Monthly Archives: January 2008

UW Engineering Mentor Night

I attended the University of Washington “Engineering Exploration” evening earlier this week.  It’s a night where engineers from industry (“mentors”) get together to sit across tables from college students who are either in an engineering department, or who are thinking about applying to an engineering department.


The evening started out with free pizza for everyone (this is held on campus, after all).  Last year, the ratio of students to mentors was about 1:1.  This year, it was closer to 10:1.  The turnout was at least twice what the organizers had expected.  They had to order more pizza…


The students who came to sit down with me were all engaged and thoughtful.  They were there because they knew what they wanted to do, but not necessarily how to do it.  One student said (paraphrased) “I want to design something to save the world”.  He wasn’t even in a department yet; he was still trying to decide if engineering was the right choice.  I did my best to convince him that Mechanical Engineering would be an excellent choice – and that the energy industry offered opportunities to do just that (save the world).


The theme of the evening quickly became Sustainability.  Every student that I talked to was interested in something “green” or “good for the environment”, one student had even narrowed his interest to “how to create sustainable processes” – as applied to, basically, anything. 


It was a great evening.  I met some other engineers from the Seattle area – many from our largest engineering employer, Boeing, as well as some consulting firms, and other smaller companies (many of which design and build parts for the aerospace industry).  One comment stands out from the rest.  The coordinator, a former professor in ME, Dr. Scott Winter, said in his opening comments (quoted to the best of my memory):


“Engineers are unique, they don’t just fill jobs; they create jobs.”


How true that is.  Engineers are the people who come up with the next new idea, and in some cases, a whole new industry results, bringing with it all sorts of new jobs and opportunities.  One of these days, someone is going to “save the world” – and I’ll put my money on that someone being an engineer!


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Welcome 2008!

Hard to believe it’s been a year since I started T2E3 (Tina Toburen’s Energy Efficiency Enterprises).

2007 was a great year, and I’d like to thank all my clients and colleagues, past and present, that helped to make it so.

Coming soon to this blog will be more commentary on energy usage and efficiency.  Mainly as it relates to power generation facilities.

A friend recently re-introduced me to the concept of Kaizen:  small steps.  This is the philosophy of doing one small thing, something new or just different (hopefully better), until that one small thing becomes habit – then you can add the next, small, thing.  Before you know it, you’ve gone a lot further than you ever thought you could. 

This approach is very useful in power plant performance improvement. 

Baby step #1 (as Bill Murray’s character in “What About Bob” would say) is becoming aware of your current performance.  This may mean simply creating a heat rate trend on your operator screens, so you can watch your heat rate – when you’re not busy with other things.  Leave this trend up at all times – even if it’s buried in the background – so it’s easy to get to and you can refer to it quickly to see how changes in operating conditions have impacted your heat rate.

That’s it.  Baby Step #1.  I know you all can do just that much.

By the way – this simple use of awareness can be applied just about anywhere.  I love renting a car that has a mileage computer available – so you can watch your mpg move around as you step on the gas to pass a car, or coast down a hill.  Even if I don’t consciously change my driving habits, that simple awareness might just sink in and lift my lead foot every once and a while.

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