About Me

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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Wednesday 9 February 2011

The Value of Apprenticeships

It is National Apprenticeship week this week.

The "National Week of ...... whatever" is generally dedicated to raising awareness for a specific cause. This is one that strikes a chord with me. My own awareness of this particular cause has grown over the last couple of years, working with a client who is fully committed to increasing the number of apprenticeships within design and engineering to maintain and improve these skills in the UK. Indeed, Martin Stevens (CEO, A1 Technologies) has dedicated much of his professional life and a great deal of his own time to championing apprenticeships, specifically in these sectors.

My dad was an apprentice (Electrician), he was not particularly academic, and left school at the earliest opportunity. Sitting around was not an option — social and family pressures would not permit such idleness, and he would not have dreamed of fighting against it. Learning a trade while earning money (albeit a pittance) was an acceptable alternative, and he retired a few years ago from an extremely well paid career as a Project Manager, overseeing multi-million pound electrical installations.

The ethos behind today's apprenticeship schemes has not changed much — opportunities are open to young people to identify a profession of interest and to learn as they work (still for a pittance). The value of working alongside people with hands-on experience cannot be overstated. What has changed — dramatically — is the social and cultural pressures surrounding young people. Doing something rather than nothing is considered a joke, particularly when the 'something' pays considerably less than the 'nothing.' Society is now so greatly fragmented, with a constant "me, Me, ME" mentality, that the greater good is all but ignored, overlooked or forgotten.

Expounding the virtues of apprenticeships is a worthy goal, but until social and family values widely echo those of our ancestors once again, it is unlikely that apprenticeships will hold much appeal for today's teenagers in any great number.

One ray of hope, which confronted me just this morning, and prompting this post, is that the University fees debate, might just work in favour of apprenticeships. With the prospect of mounting debts putting potential students of low-middle income families off university, apprenticeship schemes could win out? It is a question I am posing, rather than a statement of fact.

I will be watching for the answer.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Stereolithography (of sorts) Featured on Sky One Series "Bones"

It was great to see stereolithography (SLA) highlighted —albeit with some dramatic license — on the latest epidsode of "Bones" tonight. There I was, glass of wine in hand, watching one of my favourite shows, when the (fictional) forensic scientists at the Jeffersonian institute started producing a bright blue, full sized skeleton based on the 3D data that had been reverse engineered from the discovery of a skull. The ensuing laser show in a huge vat (reminiscent of Materialise's Mammoth machines) of bright blue polymer was impressive and grabbed all of the characters' attention. It even had my husband doing a double take and asking me if "that was the stuff that I blabbed on about?"  Angela (the computer whizz of the group) who had acquired the machine, gave a great description of the process and how it builds a 3D model from 2D layers of the polymer from computer generated 3D data. Her verbal enunciation of the name did make me smile though: 'Stereo-lith-o-graph'. (Note the omission of the "y"). Not sure why. The only other misrepresentation came from the implication that the model was built very quickly — approximately 20 seconds, when in reality a build like that would take more like 20 hours.

Once the skeleton was built, Cam did a great job of promoting the advantages of the models as she examined it, namely that the model's joints had precisely the right movements as those of a real skeleton. She then quipped her request for a real 34 year old buff male, produced on the machine — if only!!!

The two things that have struck me most. First, forensic science is an excellent application for this technology. Second, after 17 years, I think my hubby has finally grasped what fills my working life!