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Confessions of a recovering engineer
December 2, 2010 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Confessions of a Recovering Engineer
posted by aniola (52 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The answer is utterly shameful: Because that is the standard.

Nobody ever got fired (or sued) for Doing Things The Way We Always Have.
posted by DU at 7:11 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, duh. He was doing the job of an urban planner, which he had absolutely no training or experience in.

It's almost as though the guy had an epiphany that urban planning even exists. Can somebody please point him to a library so that he can read Jane Jacobs?
posted by schmod at 7:13 PM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I didn't get very far.

which required me to pass a pretty tough test just to get started and another, more difficult, exam to conclude

The PE Licensing exam may be difficult, but the EIT exam (now the Fundamentals of Engineering or FE exam) is more grueling than difficult. It's two 4-hour sessions that test how well you memorized the format of the accompanying book of equations beforehand. Every question on the test has a solution somewhere in that book, if you know where it is and more-or-less how it should be applied.

Actually a pretty decent analogy for the parts of engineering that this author doesn't like...
posted by muddgirl at 7:15 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I work for a large and well known manufacturer of agricultural, construction, forestry, and consumer equipment. My job is to be a mediator between several departments of engineers, several layers of management and about 40 machinists on a shop floor. What I've learned in the process is that in the face of a catastrophe, management is clueless and afraid to commit to change, operators are cynical and willing to accept failure as a result of a broken process, and engineers are arrogant and unwilling to listen to the people who have to deal with their specifications, machine programs, and work instructions.

For example, we have a gear that gets pressed onto the end of a steel shaft. If an operator makes both parts at the exact size that the blueprints call for, they will fail to press together and he will break the press and have to throw away both parts. In order for the parts to fit together, the operator has to grind the shaft diameter .0015" smaller than the size on the blueprint. This is like a mile to a machinist. This has been happening for at least a decade.

Last year, a decision was made to outsource the shaft grinding to another company, and I warned several engineers to change the print to reflect the reality that the blueprint tells an operator to run parts that don't work. The response I got was a bunch of eye-rolling from engineers that refuse to listen to anybody that doesn't have an engineering degree. Guess how many of these parts I've seen the company throw away. Probably about 3,000. And we have to pay for them because they meet the specs on the blueprint. Think it's been changed? I'll let you guess.

And then there's the robotics programs. We had a robot that regularly destroyed itself because it was programmed to slam itself around at top speed and stop abruptly at several points and burn out its brakes every year. Engineers are responsible for the programming of them, but when I called them down, I was met with eye-rolling and was told everything was fine. Finally, I dug out the programming manuals and rewrote the entire program myself and we haven't lost a robot since. But I'm still an idiot because I don't have an engineering degree.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:55 PM on December 2, 2010 [39 favorites]


As an engineer and scientist, I've found numerous times that the manual must sometimes be ignored and/or improved upon. For me, the manual is usually from a vendor who sells us some kind of electrical characterization equipment or maybe an optical component. The manuals are written by people, and if there is one thing I know about people, it is that they make mistakes.

I try not to follow instructions without first understanding the reasoning behind them. If I understand the reasoning and agree with it, then I can stop thinking and start doing. Sometimes this isn't possible, like when a vendor sells you something they've spent $5million designing which costs you as much as a cheap car. At these times, the task is just too complicated; You're shit out of luck and have to rely on vendor expertise, and this can be very frustrating.

But roads are not that complicated. The system is simply broken, as there is little feedback from the customers (drivers AND local residents). I can imagine the bureaucracy of government stifling any kind of creative or independent thought. Sure, follow the book. There is no reward for innovating. There may even be punishment.
posted by cman at 8:01 PM on December 2, 2010


A lawyer, a priest, an engineer and the devil walk into a bar...

... and the Frenchman thinks, this is great- I kiss my hand and hit the Englishman, and nobody blames me for anything!

Er, whatever.
posted by newdaddy at 8:04 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't know enough about civil engineering, urban planning or American towns to judge whether I should agree with the author on all points in his article. However, as an engineer (in a different field), I have to side with him on the issue of "standards".

