Il commence avec nous !

 

Il commence avec nous !


Volume 5 Issue 4 News & Resources | April 2012

 

What are the obstacles to success? Often we tend to look at the external and outer factors which have directly or indirectly contributed to our current mediocre performances. The more we try, the harder, it seems to get and hold grip of the taste of real success. It is easy to blame or to degrade others vis-a-vis to our current “deplorable” conditions. It is not as if we have not tried and not achieved any form of successes, it is just the inability to see or foresee the way forward. Or to put it simply; how can we be better than yesterday (and today)? Yeah, this is the crux of the matter. Being better than yesterday! & Being able to staying on this course of enlightenment as long as possible!

In most cases, people will push harder on the old proven methods. Since the tried and tested methods were successful before, they should take us further; if only we can push harder, and harder. Alas, the efforts seem to be useless. The success, we are aiming for, is still very elusive. And to make matter worst, our peers are moving forward and generating “revenues” while we are struggling. Of course, it is easy to play the blame game and start to pin-point here and there. The faults are out there and do not lie within us. There and not here! Mind-boggling it may be, but the real cause of our malaise lies within us – in our thinking and our attitudes. WE are the culprit! The fact of the matter is that we are competing against ourselves. We should measure our success to our inherent potentials and abilities. We are the source and hindrance to real successes!

If one is able to grapple and appreciate this weird paradox, then one is seriously blessed and is certainly bound to success – in whatever domains or things desired. This is the fundamental rule which applies at the micro and macro scales. It can be applied to individuals and/or governments. The idea, belief and effort to gain some form of achievements or fulfillments will need to start from the very basic block, i.e. the individuals. We must not sabotage or self-censored our functional capabilities. We are inherently successful and it is just a matter of translating them into reality. Our thinking, commitments, attitudes and actions must permeate the characteristics of a victor, no matter how small or minuscule the results may be in the overall scheme of things. We are improving by the hours/days/weeks. We are putting ourselves up for the next big thing!

As a research group, URRG is continuously trying to create and re-create the research “playing fields”. All the proven approaches (read: tactics & strategies) are constantly being reviewed and aligned to the upcoming challenges. We are looking ahead while ensuring the relevancy of the research group to the stakeholders. The ability to be innovative and creative in looking at old problems and solutions will be pertinent. All established methods have their own set of limitation’s and application’s constraints. And, in the appreciations of these entire limitations, one will be able to find exciting and novel topics for sustainable R&D works. One must be able to embrace the need for continuous “shake-up” of the research aim and focus. This is an idea which everybody must consider and adhere to.

We are certainly competing with our very own successes. We use that as a benchmark for measurable progress. For example, the ability to double our ISI-index journal paper publication output while surviving on the same shoe-string budgets indicates strength and will-power. The improvement in results without any tangible increase in resources is indeed a commendable performance. Vice-versa, it shows bad planning and execution if one was given better resources, and yet the net performance dropped. We should know why we got what we got. We should also be consciously aware of what we did and what did not do. The real competitor is our past successes. And, be mindful that those successful can also be the reasons for our future downfalls. Scary isn’t it?! Indeed, this is a scary scenario.

The future of research group, such as URRG, is the ability to stay and be relevant to the masses. For this, we must be able to anticipate and plan the successes that we are aiming for. We certainly cannot control and guarantee the entire outcome. But, we can obviously, put proper plans, execute them and hope for the best. The ball is in our court. How we strike it and to where we are aiming it will be the end-game. Let us become the reasons for success and not the pawn in our unfortunate demise.

And finally, let me share a quote by the renowned scientist, Albert Einstein:

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else”

[Il commence avec nous! = It begins with us !]


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Benchmarking for what??

 

The lone researcher?


