Sunday, February 24, 2019

Not an engineer and don't want to be

I have an education in science, mathematics and technology. I can plan, design, analyse, evaluate, and manage both established technologies and new technologies.  But I am not an engineer, nor am I an engineering technologist, an engineering associate or engineering technician. I don't have an occupational title, I don't need one, and I don't want one. People who get sought by occupation rather than by name, are expendable and replaceable.

I have always considered the new age things called "engineers" to be less than competent, that their knowledge lacked breadth, and that rather than solving problems they implemented technical solutions. Unfortunately the technical solutions were not the proper solutions to the real problem, and thus they are responsible for creating problems in our world: not solving them.

Equally well, Engineers Australia and WFEO can take their concepts of engineering technologist and engineering technician and keep them to themselves. They can choose what to call themselves, but they have no right to assign occupational titles to others. These organisations are hampering the progress of technology and societies ability to solve the world's problems.

We need people with ingenuity, people who can plan, design, and manage, we do not need members of professional cults, nor people whose desire is to align themselves with such cults.

Engineering takes place at the frontiers of science and technology. Engineering is not about adapting established technologies to be suitable for a specific purpose: such activity is simply rational scientific based design, or technical design. Where technical is typically replaced by reference to the technology being designed such as: structural design, bridge design, mechanical design.

At the very minimum engineering requires developing new technology at the same time as developing a rational scientific methodology for its design and developing the method of assessment of the design. Since there is no prior art, prototypes have to be built and tested in a controlled environment to verify and validate, the science and the design models. There is a high risk of failure.

In some situations the technology exists but there is no rational scientific method to allow adapting the technology for some specific purpose. Developing this design method in the process of adapting  the technology can be considered engineering. (Using FEA/FEM software is not engineering.)

Developing new technology based on the established technical sciences is not engineering. Carrying out routine technical tests is not engineering. For example, a beam is a generic technology, it can be employed in a multitude of larger technologies not yet invented, inventing those technologies is not engineering. We do not expect failure, we expect the technologies to perform as required. We can design and evaluate the technologies entirely on paper, in the abstract. Though we may need to collect data from some routine testing, to complete our assessment. We may build prototypes and test them, but not to validate the science, but rather to verify we didn't miss anything. Also to check if the whole is different than the sum of the parts, and calibrate the mathematical models if needed.

At the simplest if a technology is described in published literature along with appropriate technical science, then its design is not engineering: the engineering is complete, the engineering is over, the engineering has been done already.

  1. EWB Australia | Redefining Engineering - YouTube
  2. The Most Successful People Explain Why a College Degree is USELESS - YouTube
  3. Inspiring the next generation of female engineers | Debbie Sterling | TEDxPSU - YouTube
  4. Are engineers human? | Patricia Galloway | TEDxManhattanBeach - YouTube
  5. How Much Math do Engineers Use? (College Vs Career) - YouTube
  6. What is Engineering?: Crash Course Engineering #1 - YouTube
  7. Civil Engineering: Crash Course Engineering #2 - YouTube
  8. Mechanical Engineering: Crash Course Engineering #3 - YouTube
  9. Ending poverty - what engineers can do: James Trevelyan at TEDxPerth - YouTube
  10. Re-Engineering Engineering Education: Stephan Athan at TEDxUF - YouTube
  11. TEDxUIUC - David E. Goldberg - 7 Missing Basics of Engineering - YouTube
  12. Why We Need Engineers Now More Than Ever | Elanor Huntington | TEDxSydney - YouTube
  13. We can end poverty, but this is why we haven't | Teva Sienicki | TEDxMileHighWomen - YouTube
  14. How do the poor see life? Uneducated, not stupid | Rajen Makhijani | TEDxNTU
  15. The interesting story of our educational system | Adhitya Iyer | TEDxCRCE - YouTube

Related Posts

[24/02/2019] : Original
[26/02/2019] : Expanded content
[25/03/2019] : rephrased
[10/04/2019] : Minor Edits
[17/05/2019] : Added more description

Sunday, February 17, 2019

More on the AQF

I suggest that in the main qualifications awarded under the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) do not quite live up to the objectives. So what follows includes how the AQF is working, and proposals to improve some aspects.

The objectives of the AQF, are to allow employers to identify people competent for the task at hand and improve occupational mobility. The educated should not be trapped in some silly occupational class or locked out by some elitist professional cult.

The AQF qualifications are supposed to improve mobility, movement up through the levels is meant to result in increased depth of knowledge, increase in independent thought and increase in personal responsibility.

Content vs Duration

The qualifications are meant to be defined by content not by duration, unfortunately the university sector doesn't comply they base awards on duration. So a 4 year B.Eng rather than being defined by required content is defined mostly by the duration.

That is graduates having spent 4 years to get a degree, believe they are superior than other graduates, who only spent 3 years to get a B.Sc or B.A. The other degrees however are not occupational degrees they are traditional academic degrees and typically involve far greater intellectual rigour than an occupational degree like a B.Eng. {The 4 year duration, seems to be mostly because of breadth of subject matter, slowness of the students, and and time spent on industry experience. In other words it lacks academic content, rather than such graduates being paid more on graduation they should be paid less. (we have industrial awards which set pay and conditions, and the award says they should be paid more)}

Anyway as a consequence of other occupations and industries not paying too much attention to content and more interest in status of higher awards, some minimum durations were imposed. Minimum durations do not entirely help, as an isolated topic can be presented rapidly in 1 hour, or it can be dragged out over several hours. Though expect that there is an optimum time in which learning can actually take place.

Therefore expect with the passage of time, the content of programmes will increase as the time required to present a subject decreases. However also expect that in lower level programmes the time taken will increase and the content will decrease, as more effort is expended to develop higher level of  proficiency and make them more conversant.

Education vs Training

However developing proficiency is why in previous posts I have suggested that we split education from training. We restrict education to foundational knowledge and enabling competences, and is more evaluation than learning. Whilst training academies focus on increased proficiency: lots of repetition until achieve the required level of performance.

With a split between education and training, most of the trade oriented qualifications will comprise of two parts: the AQF award and an associated Certificate of Practice (CoP). Prior AQF's will be identified as containing the CoP, modern awards will indicate explicit exclusion of the CoP. So people can get the foundational knowledge and then become adequately qualified to gain experience. If they cannot gain the AQF award then they are not adequately qualified to gain experience. The training academies become an important filter between education and industry.

Once someone has a CoP, at some future date they may have to complete supplementary training and assessment to verify that they still meet the minimum requirements. Whilst initial training maybe anything from 2 weeks to 250 weeks, corroboration of ability may only take 1 day.


Improved mobility is achieved by recognising common foundational knowledge and skill sets across various occupations, and creating appropriate educational awards and study programmes. Obviously this may result in programmes which contain content not relevant to a given occupation. However if an occupation or profession is defined by breadth, then it can be defined in terms of multiple AQF awards rather than one. We should not be defining bachelor degree programmes because of required breadth.

If need a ticket to belong to a profession or occupation, then that can be separate to the AQF awards and CoP's. A national organisation can issue a card the size of a credit card which lists occupations for which are qualified, on the front and AQF awards and CoP's on the back., along with a separate document providing a detailed summary. Basically little different than becoming a graded member of some qualifying body: the membership grade is the qualification not the educational awards. However for the proposal the qualifying body would ultimately be an international organisation, with national branches.

There should be no issue having multiple low level AQF's to define an occupation, if an occupation is required.

Knowledge Content and Academic Rigour

There seems to have been a split in the AQF at level 6 where have the advance diploma and the associate degree. Where the associate degree is seen as more academically rigorous than the advanced diploma. This also indicates the split between the university education sector and the vocational education sector.

This is where things have got messed up, along with the senior secondary certificate of education (SSCE) which doesn't properly fit into the AQF. The problem is that after grade 10, students can study towards AQF awards, or pursue grade 11 and grade 12 to get the SSCE. Some AQF programmes require the SSCE for entry, whilst others don't.

So for example to enter into a bachelor degree programme (AQF-7/AQF-8) would require to complete the SSCE. But can otherwise get advanced diploma or associate degree (AQF-6) and gain status for upto 2 years in the degree programme. Some people got the advanced diploma without SSCE, either because in the past it was possible to start without such qualification, or because of adult entry.

Clearly there is inequity, in that the original 5 year programme to get a 3 year degree has been collapsed to 3 years (Original: 2 years for SSCE + 3 year degree).