A lot of stuff in engineering these days boils down to following "standards" with little consideration for specific requirements of the situation. A growing proportion of engineers is doing nothing beyond substituting values for x and y in equations and letting the computer calculate the answer.

This is not to say that "standards" should be abolished, or that knowing which standard to apply doesn't require work. But what people call "engineer" now bears little connection with the Latin roots of the term.
posted by vidur at 8:11 PM on December 2, 2010


Um, the first thing the engineer should be considering is the speed vehicles travel on the road. If you design a road that is safe at 30 but dangerous at 50 and all the traffic wants to go 50, they have done it wrong. They either need to design the road for the speed of traffic or they need to implement traffic calming measures (not speed bumps!) to induce drivers to slow down on their own.

Well, OK, first the engineer should be finding out what kind of road the client wants to build, but that can't really be decided without knowing how fast vehicles drive on the existing road or will likely want to drive on a road that didn't previously exist. From those two things, safety can then be engineered into the road.
posted by wierdo at 8:19 PM on December 2, 2010


The EIT test was not difficult. And I've met many Professional Engineers who couldn't think solve their way out of a wet paper bag. Yes anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

Engineer (not a PE, though).
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 8:53 PM on December 2, 2010


I wish this article had been significantly longer.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:56 PM on December 2, 2010


Civil always attracted the lowest tier of engineering school students and this is the result.

In software engineering - yes, it exists - we know better than to even have standards, much less follow them. Because we're just that god damn awesome.

Back on topic however:

A bunch of engineers are sitting around at a party, discussing the nature of the God, and who designed the human body.

The mechanical engineer states that God must also be a mechanical engineer because "if you look at all the pulleys and levers that drive the body, how the tendons and muscles and bones all work together, well, it's just amazing."

The chemical engineer says that no, God has to be a chemical engineer because "if you look at all the chemical processes that drive the body, how the hormones and the brain and the glands and everything else all interact, well, it's just astounding."

The electrical engineer says that no, God has to be an electrical engineer because "if you look at the circuitry of the body, how the thousands upon millions of nerve cells transmit signals from one part to another, well, it boggles the mind."

The civil engineer speaks up last of all and says, well, God is definitely not a civil engineer, because "only a moron would run a sewer through a playground. "
posted by GuyZero at 9:24 PM on December 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yeah, Civil Engineering isn't really the pinnacle of the engineering field. It really just involves looking stuff up in tables of empirical data people made 50 years ago. My roommate in college was a Civil, and was fond of saying that the only math they needed was the 3-4-5 triangle, and the only physics was the fact that shit rolls downhill.

So its a bit irksome that hes disparaging the entire field of engineering based on the shortcomings and limited creativity of himself and other civil engineers.
posted by jpdoane at 10:27 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't even get me started on this subject. Fortunately a lot of civil engineers realize the absurdity of the street design standards. Unfortunately, few of them do anything about it.

I mean seriously, DO NOT GET ME STARTED
posted by Xoebe at 10:57 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm a civil engineer. I was attracted to the field for the physical vastness of the things only civil engineers can do—not because it seemed like the soft engineering option. Yes, there were plenty of nitwits in civil, but the other disciplines were not much different. It is possible that many took and continue to take comfort in standards and codes but the minority loves engineering of any kind for the creativity, for seeking the "elegant" solution to a real world problem, and the ideal engineer will find it—and this if she or he is an engineer or not.
posted by impuls at 11:40 PM on December 2, 2010


Limited creativity? That's a pretty low blow. Try limited funding. Limited political foresight. Limited patience of people who think that everything that makes the world work has always existed, and that there's some magic way of making everything better with the snap of a finger.

I built a bridge on the north side of Chicago that will stand for decades. What exactly is it that you do?
posted by hwyengr at 12:57 AM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


The aura of unsexiness and comparatively poor pay of CivEngg has caused a serious shortage of civil engineers in India. And even if you like the idea of building roads and bridges, nobody in their right mind would want to work within the dysfunctional environment of the municipal corporations.