Volume 5 Issue 5 News & Resources | May 2012

 

Once in a while you do get this sense of loneliness in your effort to serve the nation’s interest. The fact of the matter is that any one noble agenda will be pursued by many. As they say; “Great men think alike” – well said, and the least is we should embrace this very positive attitude. The decoupled-liked and non-cooperative behaviors among us may carry multitude of meanings. We sincerely hope in the long run, our noble aim outlined will be achieved. And, no matter how random and unplanned the efforts may be, (slightly akin to the Brownian motion in the piston chamber of a steam-engine where heated particles are pushing and shoving on the piston face that they finally translate into real motion/action) we hope the efforts would not go in vain. Yes, all of us need to play our role while being acutely aware of others’ actions and fall-outs. We are certainly not alone and we should not look down on other’s contributions.

In the field of engineering and technology, the specific and dedicated problems can also be very much varied. If we add to the various applications domain, then the list of unsolved problems would be unending. The more we probe, the more complex a seemingly innocent or basic problem will become. Hence, the efforts of many are needed to arrive at a single most optimum solution. We can choose; established or revolutionary, simple or complex approaches, simulation-based or field-based, as long as the aim is crystal clear, i.e. to look for solutions to the real problems. There is no point of spending any resources if the approaches, methods and overall strategies on problem-solving are not sorted out a priori. Solid plans and viable strategies are compulsory pre-requisites. No two ways on this matter. Those who embark to venture into the dark without any idea of the danger ahead are bound to stumble. This is the fact of life.

In the field or marine or ocean-based research and development efforts, there are multiple types and domains of research. There is the system level or device level engineering-based or technology developments. There are also various marine applications which are concentrated on direct/indirect investigative efforts such as water/sea-bed sampling, biota data collection and observations tasks, forecasting and ocean conditions monitoring. The scope of topics is very wide and covers the micro and macro type of research works. For the engineering/technology developers, the challenges of coming out with better and tougher sensor device and also robust marine-going systems or structures are real. Ocean environment is considered very corrosive; hence the devices/systems utilized must be able to withstand the elements. The real challenge is to remain focus on one particular task at any one time and solve the task in the best possible manner, before jumping to a new seemingly more exciting tasks or problems. The attraction to change course or direction is very appealing, especially when the solutions are not in sight. Being steadfast and believe in one’s ability certainly very crucial.

At the end of the day, conducting viable and fruitful R&D effort is not a one-man show. It requires team efforts and the dynamics of multiple contributors. The team-factor will ensure that the research and development efforts will reach its maturity faster and in a more cost-effective mode. Although the urge to project oneself on top of the group is very strong, one must always be honest and true to the spirit of working in a team. The R&D efforts into ocean or marine-type applications will almost always require team dynamics and agilities. The eco-system of multi or cross discipline R&D work, in most cases, is very complex. The researcher needs to be able to embrace this complexity as he or she goes forward in achieving the ultimate aim of the R&D project. And finally in the words of Henry Ford – pioneer in the automobile industry:

“Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.

End.


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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February Blues

 

February Blues


Volume 5 Issue 2 News & Resources | February 2012

 

Are there better ways to move forward and make real impacts? The progress, so far, has been slightly dismal, if not discouraging. It seems that the fire has dimmed to some extent and the feeling is of finishing off rather than growing. Although on record the recently acquired research grants are aplenty, the mood is on the decline. This is certainly worrying for a research group wanting to be world class and of meaning to the masses. Maybe we need to relook the agreed objectives, and review the overall direction of the research theme. We need something to rejuvenate the spirit and rekindle the fire. The answers are not obvious, and the urge to relent and give-up are getting stronger by the day. This is not dissimilar to the experience of an out-of-idea graduate student, trying to float when the weight is pulling down unabated. Maybe the answer lies elsewhere? We just need to look for them. Yes, look for them – elsewhere! BUT, where?

