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Checklists for Engineers – kitchen sink post

David and I have been discussing the use of checklists in our work. Here is a checklist for checklists. A guide to making a good checklist.

The discussion started with the book, “The Checklist Manifesto” by Dr. Atul Gawande. I work with checklists and I understand their role but I’m not always a fan. I think we settled on the idea that it depends on the quality of the checklist.

What do you think of checklists? Love them? Hate them?

Some more great learning links from David.

Jorg Schneider seminar.

And an odd bridge

Pont du Truc de la Fare
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Google Sketchup for Engineers

I have been looking around for books on Google Sketchup, that are  geared towards engineers. It turns out they are relatively rare.

So, feeling my oats, and having found some success in Sketchup I pitched a “Google Sketchup for Engineers” book idea to John Wiley & Sons. Engineers are just different in the way they learn and so they require a book that addresses their needs. (And I often feel needy.)

Now sending a pitch in a letter is probably not going to get me anywhere but I thought it would be fun to try. has some bullet points on how to pitch your idea and an address to send your material.  (I guess it makes some kind of sense that a book publisher uses snail mail.)

The books I have been reading about Sketchup seem to have architects as their primary audience. I understand that the visual world is the architect’s playground but I think we can find some good uses for a free 3D modeling program. BIM anyone?

So bottom line, I am not going to hear back from Wiley based on an unsolicited idea. So my question for authors out there,  how do you sell an idea for a book?


Regarding Engineers as leaders in the last post. I’m sure if I wander around the internet I can find blogs that promote and decry the current state of their particular profession. (lawyers anyone?) Engineers are a rigid and serious bunch. Often lives depend on their decisions.

BUT like any profession the good should be highlighted and the bad should be pointed at and made fun of….any engineer who purposely harms people are not engineers, I don’t care what their degree says.

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The image of Engineering

A Engineering News Record viewpoint piece by Rakesh Tripathi.

Engineers should not lead organizations. Engineers are rigid, politically unsophisticated, unimaginative, uncommunicative and oblivious to the big picture. They lack the needed qualities for leadership and are best suited for lower-level supporting roles.

Read the article so you understand my out of context quote….

Thanks David!

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Eugene Freyssinet – Bridge Engineer

David sent me some great links to information about Eugene Freyssinet.

Eugene Freyssinet (13 July 1879 – 8 June 1962) was a French structural and civil engineer. He was the major pioneer of prestressed concrete.

French/Spanish PDF with great photographs.

A short (28 pages pdf) tribute article in English. (great images)

And another different article written by an Italian in English.

Thanks David!

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Sketchup Plugins for Engineers

Plugins help Google Sketchup become a free substitute for more expensive cadd systems. Two plugins in particular, GetCentroid and Volume Calculator, can help an engineer make usable calculations based on 2D / 3D models.

Plugins are just text files with a .rb extension (Sketchup uses the Ruby programing language). You place them in the google sketchup plugin sub-directory folder before reopening sketchup.

Hint: Join and you will have access to an amazing amount of free plugins that can make just about any task easy. (Plus free advice and tutorials.)

The GetCentroid plugin by Alexander Schreyer, allows an engineer to find the area and centroid of 2D faces. For example if you have a T-beam homework set, you can sketch out the exact size of the face in Sketchup, on the XY axis.

Continue reading Sketchup Plugins for Engineers

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Danes go self suffcient

Well I survived the raptors, I hope you did too.

The Danes plans to go fully energy self sufficient by 2050. Since my parents are off the boat Danes, I am claiming part ownership….

In Denmark, we have decided that we do not want to be in that energy race. We want to insulate ourselves from future peaks in energy prices and disruptions in supply, and to invest our money in green, long-term, sustainable sources of energy. Our government has announced its ambition that Denmark should become fully independent of fossil fuels by 2050, and instead meet its energy needs with renewable energy.

Why do we have to be last at everything?

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Charles S. Whitney – Stress Block

I am teaching the Whitney concrete stress block next week and knew little about Mr. Whitney, so I went looking…

From the Ammann (another famous engineer) & Whitney design firm.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1915, Charles Whitney founded a successful consulting engineering practice in Milwaukee, WI. Services were provided in the planning, design and construction supervision of structures and municipal projects including bridges, highways, buildings and special structures.

Whitney was well known for the development of the plastic theory and ultimate strength methods of reinforced concrete design, and long-span, thin-shell structures. He was the author of many engineering-related books and articles and was particularly active with the American Concrete Institute throughout his career, serving as its President in 1955. Whitney contributed numerous technical papers to advance the design of concrete structures.

The Whitney Stress Block, a cornerstone of American concrete design since its adoption in 1956, was named after Charles Whitney. Whitney’s research and papers contributed to the ACI Standards now titled “The Manual of Concrete Practice.”

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Sketchup Friday – raptors

I heard the raptors are coming tomorrow. Cool I like dinosaurs.

This first image came from a very basic sketchup model and I played around with it in Kerkythea. I think it kinda, sorta, maybe looks like a real place. It needs a polar bear swimming in the foreground.

updated: I never noticed the truck in the water, HA! See rendering mistakes…

This next image is a little PPC beam bridge with a well manicured environment. Not very realistic but fun.

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The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI)

ASCE has finally developed a website for their new infrastructure rating system, dubbed “envision”.

So far as I can see, nothing of value has been placed on the site yet. It hints that the new rating system will be rolled out sometime in July, but nothing but a bunch of coming soon announcements.

The other part that dismays me is the nature of the project. Become a member, sign up here, join us. I think another proprietary system is not the answer. How many engineers have joined the LEEDS system, voluntarily?

What is needed is a movement and I think that comes from a non-profit with free information available to everyone. I can see states adopting this program and engineers will have to become certified as “ISI” professionals, closing the market to only those that can afford the fees. (See LEEDS above.)

What we need is an “open source” environmental rating system. Something that can be tweaked and improved upon. Something that can work in different cultures, with different design codes.

The Happy Pontist had a great post about open sourcing bridge design. I think we need the same idea here, lets open source the environment and finally improve it.

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Should drivers pay by the mile instead of the gallon?

Hmmm now how would this work for bridges? From USAtoday.

What do you think should we start paying for what we use as individuals and forget the shared infrastructure of the past? The answer is no, we should continue to work together.

It is the only viable system for moving forward. I mean how many of us can afford to rocket to the moon? Man, I sound like a commercial for civility…..