Educating Engineers

E-mail Melanie Martella

After last week's essay about my minimum requirements for things such as bridges, roads, dams, tunnels, and buildings (namely, that they not fall down), I've had a number of very interesting conversations. Because of which I would like to ask you a question.

How Do You Learn?
If you are a civil engineer, how do you stay abreast of improvements in sensing technology (other than reading Sensors, natch.)? Are the professional civil engineering societies proactive about making sure that working civil engineers are up-to-date with the sensing and DA technologies out there? When I look at the various structure monitoring projects, the majority of them seem to be affiliated with a university or other research-minded entity. At a time when civil engineers have more options to monitor structures than ever before, do they know that these options exist and understand how to use them effectively?

I'm not talking about the devices that have been used for the last twenty years. I mean fiber Bragg grating sensors and wireless sensor networks, data fusion techniques, electrochemical fatigue monitoring, GPS-based deflection monitoring, and other such beasts. Drop me an email or scroll down and post a comment, because I would really like to know.

More Cars, More Stress
According to the Economic Policy Institute article "Infrastructure cuts and consequences", the U.S. is spending a lot less money on infrastructure these days—1.0% of the GDP in 2005, compared with 2.2% in 1968. Unfortunately, this coincides with a significant increase in traffic. Raise your hand if your commute has gotten nastier in the last two years.

We need more funding to maintain and expand our infrastructure to adjust to the increased volumes of traffic. We need to apply the health monitoring technologies we've developed more widely. And we need to make sure that the engineers have all the tools they need.