Ms. Victoria Rockwell has been an active member of ASME for 31 years. She is a strong advocate of engineering education and has helped to leverage the Society’s impact and influence in the engineering marketplace. She currently serves as director of Investment Development at Air Liquide, a Houston-based developer of gases for the industrial, health and environmental sectors.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has named her as president-elect for a one-year term beginning in June 2011.
Presenting The Small Talk with Ms. Rockwell. Read on -
CE: What is your vision about leading an Institute like ASME with reference to US economy?
Ms. Rockwell: Engineering innovation is critical to growth in all economies. The key to quality of life, whether in the United States or other countries, relies on advancing technologies that engineers create, produce, and maintain. Global competition and advances in engineering and science will require a workforce that focuses more on technical skill sets. According to "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," a report conducted by the National Academies, the U.S. is lagging behind other countries in turning out trained undergraduates in natural science and engineering fields. This is a trend that must be reversed in order to remain competitive in the technical fields. ASME has positioned itself to support growth in engineering workforce development, which will contribute to more job opportunities and economic competitiveness and growth. Sustainable development in this area, however, involves broadening our understanding of the issues, increasing technology literacy and changing the conversation about the public perception of engineering.
CE: Considering developing economies across globe, are the standards set by ASME economically viable?
Ms. Rockwell: ASME’s standards serve several purposes. Most importantly, they ensure things like safety, quality and reliability. If you want safe and economical energy, or machinery, that isn’t going to result in loss of life or property, you are going to need to establish standards. Standards also facilitate trade by building confidence between suppliers and purchasers. If I’m purchasing a power plant, I’m going to want to know that the components perform to set specifications and will work with other components. And lastly, most of the standards are updated continuously, which enables them to incorporate leading edge technology and further helps reduce costs and improve efficiencies. The standards ASME develops are market-driven, and so by definition they are economically viable.
CE: Is there any possibility of unifying engineering standards like BS - British Standards, ISI - Indian Standards Institution, DIN - Deutsches Institut fur Normung with ASME?
Ms. Rockwell: As you know we are in a global economy – and often times there may be multiple standards addressing the same equipment or process. ASME’s standards development process seeks convergence with other – potentially competing – standards; however, we also strongly advocate for a market’s or an industry’s right to choose its preferred standard. If people ultimately settle on using a single standard, then support for other standards eventually goes away. Again, this is a function of standards being market-driven.
CE: Do you intend to introduce relevant ASME standards of products & services into education curriculum?
Ms. Rockwell: ASME has some standards-related education materials for engineering students on its website and the American National Standards Institute has an educational portal called StandardsLearn.org.
There have been some discussions at the senior leadership level within ASME’s Standards & Certification to build a robust curriculum on engineering standards. The senior vice president for ASME Standards & Certification, Kenneth R. Balkey, is teaching a course at the University of Pittsburg that includes real-life situations and case studies on how engineers use standards. So far, there has been some positive feedback and so it might be something we could scale up if there is demand from industry and our academic institutions. Some other senior S&C volunteers that serve as professors or adjunct professors are doing likewise; this will also be a focus of the newly established Standards & Certification Board on Strategic Initiatives.
CE: Tell us the expanse of work of ASME in your own words. What are the organization’s short term and long term goals?
Ms. Rockwell: ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real-world challenges. At the center of today’s most pressing challenges is the supply of clean, affordable and accessible energy, for public consumption, industry use and commerce. Developing new technologies and increasing energy efficiency drive changes in all we do, in every aspect of living, from food production to our highest aspirations. Engineers are leading an energy revolution that is essential for alleviating poverty and ensuring quality of life throughout the world, with direct relation to water management, transportation, manufacturing and environmental challenges that we all share. ASME is committed to be a prime resource for engineers on energy as well as helping to ensure a capable, effective engineering workforce, with the knowledge and availability to sustain business and industry needs. It recognizes that these goals are global, with shared resources, shared knowledge, and no boundaries in terms of the sustaining a healthy environment. ASME also recognizes that engineers have a much-needed voice in the advocacy of achieving these goals, in terms of public policy and public understanding. We also strongly believe in engineering’s potential to bring about positive impact in the quality of life around the world. One of our key initiatives, Engineering for Change, is seeking to leverage the expertise and knowledge of engineers, technologists and others to design, apply and share appropriate and sustainable technical solutions to achieve transformational results for humanitarian and global development challenges. We started the initiative earlier this year, along with IEEE and EWB-USA, and more than 5,000 members have already joined. I encourage your readers to check out this exciting community at www.engineeringforchange.org.
CE: Are the American engineering products/services manufactured/provided outside USA as per ASME standards or as per that countries' code?
Ms. Rockwell: A lot of people have the misperception that since ASME is US-based, that it only develops domestic standards. ASME standards are used in over 100 countries around the world – both voluntarily and via regulation. For example, ASME issues over 10,000 certificates to manufacturers of boilers, pressure vessels, and nuclear components. Over half of those now go to companies based outside of North America. Also, our B31 piping standards are used worldwide – they are given a normative reference within the International Organization for Standardization - and are the basis for many countries’ piping regulations. Likewise, ASME nuclear standards are also used widely, and served as the basis for France’s nuclear standards and regulations in the 1950’s. We are constantly looking to establish relationships with organizations outside the US that can benefit from our knowledge and experience.
CE: Considering recent calamities in Japan, what are the changes being introduced in Nuclear reactors design from safety point of view?
Ms. Rockwell: Nobody has a completely perfect picture of the events in Japan yet, but what is known is that no one planned for a 50 foot wave, which essentially knocked auxiliary pumps and power systems offline, resulting in a loss of the cooling system. Within ASME, a full evaluation of the potential impact on our existing nuclear standards is underway. This includes things like assessing criteria for risk assessment; examining provisions for the venting of hydrogen and other gases, and reviewing current containment integrity criteria.
More comprehensively, however, I think this is a call to challenge our assumptions. To this end, ASME has established a nuclear task group looking at the design basis for nuclear power plants as well as how we respond to severe accidents. We’re committing to supporting Japanese efforts, and along with our colleagues at the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, will certainly be developing “lessons-learned” from these events. And let’s not forget, the plants survived a 9.0 magnitude earthquake – so there are some positive lessons learned as well.
CE: What are your responsibilities as a director of Investment Development at Air Liquide?
Ms. Rockwell: As the Director of the Investment Development process, I manage and am a member of the North American Investment Decision Process for all special capital projects over $2.0 million euros – from selection of the opportunity through review and final capital approval. Once a project is approved for capital, I am a member of the Steering Committee that monitors the progress of each of the projects through design, construction and start-up.<em></em>
CE: What is your message to engineering community as regards to standards & practices in view of onslaught of aggressive marketing by countries like China, Korea, European developing countries?
Ms. Rockwell: As engineers – and as business people – we have to learn to operate in an environment of a continuously changing landscape. We work in a globally competitive world. ASME – due in large part to our members and volunteers – has a rich history of not only embracing change, but in leading it. Our success in the standardization area is a reflection of this. Having an “on the ground” presence is also helpful to raise our visibility, and to that end, we have established offices in China, Europe and India.
Like any business, if your products offer a superior value, the market will figure it out. But we do have to be vigilant to make sure everyone is competing on a level playing field. In the end, there isn’t a single model on how to be effective in different markets, and so figuring out the best way we can be of use is something we work on continuously.
CE: What is the message that you would like to give to our members of CrazyEngineers Forum (Small Talk With Ms. Victoria Rockwell