Therefore my proposal is that we scrap the SSCE, and after grade 10, start on AQF awards. No repetition in grade 11, grade 12 and first year at university. All is properly coordinated, and all education requires stepping up through the AQF, no jumping levels.

If cannot jump levels, then only one way to get a AQF-7 qualification and that is to successfully pass through the 6 previous levels. To get a bachelor degree you have to get an advanced diploma, no buts doubts or maybe's about it. This means those persons at a higher level in a more supervisory role, are aware of the capabilities of those educated at a lower level.

In other words we don't waste education because a whole heap of school leavers have got a B.Eng gone into an organisation and got the idea that those with an advanced diploma are only capable of drafting because that is where such persons have been stuck. Both those with AQF-6 and AQF-8 levels of education need opportunity to put their education to work and gain experience to develop competence and confidence.

Furthermore if you have progressed up the ladder rather than having jumped in at the top, and started work at the lower level you will be aware of the education required to complete a given task. Thus appropriate people can be trained and put to work. No false claims of shortages.

I'm not against providing visa's and allowing foreigners to do the work. I am however against the foreigners being exploited to do the work, and then being unceremoniously tossed out off the country when no longer needed. I am also against high level people being brought in to do something which is trite from their viewpoint. We should get the right people to do the work, and if we can educate and train them locally then we should do so. But training becomes impractical if all the time we declare there is a shortage of people with bachelor programmes and 5 to 10 years experience. It suggests we have a loss of leadership, and therefore not capable of assessing if  people are adequately qualified.

If we can say that designing a structure only requires a 2 year Associate Degree and educated people at that level and provide them opportunity, we save significant resources, and reach our objectives faster.

Take engineering each discipline can be broken into about 5 major areas of practice, according to NCEES in the USA.

Civil Engineering:

  1. Construction
  2. Geotechnical
  3. Structural
  4. Transportation
  5. Water Resources and Environmental

Mechanical Engineering

  1. Basic Engineering Practice
  2. Mechanical Systems and Materials
  3. Hydraulics and Fluids
  4. Energy/Power systems
  5. HVAC/Refrigeration

Industrial Engineering (management)
  1. Facilities Engineering and Planning
  2. Systems Analysis and Design
  3. Logistics
  4. Work Design
  5. Ergonomics and Safety
  6. Quality Engineering
Architectural Engineering
  1. Building Systems Integration
  2. Electrical Systems
  3. Mechanical Systems
  4. Structural Systems
  5. Project Management and Construction Administration
Note that in all these lists they are referring to technology not to the technical science.  So my formal education covers mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, I also took options in structures and agricultural engineering.

Structures and mechanical systems are dependent on engineering mechanics both statics and dynamics, along with the mechanics of the strength and stability of materials. Therefore civil engineering and mechanical engineering overlap, except that most civil's wouldn't cover dynamics.

Water resources is dependent on hydraulics which is specialisation of fluid mechanics, the last 4 items in the mechanical engineering list are dependent on thermofluid dynamics.

The architectural engineering branch covers the structural and mechanical technologies as they relate to buildings. There is no coverage of the design of fabrication and construction processes, or logistics of supplying materials to the construction site. That project management stuff will be more about money, schedules and contract law.

Also note that there are 6 areas in industrial engineering, not just 5. Also elsewhere it maybe described as industrial management rather than engineering.

So as before, if take the first year of a 4 year programme as covering the common science, then that typically leaves 3 years to cover 5 areas of practice. So a 2 year AQF-6 programme can easily maintain the academic rigour of a 4 year B.Eng and cover a single area of practice which only gets 1 and 3/5ths of a year. So in a 2 year programme there is 2/5ths of a year available for increased focus on the area of practice.

For example an Associate Degree in Structures: could cover the basic engineering mechanics, statics and dynamics, structural mechanics (analysis), and the mechanics of the strength and stability of materials as well as cover more technology specific requirements such as building structures and bridge structures.

A 2 year programme would stick to frames. Whilst a 3 year programme would extend into plates, shells, cable-nets and tension membranes, vibration and fatigue of structures.

