Buildings want to float, and cars want to fly. These are just a couple of the counterintuitive engineering principles taken from the book, 101 Things I Learned in Engineering School (Grande Central Publishing) by John Kuprenas with Matthew Frederick.
We also learn that skyscrapers are built mostly to resist pressures from the side, not weight from the top. We discover that a triangle is more stable than a square β- thus many bridges and buildings are based on triangles.
Using the comment section below, let us know the unusual-but-obvious-once-you-think-about-it principles you learned in engineering school. We'd also like to know what you learned after engineering school that you wish you had known when you were a student.
Click the image below to start our slideshow on things learned in engineering school.
A skyscraper is a vertically cantilevered beam. The primary structural design consdieration is not resistance to vertical (gravity) loads, but resistance to lateral loads from wind and earthquakes. For this reason, tall structures function and are designed conceptually as large beams cantilevered from the ground. (Illustration source: Earthquake Buddy)
Rob, at first I thought this would be stuff YOU learned in engineering school. I was prepared to be amazed at your memoory (or imagination).
As it is, there are some very good points made in the slide show. I like the one about the roundabouts. While living in the UK I got used to them and they are very good. As applied here, not so much. People are just not trained in how they work.
Slide 10 is something I am very knowledgeable about (for decades). I did run into a book about UML for embedded systems where the author turns this on its head and talks about requirements defects having a big impact on development. While this is true, it is easier to work with requirements and make changes than it is with code or silicon.
I learned a fair amount of math in engineering school -- four semesters of calculus, one semester of differential equations and one semester of vector calculus. So I was amazed, while working as a coop student in my first engineering job, to see a bunch of experienced engineers standing around one guy's desk, arguing about how to calculate the area under a curve. I suppose the lesson for me was that a lot of the things you learn in engineering school disappear into the gray matter after a few years.
I agree with you about roundabouts, Rich. They may reduce traffic, but I suspect you're right about the accidents. In my area of Chicago, we have only one roundabout that I know of, and the drivers at the intersection always seem confused.
On the roundabout point, I live in Portugal where we have lots of them. I learned to drive and spent most of my life driving in the states, so getting used to them was a bit strange. But I do think they are a lot better than traffic lights in terms of flow and the rate of accidents, as long as people use them correctly and also use turn signals properly. The lack of turn signals from drivers using roundabouts is one of my biggest pet peeves! But I think generallly they are better than alternatives.
The promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is that devices, gadgets, and appliances we use every day will be able to communicate with one another. This potential is not limited to household items or smartphones, but also things we find in our yard and garden, as evidenced by a recent challenge from the element14 design community.
If you didn't realize that PowerPoint presentations are inherently hilarious, you have to see Don McMillan take one apart. McMillan -- aka the Technically Funny Comic -- worked for 10 years as an engineer before he switched to stand-up comedy.
The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a Washington State suspension bridge that opened in 1940 and spanned the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula. It opened to traffic on July 1, 1940, and dramatically collapsed into Puget Sound on November 7, just four months after it opened.
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