Saturday, August 09, 2008

Control engineering = maths + fun?

Control is one of the main use of electrical engineering. We study how to control stuff (machines, motors, switches, devices) using our knowledge of maths, physics, electronics, and also software programming. And believe me, it involves huge amounts of maths...! (at least that's what you'll think if you read any textbook on Control Enginnering)

Maths. This scary word once led me not to go further down the track of Control Engineering. I think i'm starting to regret it... :D

I can't forget a very good lecture on Control Enginnering by Prof. Kawabe from Kyushu, Japan, just a couple of weeks ago when he said,

"Control engineering is not maths. Maths is only a tool..."

Then he continued the first part of his lecture with no maths at all! He successfully explained basic concepts of control theory without any maths, totally different than what i've got during my undergrad years in Gadjah Mada... Had he gave that lecture to us 8 years ago, i might have considered a different career path... as a control engineer ;-)

It's true.

Control engineering is fun.

There's always a REAL problem to solve. Whether its simply controlling the speed of a 3-phase induction motor using soft-starting, or whether there's a gigantic manufacturing plant with hundreds of sensors, dozens of actuators, and hundreds of meters of wiring, a REAL problem (usually these problems correllates to ca$h in the case of manufacturing plants) will always be there for us control engineers to handle.

And the tools that's available for this control thing is also not less interesting. In fact, they're more like toys to play with! ;-)
(reminds me of Lego)

With computer technology, we now have very small programmable controllers, more commonly known as PLCs or programmable logic controllers, that are so easy to program, and so powerful with their ability to control and monitor the process of a whole plant.

I've spent the whole past week attending a training held in my University. We learned how to use Schneider's PLC products, including Twido, and it turns out to be a very exciting experience.

It would be more interesting though if I really had the chance to actually use these toys in real factories.... i wonder how "fun" would it get =D

Saturday, August 02, 2008

not just an ordinary week

There's been almost too many things happening the past week, some very interesting, a few so annoying, and several were infact fascinating. It didn't feel as long as a week, it went so fast that I am now wondering how on earth can today be a weekend again!??

The happy stuff first. I've got my name listed in IEEExplore, since my conference paper was accepted. I think i've posted something about it. Then there's the examination results of my thesis, i need to do a minor revision. Prof. Kwok congratulated me already for this in his email. (still working on the revision, though)

The interesting part. Pak BST and I went to Solo for some business trip (please bear in mind we're academics, not business people... nevertheless our purpose to go there was more commercial-minded in nature). We discussed our problems and business goals with someone from ATMI, the technical school whom we trust to work on the packaging work of 'our-future-products'.

Also, last week was probably the coldest week i've ever encountered throughout my whole life in Jogja. It's over now though, yesterday was warm as usual.

Another interesting thing, Prof. Kawabe from Kyushu University visited our department. He brought with him some very interesting insights and opinions about us. He thinks our department has something not many other schools have: we made some of our own lab experiment modules by ourselves. Hey, see? We should be self-confident with ourselves :-)

Now, the annoying part. I was driving my parent's car last sunday, and when I drove across a wide intersection, I smashed a motorcycle who turned right not far in front of me from the opposite direction. It was as if he was blind and did not notice that I was very close to him when he decided to turn --without any signals of course--. I had to bring him to the hospital since he was shocked and did not move at all right after the crash. (me too was shocked!)

After a CT scan and one night staying at the hospital, he felt much better and he had nothing serious to worry about. He's about the same age as me, and looking from the way he stares at me, I am pretty certain he doesn't blame me (he even smiled at me on the bed at the hospital). Nevertheless, I agreed to cover half of the medical treatment expenses... but none for his motorbike's damage cost.

This accident have traumatized me for a couple of days such that I can't drive normally without swearing and yelling to other motorists... I even prefer going to work by bus. I'm still recovering now, but I still choose not to drive whenever i can.

So, this is the lesson i've learnt this week: