Engineering JudgmentReflective Paper Therole of an engineer is to respond to a need by building or creating somethingalong with a set of guidelines which performs a given function. Just asimportantly the creation made by the engineer should perform its functionwithout failing.
However, we live in an imperfect world and everythingeventually 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 catastrophicfailure which could result in damage to the environment, loss of property andmore importantly possibly injury or loss of life. In order to achieve the mostperfect design possible, through analysis engineering designers can learn whatto do and how to create such designs with less of a chance of failure. Engineershave to be creative to build something that are not familiar with its history. Engineeringprojects involve more unknown than known.
It’s what makes this professionchallenging and since they are not ruled by rules and guidelines its makes thedecision tougher and with more responsibilities. In order to solve and makedecisions on different problems, comes to work the engineering judgment. Thisprocess helps engineers simplify the problems but a poor engineering judgmentmay cause fatalities. Therefore, engineers have to bear all theresponsibilities when it comes to making conclusions on failure and to makepossible improving/redesigning a project. Although a good engineering judgmentcomes with years and years of experience, we can start improving this day byday throughout education and experiences that we face. Theright use of judgment is a primary component in problem solving that changesfrom academic training. It is important since it can provide a means ofinitiating and conducting analysis using our informal knowledge. Just like awoodworker or a machinist knows which joints will correspond to parts of adesign, engineering judgment can spot consistencies or problems in deign whileis still in process beefier severe error can occur.
In the article, MathematicalDisposition of Engineers, Vick defines the engineering judgment as a “sense ofwhat is important” and it comprises “a diagnostic character in problemdefinition, an inductive character in combination of evidence, and an interpretivecharacter in providing meaning and context to predictive conclusions.” “MathematicalDisposition” also illustrates an occurrence of the engineering judgment. JulieGainsburg, a mathematical professor, decided to observe her students in anattempt to gain insight as how engineers utilized mathematics in their workenvironment. Gainsburg’s focus was put on a pair of researchers studying how seismicmovements interacted with an older building.
Their study was focused onsimulating a building and the conditions were exposed using a software. In thiscase, as I previously mentioned, engineers didn’t exactly know the history ofthe building. The complexity of the building made the researchers simplify thestructure of the building so that their simulations could run. They agreed thatin order to run simulations they would have to simplify the buildings commoncomponents, such as beams. A common beam found in the structure was initiallyassumed to have constant cross section throughout its length, but it came outthat this assumption wasn’t true. Under a second analysis, it was found thatthe cross-sectional area varied with length. This would result in changing theloading and the forces that it may handle.
If they never figured out thiserror, it would’ve had the potential of providing results that would haveinfluenced future decisions for the building with wrong information.In our daily life wedeal with this unexplained feeing called intuition, however some people chooseto follow it some others choose not to. However, in engineering, this intuitionis one of the key elements to identify and make important decisions in aproject. Intuition is what guides the engineers with their process to asuccessful solution.
But there’s no formal way of obtaining engineering judgment,only time and experience can generate the “sixth sense” that comes with theengineering judgment. A grand part of this experience is gained through learningfrom the failures. Any kind of failure is a lesson, as William J. Broad notedin his article in the New York times: “Taking Lessons from What Went Wrong”. Hefocuses on disasters, their causes and how it’s possible to learn from them.
Inpage 1 Broad states: “It is not that failure is desirable … but failures,sometimes appalling, are inevitable, and given this fact, engineers say it paysto 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 lifeat risk. Broad emphasizes on the idea that catastrophes should be studied.
Oneexample that he brought up is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. The TacomaNarrows Bridge was constructed in a decade where increasingly long suspensionbridges began to emerge. The bridge collapsed as a result of series of factorsthat included its above average length, slenderness of its width and the wind patternsthat made the bridge and its deck collapse. Fortunately, no fatalities occurredand both bridges were later constructed in the region. After investigationswere made, it was confirmed that the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was not built to withstandsuch conditions.