Personally I don't know where this idea of civil engineering being uncool comes from. Physically reshaping our world is awesome! I may be a software guy too, but any geeks who don't get a kick out of the likes of Brunel (documentary) need to turn in their badge.
posted by vanar sena at 2:58 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I try not to follow instructions without first understanding the reasoning behind them.

Bless you! I'll drink to that.

Yes, there were plenty of nitwits in civil, but the other disciplines were not much different.

Indeed. That much suggests the "nitwit" set is a subset of any large enough set. Still, the definiton of "nitwit" is pretty vague. Is an engineer a nitwit because he/she didn't face complicated intellectual challenges faced, for instance, by string theorists? And why is attempting to find a satisfying definition an issue at all?

We should get rid of these infantile "I'm smarter than you" or "I've seen things you humans can't even begin to imagine" statements and mindsets and look at the facts, when it is possible.

For instance, the fact that speed doesn't kill people. People kill other people, by driving too fast without factoring some other facts: the faster you go, the shorter the reaction time is to be in order to stop before hitting something. Yet no matter how fast people think they are, human response times are way too slow in many instances, and that's without factoring in distractions and discontinuities in human performances.

Similarly, standards don't kill people. let me go ahead with this provocation: people following standards to the letter without understanding the reasoning that led to their formation kill people.
posted by elpapacito at 3:28 AM on December 3, 2010


TrialByMedia : The response I got was a bunch of eye-rolling from engineers that refuse to listen to anybody that doesn't have an engineering degree.

I would call that either an institutional problem at your company, or you just have really bottom-of-the-barrel engineers.

Yes, we tend to think in overly exacting terms, and it doesn't surprise me at all that an engineer would make a first pass at a spec that has IDgear = ODshaft and damn the tolerances. But when you make just one and show (most) engineers the problem, they would immediately facepalm, check the elasticity of the two materials, and make an appropriate correction to one or both parts.

Yes, engineers can get a bit arrogant, because we can (and sometimes do) perform the jobs of just about everyone we work with. But we also readily admit our mistakes, sometimes even when we really should not (ie, when liability issues might exist as a result of blame).


/not a mech eng, and don't at all envy having to work with actual physical stuff, ick!
posted by pla at 4:10 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let me provide my motivation for "nitwit": any engineer who claims that a civil engineer need only know about the 3-4-5 triangle, understands that shit rolls downhill and so on; or most anyone, but especially an engineer who lives by "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"; fits the profile.

I was a little on edge there. Sorry about that.
posted by impuls at 4:11 AM on December 3, 2010


Speaking of infantile: speed doesn't kill people. People kill other people, by driving too fast without factoring some other facts: the faster you go, the shorter the reaction time is to be in order to stop before hitting something.

Poorly designed roads kill people. A properly engineered road will subtly encourage proper speeds and prevent surprises that may test a driver's reaction time. An experienced driver should be able to gauge the safe speed of an unfamiliar road within 10 mph or so. If a significant number of drivers treat a 35 mph road as a 55 mph road, there is something seriously wrong with the design. The severity of the error will be measured in collisions, injuries, and fatalities.
posted by ryanrs at 4:24 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


God I hate these psuedo progressive new urbanist diatribes where they look lovingly over at Europe and see it as the solution to America's problems.

There is plenty wrong with American civil engineering/urban planning but if you think Europe is the answer I suggest you live in England for a while. Cycle and Drive here. See just how crap it really is. I suspect the reason for England's greatest urban planning virture, it's walkable village nature, has survived because nobody really wants to have drive or cycle too much because it sucks so much.

BTW cycling rates were higher in all of the Canadian cities I lived in than they are here in Birmingham even though the English climate is far more amenable to cycling. This is because English residents quite rationally fear their roads and drivers.
posted by srboisvert at 5:11 AM on December 3, 2010


My alma mater has a very prestigious architecture program in addition to the huge engineering college. All the architecture washouts ended up in the civil engineering track.

