Future of Westlawn 2.0

Discussion in 'Education' started by asmith1111, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    I am glad to see that Westlawn is working on to develop a good educational process for yacht designers. I also hope that Westlawn will reach out to SNAME for help in developing material.

    However, I do have a minor nit to pick.

    As it happens, I have (been on a team that) designed oil platforms; North Rankin, Claymore, Kulluck, SEDCO 709 - 713, Thomeliten, Beryl, ...

    I have also (been on a team that) designed sewage systems (at least for ships, mostly tankers), and I have designed small docks and quays and certified drydocks.

    I have been involved in the design of tankers, tugs, ferries, amphibious armored vehicles, cable layers, merchant ships, naval vessels, barges and many other types of marine craft.

    No breakwaters, though.

    I have also designed a huge number of small craft, mostly military and commercial, but a few recreational boats / yachts, including sailing yachts and production rec boats. I also have two patents relating to hydrofoils.

    My degree in mechanical engineering with an option in NAME from a university did not actually disqualify me from small craft design, and my education and experience in larger vessels (and actually even oil platforms, but that's a longer story) frequently illuminated small craft design.

    I note that when I was in London, working on oil platforms for the North Sea, the guy sitting next to me had done the Southampton course, which had an emphasis on small craft, but nonetheless he was working on oil platforms (that is designing them, not standing on them).

    I also note that one fellow that I worked for recently in mainly small military craft design had also worked with me on some very complicated problems in amphibious armored vehicles, and some years before that on oil platforms. Between the amphib job and when we next met, he went to Australia and worked in design on an America's cup campaign.

    My current interest is wave energy conversion, and I did a presentation on the subject recently with a fellow who mostly had worked with me on high speed planing craft issues.

    The point here is that engineering, especially naval architecture, is a very broad range of technology, and a university degree is generally good preparation for a wide range of engineering tasks. You don't have to go to a specialized yacht design program to design yachts.
  2. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    I certainly hope that Westlawn covers drafting as regards organizing drawings and a drawing set, meeting ANSI Y14 and so on. These are skills that CAD doesn't substitute for, but are vital to provide a useful design, and it's often something that new hires don't have.

    There are a bunch of different standards for drafting, but a new hire should at least understand zoning, references, part numbers, hills of material, revision control and so on, and then can adapt to a specific standard.
  3. TANSL
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    TANSL Senior Member

    I am a little surprised because I never would have thought that a professional school could not have taken into account all this and that therefore it would be good to remind him.
    I guess Mr. David Smyth will have something to say about it.
  4. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    I echo what Chris Barry said. Basic drafting skills are still important even if you never pick up a mechanical pencil or drafting pen, or use vellum. You need to know these basic skills even if you do your drafting on a computer. Perhaps buying splines and duck weights is passe' but the skills are not.

    I am glad David made that post though. At least now we have a little more information about what is going on at westlawn, and at least for now we know it isn't going the way of the dinosaurs.

    I do have one question: are you going to keep publishing the Masthead (or something similar)?
  5. mudsailor
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    mudsailor Junior Member

    Re: starting salary...as someone who in 2014 hired a NA out of Michigan......$65000 is a reasonable starting salary for a Michigan grad......for a Westlawn grad with an MEch Eng degree from a good school......would be about the same
    Now with just Westlawn, no engineering degree.......you're in eng technician salary range....$40,000
    Now, if you are Art Center Grad you can command $100k right out of college....but that's a different market and industry......
  6. cmckesson
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    cmckesson Naval Architect

    Mudsailor: As an instructor I am interested in what my graduates can expect as salaries.
    Where, geographically, are you seeing $65k as starting salary? Do you and your former classmates see much variation from DC / Gulf Coast / Seattle?


    PS: I too am a Michigan grad, although it was class of '79.
  7. mudsailor
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    mudsailor Junior Member

    That was So Cal........over the past few years there is a shortage of NA's.......I think a bunch left during the recession and Oil and Gas was sucking up a lot of people over the last few years......I would guess gulf coast is less but Pacific NW would be similar.
    I believe there is a shortage of NA graduates in the USA. Many many people I came into contact with are born and trained overseas........there are so few schools graduating NA's it's a big miss from SNAME not to get more schools interested. Exclude the service academies and you end up with Michigan, Webb (very small) Virginia Tech, NO and.........
    Where is a California school, University of Washington.........
  8. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

  9. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect


    As also noted here with ostensibly the same post from the same OP:-

    oataru likes this.
  10. KFW
    Joined: Jul 2015
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    KFW New Member

    I was a student during the transition. Things got a bit spirited over on the Westlawn forum for a while - most posts critical of the changes/lack thereof were quickly deleted. Since then the forum over there has gone just about completely dead, with many of the experienced students/alum who often had very insightful posts jumping ship.

