A good overview on how to make terrain for your sketchup models.
Sunday night play. I’m sure it has been done before but a bridge pier would probably support underwater turbines. The turbines can be used to make electricity which can heat the bridge deck and illuminate the bridge.
My first attempt, which will not work, shows some of the challenges. Getting water to a turbine, protecting the turbine from debris, changing water levels, etc.
Okayyyy, so heres the thing, I wanted to try something new. So I made a podcast, actually I started a ton of them, threw them away and started again. They all had the same problem, me. Finally I decided to just do it (sorry Nike) and post the result.
Sure its lousy, I am not a professional broadcaster, and trying to make my stream of conscious into a coherent product is difficult.
BUT I did it and posted it, embarrassing as it is….I also learned a lot about wordpress and Audacity. My next step is to try and get it on itunes. Why, just for fun.
Give me some feedback (good and bad) and some questions I can use if I ever decide to do another one.
Seriously you can skip this post…..
I am sitting in class (yes I am a bad student) and started thinking about things I wish I knew when I started designing bridges.
Since I am typing on an Phone, I will ask for help. What are your tips?
1) Ask questions! Brain mining of established designers is a quick way to knowledge but
2) Do the work. It takes a long time to really understand bridges and exposure to a large number of structures is crucial.
3) Don’t accept bridge dogma without checking it yourself. Again a senior engineer might know when to use rules of thumb and standards but make sure you check/agree with them.
I will think about it some more. You bridge designers out there, what are your tips?
Update: Eric had some great tips!
As a young engineer, Thanks for the tips.
Thought I might add:
Learn from mistakes
Always check work before submitting it for review
Someone at my office mentioned this today:
“Simple bridges have simple problems, continuous bridges have continuous problems”
Are bridges the only structures where engineers CAN lead the design and express their creativity?
I realize engineers can design projects where they use new materials, etc. but what other endeavors require a mix of engineering knowledge and aesthetic considerations?
Other than bridges, engineers are typically working in the background.
Seriously are there any other areas?
Wonder how girders get to a bridge? It looks a little unstable….
I made a quick introduction to Mathcad for my students. The sound level is fairly low for some reason and it seems overly long….how is that for a sales job?
I was asked by a leader in composite technology to look into the idea of replacing current concrete basement wall systems with FRP panels.
The advantages of the FRP panel system, (maybe)
- Installation speed – pre-manufactured panels should go in fast and easy.
- Thermal conductivity – FRP is 5 to 10 times better at keeping the heat in the basement.
- Carbon footprint – concrete makes up about 5% of the worlds CO2 production, FRP would reduce that by about 20%.
- Cost – higher for FRP but it should pay for itself over the product lifecycle.
- Flammable – FRP may be less resistant to fires.
- Unproven technology, weight, etc
This is obvious a quick overview but I think it touches on another issue.
How does new technology gain a foothold in current markets?
This also relates directly to bridges. We have numerous design manuals for concrete and steel but very few, if any, for new materials.
My engineer brain says “concrete is the best solution for everything” but am I being shortsighted in this viewpoint? How do we change engineering minds? (Should we?)
Update: I found a good article on using bamboo in FRP boats. (It is too related.)
I think I found the name of my next book, “The Precertainty Principle” . (Go ahead and Google it and I should be the first hit…..)
It is a complete rip-off of the “precautionary approach” advocated in this 1992 UN Declaration on the Environment.
Essentially my theory goes like this, the future is uncertain but we still plan for it.
Even if global warming is a charade, it wouldn’t hurt to err on the positive side and reduce pollution. Even if the amount of oil we have now is enough it wouldn’t be a bad thing to plan for a oil less future. Even if, …..well you get the idea.. Planning is a good thing as Mr. Rodgers would say.
And guess what, engineers are some of the best planners around. So you can be precertain they will be out there trying to improve the future. (Dilbert fame here I come.)
Yes I had one of those days.
This is off topic but it is steaming my clams. It seems our school district policy is to keep a students math test and never return it so it can be used over and over.
I’m quite upset over this policy. I think parents need to see how they child is doing in school and part of that is working old tests and seeing where a child has difficulties. I have started the process to change this policy but I’m not sure I can fight the system. You actually have to make an appointment to see how your kid did on a test! (Don’t copy a question or it will be hell to pay.)
Here is the policy. What do you think, am I mad?
Upkeep of roads, bridges and transit systems is a high priority to an overwhelming margin of Americans, but by an even greater margin they don’t want to pay more for it, according to a survey that will be released this week.
- 64% of voters say that how the government currently spends money on building
and maintaining our transportation infrastructure is inefficient and unwise,
including one in four (26%) who says it is very inefficient. Just 32% say the
government currently spends efficiently and wisely.
- Republicans (72% unwise) and independents (67% unwise) are particularly
adamant that this is the case, though 56% of Democrats say that current
spending is unwise as well.
