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International Automotive Technicians Network
Industry issues, education, perceptions
Posted to Open Discussion Forum on 1/6/2017 16 Replies

The following post is for and concerning, the entire iATN membership, the staff and public @ large. It's no secret that throughout my career in the automotive industry (now spanning almost 4 decades), I've been a very opinionated & controversial figure. After recently rejoining the membership (mid Dec. 2016). Former member genre, later yrs of the first decade. Ending 2010 - 2011, primarily due to health issues. I've really had to work on my navigation skills and learning my way around the system. My first observations being, not much has changed. Let me qualify that remark, especially in regards to one mech/tech helping another & sharing information and experience. Technically of course a lot has changed. It's also no great revelation for us old timers, that our industry not unlike most, go through periods of both slower & accelerated changes. Ex:, The maybe greatest having been in the early 1980's, when the transition from mechanically controlled systems, to the advent to computerized/electronically controlled ! One thing I've learned through, and just maybe most importantly, is that the "laws of physics" never change. Granted our understanding has grown in leaps and bounds. The"BASICS" having always been there for us to "discover", and learn to control "within limits". A few of us still remembering, from all places "STAR TREK", with chief engineer "Scotty" exclaiming "I canna" change the "laws of physics captain" ! Reply, somewhere along the lines of "I'd appreciate it if you could just bend them for a short time" ? With even the most stoic "physics scientists", reflecting and letting out a (MONSTROUS") belly laugh ! Sorry folks, all kidding aside, it "canna" be done. Unfortunately our ability to master controlling it growing exponentially, that even the "egghead" design engineers many times forget where they've been and where their going. I can't help but share a surely subjective example here, a computerized/electronically controlled "10 speed" automatic transmission in a light weight passenger car ? Seriously ?, and I'm not ruling out directives from the EPA on emissions and fuel economy. Sometimes believing, they do it just to see if they can ? Like my old man said, (who by the way, never having graduated High School, but nonetheless went on to be one of Boston's top mechanical engineers), Son, "you don't require 25 men to push down on a lever when 1 will do"! Yup and why I surely understand the need for 16 speeds with a splitter in a monster H.D. vehicle with a very narrow band max/torque rpm Diesel! "Physics pretty much demands it", but in a 3000 lb. Combo grocery getter, weekend excursion, once a yr vacation basic transportation provider ? Other than showing off their "engineering skills" what's the point? Other than bringing on a whole lot of unnecessary "HEAD Scratching". Let me preface this with I'm not one who "pines" to go back to the cart & donkey era, not by a long stretch. Don't get me wrong, computerized control systems definitely have their place and are here to stay. (Check out some of my previous posts), I taught the stuff @ the college level, but to the "exasperation" of the administrators, I always included a "Basic Physics" class into my everyday curriculum. With over 80% of my students remarking about how much they actually learned, with many commenting, Mr. Waldron how come you're the only "professor" here who teaches this stuff? Having to pretty much keep my mouth shut, or suffer the wrath of the head administrator, and unfortunately many of my colleagues. To make a long story short, it never really ever worked out for either side, still believing today to the detriment of the "student body". I was in fact forced to temporarily retire, due to a "freak accident & continued health issues. In rather very long closing statement, I'm not about to even toy with the idea of trying to present a "Basic Physics" course in an already way to long winded.! Something to maybe ponder for both the apprentice and seasoned mech/tech concerning computerized control systems. I always taught from the perspective of "analogies", as in as quickly as I can trying to make it as easy to understand as possible. I.E. from a military comparison, the PCM being the general or military headquarters, the system nodes,modules, BCM, TCM, etc.,as out posts, (input sensors) being explained as scouts, tips, maf, map, crank & cam position etc., (out put devices) being soldiers, fuel injectors, ign.system outputs, including all descriptions of relays & solenoid, and the "network" and related wiring being communication lines shared by all the participating parties. I don't know how many times I tell folks including apprentice/journeyman mech/tech, learn to "improvise", I do it myself almost every day, and when I was instructing, drawing analogies from every day life was just a "natural" for me. Sometimes trying to teach the benefits of understanding ohms law & computerized controls by utilizing mathematical models can be boring at best and barely comprehensible. So I learned to modify my inputs with the output usually being intently interested students, who learned to adapt to the circumstances presented to them. Hopefully they went on to become top shelf mech/tech. In retrospect I also learned in the process you can't teach someone with two "left feet" to dance. Aptitude either you have it or you don't. Being repetitive, like my old man said, "Some of us were born to sweep floors, with some of us born to design or repair the tools to sweep floors". One last thought (I promise), the primary instigator for this very long and sometimes abstract, possibly boring post was one "James Avery", a dedicated class A plus master GM computerized network control specialist who posts on tech forum, sometimes multiple times a day, why? To help other "inadequately informed technicians" (myself included). Prompting me to thank the entire membership, staff, including many, many, colleagues in the industry who work selflessly to share and help each other. Especially in "correcting" the public's tarnished image of our industry as a whole. I can only add, hang in there guys n' gals, I honestly see and "feel" the transformation on all fronts, technical, ethical, and both personal and financial satisfaction. It's a "GREAT DAY", for me at least. Thanks again! !

Robin Paul Waldron
Advanced Auto Service Dynamics
Denver, Colorado, USA

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