,
Royal Academy of Engineering Undergraduate Programme
Royal Academy of Engineering
Eric Masaba
Imperial College - Aeronau...
The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology
Contents
Profile 3
Objectives 3
Introduction 4-5
Planning 4
Initial Cha...
The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology
Profile
I am a 21 year old undergraduate studying for a MEng degree in ...
The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology
Introduction
Perhaps by far the single biggest change to engineering an...
The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology
quickly and relevantly in order to develop those leads and finally by e...
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995
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RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995

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The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology

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RAEng Year In Industry Program 1995

  1. 1. , Royal Academy of Engineering Undergraduate Programme Royal Academy of Engineering Eric Masaba Imperial College - Aeronautics London • New York· Atlanta • Huntsville • Orlando . San Francisco • Los Angeles· London )':1! JuIJ!'21st • August 13th 1995 The Role of Computers In Transportation Technology An account of the experiences of Eric Masaba during the travel project bursary undertaken in the summer of 1995.
  2. 2. The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology Contents Profile 3 Objectives 3 Introduction 4-5 Planning 4 Initial Challenges 5 Travel Diary 6-8 Review 9 2
  3. 3. The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology Profile I am a 21 year old undergraduate studying for a MEng degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine. I will graduate in 1998. The third year of my course will be spent in a French Institution as an exchange student. At school I attained 9 GCSEs and 6 A levels. I enjoy both practical work and abstract topics, especially all aspects of language learning, this being manifest in my interest in computer programming. This coupled with a native aptitude for engineering related subjects steered me towards the general premise of engineering as a degree course. However, even at school I felt I needed more personal and practical development to round me as a person and an effective multidisciplinary teamworker. This is where the Royal Academy of Engineering has been so precious to me. I have participated in all of the stages of the Engineering Education Continuum so far, beginning in 6th form with the Engineering Education Scheme where I undertook a project sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. I followed up this experience with a Year in Industry with the National Grid Corporation in the South Eastern region. I feel that tomorrow's engineers are going to require a lot more than just academic prowess to truly make an impact on the global scene and face up to a wide variety of new and exciting engineering and business challenges. With this in mind I have resolved to make the most of my education experience and undertake personal development initiatives from the invaluable courses on offer from the Royal Academy of Engineering. My Year In Industry prior to the commencement of my degree course was such an extraordinary experience, enabling me to develop both professionally and personally. This occurred only due to the positive and fresh outlook I gained while on the Engineering Education Scheme. I have been involved with the Academy since 1990 and I can say that it has turned out to be the most fulfilling membership I ever have had. Objectives My plan for the summer of 1995 was to visit some of the technological sites in the continental USA. I wanted to see how transport systems are planned and managed in the States. Furthermore I had had no cultural exposure to America and felt that I needed to experience some time in that country to become a more culturally aware and balanced person. This trip promised to be a great chance to put my organisational skills into practice, learn a lot about managing myself and give me a grounding into striking out on my own. I had managed to secure a summer placement within an investment bank but was still able to take 3 weeks leave to complete my travel bursary. At the time of planning, I could not have realised just how well all these objectives would be met in the course of my trip. 3
  4. 4. The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology Introduction Perhaps by far the single biggest change to engineering and manufacturing technology has come from the application of computers to projects. These rapid information processing tools can handle millions of tasks per second, relegating previously impractical process undertakings to routine. Maybe nowhere has this been felt more than in transportation technology. Today we have intelligent control systems in our airliners, cars and ships with processors governing the fuel management systems in the engines powering them. Computers are involved at every stage of the life cycle of a complex transport system, enabling more people to be moved further, faster and more efficiently. Whether it is at the design, simulation testing, or feasibility study stage computers now play an invaluable role in shaping our engineering products. Travel bookings can be taken automatically, demand models can be produced and scheduling organised to maximise resources. The processing power of the computing machines we use is increasing at an unbelievable rate and accompanying this exponential development come more opportunities to implement the technology in more ways. This incredible expansion of computing processing power, if analogised to aviation development, would be akin to producing the Fll7 stealth fighter in 1930. In fact some of our more advanced aircraft could simply not fly if it was not for the application of computing processing power to aid in-flight stability. The scope computers allow for organisation of transport and execution of effective transport regimes is vast at the present time and