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RE: Structural Analysis & Design

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We used RISA-2D first and loved it.  Next we got Visual Analysis. We liked
the graphical interface for setting up models better.  After you learn your
way around it becomes very intuitive when creating nodes, members and
loadings.  But we could only use it for analysis.  Code checks still needed
to be performed by hand (Not a bad idea, but slow).  With the addition of
Visual Design we now have a program where we can quickly set up models, load
them and quickly check allowable stresses and unity equations.  We have gone
to using Visual Analysis as our program of choice over RISA-2D.

The scary thing here is that it looks too easy.  You put in numbers and you
get answers.  It makes it look like if you can run the program you can be an
engineer.  After going to a few code update seminars lately and watching the
list for the last year the trend seems to be towards more complex design
with more sophisticated computer programs required to generate these
designs.  If Structural Engineering becomes a profession of people who are
great with computers but really don't understand the codes they are based on
or the construction process it takes to get them built we are in trouble.

So I applaud programs like RISA and Visual Analysis that can be used by
those of us who are not Computer whizzes.  I leave it up to us who can
remember being thrilled the first time we learned how to use a slide rule,
to keep preaching the lesson that tools are great but they don't replace the
carpenter.  If the program spits out number we have to know what it means
and where it came from.  We still have to know the codes and the theory
behind them.  And we still need to know what can be built and what can't be
built.  If we don't were not engineers we are just data entry technicians.   

I like both RISA and Visual Analysis/Design but the last time I checked
neither was licensed to practice engineering in any state.

Dave Morris P.E.
Corvallis, OR