Engineering to achieve the most perfect design possible, through

Engineering Judgment

Reflective Paper

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role of an engineer is to respond to a need by building or creating something
along with a set of guidelines which performs a given function. Just as
importantly the creation made by the engineer should perform its function
without failing. However, we live in an imperfect world and everything
eventually fails to perform its given function after some level of performance.
So, its the engineers mission to design in such a way as to avoid catastrophic
failure which could result in damage to the environment, loss of property and
more importantly possibly injury or loss of life. In order to achieve the most
perfect design possible, through analysis engineering designers can learn what
to do and how to create such designs with less of a chance of failure.

have to be creative to build something that are not familiar with its history. Engineering
projects involve more unknown than known. It’s what makes this profession
challenging and since they are not ruled by rules and guidelines its makes the
decision tougher and with more responsibilities. In order to solve and make
decisions on different problems, comes to work the engineering judgment. This
process helps engineers simplify the problems but a poor engineering judgment
may cause fatalities. Therefore, engineers have to bear all the
responsibilities when it comes to making conclusions on failure and to make
possible improving/redesigning a project. Although a good engineering judgment
comes with years and years of experience, we can start improving this day by
day throughout education and experiences that we face.

right use of judgment is a primary component in problem solving that changes
from academic training. It is important since it can provide a means of
initiating and conducting analysis using our informal knowledge. Just like a
woodworker or a machinist knows which joints will correspond to parts of a
design, engineering judgment can spot consistencies or problems in deign while
is still in process beefier severe error can occur.

In the article, Mathematical
Disposition of Engineers, Vick defines the engineering judgment as a “sense of
what is important” and it comprises “a diagnostic character in problem
definition, an inductive character in combination of evidence, and an interpretive
character in providing meaning and context to predictive conclusions.” “Mathematical
Disposition” also illustrates an occurrence of the engineering judgment. Julie
Gainsburg, a mathematical professor, decided to observe her students in an
attempt to gain insight as how engineers utilized mathematics in their work
environment. Gainsburg’s focus was put on a pair of researchers studying how seismic
movements interacted with an older building. Their study was focused on
simulating a building and the conditions were exposed using a software. In this
case, as I previously mentioned, engineers didn’t exactly know the history of
the building. The complexity of the building made the researchers simplify the
structure of the building so that their simulations could run. They agreed that
in order to run simulations they would have to simplify the buildings common
components, such as beams. A common beam found in the structure was initially
assumed to have constant cross section throughout its length, but it came out
that this assumption wasn’t true. Under a second analysis, it was found that
the cross-sectional area varied with length. This would result in changing the
loading and the forces that it may handle. If they never figured out this
error, it would’ve had the potential of providing results that would have
influenced future decisions for the building with wrong information.

In our daily life we
deal with this unexplained feeing called intuition, however some people choose
to follow it some others choose not to. However, in engineering, this intuition
is one of the key elements to identify and make important decisions in a
project. Intuition is what guides the engineers with their process to a
successful solution. But there’s no formal way of obtaining engineering judgment,
only time and experience can generate the “sixth sense” that comes with the
engineering judgment. A grand part of this experience is gained through learning
from the failures. Any kind of failure is a lesson, as William J. Broad noted
in his article in the New York times: “Taking Lessons from What Went Wrong”. He
focuses on disasters, their causes and how it’s possible to learn from them. In
page 1 Broad states: “It is not that failure is desirable … but failures,
sometimes appalling, are inevitable, and given this fact, engineers say it pays
to make good use of them to prevent future mistakes”. Not only in engineering,
but also in life, not learning from mistakes is a wasted opportunity. In our career,
it happens that not learning from the previous mistakes can put people’s life
at risk. Broad emphasizes on the idea that catastrophes should be studied. One
example that he brought up is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. The Tacoma
Narrows Bridge was constructed in a decade where increasingly long suspension
bridges began to emerge. The bridge collapsed as a result of series of factors
that included its above average length, slenderness of its width and the wind patterns
that made the bridge and its deck collapse. Fortunately, no fatalities occurred
and both bridges were later constructed in the region. After investigations
were made, it was confirmed that the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was not built to withstand
such conditions. Learning from the mistakes in constructing the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge, on the other side of the country, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was
carefully designed and planned. It exhibited the longest length of any suspension
bridge when it first opened. Keeping in mind abnormal winds, the bridge’s deck
was also built with a larger width. However, the lower deck of the bridge would
not open until 5 years after the bridge’s first opening.

