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RE: Technology and Structural Engineering

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Chitra,
 
Yes, technology can give us more "FACTS", but technology CANNOT teach us how to "look at the facts in a variety of different ways" or to consider "a number of parameters previously ignored".  A fancy structural analysis program can give me many facts about how loads are going to be distributed throughout the building ... STILL being based on great assumptions and other uncontrollable conditions ... but if I'm having the computer design my members, I'm losing some of the "feel" for engineering solutions to a problem.  For example, I tell the computer how often my steel beam is braced against buckling, but by delegating the design of that beam to the computer, I lose sight of the effect of that braced length on the capacity of my beam -- I may be tempted to conclude that the effect is linear and it is not so beyond a certain point.  I'm not advocating hand-calcs anytime and every time, I just believe that fancy technology might actually be steering engineers, particularly younger recent-graduates, into a false sense of confidence and that we must not lose sight of the fact that we are not technicians -- we are problem solvers and we need to use tools to HELP advance our knowledge and feel for things, NOT to hinder that progress.
 
Dave K. Adams, S.E.
Lane Engineers, Inc.
Tulare, CA
E-mail:  davea(--nospam--at)laneengineers.com
 
 
 
-----Original Message-----
From: Chitra Javdekar [mailto:cdeshpan(--nospam--at)yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 8:01 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: Technology and Structural Engineering

Dear Dave,
 
Thanks for your thorough response.  I agree with you on most of the points you have mentioned. 
 
However, I feel that significant (if not dramatic) improvement is possible, in every single field.  Structural Engineering is no different.   Also underlying principles never change - in any field, but technology gives us a way of discovering them or looking at the facts in a variety of different ways and including a number of parameters previously ignored...  Take an example of weather forecasts..  5-10 years ago, we did not receive such accurate weather forecasts.  Maybe the recent Hurricane Katrina will bring in more data to the structural engineers regarding materials, methods that might help us further down the road in being better equipped to handle such severe storms. 
 
That reminds me:  I have not seen many postings on this board regarding Hurricane Katrina.  There must be a few members from the afffected areas.  Hope they are safe and doing fine. 
 
 
Regards, 
 
-Chitra
 
 

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