Now I missed the soils and geotechnical aspects of the technology. Very important as the structures, no matter whether buildings, bridges, machines or other non-machine structure, all stand on the ground. However geotechnical is increasingly becoming a specialisation. If it is critical and important then want a specialist, if not critical then it's not that complex. The basics of footing design can thus be covered in the 2 year qualification for structures.

Now if geotechnical depends on knowledge of structures, then it adds the 3rd year after studying AQF-6 in structures, as an alternative to studying alternative structural forms. I doubt however it is so dependent, it depends on mechanics and that should be covered in the first year.

The first year would become an AQF-5 in technical science and mathematics. It should cover the content of the American FE breadth exam. Whilst the AQF-6 programme covers requirements for FE depth, and PE depth exam but lacks PE breadth.

We shouldn't need the likes of the American FE/PE exam if the academic institutions examinations are rigorous enough, and the requirements for getting the AQF award are robust enough.

Similarly we should not need registration or licensing requirements if people are properly educated and trained.

So the problem with the sign post falling over and the cracks in the Opal towers is because people adequately qualified in structures did not design the structures and people with still greater capability in structures did not properly review and approve the evidence-of-suitability. Licensing people based on current academic records and professional memberships will not resolve the issues. We need people more competent in structural design, we need better managed projects, we need better controlled projects.

... to be continued ...

Loss of Status

All existing bachelor degrees will loose status. This is not a problem as all academic awards should loose status with the passage of time.

That which can be studied in the first 10 years of education can be increased with the passage of time. As more books are written and published, more information becomes accessible. Furthermore books improve the presentation of subject matter with time. On the other hand subjects can also  become increasingly complex with the passage of time. One subject also builds upon another subject, so that have subjects, involving studying the studying of the subject, or studying the people studying the subject, or the history of the subject. Some times these are important complements other times they are irrelevant and unimportant.

Furthermore books can give way to video, and animations and  interactive programmes, so that learning is made easier and assessment is made more robust. So that hopefully the certificate I from last year is not as good as the certificate I from this year. And hopefully it is never the other way around, with last years qualifications being superior.

Also last year needed someone special to find a solution to a problem, this year and there after, people with lesser knowledge can be educated to apply the solution. So at one point we needed to know how to design beams, and how to design walls of circular tanks: now that as a society we hold such knowledge, now we, just need to train people to use such knowledge.

If there is a defined body of knowledge used to define a profession then that body of knowledge can be published and should be published. As a designer I like to know what a carpenter should be capable of doing, and also what they are willing to do or have the resources to do. Armed with such knowledge I can minimise my documentation. Alternatively I can expand documentation and save them time. But if I expect the carpenter to have more knowledge than they have, and the carpenter believes they know more than they actually do, then we have a problem.

Clearly has human knowledge increases we expect to have more specialists. So now we have hundreds if not thousands of people who now have a bachelor degree defining their job, and giving rise to more and more professional cults. Yet the need for these degrees in the main has little to do with the needs of the work, and more to do with poorly defined and poorly designed jobs.

Now clearly if each area of practice is only given 1 and 3/5th of a year in a 4 year programme (AQF-8), but an AQF-6 programme, well gives it 2 years and provides more content, then the AQF-6 programme makes that individual more competent and capable in the given area of practice. Furthermore the next generation will require 5 x AQF-6 programmes to get the same breadth. Assuming that all are based on a common foundation at AQF-5, then that is a total of 1 + 5=6 years of study versus the 4 year programme.

In terms of breadth the 3 and 4 year programmes should fall out of favour. But new 3 year programmes should emerge which properly cover depth and appropriate specialisations.

Societies Confidence

As I say no need for registration and licensing, proper education and training and recognition of such through the AQF should take care of such.

Confidence in Design

Defects in design are largely a consequence of pressure due to budget and time constraints: if don't sell time and don't believe all units of time have the same value, then not quite the same problem. On top of these constraints is owners/developers introducing last minute changes whether at the end of design or part way through construction.

Now this becomes a problem, when have inadequate checks and balances in place. The issue is not about who checks work, but how work is checked.

Design is a creative activity, it imagines potential solutions to a set of objectives and constraints, and the proposals are guided by qualitative appreciation of science. Where feasible some numbers are crunched to give some quantitative guidance. Designers work at drawing boards, they alternate between drawing and calculations. Drawings are used to resolve dimensional and geometric issues of fit, to get a clear picture of relationships. Whilst dimensions may well be calculated, sketches are used to define relationships, the geometry and shape of things. Scale drawings can validate or refute assumptions. For example, the arithmetic doesn't add up because missed dimension of a clearance, or a gasket or something not usually present.