We know that our current agreed and formalised research niche is good enough, i.e. strong and solid. Good enough to inspire others to follow suit. The important tasks are to identify crucial topics or themes that will create real solutions to the some real-life problems. The engagement of end-users, i.e. for the underwater and ocean-going related industries, would be crucial and critical to the success of any new endeavours. Their involvements must be at the idea-formulation or idea-seeding stage. The inputs, no matter how seemingly banal or unworthy, must be considered and given proper consideration. Sometimes the long winded wish-list may be the source of ideas for future R&D directions or activities. There is a need to be more inclusive of all the stakeholders, while, not being easily opinionated by them, or, in simple terms, not easily influenced by them. Their logical and convincing arguments must not affect our rational judgement. We need to engage them, but not dictated by them. I, for one, always believe that the R&D efforts must carry tangible meaning, and are conducted for real solutions and not imaginary accolades. Real applications will later loop back into strengthening the research group position.

The fact of the matter is that there is an obvious lack of enthusiasms and positive reinforcements coming from those in-charge of setting and determining the R&D direction for the country. This is not denying all the efforts to push the agenda for the more popular scope of technology advancement, i.e. the likes of Nano-Tech, Smart Material and Green or Renewable energy sources. They are important, no doubts, but what about other technologies which are needed for the future sustainable oil explorations? What about those enabling technologies for sustainable ocean exploitations such are the minerals and deposits on the sea-floor? What about technologies for ocean defence and territorial protection under the EEZ or UNCLOS? Yes, there are many questions yet to be addressed. OR, maybe the mistakes are on us, the researchers. Maybe we have failed in putting a strong case. Maybe the packaging of our research proposal is just not convincing enough to the decision makers. Or, it is just maybe not the time for this kind of research theme. We just have to wait for our turn and keep hoping. In the meantime, underwater or ocean-related technology developers should be more pro-active in creating the need and demand for such technologies. If there is no urgent need, we need to create one. Who says we are not creative to do this? Just wait and see .

There is no denying that real applications would need various technology supports. The applications maybe unique to a particular domain, but the supporting technology and know-how will be varied. If we consider an ocean-based application, one would need strength in the discipline of material science, hydraulics engineering, control and robotics system, sensor and instrumentation, signal transmission module, power engineering and computer or graphic visualisations, just to mention a few. Hence, there is a need for us to be more creative and adventurous in engaging other fellow researchers and probably submit some joint research applications to the government or grant-giving agencies. Then, probably they will give more notice to the efforts. The ability to engage, and later manage, will be crucial to the future researchers. We need to be able to work beyond our comfort zones. The risks will be higher and so does the failure rate. But we, sincerely, do not have any other alternatives. We need to engage and manage the cycle of innovations. We hope the feeling is mutual on all sides. We are fighting a winnable situation. Nevertheless, the silos will always be around, in case the bombs are dropping or the mortars are incoming. Sincere efforts to bring benefits for all will not be wasted.

It is high time to innovate and be productive. All efforts must later translate into real output. The measurement today is no longer on the input or processes, but ONLY on the output. No matter how good we are now, people will judge us on the output or results. Are we contributing or wasting the nation’s wealth? Are we seriously working or otherwise? We are being judged all the time. Hence, let us buck-up and judged all our efforts so far. It is not too late to make amends. And, it is certainly not too late to change course. Be steadfast and we will survive. God-Willing.

“Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Michael Jordan


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit Online Magazine : http://www.shelter-mag.com/

 

A Dragon Dream...

 

A Dragon Dream...


Volume 5 Issue 1 News & Resources | January 2012

 

Was my name mentioned a moment ago? To be the chairman of IEEE section for the country? Among all the professors, I am chosen? Are you kidding? Alas, this is just my imagination. Imagining on things the least desired. But, everything must start with a dream. What do we desire in life? This will determine what we will possibly achieve in life. Without dreams, what would life be? Do we look forward for tomorrow? I do not know about you, but most of us will dread the thought of having to live life without purpose. We need to dream!