- Given this attitude, it is unsurprising that the public supports a number of
measures that would change the way in which transportation dollars are spent
Update: cool bridge video, thanks Pete!
I was reminded again today that I have a fractured engineering mind. On the one hand, I think costs and function are the most important elements of a good bridge design. Then on the other foot, I think, wow, I don’t want that box of a bridge in my neighborhood.
My father, an engineer, always said “if engineers designed houses they would all be square.”
And as the all knowing wiki points out,
Yin yang are complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, but either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in particular objects, and may ebb or flow over time.
There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to evil and good. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions and other dichotomous moral judgments, in preference to the idea of balance.
So the whole point is balance in a bridge design. This is a difficult thing to do in a media obsessed world where the far out (I’m old) design usually wins.
The only thing I know for sure, if engineers want to be bridge designers, they better get in front of the concept and not behind it.
High quality video of prestressed beams being tested, from Australia. I always enjoy a good beam breaking.
In an article over at the guardian, Justin McGuirk, laments the current state of sustainability.
“Sustainability”. I have never much liked the word. “Sustainable” is not an adjective you would use to describe something you love. To sustain something is to keep it alive, pure and simple – more of a duty than a passion. Once, we aspired to reach the moon; now, we just hope to hold on to what we’ve got. Sustainability suggests the flatlining of human ambition.”
I have to agree, the word sustainability does imply a stasis commitment, and what year of our history are we trying to “sustain”. So do we need a more descriptive word than sustainability and a better marketing blitz to get this going?
“Back to the future” is taken but maybe “fixitnoworyouwillregretitlater-ism”?
Again from Mr. McGuirk,
The answer, it seems to me, is to buy fewer things that we value more: to design products that endure and that we can repair more cheaply than replace. And the real way to win the public over to sustainable design is not with a war of words but by tapping into their desires. We want things with sex appeal, not ones that look as though they are made of Weetabix.
The Happy Pontist post about developing a manifesto for engineering, has stuck in my mind. A manifesto often has a negative connotation, but the definition from wikipedia states, a manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions. So what are an engineer’s main principles?
I think the first one has to be safety.
When the public thinks about engineering, safety is probably close to the top of the list. Think of car commercials, about how cars are “engineered” for safety and quality. But safety is not a sexy principle and it definitely does not lead to creativity.
In bridge design, an engineer’s first inclination is to build bigger and stronger than may be necessary. But engineers have a very strong impetus to do so, their signature.
When an architect concepts a bridge, they can go directly to a creative solution because they know that safety will be taken care of by an engineer. An architect doesn’t have to sign for the safety of a structure (maybe a house) but an engineer does and this colors their choices.
Safety leads directly to a status quo mentality. Change implies risk and risk is not something a structural engineer is fond of…
I think the principle that should come next is improvement. Engineers are interested in improving but only at a glacial pace. (see safety above) But this is understandable, learning all the techniques to design a standard bridge takes a great deal of time. Then you ask an engineer to learn even more to design an aesthetic marvel and you get resistance!
Now the third principle should be creativity but I have to say I think creativity in engineering is actually frowned upon by engineers. Creativity means change (see above) and risk (see above). A risk has to be matched by a reward. For an architect the more risky a design the more reward. (in terms of publicity) Famous architects are known as risk takers and the more outrageous the better. Engineers not so much.
So to sum up,
Safety doesn’t happen by accident. ~Author Unknown
“Safety First” is “Safety Always.” ~Charles M. Hayes
Better a thousand times careful than once dead. ~Proverb
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Anne Frank
Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.
There’s always room for improvement, you know-it’s the biggest room in the house.
Louise Heath Leber
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.
Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.
what do you think?
Some engineering quotes:
A bridge is built for us to pass over; it is a work of utility, and which should endure. It should be in keeping with its object, solid, clean, simple, well executed without vain ornament.
- Paul Sejourne Grandes Voutes
An engineer is someone who is good with figures, but doesn’t have the personality of an accountant.
- An Arts graduate’s view of engineers
An engineer is someone who washes his hands before going to the toilet.
Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice.
- Ove Arup
The Happy Pontist has a great post today (when doesn’t he/she have a great post) about writing a personal or engineering manifesto.
I have to think about it but it is a great idea. What do engineers consider their essential essence? The cheaper the better? Concrete is the new plastic? I’m just doing what I was told?
I do like the idea of re-framing our public engineering identity.
Is this bridge possible? And my latest break bridge, with an impossible, unsupported roof! Notice the waterfall on one side. (or did I just run out of land, you decide.)
I realized I had all the entries for the St. Patrick Bridge Competition, so I thought I would post them. (and try out the lightbox plugin for wordpress. Just click on an image and a slide show should appear.
I threw one of mine in as well, but I didn’t actually qualify since I missed all the “required” paperwork.