Engineer for a Day Program for High Schoolers
Early this week, OTM Inc received a call requesting another Engineer for a Day session for Ballard High School. We put one on in February of last year, which was both successful and mentioned in a Seattle PI article here. John Foster, a teacher in the Maritime Academy program at Ballard High school, asked if OTM and Seattle’s maritime heritage community can host the program on February 15. Coincidentally, this is the day before a big work party and the first session of Tugboat Night on the Arthur Foss. This timing is excellent, as it maximizes the time and money spent preparing for the programs.
The Engineer for a Day programs involve the steamer Virginia V, the fireboat Duwamishand the tugboat Arthur Foss. I’m already signed up to show participants how to start up the Arthur‘s diesel, so next I called Gary Frankel at the Virginia V to get him onboard for his famous steam lecture. Gary is always happy to talk about steam, especially since he’s convinced that this diesel thing is just a passing fad. Then I called Justin Blair, an engineer for the Washington State Ferry system who has helped teach the Engineer for a Day program before. He didn’t answer, which makes me worry since his schedule is hard to change and he is the only person I know who can teach students how to run the Duwamish’s generators.
I’ve been helping run the Engineer for a Day program for three years now. The classes each start by dividing the participants into three groups, which each spend one hour following an engineer through the start-up procedure and then operating the engine. After the hour is up, they shut it down and then switch boats. After every group has been on every boat, we gather again to discuss the similarities and differences of each power plant. The class is very fast-paced and gets people excited about the engine rooms—not just the decks and the bridges. If we’re lucky, we turn out some engineers, too. Northwest Seaport has information about this year’s programs on its website here–including the dates for the open-to-all Engineer for a day program.
The Engineer for a Day program is really amazing for two reasons. First, the students are able to get up close to three very different power plants: a direct-reversing diesel, a diesel electric, and a reciprocating steam engine. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that a member of the public can see all of these in one day—let alone one where high schoolers can be at the controls of each.
Second, it requires the corporation of many different organizations. A typical Engineer for a Day program involves Northwest Seaport, the Center for Wooden Boats, the Virginia V Foundation, the Puget Sound Fireboat Foundation, the Youth Maritime Training Association, and Old Tacoma Marine Inc—plus other supporters like the Seattle Parks Foundation that owns the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park where the program is held.
This is really encouraging, since the maritime heritage community that I worked in ten years ago almost never collaborated. Now, people are recognizing that collaboration is essential to preserving the historic ships in Seattle and in other ports. I think that preservation groups and museums need to follow some of the principles of for-profit corporations. Rather than treating some of the groups like a sick friend (high hopes, no demands on performance, and often no action), collaborative programs helps pull them together by holding each accountable and demanding that they pull their own weight. The program also gives the collaboration an attainable goal to drive the weak organizations forward, while the strong organizations receive a new set of resources and a broader audience. I really enjoy watching the Engineer for a Day programs and other collaborative efforts pull the different groups together.
OTM Inc’s new discussion board is awesome, but it doesn’t quite work yet. Early this week, the whole OTM Inc team was very excited by our launch into Web 2.0 with the new discussion board and a presence on many networking sites ( like Flickr and YouTube). We are now web interactive and want to see your posts with questions, answers, pictures, stories, and warnings from the whole heavy-duty diesel community… just as soon as we get the discussion board back online now that the trial session has run out. SO STAY TUNED…
OTM Inc is working very hard to broaden and deepen the heavy-duty diesel engine community and the web is our most important tool. We are committed to keeping these engines running, but unfortunately the world is losing the most valuable information available: that gained from experience. Now is the time for the next generation of heavy duty diesel engine mechanics to make recording the retiring work force’s stories as much a priority as repairing the engines. The web is the best meeting room available for this exchange and OTM Inc wants to be at the table.
And Now a Little “Real” Work
First, OTM Inc put in a call to Bob the foreman at Everest Engineering to check on progress of the throw-out bearing for the Washington Iron Works diesel engine in the Arthur Foss. The bearing failed due to operator error while cruising in 2001. When the clutch needed adjustment and slipped, the engineer on duty leaned on the clutch wheel, thinking this action would engage the propeller shaft. Instead, this maneuver just melted out one side of the babbitted throw-out bearing. While this damage is not necessarily debilitating, the owners want to keep the engine in good condition and sent the bearing to be re-babbitted.
Babbitt is a soft alloy of tin and other metals that serves as a low-friction contact surface when it’s kept properly lubricated and machined. It’s melted and poured into moulds around the bearings, then machined smooth down to the fractions of an inch required by the engine specifications. Here’s a picture of melted babbitt:
and another picture of a mold just after melted babbitt was poured in:
Everett Engineering replied to my call that “we are making progress on it.”
OTM Inc also put in a call to Wayne Dutton at Alaska Copper & Brass to check on progress of the heat exchanger tubing bundle for the Enterprise diesel in the Maris Pearl. Here’s a diagram of heat exchanger tubing like that in the tug:
The company positioned the brass end plates of the tube bundle in the original configuration, slid in about 400 new copper-nickel tubes (a pricey option), and then installed a clamp around the end plates to hold its shape while all the tubes are rolled in using a little tapered mandrill with three rollers. This expands the tube to seal it against the brass end-piece. Here’s a picture of the tube bundle on the factory floor:
Alaska Copper & Brass also replied to my call that “progress is being made.”