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Send your letters to The Editor, E&T, Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY, UK, or to engtechletters@theiet.org. We reserve the right to edit letters and to use submissions in any other format.

Ditch solution to flood problem

I was very interested to read the article on flood control by Christine Evans-Pughe in the February 2016 issue of E&T. As I live on the bank of a small river in North Wales, I am well aware of the increased run-off caused by field drainage. Fifty years ago the river had two levels: summer and winter. Now it’s up and down like a yo-yo. Anything that slows the river down to its previous pace is to be welcomed.

I am more of a practical than a theoretical engineer. My wife was not an engineer but very practical and if I was stumped by the direct approach, she would suggest going round another way. Perhaps this was the Spanish idea. Valencia - the third-largest city in Spain - had severe floods every year that caused much damage and many deaths. Eventually they took the bull by the horns and dug a trench all round the city; massive river, massive trench 12 kilometres long. Problem solved!

Carlisle seems to lend itself to the Spanish approach. The river Eden, which is the main suspect, starts from way down south, below Penrith, but by Low Crosby it is north of Carlisle. From this point it should be fairly straightforward to dig a relief trench to the Solway Firth instead of allowing it to turn south through Carlisle and then north again to the firth.

If our Victorian engineers could construct the 36-mile Manchester Ship Canal with their basic equipment, this six-mile stretch should be a doddle with modern excavators. The cost of bridging won’t be cheap but should compare well with property repairs, insurance claims and bridge rebuilding every year. What cost peace of mind?

Alan Clarkson

Monitoring retired members’ CPD

The Engineering Council’s response to Nick Bailey’s suggestion of a CEng (Retired) grade of registration (Letters, January 2016) says: “a common principle for chartered bodies is that protected titles are reserved for those who are actively engaged in their profession”. I doubt many retired engineers are aware of such a principle.

When the Engineering Council accepted my reduced retirement subscription they did not write to remind me of that principle or to enquire how I am ‘actively engaged’, nor how I would carry out CPD without the support of a working environment and an employer paying for courses.

I have offered my services as a volunteer to the IET, but it seems I would have to keep my career path up to retirement constantly updated. Can I retain registration with the Engineering Council and IET on a purely retired basis? Or must I resign from the Engineering Council but be allowed to remain with the IET? Or must I resign from both?

NW Porter CEng FIET
By email

As a Fellow of the IET with a membership of approaching 50 years, I signed up to the Engineering Council as a necessity for my IET membership. I have been reluctant to give up my IET membership in recent years and especially in retirement.

The reality is that although I have been registered with the Engineering Council since the start, I stopped practising electronic engineering in the early 1980s. Having subsequently focused on technology start-ups and business management, and in more recent years project management, I find myself wondering if I should still be registered and if not what this does to my membership of the IET.

Barry Faith FIET
Wimborne, Dorset

I have been retired for 19 years - and in recent years have practised no true engineering or kept up with the profession other than reading the odd publication such as E&T magazine. It is eminently clear that I, and many others, could not successfully return to the profession and hold down a current engineering post. Yet The Engineering Council and IET do not assess my competence before allowing me to retain CEng FIET, and instead willingly take my money each year.

Most of us join an Institution and obtain CEng status for career reasons. So, why are we retirees hanging on well after leaving the profession and losing our competence, as defined by the Engineering Council?
I suppose we feel it was hard-earned in the first place, but to be truthful, it’s a status symbol for most of us.

I think it’s probably time to drop my status symbol and save some money, or perhaps the Engineering Council will do an assessment and save me the effort.

John Prince CEng FIET
By email

I have maintained my IET membership and CEng designation despite being retired for 10 years. I am proud to have been an engineer, proud of what I achieved, and proud to make it known, which is why I cling to the designation. But I can no longer claim to be ‘actively engaged’.

Continuing professional development is also rather a nonsense for a career which is not likely to develop further. Yes, I attend meetings from time to time. I also read E&T. However, I retain a lifetime’s worth of engineering experience and knowledge. Indeed, I still get asked for assistance and advice by two companies I left decades ago.

Nothing actually requires me to retain my registration or membership of IET. Should I resign? I would feel poorer despite saving a considerable sum each year.

John W Heaviside CEng FIET
Hassocks, West Sussex

Over 50 years of contributions to the IEE and IET entitles me, surely, to some kind of continuing recognition for my chartered status even while I no longer am able to continue in employment?

To suggest that every chartered engineer has competence that is ‘current’ is absurd. Every one of us could point to dozens of our colleagues who have grown to positions where such competence is neither necessary nor expected.

If the Engineering Council really believes what it writes, it needs to begin a purge of the ranks so as to keep the register cleansed from those of us who are such obvious postnominal freeloaders.