Calculations and drawings therefore reinforce one another, one is a second opinion on the other: a check and a balance. You should have at least two ways of doing things, if the two ways give different answers and they should give the same, then need to find an explanation and then fix the approach which is giving the wrong answer or find other approaches better suited to the task.

The process of design should therefore be close to self correcting. However often have multiple conflicting requirements. So when finished and have documented the whole, then review the finished document and assess if it is fit-for-function and met all objectives: or otherwise explicitly identify the conflicting objectives and the compromises made.

Design-calculations are seldom suitable as Proof-Calculations. Once design is completed then need to do proof-calculations. For example wouldn't use AS4100 steel structures code to design a steel beam, it is too complex and convoluted. Rather design is carried out using simpler calculations, for example "find and get in the ballpark" using full section properties and a suitable design-factor. Then check compliance with AS4100 using the more cumbersome to calculate effective section properties. Of course we can simplify the process and produce design capacity tables (DCT's), and thus the process becomes more efficient as we can get a suitable section more directly with fewer calculations. We can speed things even further with span tables for specific applications. Faster still is to use computers. It is still however a "trial and error" exercise as the analysis calculations are dependent on knowing the properties of a suitable section, and the point of the calculations is to find a suitable section. So we guess and check, and use each previous guess to direct our next guess, until we converge upon the structural solution. Most other areas of practice are similar. There are few situations where it is practical  to rearrange the mathematical expressions and directly calculate the value we are seeking.

Irrespective we have this process of design-calculation which then results in a specification-of-intent
which we then need to check is a valid design-solution to our defined design-problem. So our final calculations provide proof of compliance with a code of practice and all other objectives and requirements. These proof-calculations form the first stage of the evidence-of-suitability for the proposal.

If the design is simple and non-critical then the designer can do their own proof checks a few hours or a few days later. If the system is not simple and is critical then another person should carry out an independent review. An independent review is not an arithmetic check, it is not a school teacher checking the work. An independent review is carried out using the specification-of-intent, and only such specification, the reviewer has no need to see the designers calculations. {My experience is large Australian consultancies do not carry out proper independent reviews they get graduates to basically do arithmetic checks. Who may or may not otherwise ask what is this all about? It is good if they do ask, as they can start learning how to do such calculations, and demonstrate that they have understanding of the concepts. It is however not a proper independent check, it can be used as a secondary check and learning exercise but not a substitute for formal review.}

Once the designer organisation is happy they have validated the design. The specification-of-intent can be released for regulatory review. Regulatory review is only concerned with compliance with regulations: if not in the regulations then of no consequence. It is therefore the designer's responsibility to highlight additional requirements which may go above and beyond the minima of the codes and to have had these properly checked and validated because the regulator isn't going to check or validate them.

Now once again the regulator should be capable of carrying out an independent review without reference to the designers-proof calculations. However:
An independent review can only be properly executed if there has been a deliberate intent to make a proposal suitable for purpose and a defendable assertion to that effect has been made. [sch]
The designer doesn't need to submit their proof calculations, but they need make declaration that they are capable of defending their claim that a proposal is fit-for-function. Traditionally that is as simple as several people working for the consultant signing off on the drawings. Typically would include the designer, chief-designer, and senior representative of the organisation. For small projects and small consultancies, it would just be the signature of the designer. {Unfortunately seems people are more concerned about intellectual property rights, and copyright than getting things right. So building designers drawings have business name on them and copyright notice, but seldom a signature or initials indicating that they are the designer responsible. The drawings bounce back and forth between council and themselves until it becomes compliant. Not really acceptable as the certifier is more designer, than independent reviewer.}

If there is no indication of who is advocate or proponent for the proposal, then the regulator shouldn't be wasting their time reviewing the proposal, as their independence from the design process will be compromised. The regulator would become more a design manager guiding the design process until it converges on a compliant design. Not their role.

So the regulator gets the appropriate documents (which do not include the proof-calculations), and can now independently review the project. The issue is that the regulator doesn't have enough time to carry out a proper independent review, and fees are inadequate for such purpose.