Learning from the mistakes in constructing the Tacoma NarrowsBridge, on the other side of the country, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge wascarefully designed and planned. It exhibited the longest length of any suspensionbridge when it first opened. Keeping in mind abnormal winds, the bridge’s deckwas also built with a larger width. However, the lower deck of the bridge wouldnot open until 5 years after the bridge’s first opening. Failure may also developfrom a combination of negligence and ignorance too.
Using incorrect dimensionsand restrictions when initially designing the system can lead to nuclearmeltdowns 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 approximately45-foot- high tsunami. This lead to the breaking of the plan which caused electricalfailures and and caused the cooling mechanisms to fail killing around 200,000people and a 20 km radius of plant to be evacuated.
This negligence lead totens of billions of dollars of damage and also harmed our environment. When the plant wasfirst constructed, the safety criteria was based under outdated documents.Walls were meant to withstand waves of only 18-feet long and this was decidedon the data that was obtained 15 years before the plant started operating. Sincethan, much higher waves had been recorded in most parts of the world, includingJapan itself.
Scientists and engineers had neglected many signs, including the 1993earthquake which was a 7.8 scale earthquake, which caused 30-feet high waves. HirokoTabuchi has written about the infrastructure warnings that had been observed inthe plant before the earthquake and how failure to inspect the equipment occurredweeks before the tsunami happened.
All of the sources that conclude what reallywent wrong in the extend of ecological, societal and economical caused by thisdisaster could have been vastly reduced if it hadn’t been for negligence and overconfidence.From elementary schoolthrough college, even in my engineering classes, I have been trained to findthe right answer to a problem. Every test, homework or even a project wasevaluated 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 solutionto a problem, and that’s true for anything in life not just engineering. The projectsI’ve done in class so far have forced me to consider multiple of ways to dealwith the solution on the project. Both FEM projects and the final project wereexamples of the kind of analysis I would have to do as an engineer.
Duringlecture our professor, Gary Benenson, always focused on saying that we shouldn’ttrust the software that’s why using FEM solvers may sometime produce incorrectresults or that are far from our expectations. As and engineer, it would bepart of my job to determine whether these results make sense or not. In orderto determine that, I need to use my own judgment for every project, which issomething that our ME 371 professor tried to help all of us improve. I noticedthis during his lectures, office hours or lab where he used to refrain himselffor giving us the right answer on how to do something or if that was the rightway to do it.
He would tell us to use our own judgment no matter how much weinsisted or how many questions we asked. Much of my educationin engineering has been presented through analytical of problem solving that involveeither a right or wrong answer. But as I began to end my life as anundergraduate, it is becoming more apparent with every day that engineering ismore 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 asstudents in academic environments.
None of us is born with the engineering judgment.As mentioned in the first article, engineering judgment comes first with a goodeducational background then experience and experiencing failure first hand orby studying it. ME 371 has made me fullycomprehend the appreciable of boundary conditions and their significance infinite element method. The final project made me understand the functionality ofproducts 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 handexperience. We need to be properly equipped with the knowledge required for theengineering field, however we don’t have any experience in manufacturing.
Ithink that all the engineering students will greatly appreciate courses whereyou get to design and create especially during junior and senior year. It wouldbe nice change from all the examinations that we do, just to focus on projectsand this way we would gain experience more and improve our engineering judgmentto best avoid failure. As a student that is preparing for a life and career, I knowthat it would take some time for me to fully adjust to my post undergraduatelife.
being this in a job or graduate school. I know that working as anengineer is much different from studying it. This adjustment process issomething that wouldn’t occur overnight. It is a learning process that isaccomplished through practice, time, and learning from my own mistakes. Work Cited Page Fackler, Martin. “Nuclear Disaster inJapan Was Avoidable, Critics Contend.” New YorkTimes, 9 Mar. 2012.
Gainsburg, Julie. “The MathematicalModeling of Structural Engineers.” MathematicalThinking and Learning.
Soble, Jonathan. “Fukushima KeepsFighting Radioactive Tide 6 Years AfterDisaster.” New York Times, 10 Mar.2016.
Broad, William J. “Taking Lessons FromWhat Went Wrong.” New York Times, 19 July2010.