This is the year of the dragon according to the Chinese tradition. I do not know the meaning of this dragon year, but this is yet another given opportunity. So, how we plan, strategise, coordinate, collaborate, cooperate and execute all our actions will be pertinent. Have you had your dreams written, on papers? Dreams need commitment. Committed dreams will push us to implement them. Dreams must now be changed into reality. Dare to dream and the sacrifices needed. But, just take note that if you are dare enough to dream, then be ready to fail.

We need new approaches and creative strategies for possible getting newer and more exciting outcome. The current outcome has reached a plateau and needed a new way forward. We can never, logically, expects anything different if there are no changes to the tactics adopted. We need to change, to be inventive in the decision-making processes. But, from where can we source these new ideas or strategies? We can take stock from our own experiences, but they are too unstructured and dynamic in nature. It is not an easy task to extract new principles or tactics from these selected memory banks. What more when we sometimes mistakenly took failures as successes, and vice versa. Better to look at others.

How do we make this goliath leap? We need to diversify and break boundaries! This is the answer. We need to go for the blue ocean where we champion a new domain with no competitors in sight. We change the rule of the game and innovate as we will. The blue ocean is wide and deep, and so does the opportunities. As an example, when organising conferences, why not let the industry lead? And we, the academics, follow suit? A synergistic and exciting melting-pot of real industry-driven event will be more interesting, compare to the sometimes boring and never-ending technical discussions. I might be wrong, but something needs to be done to our conferences. Our USYS 2012 conference will be different, this we can promise. Make sure you register early!

To others, the BLUE OCEAN strategy is one creative option for a better future. For our research group - URRG, the blue ocean IS the future. There are so many challenges which need newer and creative solutions. The deeper and further we move away from the shore, the more exciting it becomes (to give you an example, the ocean outside Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is more than 2300m deep – “care for a dive?”). Of course, the higher the risks, no doubt. The fear of failures and the unknowns to others are potential successes for us. At the end of 2011, URRG have secured a number of new research grants, and these allow the group to plan for the grants execution in 2012. These grants promise new products and technological breakthroughs for the nation that requires 200% commitments from all stakeholders.

This year, we will focus our attention towards international-based research funding option. Surely, there must be an abundance of opportunities out there. Since most people will go for the path of least resistance, low risk and low return, we will consciously opt for the seemingly difficult choice, but comes with high return; i.e. international funding. This needs international collaborators and international flavour to the research team. This should not be an issue. We have done our homework, and getting international collaborators should not be a problem. This is an option which must be considered seriously. Yes, we are going international!

This year we will also focus on real projects which have tangible impacts to the society at large. This means the R&D works must be application-oriented. Those fundamental research works are critical and important, but have to take a back-seat for now. For this, I am referring to those ground-breaking fundamental researches. The tangible impact, mentioned previously, should translate to take care of the so-called “bottom-billions”. The bottom-billions meant more collaboration and cooperation with colleagues from the least developed countries, using funding from the developed countries, in order to serve the least fortunate communities. This will be us giving back to society.

All the time, energy, money, thinking and efforts on the R&D work must be documented properly. Documentations can come in the form of journal or conference papers, books and articles which are published in the mass media or new media. Hence, in accordance to the drive to bring good things to society, we will initiate real plans for an active writing culture in the research group. Clearer plans for writing (or reporting) of the R&D outputs will be put in place, and more regular evaluations of writing outputs will be scheduled. Ultimately, this year will be the year of the serious disseminations of knowledge and findings. This is a noble aim, and one which will finally embed meaning to all the efforts and sacrifices.

We should not end up being a big dragon in a small pond; instead we should aspire to be the best in the dragon kingdom. And, in the spirit of the dragon year, let us aspire and inspire in whatever we do. Happy New Year 2012!


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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2011: L'année Des Surprises

 

2011: L'année Des Surprises


Volume 4 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2011

 

The time has come for a complete and honest review of this year’s performance. The key is being true to the goals and ideals which we have set forth a year ago. 2011 is coming to a close, and it begs to be evaluated and examined thoroughly. It is only fair that we match the real outcomes with the outlined expectations. We need to urgently close a chapter and open up a new and exciting one. The sooner, the better.

