August 2, 2018

Summer Science IV

Summer Science I: Gordie Howe off the Ice
Summer Science II: Night of the Concave Earth
Summer Science III: Rock Hunt

Holiday Inn

The third week (week of July 19, 1965) of the Summer Science Program was devoted to the engineering sciences, and it was also the start of our classes in applied mathematics. Early on, we were introduced to a recent model of the imposing Monroe electric desk calculator, and we learned how to add, subtract, and multiply on these mechanical wonders. Several of the calculators were available for our use, and, excited by the opportunity, I eagerly wrote to my parents and brother asking if there were any calculations that they wanted me to do for them.

Dr. John Ruptash, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Carleton University, brought along another innovative teaching tool (very new to those of us who were much more used to watching teachers tangle with film projectors and reels): a small projector that used cartridges containing film loops, each one running about four minutes. I sat through more than two dozen film loops, all devoted to various aspects of fluid dynamics, just to get to use the device.

The highlight of the week was a two-day field trip to visit the Imperial Oil research center, Canada's largest petroleum research complex, in Sarnia, Ontario. In preparation, we had two sessions with experts from Imperial Oil. One concerned the basics of petroleum extraction and refining, and the other was on linear programming and optimization, which I found intriguing (and almost understood).

Packing was a bit tricky because we could dress informally on the first day for the 200-mile bus ride, but needed suits or dresses for the second day, when we would be visiting the research center and enjoying a company-sponsored luncheon at the Sarnia Golf and Country Club.

Our initial destination was a Holiday Inn in London, Ontario, where a sign welcomed the group. We were a bit annoyed, however, that the sign referred only to our sponsor and not to the program itself.

Welcome sign at the Holiday Inn in London, Ontario, in honor of our group's stay.

After three weeks of dorm living and generally mediocre food, staying at the Holiday Inn was a real treat: large, comfortable beds with only two to a room, TV sets and radios in every room, air conditioning, an outdoor swimming pool, and plentiful, tasty food for both that night's dinner and the next morning's breakfast.

Enjoying the outdoor swimming pool at the Holiday Inn in London, Ontario.

Friday morning, appropriately attired, we traveled to Sarnia and Imperial Oil's research department.

At the entrance to one of Imperial Oil's research buildings.

After a long (somewhat tedious) morning session learning more about the company and its operations, we toured the complex, viewing labs where new types of products were developed, petrochemical analysis centers, and various pilot plants for developing and testing new machinery. The tour was interesting but, partly because I had not yet studied chemistry in school, I had trouble understanding explanations of how mass spectrometers and other equipment functioned.

We were not allowed to take photos within the complex, but company photographers followed us around, taking snapshots for later use with press releases about our visit. The company plan was to send material to newspapers in the home towns of each of the program participants in the hope of garnering some publicity. Of course, for those of us from Toronto and other large cities, there was little chance of getting coverage in our "local" newspapers.

After a sumptuous lunch (at least, it seemed so to most of us), we were turned over to the engineering department to learn more about the refinery itself.

Headquarters for Imperial Oil's engineering division in Sarnia, Ontario.

The afternoon's lectures and tours seemed to go on forever. Many of us were tired (some had stayed up past midnight the night before, and others had been up by 5:30 a.m. for a morning swim). And we were quietly digesting a hefty, rich meal. Inevitably, there was tendency to doze off, whether in the meeting room or on the bus winding past the many components of Imperial Oil's refinery. We visited an impressive control room for the entire refinery, various testing and quality-control labs, and even the shipping department, where, to our surprise, we saw branded products for companies that we would have considered Imperial Oil (Esso) competitors.

Finally, returning to our own bus, we drove through Sarnia's "Chemical Valley" along the shores of the St. Clair River, where numerous companies had refineries and plants.

Refineries and storage tanks along Sarnia's "Chemical Valley."

This was our chance to take pictures of refinery infrastructure and other features of the chemical landscape, including Imperial Oil's own operation, something we couldn't do while we were on the grounds.

View from a bus window of a refinery's towers, as our bus traveled alongside the St. Clair River.

Then it was back to the Holiday Inn in London, Ontario, though just for dinner (another delight that included shrimp, scallops, and salmon). And the long trek back to Lakefield, where we arrived just before midnight, exhausted. Luckily, our Saturday morning classes had been cancelled, and we could sleep in.

I was up at 8:30 a.m., nonetheless, but not early enough for breakfast. I learned that only six members of our group had made it in time.

In the meantime, the second installment of the Heathkit radio kit (EK2-B) had arrived, and several of us continued with the project. This meant dismantling much of the first stage and deciphering increasingly complex instructions for building what was to become an elaborate shortwave radio.

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