Msc Innovative Technology Engineering Education Essay

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In my second year of studying the MSc in Innovative Technology Engineering course and attempting my second reflective essay I can say that I have changed for the better since my commencement one year previous. Certainly my perceptions of the course have changed; the concerns that I entertained of maybe not having the capabilities in fulfilling the requirements of the course have been discounted. I have proved to myself that my brain can function again which is good. Getting over the resistance to studying; getting my mind to concentrate and not continuously presenting negativity was a major insight. I have learned not to always trust my thoughts but to apply reason. My initial fears of presentations have majorly reduced from last year when this fear dominated my first term in college.

Returning to college after the summer holidays was seamless, no anxiety present. A new academic year and a new class. This class consisting of twenty students in total one of which is female. The average age level has lowered having seven students coming straight from finishing the BSc honours' course and some others having just two or three years elapsed since finishing their degree. There was a sense of openness and welcome at an early stage within the class more so than the previous year, this is probably because a lot of the students knew each other.

The first morning in the class room I thought to myself "do they really know what they have got themselves into". I felt that they should be advised of what the MSc Innovative Engineering Technology programme has in store for them. At every opportunity I reminded those in my company of the heavy work load that lays ahead describing student's experience of the previous year. I highlighted the importance of completing assignments immediately especially those group ones because coming near the end of term pressure starts building. I felt somewhat like there coach.

The following sections of this essay contain reflections and comments of my experiences in participating in three modules of this course. The first one is called Professional Communication which includes a section on presentation skills, this caused some concern; I somewhat feared presentations; but knew that this section will help me to overcome it. The second is Nanotechnology which I knew very little about, the very little I knew from researching for others modules gave me an interest in doing it. Also I will have the opportunity to do lab work "something very new for me". The alternative was Quality Management & Regulatory affairs which I thought that by acquiring the notes I could study by myself at some stage. Finally Mechanics of Materials is the third module which I studied at some level over thirty years ago.

Professional Communication

This module prepares the student in both Verbal and Written communication to Masters level standard. The aim is to provide the student with a high standard of written and oral communication on technical matters. The assignments requirements for this module is this Reflective Essay; A Critique of a technical paper; and Presentations.

In our first class we were asked to introduce ourselves and give a brief description then later that day we were arranged in groups and asked to give a presentation on a given topic using posters as an aid. This introduction to Professional Communications alerted me as to what the future has in store for this module; it meant presentation practice, practice and practice. At this point some fear was present in the system but my attitude was good and positive to confront this fear and enabled me to let go very strong but false ideas of myself with presentations. I knew that this is what I needed, and practice within the friendly surroundings of the class setting is ideal. After a number of presentation practices, I gradually improved my performance to move from close to end place in the class towards class average. Each presentation attempted, helped to improve confidence for the next

For this section of Professional Communications we have two assessments; one was a group poster presentation and the second was an individual dragons den presentation. The week before the group presentation we were surprised to have another presentation class (the lecturer for paper critique was not available). This certainly became a bigger surprise when we were asked to present for two minutes on "the person you admired the most". We had twenty minutes to prepare. This rocked my confidence somewhat and for the first few minutes my mind was throwing up complaints and oppositions to carrying out this task. After about five minutes I collected myself, paused, looked around the room and acknowledged that this is what must be done, I cannot get out of this: so on accepting this I commenced preparing my presentation on Nelson Mandela. My mind came far clearer and information was transferred to the page with little effort.

When my turn came I had cue cards prepared and reassured myself that if my memory failed or get bogged down I could read the cue cards, so the important thing was to start. So I started and finished two minutes later without using the cue cards or sticking to the script. Words just flowed out and sentences were formed that made perfect sense; it was as if I was hearing them for the first time. My body language was natural and relaxed with good eye contact. This was a good experience which was needed. It proved a useful confidence builder for the coming weeks presentations which I am glad to say went off quite well. In hindsight if I had been given a choice I would probably have avoided this class and forsaken the opportunity to gain useful experience. It tells me that what we are presented with we must do and not avoid, because it is there for our own good.

Mechanics of Materials

This module was concerned with theory and application of the principles of mechanics of materials. It considers the different loading combinations, stress calculations and modes of failure of various structures. It basically was all maths using various formulae and procedures to achieve solutions. I found that the Three Hour for mechanics was quite long and tiredness would normally arise during the afternoon. It would have been better if this module was scheduled first thing in the morning rather than the afternoon. The lecturer went through material at a good pace, covered a lot of material in each class. I discovered that understanding the material during the lecture was not enough; one must continuously practice the sample questions in order to keep up, otherwise you would be left behind.

Early on in the term we received an exam worth 10% of final mark. This exam having three questions, to complete two, was well positioned in the module. Firstly it ensured that the notes to date were studied and highlighted the volume of material covered. Also it gave practice in doing exams. This was useful for me having not completed this type of exam for many years. The questions themselves were not that difficult but doing the exam highlighted the errors that can be made in the moment when the attention is somewhat scattered or when confusion sets in. I made a point of revising what was covered in the class within the same week; I found that this practice was good exercise for the brain. This seems to have worked because in the final exam I completed all questions with a good level of success. As part of the continuous assessment, we were arranged in group's of two, to design a crane structure. We were requested to analyse the force distribution and stress distribution and to optimize the structure under those loading conditions. This allowed me to use the theory learned in a practical situation and allowed for a greater understanding.

