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Re: SE Grassroots Effort at Change (WAS: Field welding)

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Well, Christopher, I didn't come into structural engineering the same way as many of my compatriots.   When I graduated (finally), I went to work for a large international contractor, hoping to go back to foreign projects, of which I had been on two assignments prior to graduation.  One a World Bank project in Liberia and the other, working for NATO in London.   I wasn't even really interested in structures although I had an excellent academic education.

But the four years I spent with this contractor was one of the best times of my life.  The last two years was spent on a major hydroelectric project where I ended up the structural engineer for a great deal of the contractor support activities and also some architectural design after the project architect got sent home.   This is where I really met the superintendents and foreman who, if you picked their brains correctly, were more than glad to share what they had built or seen on other projects.   So you never knew what you were going to be asked to design from week to week and where I was first introduced to "instant" engineering.   This is where I designed and built my first bridges, first big poles, first big towers (although I would never design one of my towers the way I did again).   This was truly one of those situations where you were in the right place at the right time.  Just pure luck.

I had mentors that you wouldn't believe.   Most are still alive.   Just think of it; no plan checks.   No dumb client to continually change his mind or the criteria.   No worries about collecting your fees.  Little projects like concrete truck tunnel passers (worked with an M.E. on this for the rigging).   50 ton axle haul road bridges constructed out of reinforced concrete and brick.   Sinking cobble terminals on 95 feet of mud.   Washed out bridges that had to be replaced now.   None of my stuff ever fell down although two of my little projects shook somewhat.   Some of my big light poles leaned over somewhat by the  wires providing the power, but they were being buried in the big earthfill of the dam, so nobody cared.

Of course the temperature there varied from 110 to 118 and I learned how to play squash and drank a lot of Murree beer.    It was on this project where my wife and I watched Sputnik go across the sky.  Scary that they were first.

Gotta quit reminiscing.  I'm still a crappy welder.   

Neil Moore, S.E.

At 07:41 PM 9/9/2005, you wrote:

On Sep 9, 2005, at 5:04 PM, Neil Moore wrote:

Well, we called it A514.
Pretty much the same stuff--A-517 is the pressure vessel quality.

Also good to become buddies with these guys so that they could call you to the shop and show you why your "little" project wouldn't go together, (and not tell your boss).
The weld shop relationship was truly a profound change for me, although my co-op experience was something of the same thing. Engineering students graduate with a great sense of separation form the skilled trades, which is too bad. There's nothing more effective than refining a design with the help of the people who will be putting the hardware together. For me, it meant a few hours of humiliation trying to run a weld bead, while everyone looked on in amusement, but it was worth it. In return I had no problem walking out to the shop and discussing fabrication issues whenever I wanted. Both the shop and I gained much insight out of it.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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