Engineer of the Year: Creating and Solving Problems

Tuesday 8 May, 2012

Resident Engineering students were treated to a wide-ranging discussion of the profession given by Faculty Dinner Guest Dr. Robert Barr on Monday April 23, 2012.

Dr. Barr, who runs his own company- Electric Power Consulting- and was recently named the 2012 Professional Electrical Engineer of the Year by Engineers Australia, spoke to students about his own experience as an engineer and reflected on a number of issues that will affect them as professionals.

He spoke about the need for engineers to be able to manage effectively.

“All engineers like problem solving” he said. “But you also need to learn how to create problems for others to solve.”

In a similar vein Dr. Barr encouraged residents not to restrict themselves to one field of engineering or indeed to engineering in general.

“You can use your engineering skills in commercial matters, real estate, communications, and in other fields.”

Dr Barr also mentioned that higher degrees and academic work could open up a wider range of possibilities in engineering, including specialist consultancy work.

Students were especially entertained by accounts of things that can go wrong in engineering. Dr. Barr had a variety of ‘war stories’ to share both from his personal experience and from his work as an expert witness. The take home message was that an engineer’s ability is often measured by how he or she manages such situations.

In response to questions, Dr. Barr spoke further about the role of engineers as leaders and extensively about the causes and implications of rising electricity costs. He called for energy policies that were informed by the advice of energy experts rather than political posturing. As an example, he suggested a lot of current ‘green schemes’ were not viable without subsidies and thus not viable in the long run. These schemes required much more rigorous review before implementation.

“A large solar farm west of the dividing range is going to be much more useful and energy efficient than a whole heap of individual solar panels on houses in Surry Hills” he said.

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