Everyone knows that you can flip a switch and your lights will go on. What most people don’t think about though, is just how that electricity got there in the first place. However, for the system to work someone (a lot of someones in fact) have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about just that; and as it turns out, many of those people are mechanical engineers. At this year’s ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) annual conference, Past President, Bob Sims, sat down for a brief interview to discuss what role his profession can, and does, play in helping to green up the world’s energy. Here’s a look at some of what he had to say.
Q. How can your field help with greening the world?
B. Sims: Engineers are key to developing the technology to ensure the future, and not just greening, but also improving the world in multiple ways such as cleaner water and the energy supply. ASME is a big part of that, and always emphasizes ‘making the world a better place.’
Q. Where does your field need to improve?
B. Sims: Difficult to pinpoint one area because all energy supplies are still important and needed. That’s why conferences like this one are so important to bring together people to talk about things such as making photovoltaic and wind power more efficient. Another option is nuclear power, which is growing in many parts of the world, particularly in China. One issue with sustainable sources is how to handle supplies when the sun isn’t out, and the wind isn’t blowing. Rapid advances in energy storage are needed, and that’s why there are several sessions at the conference this year, on improving sustainable storage. The whole infrastructure needs to be upgraded. However, replacing the world’s power needs with sustainable sources is going to continue to be a problem without further work. ASME is at the forefront of that research.
Q. The ASME website mentions how your organization promotes research. How much is directed towards green technologies? How do you balance that up against the non-green research?
B. Sims: I think all ASME’s advocacy helps promote technology to make the industry greener. For example, ASME advocates reduced CO2 emissions from coal fired plants. We’ve also advocated increasing the efficiency of fracking operations. At this point we can’t abandon any energy source yet, because our energy needs are too great, but all efforts should be made to move them all towards being even more green.
Q. According to the ASME, website Julio Guerroro has been chosen as the organizations new president, when does he officially take over?
B. Sims: Yes, a new president is nominated, and chosen by the membership each year. He officially took over as of June 10, 2015. The previous president then takes on the official title of ‘Immediate Past President’ and serves like an advisor to the current president during his term.
Q. What words of wisdom do you have for him?
B. Sims: Continue the process of growing ASME’s portfolio, and improving the lives of all human kind.
Q. If there was one thing you wish the general public understood about your field, what would that be?
B. Sims: the general public doesn’t understand the dedication engineers have to their profession, and thus their need to get the right answer, and protect the public against equipment that fails. I’ve known several men and women over the years who were dedicated to getting that right technical answer, so that they could help with all the problems that society faces. Society has many challenges that it still faces, and engineers can help to solve them. Without the general population knowing it, engineers actually do touch a lot of parts of all our lives.