Possibly true. But it is also true that the regulators do not appear to put any time into developing suitable design tools to aid their specific role.

For example nailed plated roof trusses were a problem, because rapidly designed by software, and the output lacked detail. So lacks detail, but did the specification of intent lack detail? If can write software to rapidly design the trusses can equally well write software to check compliance: where was the compliance checking software, where is the compliance checking software? Doesn't exist because typically use general purpose structural analysis software, but such software is too slow. Therefore need more specific software optimised for the task at hand: it needed to be developed, it still needs to be developed. But that is just the assessment, by calculation.

There is still the issue of the specification-of-intent: was that adequate? The answer is no. A proper specification would have clear details regarding the connections. It would make it clear that nail plates fit and have adequate anchorage in each member. The information would be in the specification to allow checking that the nail plates have adequate resistance. If connections are not drawn to scale, then a lot of information is missing. It isn't always necessary to draw the connections, as some connections are simple and the fit is obvious. For example 2M20's into a 250 PFC likely acceptable, the same bolts in a C7510 is likely a problem unless the bolts are maybe side by side (but would still like to know about end distances and edge distance.).

If drawings lack the information to conduct an independent review, then the drawings are not good enough. The drawings may not give the information directly, but expect to find the information necessary to derive other information. Though if have to draw additional sections, may consider the drawings inadequate.

The review process is iterative. The detail of the review calculations depends on the specification. If the design is robust then a quick and simple calculation may justify its suitability. If the design is optimum, and pushing everything to the minimum, then more calculation effort would be required, and therefore more time needed.

Whilst the review process is iterative like the design process it requires fewer iterations than design. Design has to find a valid solution, review only needs to accept or reject a proposal. Review can stop as soon as it hits a point of rejection. However, review should be as refined as necessary before claiming rejection. That is to say there are no further refinements which could be made which by any stretch of the imagination would result in compliance.

In the first instance the reviewer should check all qualitative and attribute requirements before making any quantitative assessment. When they reject they should then identify all non-compliance checks upto the point of first calculation: making it clear that review has stopped. If the qualitative issues will affect calculations, then no point in starting calculation checks.

Thus the defects in buildings are not so much a consequence of poorly educated personnel, but personnel operating in defective systems. Furthermore ISO:9000 accredited organisations are highly likely to have defective quality systems, as typically all they have done is rename contract document management systems to QA systems.

They may monitor drafting errors, but they have few systems in place to monitor design errors, or this thing they like to call engineering. Whilst these days they may have software to do a lot of the calculations, something needs to check and balance the suitability of the software for the task. For example AS4100 does not cover torsion, therefore if a 3D frame has torsion, then would not expect that any 3D design software checking to AS4100 would make valid checks. So have two choices, follow tradition and avoid torsion, so go remove the torsion by changing the connections. Or check the suitability of the members for torsion. {Whilst this is outside the scope of AS4100 to provide a check, it is within the scope of the NCC/BCA that assessing suitability for such action is required, though no method of checking is provided. So code compliance doesn't mean fit-for-function, and NCC/BCA deemed-to-satisfy provisions do not satisfy. So I reiterate if something is merely code compliant it is low quality rubbish.}

So engineering consultancies need to improve their quality systems, understand quality robust design, and better monitor and control design errors. It is not about who to blame, it is about designing the correct process for design. It is about appropriate organisational structure and decision processes. It is about appropriate training and development of personnel. Not everything can be billable.

Writing career episode and work practice reports is not graduate development, and it is not training. Fast tracking graduates to CP.Eng is not in the best interests of society nor the interests of the graduate. They need to know how deficient their knowledge and abilities are, not elevated on a pedestal.

Confidence in design doesn't come from who did the design, but how the design was completed and how it was reviewed and checked.

I have no confidence in design approval  in Queensland and Victoria as it seems built around a self certifying authoritarian cult who fill in silly forms (Form 13 as I remember is used in one of the states). There seems no checks and balances on when they can self certify. And with self certifying there is no feedback to inform the "engineer" just how deficient their knowledge is and how defective their understanding.