Failure may also develop
from a combination of negligence and ignorance too. Using incorrect dimensions
and restrictions when initially designing the system can lead to nuclear
meltdowns as it did for the reactor in Fukushima Daiichi. On March 9th,
an earthquake with a 9.0 magnitude hit the coast of Japan and generated an approximately
45-foot- high tsunami. This lead to the breaking of the plan which caused electrical
failures and and caused the cooling mechanisms to fail killing around 200,000
people and a 20 km radius of plant to be evacuated. This negligence lead to
tens of billions of dollars of damage and also harmed our environment.

When the plant was
first constructed, the safety criteria was based under outdated documents.
Walls were meant to withstand waves of only 18-feet long and this was decided
on the data that was obtained 15 years before the plant started operating. Since
than, much higher waves had been recorded in most parts of the world, including
Japan itself. Scientists and engineers had neglected many signs, including the 1993
earthquake which was a 7.8 scale earthquake, which caused 30-feet high waves. Hiroko
Tabuchi has written about the infrastructure warnings that had been observed in
the plant before the earthquake and how failure to inspect the equipment occurred
weeks before the tsunami happened. All of the sources that conclude what really
went wrong in the extend of ecological, societal and economical caused by this
disaster could have been vastly reduced if it hadn’t been for negligence and overconfidence.

From elementary school
through college, even in my engineering classes, I have been trained to find
the right answer to a problem. Every test, homework or even a project was
evaluated based upon a “correct way” of doing it. However, after taking ME 371;
Computer-Aided Design, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t always a perfect solution
to a problem, and that’s true for anything in life not just engineering. The projects
I’ve done in class so far have forced me to consider multiple of ways to deal
with the solution on the project. Both FEM projects and the final project were
examples of the kind of analysis I would have to do as an engineer. During
lecture our professor, Gary Benenson, always focused on saying that we shouldn’t
trust the software that’s why using FEM solvers may sometime produce incorrect
results or that are far from our expectations. As and engineer, it would be
part of my job to determine whether these results make sense or not. In order
to determine that, I need to use my own judgment for every project, which is
something that our ME 371 professor tried to help all of us improve. I noticed
this during his lectures, office hours or lab where he used to refrain himself
for giving us the right answer on how to do something or if that was the right
way to do it. He would tell us to use our own judgment no matter how much we
insisted or how many questions we asked.

Much of my education
in engineering has been presented through analytical of problem solving that involve
either a right or wrong answer. But as I began to end my life as an
undergraduate, it is becoming more apparent with every day that engineering is
more than that. A correct form of judgment must be obtained to solve problems.
To do this we need to use the information that has been presented to us as
students in academic environments. None of us is born with the engineering judgment.
As mentioned in the first article, engineering judgment comes first with a good
educational background then experience and experiencing failure first hand or
by studying it.  ME 371 has made me fully
comprehend the appreciable of boundary conditions and their significance in
finite element method. The final project made me understand the functionality of
products presented to consumers. Even though we are meant to learn “everything”
in school, I’m a strong believer that our school needs to have more in hand
experience. We need to be properly equipped with the knowledge required for the
engineering field, however we don’t have any experience in manufacturing. I
think that all the engineering students will greatly appreciate courses where
you get to design and create especially during junior and senior year. It would
be nice change from all the examinations that we do, just to focus on projects
and this way we would gain experience more and improve our engineering judgment
to best avoid failure. As a student that is preparing for a life and career, I know
that it would take some time for me to fully adjust to my post undergraduate
life. being this in a job or graduate school. I know that working as an
engineer is much different from studying it. This adjustment process is
something that wouldn’t occur overnight. It is a learning process that is
accomplished through practice, time, and learning from my own mistakes.  







Work Cited Page


Fackler, Martin. “Nuclear Disaster in
Japan Was Avoidable, Critics Contend.” New York

Times, 9 Mar. 2012.

Gainsburg, Julie. “The Mathematical
Modeling of Structural Engineers.” Mathematical

Thinking and Learning.

Soble, Jonathan. “Fukushima Keeps
Fighting Radioactive Tide 6 Years After

Disaster.” New York Times, 10 Mar.

Broad, William J. “Taking Lessons From
What Went Wrong.” New York Times, 19 July



















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