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Senior Design Lecturer 1983-85

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While working in Colorado in energy-efficiency consulting in 1983 Bob was invited urgently back to N.Z. to become the Senior Design Lecturer by Dr. Errol Kelly who was on a sabbatical nearby at School of Mines. Turned out his predecessor had just been seconded to Shell's NZ Refining Co to work on a forced $US1+ billion upgrade project, precipitated by early 80's Iran - Iraq war . Supporting it was Prof. Titchener: although no longer HOD, he was active in alternative liquid fuels, and University Vice-Chancellor Colin Maiden was on the N.Z. Liquid Fuels Trust Board.

(Note in 1985, I was approached by Mobil to train and supervise an intake of 9 new graduates to commission their $1.2 billion NZ SynFuel complex. It was an offer I could not afford to refuse, as our unsold house back in Colorado had been seized by the bank, due to lower value with the collapse of the US shale oil program. I regret having to leave: would have liked a few more years to fully develop teaching & design project materials, fine-tune the syllabi).

Arrived mid-academic year, in time to join a two-week bus tour of many process industry sites in the central North Island. The rest of the year with Michael Allen we jointly did the curriculum already planned. Bob also used that period to research & plan his own approach for next year.

2nd Pro year "Process Analysis and Economics" course already had a well-organized curriculum and text-books. He was able to add illustrative examples from his previous decade in the U.S. and backed that up with a list of 1,000 books and magazine article available in their Library.

For the "Process Design" course and Design project, Bob brought a different approach to that of my predecessors. Rather than all students on the same design project, he divided the students into groups of four. Each group was given a different process industry: alumina, brewing, brick-making, dairy, glass, fertiliser, formulations, methanol, pulp & paper, refining, steel. They all were given the same set of deliverables to produce, a scope, and a common basis of design.

Over the course of the Design project, each 3rd Pro team had to deliver at given milestones e.g. PFDs and UFDs, H&MB, unit process descriptions, utilities summaries, control narratives, layouts, waste/emissions summary, HSE issues ... didn't make them also do CapEx/OpEx - but he did use their projects as case studies for his 2nd Pro "Process Analysis & Economics" classes.

What he did need to get the Dean's approval on was this: all members of a team of four would get the same grade; plus he asked them for each team to choose a spokesperson, whom he met with weekly for discussion. The good thing that happened - just through sheer peer influence - is all of the teams got their less-productive members to contribute more, rather than slack off.

He also sectioned off of the end of the long C&M design studio, and six CBT stations installed for process design, with software pre-loaded for doing common engineering calculations - pre-PC. (& he taught Materials Engineering to skipper Russell Coutts who took America's Cup from USA)


Equally satisfying during his three years were two committee assignments. The first was being part of Engineering School curriculum redesign, going from year-long to two semesters/year. This gave opportunity for some specialisation within department offerings, and were able to add two courses dealing with engineering responsibility. One was ethically-based, using lessons from history - the other on current day impact of engineered projects & products on society.

He also served on Auckland University's campus-wide technology committee, a five-year plan for investment in distributed computing capabilities. This was in an era of moving from networked  minicomputers, like the VAX 11/780 with smart terminals, to networked personal computers.