In my current position, I've been exposed to a few things. First, there are lots of people around here (both in my own organization and the government) that have "engineer" in their title that really should be called "program management" or something else. THESE are the people who swear by the standards and have very little understanding of them. In fact, I'm in the middle of a huge fight with these people right now over exactly which standard to apply to a certain problem; they want to use Standard A because it's cheaper (program managers...) and we want to use Standard B because we'll ensure we won't cause massive failures and loss of life. Take a wild guess who's winning the argument.

The thing that these program management-types don't get is that all of the standards we use are designed to be tailored. They provide general design guidance ("You don't really want to place that high voltage line right next to the pipe with the very flammable vapor in it, do you?"), but you the engineer are left to figure out the rest. The people without the training don't get this and assume that these standards are The Word - the worst part being that if the standard doesn't explicitly state something, then they assume we don't have to do it. ("The standard doesn't say we need to design for an operating altitude of 40,000 feet!" Well, yes, but you're going to be flying there... wouldn't it be wise to investigate?)

I told a fellow engineer once that one day I'd leave this life and do something respectable, like playing piano in a whorehouse. I don't think he got it.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:35 AM on December 3, 2010


England != Europe. Go take a holiday in the Netherlands, they're very bike-friendly.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:42 AM on December 3, 2010


The people without the training don't get this and assume that these standards are The Word - the worst part being that if the standard doesn't explicitly state something, then they assume we don't have to do it.

Couldn't have said it better.

In my current position, I've been exposed to a few things. First, there are lots of people around here (both in my own organization and the government) that have "engineer" in their title that really should be called "program management" or something else.

Similarly, there's people that think they have a degree in economy as they can mess with some financial data and play with descriptive statistics. In Excel, and boy that makes them so modern, and their powerpoints rival Andy Warhol's too. Yet I am not really mad at them (except that they contribute to giving economist a bad name), they were prepared exactly to think the way they do: to follow The Market, as civil engineers allegedly often follow The Standard.

Short term thinkers, trained to help reach a "bottom line" budget target, placed in position in which they can relentlessy apply what was taught to them WITHOUT questioning the wisdom of these choices, anesthetized with an healthy dose of money, should a glimpse of the consequences of their decisions and schemes ever cross their minds.
posted by elpapacito at 6:25 AM on December 3, 2010


And why is attempting to find a satisfying definition an issue at all?

On the contrary, it's very important to distinguish science from engineering. Fundamentally, engineers know what they are doing, and scientists do not. When something unexpected occurs, a scientist will call it a discovery, whereas an engineer will call it a bug.

Scientists and engineers both very dependent on the other. Engineers rely on scientists to discover new materials and phenomena like the transistor and laser. Scientists rely on engineers to design the tools of science, like computers and Large Hadron Colliders.

The LHC is good example of science and engineering operating in close quarters. But still there are very well-defined boundaries between the two.
posted by ryanrs at 6:25 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The PE Licensing exam may be difficult, but the EIT exam (now the Fundamentals of Engineering or FE exam) is more grueling than difficult.

Yeah Civil PE here, I found the EIT a lot harder too. The PE is at least generally based on what you've been doing for the previous 4 years, but the EIT tests you on the vast bullshit of the first two years of engineering school weed-out courses. I've used thermodynamics exactly once, and that was to explain to my brother how a heat pump works.
posted by electroboy at 6:43 AM on December 3, 2010


Since he wrote about widening roads, and the safety implications thereof, here's a nice counterpoint.

(Summary: Turning a 2-lane road in Northern VA into a 1-lane road reduced accidents by 80%, made more drivers comply with the speed limit, added bicycle facilities, and did not reduce throughput)

Seriously, I almost don't get what this guy is on about. Did he get his CE degree in the 1960s? I would have thought that "progressive" planning ideas had begun to make their way into engineering curriculua, even if only limited to the extremely well-established fact that wider roads are rarely safer for drivers or pedestrians.

