Monday, February 8, 2010

Basic Instrumentation

It was 1956 when I was a partner with Ben Farmer in a manufacturers agency selling industrial process equipment. Both of us were members of the Cleveland Section of the Instrument Society of America. I had been a member of the Executive Board for several years. Our new President, Francis Hoag was an activist who got us involved with other technical societies. He wanted to increase or expand our educational programs. We already had a Mechanics Training Committee that offered sessions featuring speakers from the instrument manufacturing companies but the interest had been waning and participation lessening. At one of the board meetings I suggested that we start up a new program emphasizing the basics of the technology that involved the measurement and control of temperature, pressure, flow and level as encountered in the process industries. We decided to proceed with the plan. Ben thought it would be a good idea to approach Fenn College for assistance. He knew the President of the college, Mr. Brooks Earnest from his membership in the American Society of. Professional Engineers. He contacted Mr. Earnest who arranged for a meeting with a Mr. Nicholas Rimboi who was Director of the Fenn College Technical Institute which was a prominent extension of the college. Ben, Francis and I met with Mr. Rimboi to explore the idea of presenting a course in Basic Instrumentation. After agreeing to the idea, Mr. Rimboi asked us to name the instructor. Ben and Francis did not respond so I agreed to take on the job.
The first time the course was offered in September of 1956, the response was overwhelming (the highest in the history of the school); 112 registrants signed up. Two, 2 hour classes were created. They were scheduled for Friday nights which would not conflict with my sales activities. One class was to run from 6 to 8 P.M. and the other from 8 to 10 P.M. Each class was to have 16 sessions. The first semester was to serve as an introduction to instrumentation technology acquainting the students with the principles of measurement and control and the equipment employed. The second semester would expand the measurement sector and the third semester the control sector.
The students were a diverse gathering. Some were old and some were young. Their educational background varied from incomplete high school record to graduate engineer. There were electricians and pipefitters, purchasing agents and salesmen, anyone who wanted to know a bit more about the subject. Many of them had more experience than I. Fortunately for me they were all tolerant and agreeable.
The introductory course went well and most of the students stayed on for the other two semesters. To maintain the program, the first semester was offered continuously. This necessitated finding other instructors from time to time. A few of my students filled these needs when I found they were qualified. Overall the whole endeavor was a success, a pleasant one. It continued for ten years and then ended when the Technical Institute was discontinued when Fenn College was absorbed by Cleveland State University.
After some attempts to find a text that fulfilled my objectives, in 1960 I began to consider creating my own. I wanted it to match the way elementary schools present some subjects that is by adding to them as the student moves along. One of my English instructors called it "a text for suburban learning"
Providentially the opportunity arose almost magically. Representatives of the textbook sector of the American School of Chicago visited Mr. Rimboi seeking prospects for authors. When he responded by mentioning my idea, they arranged for me to meet with them that day. They asked me to provide a sample chapter plus an outline of a complete text. I already had my classroom notes which served as the basis for a chapter on Temperature and the arrangement of the course material provided the structure for the outline.
It was not long after I had net their request that Mr. Rimboi and I received an invitation to consider a contract. We became co-authors. Although he did not write a word of it, he earned the role by gathering information from manufacturers and other sources and by converting my pencil sketches to useful illustrations. He also applied the encouragement and pressure to continue. We continued the business and social relationship until his death in 1997.
The actual writing was done in the basement of my home and from start to finish took two years. My wife typed every word (6 copies). It was a tedious effort. The first hardcover edition appeared on the market in 1962. There were two printings. The second edition, also with hard cover, was published in 1966. The third edition, in soft cover, came out in 1975. Due to management changes at the publisher's offices, the fourth edition was delayed until 2005. It was greatly expanded textually and page size with colorful and explicit illustrations. By that time, I had retired from my company and my beloved wife, Anne, had died. I sought help and found two replacement coauthors. One was Tom Weedon, an engineer with broad experience in instrumentation with Diamond Shamrock and later in a consultant firm he started with a partner from Diamond. The other was my son who had joined the Franklyn W. Kirk Company in 1978. He had become proficient in explaining the principles of process measurement and control and adapting to new methods and products. With the aid and guidance of American Tech's Eric Borreson the book has become a successful effort.
At present, the fifth edition is about to appear. It is not a revision but a reformatting in response to suggestions from users to make the book "more teacher friendly". The authors are the same and the publisher's editor, Mr. Borreson remains in place. The publisher is confident that the book will continue its remarkable sales record.

No comments:

Post a Comment