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Re: Lack of Drafters

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Gerard Madden wrote:
> Is it just me, or is there a shortage of even 1/4 decent drafters out there.


No, it's not you.

Lack of "drafters"? What's a drafter?  Drafting is a lost; it has been
replaced by CAD - and the people on the educational side of things have
not figured out that there is a difference between the two.

Do you know of any high school age kids today that aspire to be
drafters?  I'll answer the question - "NO". The word "drafting" is not
even used anymore - although it should be because DRAFTING IS NOT THE
SAME AS CAD!  (Sorry for all the capital letters - as you can see this
topic tends to raise my blood pressure.)  Many of today's young CAD
people do not look at themselves as being a "Structural" Cad person.
They look at themselves as being a CAD person focused more on the
mechanics of Autocad and the mechanics of working with and understanding
the computer.

The misconception a lot of people have in our field is that someone who
knows the mechanics of using the Autocad program can produce a good
structural drawing - WRONG!  I call inexperienced CAD people "line
converters". They take the squiggly pencil lines on an engineer's sketch
and convert them to straight lines in Autocad - often without the
faintest idea about what it is that they are drawing.

Part of the problem is that with today's compressed schedules, reduced
fees and fast computers we do not have the luxury of time that we had 20
years ago. 20 years ago a young engineer would spend several months on a
large project designing composite beams. As that engineer would design
the beams the drafting department would layout the floor framing plans
and fill in the information as it was produced. There was time for
experienced people to teach and train the younger engineers and
drafters.  Today you can frame out an entire steel building on Ramsteel
in the morning and have all of your floor framing plans done by the end
of the day  (details? dimensions? What do you mean I can't frame my
W36x135 to a W12x19?  What do you mean my W8x10 span 40 feet - the
computer says it "works"- you old guys are so  conservative!). With this
capability our profession has slowly crept into the situation where we
are forced into shorter and shorter schedules - because if we can't meet
the schedule our clients will find someone who can - or who says they
can. Drawing quality suffers.

I have recently been proposing (10% in jest, but 90% seriously) that
structural drafting be made a mandatory course for all engineers seeking
a Master's Degree.  Let me explain.  One excuse for not making technical
drawing a mandatory course for undergraduate engineers is that "We have
only so much time to fit everything in and there just isn't time -
besides many of the students probably will never even have a need to
know how to produce a drawing". Another excuse is "The engineering
curriculum is much more well-rounded today than it was 30 years ago -
you old dinosaur".  OK.  Here is the solution:  When an engineer decides
to pursue a Master's in structural engineering - THEY ARE HEADING DOWN A

Part of the problem with the declining quality of drawings produced by
many structural engineering firms today lies with the fact that young
engineers with little or no technical drawing experience are guiding CAD
people with equivalent drawing skills.  Young engineers today are often
being asked to take on more responsibility earlier in their careers than
us "oldtimers" were.  Part of the reason for this is that young
engineers today don't have to spend several years "cutting their teeth"
doing repetitive hand calculations every day for the first several years
of their careers - "thanks" to the computer.

The firm where I work is realizes the importance of producing high
quality drawings and has been taking steps to educate and train our CAD
people and our young engineers on the basics of "structural drafting".
You can have the latest structural engineering software and the most
sophisticated computer technology that money can buy - but if you can't
get your elegant structural design onto paper in a manner so that it is
clear, concise and easy to understand by the people in the field, then
you have not produced a good product.  The guys in the field could care
less that you used the latest Whizbang 2002 version 2.01 software to do
a pushover analysis on the structure - they just need to know what the
top of pier elevation is at column B-4 and what's the anchor bolt

Uhhh,? I think I'll get off the soapbox now and see how that first
edition AISC manual is doing that I'm selling on Ebay. (Why am I selling
such a gem? I have lots more -that's why!)

Clifford Schwinger

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