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Re: Technology and Structural Engineering
- To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
- Subject: Re: Technology and Structural Engineering
- From: Chitra Javdekar <cdeshpan(--nospam--at)yahoo.com>
- Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2005 16:49:16 -0700 (PDT)
I understand your frustration at younger engineers looking at computer outputs and believing ONLY that to be the reality. But believe me, I have HAD my professors warning us against making such gross assumptions and encouraging rather to confirm those assumptions that go in the analysis and design... And I certainly support your opinion about developing a feel for things we design as you have said.
That said, when I made this posting initially, I did not mean only software for structural analysis or design. That is also my point, that we tend to look at technology as structural analysis software mostly.. Actually, there is a lot going on in other fields such as image processing, signal processing, sensors and so on. We have not taken as much advantage of it as we should have. Similarly, it is my firm belief that technology DOES give us ways to look at things differently and include parameters previously ignored. For example, in developing scenarios, understanding patterns and helping in presenting that information to the stakeholders. Imaging technology can help a lot, as in the weather forecasts. Also I said "technology 'gives a way' of looking at
things differently, and include a number of parameters .. " I am NOT suggesting that it 'teaches' how to do it. But as Pankaj mentioned, it can help us develop scenarios to develop the "comprehension of structures" in a relatively short time.
I agree with what Pankaj said, technology in every walk of life, is a double edged sword, it can either make your life better, or it can simply destroy you. But the choice is most of the time, ours.
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.
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