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Intelligence Squared US

Intelligence Square is a series of Oxford style debates covering such diverse topics as religion, global warming and energy policies. I believe it based on a similar series first broadcast in London.

So I am late to the party but it is interesting to have real debates on real questions. To often we go to the caricature of an idea,  we need to actual put in the hard work of understanding an issue before spouting an opinion. (hmmm did I just spout?)

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Masters Degrees for Engineers

I went to a seminar last week, where the retired vice president of HNTB (a big consulting firm) gave an overview of bridge types, loads and modes of failure. It was a good talk but the final point he made was about the preparation required to work at his company.

He pointed out that a masters degree in engineering is the minimum requirement necessary to gain employment at his company. This seems to be the trend and I know that our professional engineering society is pushing, for a masters degree as the basic degree for an engineer.

So what do you think do we all need a masters degree? I have one but I don’t really think it helped me much in learning my profession. Our state also requires a professional engineer to earn 45 professional development hours. You can get the 45 PDHs by attending classes or seminars.

How does it work in other countries? Do you have to continually improve your education? (Although I would argue most PDH courses are not worth very much.)

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County Bridge Concept – again, sigh

Okay last one, you know how an engineer gets stuck on a concept. The goal, build a bridge without a crane.

Now I have a portable casting bed that also pushes the panels onto the abutments. The portable trailer also carries the beams used to support the precast panels as they are pushed across. You could use the form to cast panels anywhere you want, even in your backyard.

The video is a little choppy because I am just learning a free Sketchup plugin called “Proper Animation”.

Note: I added some loud music to the video!

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Random thoughts on small bridges

I added a hydraulic ram to my small bridge concept, so the deck panels could be pushed across the bridge. That way they are in compression the whole time and the form could keep the panel on course.

I think I could use the portable ram to push the steel support beams across as well. Maybe this could be built without a crane and by a small construction company? The ram could be run from the hydraulics of a typical earth mover or portable hydraulic pump. (You could even pump a hydraulic lever.)

Personally, I would build the form (and ram), pour panels, and push them out on drying racks, in my precast yard. When a bridge order came in, I would load two precast abutments, five panels and go install the lot with a crane in one day.

Our counties, like most states, are having a hell of a time finding money for bridges. But good solutions seem to hard to find. Why is it so difficult to design a cheap simple span bridge? Bridges to Prosperity has their system down, why do counties struggle with multiple bridge styles and a mix of terrible research projects?

Why can’t the perfect system be found?

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Bridge Aesthetics in a Recession?

I wrote this post two years ago, and I still have the same question. Is it possible to have good looking bridges in a recession?

Bridge Aesthetics in a Recession?

(I used to be on something called the Transportation Research Board, subcommittee on Bridge Aesthetics, but the chairman used the group for self promotion and I think it has died… least I have not heard from them for a number of years.

I think I will put a picture of the committee on a milk carton, “Have you seen me”?)

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Henry Petroski – An Engineer’s Alphabet

Henry Petroski has a new book out.

An Engineer’s Alphabet – Gleanings from the Softer Side of a Profession

Written by America’s most famous engineering storyteller and educator, this abecedarium is one engineer’s selection of thoughts, quotations, anecdotes, facts, and arcana relating to the practice, history, and traditions of his profession. The entries range from brief essays to lists of great achievements. This work is organized alphabetically and is more like a dictionary than an encyclopedia.

Here is the promo code I received in an email.

Buy now and receive 20% off when you use Discount Code F1ENGALPH

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No Crane Bridge Concept part deux

So here is the original thought. Cast panels behind the abutment, launch on steel beams, then slide sideways.

Cast the panels on the bridge concept.

So place a couple of steel beams to hold the formwork and then cast panels right on the bridge. Then slide them into place.

I know getting the steel beams out at the end of the design might be difficult. But if you block them up slightly, you can remove the blocking, lower the beams and slide them out.

Hey its just a free concept!

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Winter is coming and the construction season is slowing to a crawl. The only thing heating up is politics and who really cares, like the Who says “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”.

So we are left with the only thing that matters, making it through this economy in one piece. My family was impacted as I’m sure most of you were, so how is the outlook in your part of the world?

Is engineering still a great degree for a job seeker? What parts of the bridge economy is growing?

How do I start an “Occupy” group on a bridge? (Hopefully someplace tropical…)