The point isn't that this guy was an engineer -- he was a bad engineer living in an echo chamber, where there were no urban planners or more experienced CEs to tell him that he was doing his job poorly, or that the "standards" were not delivered from God on a stone tablet. Critical thinking is necessary even (especially) in the presence of a standards manual.
posted by schmod at 7:12 AM on December 3, 2010


Another civil engineer here. Can we stop bashing the entire field ("lowest tier", "limited creativity","washouts")? The issue here isn't the field, but the short-sightedness of many municipalities when it comes to addressing their transportation issues. Other state & city DOTs have developed progressive standards more in tune with the tenets of smart urban planning. Close to home, I've been pleased with the Seattle DOT's efforts to improve bikeability and integrate low impact design methods for stormwater and traffic alleviation (less than I'd like to see, but hey, it's something). It's not like engineers are unaware of the problem -- the ASCE gives the US's infrastructure a "D" grade. Infrastructure isn't politically sexy and doesn't get the money it needs to allow for implementation of newer and better design standards. Also, any good engineering training will teach you not to blindly rely on standards as a bible - it's still up to you to have a design that makes sense for that particular project, and sometimes you can argue for a "non-standard" approach if you can prove that that it attains the desired end result.

A minor aside: civil engineering is an incredibly broad field, and offers lots of opportunities for multidisciplinary work - it's not just roads and sewers. I know civil engineers using global climate models and analyzing landscape-level changes in snow cover and its affect on water supply. Others work with biologists to restore streams for spawning salmon. Some use geophysics to explore sites for the movement of contamination. Developments in structural engineering are impressive in terms of expanding architectural possibilities and employing sustainable design principles. Right now, I should be working on running a hydrologic model to simulate snowmelt and soil mechanics. CEE is by no means devoid of intellectual rigor or creative problem solving. Please don't take an isolated college experience or anecdote as evidence to disparage an entire field. We're all still nerdy engineers; it's not a contest.

Sorry, looks like I'm a bit on edge as well. All these defensive CivEs!
posted by yukonho at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, let's be fair, yukonho - your colleague electroboy just admitted that he or she considers most first- and second- year engineering coursework to be "bullshit ... engineering school weed-out courses". Hardly a good foundation for interdisciplinary systems-level consideration of engineering impact. :)
posted by muddgirl at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2010


Here's a post on the NYC Street Design Manual with a similar discussion of driving lane widths.
posted by Pork-Chop Express at 9:21 AM on December 3, 2010


Since he wrote about widening roads, and the safety implications thereof, here's a nice counterpoint.

SDOT just did that a very similar thing to a road near me, and the effect is wonderful. Throughput is unaffected (In fact, I think it has improved), and now there aren't cars making dangerous maneuvers to get around bikes or turning vehicles in their lane.
posted by yukonho at 9:24 AM on December 3, 2010


"An experienced driver should be able to gauge the safe speed of an unfamiliar road within 10 mph or so"

You are absolutely, positively correct on that.

However, that is precisely the problem. People don't drive "safely". People drive up to the level of risk with which they feel comfortable. Making roads "safer" means people drive faster. You cannot make roads "safer". I am reminded of something a traffic engineer told me once. They never assess safety in terms like "more safe" and "less safe". It's either "safe" or or "unsafe" and "unsafe" needs to be corrected. But I digress.

One of the ideas New Urbanists love is to make roads less wide. Put parking on the street. Make them "less safe". People will drive slower - up to the level of risk with which they feel comfortable. They will drive "safely".

Here on MetaFilter, there have been several posts and comments linking the experiences of British and Dutch traffic engineers - where they remove road signs or shut off traffic signals. The ensuing "chaos" is both more efficient and yields fewer accidents.

Cool, I got through this without mentioning AASHTO! Blood pressure rising...must...stop..
posted by Xoebe at 9:36 AM on December 3, 2010


Well, let's be fair, yukonho - your colleague electroboy just admitted that he or she considers most first- and second- year engineering coursework to be "bullshit ... engineering school weed-out courses". Hardly a good foundation for interdisciplinary systems-level consideration of engineering impact. :)

Oh definitely -- that does happen more than it should. I would say that tends to be specific to each school's program. I've seen that more with larger universities where students come in as general engineering for the first two years and then have to "apply" to a specific department. That's often because the individual departments lack the capacity for the amount of students that enter the parent College of Engineering. Personally, I think that's a sloppy way of doing things and doesn't serve the students well. However, I believe there are some engineering fundamentals to be learned regardless of your discipline because of the background it gives you in problem solving, math, and applied physics. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I still think that there are Things Everyone Should Know if they want to call themselves an engineer.

