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Why I discontinued the edX course …

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A google search for study materials on fundamentals of mechanical vibrations a few months back led me to an exotic world of free online learning.

Yes, I am talking about edX [Let me warn you, it is highly addictive].

I became a regular visitor and tasted many of the archived courses.

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There were many subjects  I have been longing to learn for long.

Great teachers. With due respect to all those who taught me in schools; a class apart…

And great instructional technics…

And the freedom to take the courses at one’s own pace and convenience…

I soon found myself addicted to www.edx.org

One course that caught my attention recently was the Introduction to Marketing course, started in January 2016.

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Why Marketing!?

You may be wondering…

What is that interesting in marketing for an automobile engineer who is almost lost among machines?

It is something like…

Hmm…

What shall I compare it to!?

The little swallow of Happy Prince may understand it better!

Yes… the little swallow!

Anyone remember the little swallow in Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince who courted the ‘most beautiful reed’ the whole summer?

“He was flying down the river after a big yellow moth, and had been attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to talk to her”

Wasn’t it something similar?

I followed the course diligently the next couple of weeks…

It was contagious…

Soon the twelve year old left the online magic courses and joined me in edX with an archived course in Geometry.

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The improvement he made in Geometry in three weeks! You have to see it to believe it.

A CRDI engine with a strange complaint at a distant location and a level 3 course in NVH troubleshooting kept me away from edX for a few days.

By the fourth week of January when I sat with the twelve year old again he was completing a survey at the end of the geometry course.

“How do you compare this course with the courses of Khan Academy?” a seemingly innocuous question in the survey had an option “I don’t know about Khan Academy” as answer which was duly selected by the twelve year old.

We never heard of Khan Academy before. Neither son nor father.

The twelve year old did start another edX course in Algebra the same day. But the third day he dropped out of edX.

edX lost one of their customers to Khan Academy!

Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning, Branding… By this time I had started planting terms like these in casual conversations with unsuspecting colleagues.

“So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver ripples”

And the twelve year old left edX for Khan Academy which was totally unknown to him till the survey at the end of the geometry course.

Someone comes to buy a car from you. A FXXX or a TXXXXX or a XYZ…

You take him around…you explain the features…you let him drive the demo car… and when he is about to leave, he has not made a decision yet, you ask him ‘How do you compare our XXXX with the SKYACTIV Mazdas?’

‘SKYACTIV? Mazda??’ it seems the customer is unaware,  one moment please… this is just an example… but I have seen recently a Nokia 3310 owner, an aged vegetable vendor in our village ridiculing his friend’s touchscreen mobile “12000 bananas! And not even a single button!”

So what do you think? Will the customer forget the ‘SKYACTIV’ and ‘Mazda’ on his way home and come back to take one of your cars?

I don’t expect that… he may come back… in his new SKYACTIV Mazda3 or CX-3, if he could pull his heart off the charms of the MX-5… to thank you!

That question of yours was a blunder my dear!

So was the survey question from edX. “How do you compare this course with the courses of Khan Academy?”

I am not here to compare Khan Academy with edX. I am leaving it to you.

I felt disillusioned with the edX course in marketing… How can I continue after I see them making such a blunder!

“You have been trifling with me”, the little swallow cried, “I am off to the Pyramids. Goodbye!” and he flew away.

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SKYactiv

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Rear Vehicle Monitoring, Smart Brake Support, Smart City Brake Support, Forward Obstruction Warning, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning System, High Beam Control, i-STOP, i-ELOOP… the list is endless!
No wonder, when offered a test drive on the new Mazda 6, after a walk around and few videos, Captain Feroz, an airline employee, exclaimed “Test flight?! But I have endorsements only for A320 and A330!”

SKYACTIV – across the interview table

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A few moments from a job interview… 

“So SKYACTIV G is all about the increased compression ratio!”
“Yes… increased compression ratio is the main thing. 4-2-1 exhaust, cavity pistons and other things you mentioned are to enable the high compression ratio”
“14:1! Are you sure?”
“That is what they claim.”
“What are they trying to achieve with this increased compression ratio?”
“Increased thermal efficiency! 9% increase if compression ratio is raised from 10:1 to 15:1.They got 15% increase in fuel efficiency and torque. The 2012 model Mazda3 is in the elite 40mpg club now”
“If it is that easy then why others are not doing this? Increasing compression ratio is not a big deal!”
“The problem is with knocking. High compression ratio increases the probability of knocking”
“Then?”
“Knocking has to be controlled”
“How they are doing it?”
“By reducing the amount of residual gas”
“Residual gas!?”
“It is the amount of hot exhaust gas that remains inside the combustion chamber”
“How this is related to knock?”
“The amount of residual gas can have an effect on the compression temperature. If the residual gas is reduced, the compression temperature will be reduced. According to Mazda, if the residual gas is halved, from 8% to 4%, the temperature at compression TDC will remain the same even when the compression ratio is increased from 11:1 to 15:1”
“Interesting… could you tell us how they are controlling this residual gas?”
“It is the 4-2-1 exhaust system… another innovation… When exhaust manifold is short, the exhaust gas emerging from one cylinder during the beginning of exhaust stroke can enter another cylinder which is at the beginning of intake stroke and whose exhaust valve has not closed yet, resulting in increased residual gas. By increasing the length of the manifold…”
“Sorry… I am not getting you…”
“I mean… let us think of a 4 cylinder in line engine with firing order 1-3-4-2.The exhaust valve timing is such that the exhaust valve closes 5 deg ATDC. Clear?”
“Yes”
“Consider the beginning of intake stroke in cylinder 1. What will be the position of exhaust valve? Open or close?”
“Open. About to close”
“Now what will be the situation in cylinder 3?
“Exhaust? Beginning of exhaust stroke??”
“Correct… it will be exhaust stroke beginning. The exhaust valve in cylinder 1 is not closed, it is the beginning of suction stroke there, and the cylinder 3 is pumping out hot exhaust gases into the exhaust manifold. Is it clear?”
“Clear! You mean to say that some of the exhaust coming from cylinder 3 will enter cylinder 1?”
“Exactly… But we can control this by using longer exhaust manifold”
“You mean longer pipes?”
“Yes… long pipes… 600 mm minimum… They call it 4-2-1 exhaust system”
“Four 600 mm pipes! It will be taking up a lot of space! Won’t it?”
“True… they are adopting a loop shape and utilizing the space efficiently. But there is another major issue…”
“What is that?”
“Longer pipes cool the exhaust gas before it reaches the catalytic converter. So the catalyst’s activation will be delayed”
“True! Interesting!! Tell us how they tackled this”
“They just increased the exhaust gas temperature… by delaying the ignition timing… but it leads to another problem… too much retardation makes combustion unstable. But they overcame this also… by charge stratification with cavity pistons and optimized fuel injection”
“Hope there are no more problems… Bye the way, you had any road tests?”
“Yes! With the CX5”
“Is it still fun to drive?”
“Hahaha… no compromise on that! It is still fun to drive…like its siblings… and the fun does not end when you are driving to gas station.” 

A couple of questions on the Atkinson and Miller cycle engines and it was over.

Sorry… I can understand your curiosity… but I can’t reveal which side of the interview table I had been.