For years I thought the SA system was defective because the people on the regulatory side have highly inconsistent competency. So builders move from working in one council area to another, as do the architects and engineers, and they complain about lack of consistency in application of the rules. "I didn't have to do that before", is a common phrase. From which get the impression they will go back to ignoring an issue on their next project in another council area.

Sometimes the council requests seem unreasonable and silly, and have to churn out a stack of pages to declare an issue to be: negligible, zero, insignificant. Pages which wouldn't be required if the regulator had appropriate experience, and knew the issue was of no significance. Various regulations now require that the people issuing certificates of an independent technical expert (CITE), have CP.Eng credentials. Unfortunately the people are mostly the same people as previous, and therefore the inconsistency remains. However, some are good and some are bad, and a designer learns from the good ones, a good designer learns from both. With good ones, it is possible to discuss issues with. The bad ones are authoritarian obstacles to be removed: they blindly apply codes where they are irrelevant, and seem to have little interest in learning and understanding the specifics of a project which make the code more hazard than benefit.

Still, good or bad, two people are more likely to find defects than one person. Also most of the criticism I put in my calculation reports seems to find its way into changes in the code. So by influencing one group of people I indirectly contribute to removing ambiguities and deficiencies in the codes. Not necessary to be out there with my name up in lights.

... continued ...

Confidence doesn't come from knowing that an electrician is licensed and they pay their license fees every year. Confidence comes from knowing that they were properly educated, trained and assessed as competent in the first place. Then knowing that they know their own limitations, and will put the work aside when their capabilities deteriorate with age. If not then expect that there are systems in place and feedback mechanisms which prevent them from doing serious harm.

If an electrician, plumber or builder does their work without it being checked or audited then it is not acceptable. But may consider that is an hassle, given had may have had problems finding an available tradesperson in the first place. However the checks and balances do not have to be direct inspection.

If an electrician does some work on a house then the as-built drawings need to be revised, which means the as-built drawings need to exist. The as-built drawings then get submitted to the regulating authority. If there are issues with the drawings the site can be inspected immediately, if no issues with the drawings the site can be inspected at a much later date. If there are issues at a later date then all the sites can be inspected: which therefore requires knowing all the sites.

Better however is the presence of an independent inspector just prior to the work being closed up and hidden from view.  No payment needs to be made for the work until both the electrician and inspector sign-off on the work. This is not an exercise in collecting signatures and identifying where to lay blame.  It is simply a check on the quality of the work. So a system independent of names and scrap paper can be implemented if possible. For example both electrician and inspector have tagging tools, each receives appropriate tags from the regulator, and each tags the work. The electrician cannot tag the work as inspected because they don't have the right tags and tagging tool. Though something more robust than that is preferable.

The requirement is that the work needs to be demonstrated as correct and that no hazards have been created. So a certain set of tests can be mandated which have to be witnessed by the building owner.

So education, training, and quality assurance system. No registration, no licensing, no system to administer and no licensing fees.  Just need operational systems which have built-in checks and balances. Systems which catch mistakes when the electrician or other trade is having a bad day.


 I got side tracked. I had more to write about the certificate programs. The stepping through the programs, and need for breadth. But cannot remember what it was.

Something along lines of minimum duration of 1 year programme 1500 hours. All programmes start with certificates. But first year is broken into 5 substages. For academic programme, that is minimum of 300 hours for each substage. A maximum of 5 strands to cover breadth. So 60 hours for each strand. A year divided into 50 productive weeks, so 10 weeks for each fifth. Resulting in 6 hours each week for each strand. Possible strands are:

  1. Technology
  2. Technical Drawing / Descriptive Geometry
  3. Mathematics
  4. Physics
  5. Chemistry & Materials
This leaves out such subjects as:
  1. Management
  2. Biology
  3. Geology
  4. Psychology

If these are important subjects, then it maybe seen that the breadth is not great enough. Alternative may consider broader subjects, from my earlier breakdown of subjects:

  1. Design
  2. Technical Drawing & Engineering Graphics
  3. Process Technology: Manufacturing & Construction           
  4. Product Technology: Building Construction
  5. Management, Business and Office Procedures
  6. Legal Framework

This suggests expanding to 6 strands, though legal framework could be combined with the management strand. Also this doesn't directly address mathematics and science, as this is buried in the design and technology subject areas. Or define other broad areas:
  1. Technology
  2. Design
  3. Science
  4. