UK for Jaguar Land Rover. His is a story of daring manufacture having regard to 'torque control, regenerative breaking systems and management of high voltage batteries'.
Fionán O’Sullivan
It wasn't all 'work and no play' for our Fionán as describes the night life of Warwick a university town where he says that 'there is a fantastic after-work social scene'. He says there's also Coventry 'but there be dragons'. I can imagine.

My sincere compliments and thanks to Fionán and hope that through this edition on line his story goes far and wide to our many UCD graduates across the globe and whose happy stories we also want to hear and spread in this Newsletter.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Laying the Foundations for Future Second Level Education in Ireland

I chaired a well attended meeting of the EGA Board in UCD on Monday night last. The highlight of the meeting was the presentation by Dr Anne Looney Chief Executive of the National Council of Curriculum and Assessment on the reform at Second Level.

Dr Anne Looney CEO National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
Anne gave us an update on Project Maths which is now practically implemented in full at Junior and Leaving Certificate level. It will however take years to embed fully in the Second Level curriculum. Anne advised us that the most difficult part of the Maths course is still Algebra. Vectors and Matrices have been dropped by Project Maths in favour of greater intensification in Statistics and Probability.
The new Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA) will be a mixture of local assessment and national assessment which is radically different than the current Junior Cert. Even the local assessment though is centrally set and the schools have more discretion on the subject taught apart from the core subjects.
Programme for Roll-out of Project Maths
Another current deficit being addressed 'head on' is the transition from Primary to Second Level where in future the Primary term will end at Christmas in 6th class and an introduction to the new Junior Cycle will overlap with Primary for the period Christmas to June. This is a radical new transition designed to create a much more seamless transfer from 6th Class Primary to 1st Year Secondary.
Courtesy of
In the question and answer session there were some robust exchanges with Anne who is well able to defend her patch. Many of our Board Members were still in favour of the formal 'rigour' of set examinations. Anne confidently maintained that some of the adverse effects of moving from more formal assessment to greater freedom of choice and continuous assessment would not materialise.
I think that the NCCA is in good hands with Anne as CEO and their work is informed by the best educational minds we have. It’s exciting to witness the laying of new foundations for the education system to serve the new Ireland post recession and bailout. We owe a debt of gratitude to the work of the NCCA and to successive Ministers who have encouraged their work.

Key Skills for new Junior Cycle Student Award (JCSA)
The meeting was busy otherwise. We elected George Young (BE Elect 1974) Killian McKenna (BE Elect 2013) and UCD Careers Consultant Aisling Harkin to our Board. We selected Minister Pat Rabbitte TD to give the Annual Spring Lecture 2014 and we are honoured that he has kindly accepted our invitation – no date finalised yet. We will hold the Annual EGA Lunch in the National Concert Hall on Tuesday May 27th where we will present the 2014 Distinguished Graduate Award.
We agreed new criteria for the Distinguished Graduate Award. We reconfigured the distribution of EGA Gold Medals for those with best Grade Point Average (GPA) for the various ME and BE programmes and approved a new poster to advertise the Gold Medals in each of the UCD Schools of Engineering. This September on Conferring Day the EGA will present 8 Gold Medals for the various engineering disciplines.
Presentation of 2013 EGA Gold Medals (L–R) UCD Dean of Engineering Prof. Gerry Byrne,
Ian Kenny (Chem), Robert O'Donoghue (Mech), AndrasDankhazi (Arch), Claire Dunne (Biosystems),
Raymond Carley (Electronic), Eoghan Power (Civil), Conor O'Malley (Electrical), EGA President PJ Rudden.
Reacting to the low gender balance in UCD First Year Engineering of 15% female, we set up a Board Subcommittee chaired by Michael Loughnane to include David Timoney, Ann Fingleton, Louise McGuinness, Aisling Harkin and Killian McKenna to make recommendations to the EGA for future action in this area. We expect the Subcommittee on Gender Balance in Engineering to report later in the year.