If we are asked on the highlights of 2011, what or how would we answer them? Highlights can mean the high and the low points (lowlights?) in our life journey. Not just the good ones. We should be pondering on the bad ones also. Those highlights are moments of life happenings which are etched in our hearts and minds. Those are the emotionally-charged incidents and experiences which alter or push us to re-align our initial plans and strategies. Highlights are those happenings with far-reaching consequences and unmitigated tangible impacts to our life. Yes, highlights should have these characteristics. It carries meaning and lessons. We must make amends.

2011 is the year that our research group, i.e. URRG, has to complete and deliver on the promises made. We have started the year with a rush and stress-driven actions to try to salvage the loose ends for the main research grant. The academic performance index was easier to comply compared with the product or industrial part of the outcomes. It was not easy to get new patents and real industry-ready products on the shelf. Many more processes and steps need to be done. June 2011 also marked the end of dependency on a single grant source, and the frantic search for new research funding. Multiple new schemes were created by the government. We now have to deal with so many research funding options. There are LRGS, ERGS, FRGS, PRGS, KTP from MOHE & there are Escience and Techo Fund from MOSTI. And, we have not really explored the potentials for contract research from private/public companies. We ended up applying for the whole lot. By now, the results are out, and we realised that our group applications have been quite successful. Praise to Allah, the All Mighty.

2011 also saw the transformation of the research group into a more matured, pragmatic and realistic entity. We have become more practical in terms of putting targets and strategising the group actions. The ability to align idealism and reality has improved significantly. We now have the ability to play the right tactics and adopt the best strategy. At least, this is what we believe. The lessons of running a high-impact research project for the past four years have seasoned most of us. There is always a need to be conscious of the challenges and the risks of failures. We have learned that the most important thing is packaging and how we present the whole package. The arguments must be on the rational (Why?) not the facts of the matter (How? or What?). The major worry now is on sustaining the team’s dynamic. We can never stop personnel or individuals from moving forward and going for their dreams, i.e. going somewhere else. Nonetheless, we must also ensure that these will be not be the weak points which render the research group activities to a halt. The dynamics must be maintained. This is real challenge for the coming years.

In LIMA-Langkawi 2011, our research group exhibited two of our underwater research platforms. Luckily, we were parked under MOSTI, right smacked between Boeing, EuroFighter-Typhoon, Rolls-Royce, Saab-Embraer and AirForce (RMAF) booths. We got many visits and interesting feedbacks which showed interest into our research work. There were even visits by military personnel enquiring about the ammo-payload capabilities of our platforms. Interesting indeed!. The experiences were very enriching and an eye-opener. We are peanuts compared to Malaysian-based companies the likes of SAPURA and CTRM, but we are unique and this edges us above the rests. How many R&D groups in the country which really focuses on locally designed, developed and tested Underwater System Technology? Not many, is the answer. And most likely, there is only one or at most two groups. LIMA-Langkawi 2011 has also opened up new avenues for collaborations and co-operations. We look forward for a more exciting and enticing future.

On a final note, 2012 will be the proving ground for commercialisation and real industry-related (or commercial-related) participations. The whole array of marine, especially, underwater robotics platforms must now be tuned towards real industrial applications. 2012 will be a new beginning for URRG as a research group which now needs to grow even bigger and give real impacts. One of the main activities in 2012 will be the 4th International Conference on Underwater System Technology: Theory and Applications 2012. The event is slated for early November 2012. The theme is “Linking Expertise, Synergising Technologies”. We now must become a real focal point for the research communities, industry players and government agencies, vis-a-vis the utilisations of appropriate technology for underwater or marine applications. We hope 2012 will bring many more success stories and at the end we are able to serve the people and nation in the best possible manner.

Happy new year to all, and in the words of the French writer -Anatole France; 
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit Online Magazine : http://www.shelter-mag.com/