Thoughts on the Engineering Industry

A blog covering engineering, technology and business topics

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Can a study on Texas infrastructure ignore public transportation concerns?

Hello everyone, I hope your week went well.  I actually felt a little off in the middle of the week due to grass allergies which is annoying.  I did have a bit a good luck though in getting a job interview for a small structural engineering firm in Dallas.  It turns out he was looking for someone who knew revit though which I don’t know, but it gives me something to work on for the future and he did recommend a good tutorial book which I appreciate.  Overall, the experience was good.  Today I wanted to share with you an article I found talking about how Texas has the best infrastructure in the country.  When it comes to roads, I could find it believe-able but I think there is something essential that is not mentioned even in passing – our severe lack of public transportation options in places.

In the study by CNBC, they say that they “measured each state’s transportation system by the value of goods shipped by air, land and water.  The availability of air travel and the quality of the roads in each state were also examined.”  I’ll grant them one thing – this is an easy statistic to quantify.  It takes a lot more effort to do an in depth study of the number of commuters combined with all the transportation options and travel times to see a complete picture.  That, however, is not my issue.  It’s the fact that they neglect to mention this element they over looked at all.  The only thing they say that is closely related to this fact at all is this – “Despite Texas’ number one ranking in terms of the value of items shipped over its transportation system, North Texas drivers are dealing with some high numbers of their own as they contend with the most congested freeways in the state.  A 2011 study by TxDOT found that the LBJ Freeway carries more than 300,000 cars per day despite being built to handle only 120,000.”  I don’t see how you say that you are proud of your infrastructure and claim that it is meeting your states need when the roads are only designed to meet a fraction of the demand.  Not only that, they look into the topic any deeper on any level; if they did, I would think they would find research like this or this.  Even if the original assessment by CNBC is accurate by their standards, their choice to ignore the transportation system as a whole makes the conclusions in the study highly flawed.

What is your opinion on this?  Should studies like this be done as long as other elements are considered as well?  Or do studies like this always lead to a flawed analysis like in this article?  Thanks for reading and have a good week. 🙂

Alternative methods for teaching core curriculum

Hello everyone, I hope your week is going well.  Nothing much has happened since I posted last – still doing the tutoring and enjoying the break from school.  Today, I want to share an article I read a couple weeks ago about college education.  The concept is that, instead of a traditional core curriculum, students would take a set of entrepreneurship courses that combine the core curriculum skills in the first year.  Then the second year students would use those skills in practice while working with a company/charity that addresses a social issue of interest.

I find this to be an interesting idea if executed well.  The traditional core curriculum could be applied in ways to be more useful for your future career.  Along with that, valuable experience in the field can be gained in the second year; not to mention there is already a system like that in place for the second year if you consider the concept of internships.  There are some possible draw backs however.  When applied on a large scale, would the effectiveness advertised in the article be possible?  On a small scale, there is a lot of opportunity for a unique learning opportunities, but on a large scale the cost and complexity of scaling it could decrease it’s impact.

What is your opinion of programs like this?  Do you think that it is a necessary change?  Is it scale-able for larger universities?  Would be something that would increase your interest in elective course work?  Let me know if you have any thoughts and have a good week.

Non-engineering skills necessary for engineering

Hello everyone.  This week went well for me, but much hasn’t changed.  Just plodding along with my one kid I’m tutoring. He’s doing well though, probably jumped a whole grade in the last couple of weeks.  Along with that, he picks up new topics very quickly; all in all it’s actually kind of enjoyable.  While contemplating his lessons, it got me thinking about this blog topic – non-engineering skills necessary for engineering.  I have list of some below and why I think they are import.

1)      Social Skills – I’m sure this one is obvious to everyone.  As much as people may joke about the fact that engineers can be socially awkward, any time you need to sell you skills and qualities as an engineer requires some sort of social skills.  And truth be told, it’s actually kind of enjoyable from time to time.  One of the jobs I enjoyed the most while I was in school was working at a wine bar.  I am a huge wine nerd and that job was pretty much talking about wine with people and getting paid to do it.  That’s the way socializing in a job setting should feel in my opinion.  If not, maybe it’s time to reevaluate some things.

2)      Teaching – In working as a substitute teacher and now a tutor over summer, I have learned how to teach a lesson to groups of varying sizes.  Was it always enjoyable for me?  No.  But as I have had to give presentations over the years when in school, I have discovered that doing that as a day job has helped me.   I have learned how to answer a question in a way that breaks it down to an understandable level.  I have learned how to answer a person’s questions while foreseeing who else it might apply to and giving an answer that will satisfy all their needs.  But most importantly, I have learned patience – if someone has a tough question, I can respond patiently and articulately without sounding stressed or discombobulated.

3)      A foreign language? – This one I am on the fence about, but it is something I have a slight ability in and currently working to improve.  It would certainly depend on the work that you do, but being able to communicate easily with the people you work with is important.  Since I work in Texas, a lot of the migrant workers speak Spanish better than English. If I am ever put in a situation where I work in the field, I can only imagine that it would help me.

4)      Ability to learn/adapt quickly – Job skills and requirements are always changing.  That’s why the PE requires that you take some continuing education courses to maintain your skills.  If you are slow to adapt to or learn these new techniques, it will be difficult to truly be good in your field.  Truth be told, I always love learning new things, so I don’t have an issue with it for the most part.  I think most people who aren’t engineers assume that most engineers are like me.  But I could see where, if you just like the process of design and don’t always want to be on the cutting edge of things, it might be more difficult – even if you are a highly skilled and respected designer.

Those are the most relevant ones that I could think of in this short, last minute blogging session.  Are there any other skills that you can think of?

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