is certain to exceed expectation in the near future. With this in mind I felt challenged to find out more about this interesting fusion of Processor and the Processed; machines moving man and controlling the infrastructure. This interest was to take me across the continental USA, visiting 2 NASA bases, 4 transport control facilities and 6 cities en route. Planning The original idea for this project developed from conversations with a friend who happened to be interested in computer graphics. This turned out to be a subset of a broader section of computing - simulations. My friend's father was involved at an earlier stage of his career with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and some people from Industrial Light and Magic, a special effects production company. Since flight simulators are at the leading edge of computer graphics I was naturally intrigued. This piqued a curiosity in me and I endeavoured to find out as much as I could about the current and future planned uses of microprocessor technology in the field of aviation. I then extended this to transportation in general. I asked my professors at University if they had any colleagues I could visit at facilities in the United States. I then cast my enquiry net out farther, into the realms of the computer scientists. An unexpected lead came from a chance meeting with a presenter of the science and technology program "Tomorrow's World". I bumped into Kate Bellingham on the Imperial Campus one afternoon while planning my trip with my project partner. She was hosting a Science Roadshow for schoolgirls to encourage interest in Science and Technology. In my conversation with her I asked if she had any contacts I could write to in order to arrange a tour in the States. She told me she could not think of any just at that moment but would contact me with more information. She honoured this pledge and provided me with 2 addresses which I was able to convert into tours. This added content to the final leg of the tour. I collated an extensive and intricate travel plan which was researched over the course of 6 months and which involved many false leads and a lot of telephone calls and correspondence. I managed to acquire funding from another engineering organisation to make the trip happen. I assessed every major cost and designed a lean travel programme around this. I even arranged a temporary increase on my credit card limit with my credit card company until the November following my return. The planning stage alone taught me many lessons. I learnt how to manage a process to completion and experienced the elation of conceiving, developing and executing a plan to a satisfactory conclusion. I was able to develop my initiative by thinking laterally and originally in order to find leads, thinking 4
  5. 5. The Role of Computers in Transportation Technology quickly and relevantly in order to develop those leads and finally by executing the process cleanly by converting those leads into tangible results. Initial Challenges My original plan to the United States was changed drastically at the last moment. Unfortunately my project partner dropped out just 2 weeks before we were scheduled to fly out to New York. This was a major setback and I feared that I would not be able to complete the tour as planned. I was utterly dejected. However, I kept my options open and was able to find a flight out to New York on a different airline leaving 3 days earlier than my original plan. I made the reservation and very quickly put together a new provisional plan. All the costing changed due to the fact that in the USA, hotel rooms cost the same for 1 or 2 persons. Similarly the economy of scale originally envisaged by the use of hire cars could not work now. I had to think quickly and act rapidly to find alternatives. Firstly I had to cancel and amend a lot of the bookings I had already made. Unfortunately this was only possible by first cancelling and then rebooking. Due to the queuing system employed by TrailFinders (the travel agents I used) I lost my own place in the queue and had to wait for details of new flights to come through. I was fortunate to get a flight scheme on American Airlines which did everything I required. I had to go through a rather convoluted process to obtain authorisation to visit the NASA bases I had in mind. Firstly I had to procure a "Request For Visit" form from NASA via the Ministry of Defence. This involved faxing the British Ministry of Defence with all my details who then faxed me back a form. Then NASA HQ told me they would only accept typed forms. Not having a typewriter I put my Word 6.0 for Windows skills to good use and produced my own identical version of their form. Then I contacted the Ministry of Defence again who in turn contacted the British Embassy in Washington and then they in turn contacted NASA Headquarters in Washington. I had to wait 3 days to see if I had clearance and I only received confirmation the day before I departed. So on Friday July 21st 1995 I finished work at Swiss Bank Corporation 2 hours earlier than normal and flew to New York. Before I departed I had time to make a cursory reservation at a hotel in New York, recommended to me by a friend. All my other hotel bookings had to be cancelled and so did most of the cars I had booked. I grabbed a bite to eat before boarding the plane and bought some magazines to read on the journey. About 7 hours later I arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport. This was when the gravity of the situation was truly impressed upon me. I was in a foreign country with no experience of the territory and worse still I was by myself. My only route back was to catch a flight at Los Angeles Airport - 3 weeks later. In the queue at immigration I heard some English voices. They belonged to some British guys from Andersen Consulting. I was able to share a taxi with them to West Side Manhattan saving myself over $30 in cab fare!!. This was to set the spirit of my entire adventure; one of co-operation, inspiration, sharing and meeting people from diverse backgrounds. The challenge had begun..... 5

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