Paul McGoldrick CEng MIET
By email

It was interesting to read the Engineering Council’s reply to Nick Bailey’s suggestion that there should be a CEng (Retired) postnominal for those who have retired from being active in the profession.

Nick’s main point was that the cost of maintaining membership was disproportionately high for those on a pension. The response was primarily about continuing professional development.

As I contemplate retirement in the next 18 months or so, two of the things I am most looking forward to are ceasing membership of the IET and having more time for private research - ie CPD. The only difference will be that I will spend time doing it rather that ticking boxes saying I’ve done it.

David Proctor MIET
By email

The IET replies: The ethos of strengthening CPD monitoring at the IET is to ensure that working engineering professionals have parity of esteem and public recognition with other professions. When monitoring starts in January 2017, we will seek evidence that CPD activities undertaken are appropriate to members’ individual needs. For retired members, we know that many, for a variety of reasons, no longer wish to or are no longer able to undertake CPD.

Retired members who wish to maintain an active knowledge, have a reduced requirement of 10 hours CPD annually (or the full 30 hours for those who are active in Registration). There is no such requirement for those who are no longer professionally active. Should a retired member who no longer considers themselves professionally active be selected for CPD monitoring, they would simply need to let us know their circumstances and we expect that no further action would be required. The IET has never automatically removed the professional status of members once they retire and there are no plans for this to change.

More details can be found at www.theiet.org/membership/career/cpd/how/index.cfm

Include backup cost in energy analysis

Ray Holland (Letters, November 2015) is correct that solar photovoltaic panels could be nominally competitive with the grid, without subsidy, within a few years. However, if the cost of energy storage is added, the break-even point would be significantly delayed.

At the moment, energy storage backup is provided via the national grid. The cost of that - paid for by the consumer - should be added for comparative purposes. There are more cost-effective ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions such as home insulation and solar thermal panels which do not require backup, along with heat pumps.

Roger J Arthur MIET

Meter memories

The letter from John Bowen in the January 2016 issue of E&T took me back to 1951 when, as assistant chief engineer of a well-known electricity meter manufacturer in Birmingham, I was involved in problems with large installations of fluorescent tubes fed from three-phase supplies.

On analysis of the waveform of the current drawn by the tubes and their power factor correction capacitors, I found that it contained about 12 per cent of third harmonic. One effect of this in three-phase four-wire installations was that, whether the phases were equally loaded or not, the smaller neutral conductor carried a substantial harmonic current, with risk of overheating.

The effect with which I was concerned was that on metering. I found that the tubes were drawing 50-cycle power from the mains, converting a considerable portion of that into 150-cycle power, which was then being dissipated in the supply system. In other words they were feeding harmonic power backwards through the meter.

In those days, meters were electromagnetic devices and as 50-cycle instruments they substantially under-registered 150-cycle power.

Hence, although they were registering a net positive result, that result was slightly higher than it would have been on a perfect instrument.

It was not easy to demonstrate the negative flow of power on a single-phase circuit, but with a three-phase circuit equally loaded on each phase it was easy to demonstrate the reverse harmonic power with a single-phase meter having its current coil in the neutral conductor and connecting the voltage coil across each phase and neutral in turn.

I do not know what is likely to happen in a modern 50-cycle electronic meter with 150-cycle power, but I suspect that its reaction to the reverse harmonic power may well be the answer to Mr Bowen’s conundrum.


Slide rules would make a cool souvenir

In response to your request for suggestions of merchandise aimed at young people that museums could stock, may I suggest that all shops at technical museums sell a simple pocket slide rule.

The rule must be of good quality and attractively packaged, but does not need many scales: I think that A, B, C1, C and D would be sufficient.

The instruction manual should cover the theory of operation and have photographs of eminent engineers using slide rules. Barnes Wallis and Frank Whittle come to mind, but there are others.

I have found that many young people are fascinated by my slide rule, and with the move towards analogue they can be seen as being very ‘cool’.

Gerald Stancey

How skins help skiers

Peter Burville (Letters, January 2016) asks whether anyone has exploited the one-way slide characteristic of the skin of sole fishes. Here in the snowy wastes of Canada, backcountry skiers attach ‘skins’ to the bottom of their skis to allow them to walk up slopes. They resemble sealskin, but are actually made from nylon and/or mohair.

EurIng Martin Leese CEng MIET
By email

Better bullets are nothing to be proud of

I found the tone of the article on bullet design in the February 2016 issue of E&T worrying and more appropriate for an American gun club magazine than a UK engineering publication. The concept of bullets designed to cleverly break up and shred a person to pieces is nothing that should be hailed a great engineering achievement. Indeed as engineers we should be ashamed and disgusted.

Adrian Jones MIET

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