I went to a smaller liberal arts college with a rigorous engineering school, so there was pretty much one semester of "weed-out" courses and fundamentals and then you could jump into the meat of your specific discipline. After that point, if a student was severely struggling it might be suggested that they consider a different path instead of continuing to press them with bullshit classes just to force dropouts. I guess it all comes down to individual attention to students and whether or not professors present the material in a way that shows how it integrates with other disciplines. There are plenty of reforms that can be made at the colleges before their engineering students set foot in the real world (the first being integrating the real world in their program!).
posted by yukonho at 10:04 AM on December 3, 2010


One of the ideas New Urbanists love is to make roads less wide. Put parking on the street. Make them "less safe". People will drive slower - up to the level of risk with which they feel comfortable. They will drive "safely".

Roadside trees have also been shown to contribute to this effect. They also reduce crime, improve happiness, and clean the air. IMO, tree planting and maintenance should be a priority for any big city.

Fortunately, cities are taking steps toward that goal. NYC wants to plant a million trees by the end of the decade. (That might seem like a lot, but it's really only one per 8 residents.)

DC's treeplanting effort is mostly coordinated by Casey Trees, a nonprofit independent of the city. I can attest firsthand that they do wonderful work -- they also have a small army of volunteers, given just how much people want new trees in their neighborhoods.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. However, I am certainly glad that the "social" component of Civil Engineering is finally being taken seriously by cities in the US. As #*$ed up as our planning methodologies were in the 20th century, we're finally moving in the right direction, and implementing a tremendous number of great ideas in our cities.
posted by schmod at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2010


your colleague electroboy just admitted that he or she considers most first- and second- year engineering coursework to be "bullshit ... engineering school weed-out courses".

That's not exactly what I said. I said it tests you on the bullshit weedout courses, with the implication that one tends not to pay much attention to them beyond passing the class. Having a broad based education is fine and all, but I think a fundamentals of EE and two semesters of 4 credit physics labs on electricity and magnetism is a bit much.

I'll also note that a bunch of those requirements have been axed since I graduated, so I can't be the only one that thought so. Or possibly I'm just bitter at wasting an entire semester looking at an oscilloscope.
posted by electroboy at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2010


Here in Los Angeles bike/pedestrian/neighborhood advocates are all fighting an uphill battle with LADOT and street design. Someone was telling me about the history of a street crossing on Sunset Blvd near a school. Once upon a time there were no lights at all and kids were getting hit trying to get to school. The solution (obviously) was not to slow down traffic, but to build a tunnel underneath Sunset. A tunnel near school--what could go wrong? Eventually parents complained about fights and other crap in the tunnel. So now the tunnel is closed and there is a stoplight. But the speed limit is still 35 on Sunset, which means traffic goes more like 45. Yay!

If we're gonna talk about speed limits and enforcement, we gotta talk about the bs laws relating to setting the limits at the 85th percentile.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:05 AM on December 3, 2010


Even though I'm a mechanical engineer, I don't think electronics lab is bullshit or a waste of time and I'm sort of disappointed that it was axed at your alma mater. Critical thinking, data synthesis, and analytical tools should be the same no matter what field they are applied to. My overall point is that there's a direct correlation between "engineering outside my particular interest is bullshit" and the narrow standards-based thinking that's discussed in the OP. We can't have interdisciplinary investigations of systems without fundamentally interdisciplinary engineering education. But maybe that's just my general BSE talking.
posted by muddgirl at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2010


I would hope a mechanical engineer wouldn't think electronics lab is a waste of time, given that electronics and instumentation is usually part of the basic Mech.E curriculum.

But given that time is a limited resource, you have to make choices about what makes it in and what has to be left out. I'm guessing that your coursework didn't include a lot of geotech classes or hydrology; similarly, I probably could've done with just one class on electronics, rather than all three.

