On the use and abuse of Technology and its Management from the perspective of an academic at UCL specialising in Project Management, Systems Engineering and Space Science/Technology.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Philosophy of Engineering Design

To the Royal Academy of Engineering for a mini-conference on the Philosophy of Engineering Design.

You what?

Well, apart from the great, good and grey nodding sagely at society's lack of wisdom in taking more notice of engineers, it was a nice little exploration into the essence of design. Creativity came up a lot, but since this is engineering and not art or science, so did usefulness.

What's the use of a philosophy of design? Well, for me, it's as a step ladder off the flatland of business as usual, where we waste energy by using yesterday's processes against today's problems. The activity of philosophy is hard work, but real life should be easy by comparison. Philosophical, or let's just call them abstract, investigations into the nature of engineering processes should tell us why they are working and allow us to guess (it will only be a guess) what the better processes, for tomorrow's problems might look like.

Maarten Franssen showed us, as his comedy slot, the 16th century musket drill (take your fuse...). Taylorism in the military. Not for the first time I bet, it reminded my of Chinese martial arts forms. And Nelson had a gun drill too. The point of this training is to allow the actual work to go more quickly, without thought. The modern military strategist uses drills too, to close the OODA loop and to tailor processes rapidly.

Friday, March 02, 2007

ISS safety/threat analysis

A small wobbly hut 200 miles from anywhere, with a hazardous environment behind every door, wouldn't be my favourite place for a lab. But you know, those in the BAS or in submarines just have to put up with it. Technical strategies and management plans to deal with risks and hazards have emerged in these fields over time.

Here's another wobbly hut, far from anywhere, which sometimes acts a research station but is these days probably best regarded as a demonstrator for plans to go and set up huts even further away, like on Mars.
The owners have just released a summary of a safety investigation and risk analysis for the station. Very interesting reading - 4 MB PDF. For the impatient, they are worried about what we worry about: dust and bugs.