Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Stuff That is not Engineering

Engineering is not  about determining the size of a beam when we as  a society know how to determine the size of a beam, engineering is determining the size of the beam when we as a society have no prior knowledge how to size the beam. Once we have such prior knowledge then the engineering is over, we can proceed to train people to design beams.

Now I cannot think of anything requiring engineering in modern society, if I could, well then I'd be an engineer by my definitions, instead I merely have an education in engineering science and its application to established technologies and their derivatives. However I will attempt to develop a chain of design which leads to the need for engineering.

So engineering is taken to occur at the frontiers of science and technology. At the very minimum it requires the development of a scientific methodology for design where no prior methodology exists. {NB: We already have a methodology for design of multistorey buildings and bridges. For such structures we can apply matrix structural analysis. If it's a cablenet, tension membrane or thick shell we have methodologies. Engineering is not about assessing fitness-for-function using established techniques it demands more than that.}

So rather than define engineering I will attempt to show what it isn't.

Not Engineering

So we have a timber framing code (AS1684) for residential construction, this code is supplemented by span tables. My understanding is that the original span tables way back when, were determined by testing timbers to failure, and setting limits on their use. The modern timber framing code is based on mechanics of materials,  and span limits are calculated based on the loading code AS1170 and the timber structures code AS1720.

A carpenter would typically have a certificate III (AQF-3) qualification, and be expected to be familiar with the timber framing code. However any DIY enthusiast is likely able to use the code with little training, and if they cannot find a suitable timber in the code, then they can equally likely find a suitable timber using manufacturers brochures for LVL's and glulams. No real complications, don't really need any formal training for the exercise, if need to pick the section size for a simple member.

However start to look at the shapes and configurations of real houses. and the validity of the code and the span tables starts to become questionable. The education of the carpenter won't be adequate for the task: though that doesn't stop them picking members from the code and others approving the selection. Still that doesn't mean an AQF-3 level education wouldn't be adequate for the task, just that the education of the carpenter is not concerned with the task.

Here I am not concerned with articulating a carpenter to structural "engineer", my interest is with the lowest level of planner, designer and manager. The interest is to articulate knowledge workers from one level to the next, where near complete knowledge is defined by a 5 years Masters through study and that such masters is defined by depth of knowledge not breadth. {NB: By near complete I mean that there is always likely a missing 1%, there is alway some uncertainty about the future, that there is something we have not yet encountered and not yet aware about.}

For articulation a Certificate I (AQF-1) is defined relative to the Masters (AQF-9), not relative to some different subject matter or occupation. So whilst  a Certificate I maybe one weeks training for someone sat at an assembly line, the expectation for the current situation is that it is 1/5th of an academic years workload, that is 300 hours to 360 hours of study. And Diploma (AQF-5 ) is 1500 to 1800 hours of study. From AQF-6 upwards to AQF-9 each level adds an extra year of study. So the first year of study is broken into 5ths allowing an early exit and change of direction. Breadth is not permitted to exceed 5 strands for AQF-6 and below, for AQF-7 and above breadth not permitted to exceed 2 strands. {NB: Units of Competency can be viewed on https://training.gov.au. I'm not going to follow such units, the things identified are depressing and makes me wonder what value 10 years of compulsory education? Courses can also be found on https://www.myskills.gov.au }

So basically using the timber framing code should be within the capabilities of anyone who has completed 10 years of compulsory education. But we could develop a Certificate I programme to be certain that users of the code can use it properly. Searching the net, it seems programmes are available from 4 hours to a 45 hours. So such could easily be incorporated in a more comprehensive (300 hour) programme on introductory structural design.

A starting point would be to have the ability to identify items of technology and to know their function. Followed by the ability to read technical drawings and produce technical drawings. So for example need to be able to identify wall studs, top and bottom plates, rafters, battens, floor bearers, floor joists etc... They need to be able to develop the roof layout, and show correctly on plans and elevations. They need to be able to draw sections through the building, to be able to visualise sections through the building. They need to understand how the building goes together and why each part is there and its function. They need to develop a qualitative understanding of the building.

When I was studying we had a subject called basic engineering, it lasted all day (thursdays). In the morning was mechanical plant or manufacturing, in the afternoon engineering drawing. Mechanical plant and manufacturing alternated from one week to the next. The final weeks of engineering drawing became drawing office practice. Not sure what the academic year was at that point, but it changed to 26 weeks, split into 2 blocks of 13, the rest of the year put aside for swot vac and examinations. There were also mid semester vacations, but these mostly for major research assignments. Anycase, the estimate would become 8x26=208 hours, all of which could be collapsed into a programme at the beginning of the year. With engineering drawing (actually visualisation and analysis) taking up 104 hours.

For current situation need to become familiar with much smaller variety of technology: no need to trace wiring of squirrel cage motor, take 2 stroke engine apart and put back together, no measurements of operation of steam engine, measuring airflow in fan ducts, no tracing domestic house wiring, no using lathes, shapers, milling machines. {Did I mention ditch digging mud waddlers?}

... to be continued ...

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[12/02/2019] : Original