The problem in the OP seems to me like inexperience combined with the arrogance that seems to accompany engineering degrees. These kids have been given the basic tools to solve problems, but lack the real world experience to realize that telling people to put up fences so their children aren't killed when the roadway is widened just isn't going to fly. Design standards aren't the problem, it's slavishly following design standards that's the problem. Unfortunately, realizing that usually comes with experience.
posted by electroboy at 12:36 PM on December 3, 2010


Clearly some students need 3 classes on electrical to pass the EIT. :)
posted by muddgirl at 1:44 PM on December 3, 2010


Schmod, I think the author would agree with you. In the article, he says: "Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people."
posted by aniola at 2:21 PM on December 3, 2010


Nah, you just mark all the questions C. Passed on the first try.
posted by electroboy at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2010


hwyengr I built a bridge on the north side of Chicago that will stand for decades.

You designed the bridge, right? I am thinking the Ironworkers, Carpenters, Laborers and Heavy Equipment Operators "built" the bridge.
posted by mlis at 3:04 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


That assumes that the design is finished and handed off to others when construction starts. Field conditions are *always* different from the design assumptions, so most engineers stay heavily involved throughout the construction process to ensure the project is built correctly. Saying that he didn't "build" it is like saying the laborers they just carted stuff around in wheelbarrows. They all built it.
posted by electroboy at 3:12 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


While we're talking about the PE test, how hard should I expect ito be, 12 years after graduating? I took the EIT test last year, and with the help of an online class, aced the thing. But I really don't have any sense of how hard the PE test is for an ME who hasn't designed anything more difficult than some tooling jigs since he got out of school.
posted by notsnot at 3:28 PM on December 3, 2010


You designed the bridge, right?

I was resident engineer, so I was on site with the laborers every day inspecting pile drives, testing concrete, checking quantities and modifying the plans when they were incorrect.
posted by hwyengr at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best thing you can do is sign up for a review class. They give you a pretty solid idea of what to expect, and how to solve all those problems you've either forgotten or never learned.
posted by electroboy at 4:38 PM on December 3, 2010


mandymanwasregistered wrote: "If we're gonna talk about speed limits and enforcement, we gotta talk about the bs laws relating to setting the limits at the 85th percentile."

That's not BS at all. It's been proven time and again that speed limits don't slow drivers down, their perception of risk (whether accurate or not) is the only thing that does that. Basically, if you build a road that looks like a highway, people will drive at highway speeds upon it, no matter what level of enforcement used.

The point being that artificially determined speed limits do no good, and are therefore a net societal negative. If you want to reduce crossing accidents, the road needs to be redesigned. It's that simple.

Think of it as crowdsourcing.
posted by wierdo at 7:18 PM on December 3, 2010


"Because that is the standard."

I am reminded that Engineering, out of all fields, seems to attract the most Libertarians. Libertarianism is a pseudo philosophy that if everybody lived by its rules then there would be little need for government or oversight or regulation.

Libertarianism is also individual centric and tends to be ignorant of groups larger than a single individual, and it wants to help the most productive individuals - in this case the people who drive fastest.

With regard to adverse affects and social consequences many Libertarians appear to be Social Darwinists.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:54 PM on December 3, 2010


I am reminded that Engineering, out of all fields, seems to attract the most Libertarians. [citation needed]
posted by normy at 7:17 AM on December 4, 2010


Hey, just found this tangentially-related article on a fun and functional way to get folks to willingly go the speed limit.
posted by aniola at 2:27 PM on December 4, 2010


normy will probably want a citation for this, but I read an article a few years ago that engineers tend to also be more prone to turn terrorist -- they are trained for black and white answers and solutions, and when the world doesn't act like that politically, they're more likely to decide they should try to solve that problem themselves.
posted by garlic at 10:49 PM on December 4, 2010


I am reminded that Engineering, out of all fields, seems to attract the most Libertarians.

You need to meet more system administrators.
posted by GuyZero at 3:15 PM on December 5, 2010


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