Halfway There – A Failure Analysis

Everytime I tell people that I’m taking a subject called Failure Analysis, I get funny response like,

“You can actually analyze failure? Like why students fail to pass up assignments?”

“So are people taking this course called failures?”

“Oh, so you all fail all the time wan ha?”

And my favourite, “OK, analyze him/her.”

I don’t blame them. Especially when my coursemates and I talk about our course, we hardly say its full name. We usually go about saying, “So have you finished the Failure assignment?”, “Do we have Failure quiz today?” — not surprising how we give others the wrong idea.

Just a bit of trivia, Failure Analysis is a subject whereby we are to diagnose problems concerning material degradation on an object such as pressure vessels, boilers, etc. Just like how doctors come up with different methods to treat their patients after finding out what’s wrong with them – we perform analysis on lifeless objects.

On my first class, I was all excited about the notion of being a Final Year student and getting to study something I really like.  My lecturer drew a simple familiar diagram on the whiteboard, and while my mind my scurrying around trying to recall where I had seen it before, he shot me a question.  I mean, I was excited, but I didn’t say I was prepared.

“Hor…Wei..Vern. Can you tell me what type of welding this is?”

After 8 months away from my studies, my memory failed me, and honesty took over.

“Erm, no, sorry, I don’t know.”

He shot me a look, and then smiled. “Wei Vern here doesn’t know, and it’s okay, if you don’t know, you can say you don’t know. But this is one thing all of you should know. This is a single-V welding.”

I nodded in embarrassment. So much for a roaring start.

“…or in your case, maybe a single-Vern welding.”

I almost fell off my chair. But the good thing is, I don’t think I’ll be able to forget that name for the rest of my life.

As we approach our mid-semester break, signifying the end of 7 weeks of classes and endless quizzes and questionnaires thrown across the class, I was never asked by my lecturer again. He still had a lot of names on the name list to pick on before coming back to me, so I was in a way quite glad that I was asked first. Until today. When we were doing case studies. He walked slowly to my side, and called me by my full name again, this time without any reference to the name list.

“Hor…Wei…Vern, right?”

I nodded.

“OK. Tell me, how do you detect internal corrosion in this pressure tank?”

Although I was a bit surprised, I replied, “By conducting an ultrasonic test…?”

Again, he smiled. “That’s a very good answer, actually.” And proceeded to elaborate further.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and I was in a way glad that I was finally able to put theory into application. In that one-hour lecture, truth be told, my mind had wandered far into the distant lands of the past and the future – anywhere but the present. But after that snap back into reality, I realized that I’m already halfway through the semester.

Yeah, the whole Final Year syndrome should start sinking in by now.

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