On occasions while studying the mechanics some of the topics would raise memories of my days is college in a previous incarnation; faces and names of lectures and fellow students would arise in mind. Nostalgic indeed one wonders where they are now. When I finished college in the early eighties the economy was in recession similar to the present situation. But then emigration was the short distance to England for work. At that time having not experienced a "Celtic Tiger", we did not experience a significant difference in our lifestyle. I was fortunate to gain employment locally after a spell working on the family farm. About half of my class would have emigrated to find suitable employment but most returned a number of years later when the situation improved. Most of these would have completed an MSc within ten years of graduating. I always felt that I should have also completed an MSc programme, but for various reasons it did not happen. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity now to take part on a MSc course and experience student life once more. Of course the situation have changed considerable from my days as a student, a time of no P.Cs, Internet, Mobile phones. I sure students now must wonder how we survived.

Nano Technology.

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, manipulate and organise matter at the nano scale (1x10-9 ) By manipulating the physical and chemical properties of a conventional material at this scale, unique material attributes and chemical reactions which are not present in the conventional material can be achieved. This module was the most interesting of all the modules covered to date.

The assessments for this module were to write a number of essays and complete a number of lab reports. Together with an exam worth 20 % of total. This encouraged the student to research many fields within the nanotechnology. The lab sessions I found useful because it allows us to actually view material at the nano level using an Atomic Force Microscope and Scanning Electron Microscope.

Nanotechnology is a sort of umbrella term for a host of varied technologies, products, services and other interventions it is considered to be the technology of the 21 st century and may dramatically influence almost every major industry worldwide.

In the field of pharmaceutics and medicine, for example we learned that medical practice could be transformed from disease diagnosis and treatment to disease prediction and prevention. For example smart implants with tiny sensors could measure the chemistry of the host, revealing relevant information that may provide a means of monitoring and managing therapeutic dosing remotely.

It is also conceivable that in the near future a health care provider may easily identify genetic predisposition to a disease, they may identify a virus or bacteria responsible for an infection. These new nanotechnologies could enable more specific therapies, allowing local delivery of drugs which will increase efficacy and reduce exposure to toxic compounds. This can have the advantages of reducing diagnosis time and enable wider access to health care.

The ability to identify genetic predisposition to a disease may also have unintended consequence. It raises questions such as, how does genetic information effect the individual and societies perception of the individual. Who has access to genetic information? How will it be used? Say for example that the predictive health profiles of individuals were available to health insurance companies; it could totally transform the insurance industry.

It was interesting to learn how Engineering and the Sciences are converging at the nano scale to study biologically evolved nanoarchitecture to learn how nature builds from bottom up; and used these principles for to inspire manmade architecture. The use of natural systems that have developed over millions of years giving fully tested solutions and functionality can offer valuable sources of inspiration for developing solutions to current problems. The answers seem to be already here in the creation, we just require technological advances to aid in the discovery of them.

On researching in the Quantum mechanics area I found information that comes close to Philosophers and Mystics understanding of creation essentially that the creation is an illusion, "energy flowing through form". What follows summarises my understanding of the information I studied while researching on wave/particle duality.

At the subatomic level we cannot observe something without changing it;(Heisenberg uncertainty principle) there is no such thing as an independent observer who can stand on the side line watching nature take its course without influencing it. Light can be shown by experiment (Cromptons Experiments in 1924) to have wave like charactestics and particle like characteristic but not at the same time. It is reasoned that they are not properties of light but are properties of our interaction with light implying that light has no properties independent of us, in other words, light does not exist? De Broglie in 1924 postulated that this wave particle duality is characteristic of everything. In a similar manner without light or by implication anything else to interact with, we do not exist? Therefore the world consists not of things but of interactions. Is science going to prove what the great Mystics and Philosophers have expressed down through the ages? All very exciting.

Conclusion

I have completed two thirds of the modules for this Masters course, remaining is the final four modules and the project. In general my attitude has changed for the better since I started. The self learning aspect to the course necessated the regular research of topics. This developed my ability to abstract relevant information from the vast sources of information which are now available. Apart from books and research papers there is a great deal of information to be gained from patents, and all accessible from your computer. Things have certainly changed from the days of interlibrary loans and microfiche. What I did find initially is that I would loose myself in reading interesting information but not relevant to the current assignment this had to be curtailed in order to keep to my time table. By understand, assembling and presenting this information presenting in both written and verbal format certainly improved my communication skills; I know that there is still work to be done.

Apart from receiving relevant information and up skilling for employment in the various industrial sectors, participation in this course also gave some insights into my own being. How I react to situations, operate under pressure highlighted some false ideas that I harboured. I was amazed at the strength of resistance opposing studying and how impatient I became when information that I read was not retained after the first or second time of reading.

The module on Nano Technology was the most interesting subject to date. The fact that at the nano level, material can have very different properties to that of the bulk material. This characteristic may allow Nano technologies the power to dramatically influence almost every major industry worldwide. At the nano scale the wave like behaviour of matter becomes evident and influences the behaviour of the matter.

In the area of Quantum Mechanics, scientists in their continued investigation into what is matter "what is stuff made from", are coming to the conclusion that there is no matter "no thing" but energy in flux which is similar to what the Wise have ordained throughout the centuries. Is Science and Philosophy merging?

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