    Here's my view of what's been happening over the last year.

    Things that have actually changed:

    -Dave Gerr left/was removed
    -Masthead has stopped
    -Tuition has been increased

    A variety of much needed changes have been promised:
    -Expanded course material
    -Updated website/student interface
    -Update existing course materials.

    So far none of these changes have gone public to the students that I know of, even though they were promised close to a year ago. No details have been released, including who is involved in the new/updated materials. No regular updates keeping students abreast of improvements have been made. The administration has not been inspiring confidence in the school.

    So far Westlawn specifically does not teach CAD, 3D modeling, or any standards. Instructors do not have a standard to which drafting practices are measured - I've gotten completely opposite feedback on drafting practices from different instructors.

    I would hate for all the time I've invested in the program to have gone to waste, however until real changes proving the longevity and usefulness of the school happen I'm not going to return to finish the course.
  11. hydroptera
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    hydroptera Junior Member

    RINA Accreditation


    I don't normally go on forums as I'm too busy designing boats to read through them! This one popped up somehow so I read - with interest and dismay - about the recent struggles of Westlawn. I found it interesting to read David Smyth's statement that the curriculum is accredited by RINA - something Dave Gerr had applied for and gotten for the school in 2011 - so I checked about this with RINA directly.

    RINA's Director of Professional Affaires, Mr. Giuseppe Gigantesco, replied: "The (Westlawn) course in yacht and boat design was accredited as contributing to the requirements for election as a corporate member of RINA in 2011. The accreditation was granted for intakes from 2011 until 2015 included."

    That is, at the time of Mr. Smyth's writing the quote (at bottom), in January of 2016, Westlawn was/is no longer accredited by RINA. It turns out that you have to apply for accreditation before getting it and this has not been done with RINA or, I understand, any other granting body in the 'States since Mr. Smyth took over the school. I'm pretty sure that Westlawn does not have any accreditation at all right now. If so, this is a real blow to its legitimacy.

    I'm a Westlawn graduate ('85) and completing the course was one of the best things I've done. It was challenging but was the perfect way for me to learn at the time. I remember that the course took 3-1/2 years to finish, while I worked part-time at various jobs, and it cost $900 for the whole course! I went out on a limb - as a 19 year-old - to purchase the whole thing in one shot, but it was a good investment after all. Before Westlawn, I had started in a university Engineering program but realized after one year that I really wouldn't learn how to design the boats I wanted to design through the "formal" system.

    After working at various other jobs I opened my design office in 2001, and had learned a few computer programs by then. I've learned a few more fantastic ones since, and highly recommend TouchCad (www.touchcad.com) for 3D modelling and boat design. (nothing comes close to it as far as modelling and surface development go, as far as I'm concerned) At the time of graduation everything was done "Old School", or by hand, and I'm glad it was/is still. It doesn't hurt to have some basic understanding and skills - even in a modern office.

    I reconnected with Westlawn via Dave Gerr and the good work he did with the school: The Masthead Magazine, the updating of teaching material, the connections to RINA and the ABYC (among other organizations) and through outreach 'events' like the IBEX shows. I would say the Gerr years at Westlawn can be summed up as a dramatic professionalization of the school... and done in a really fun and approachable way. That's not easy to do!

    What of Westlawn today? From where I'm sitting the school's on the ropes and needs some help. I don't know what to tell students or people thinking about taking the course, but know the energy and efforts by industry pros that have made the school, the actual teaching of people to design boats (most degreed Naval Architects I know just move numbers around and really can't design a boat! Sad but true), the impressive list of alumni, and the fleets of boat and ships they've designed has filled an important spot in the boating world. Things like this just don't go away... that is, vacuums are always filled. Westlawn will either get back on the rails, or something will take its spot in the field. This opinion doesn't help students and potential students today, but points to something worth watching!

    All the best,
    Laurie McGowan


  12. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    Note that we have at least one current data point for a yacht design salary under "employment...";

    $60,000 - 85,000 in Marblehead MA with 5 - 7 years experience, so three to four times the cost of Westlawn, as suggested, though with more experience.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
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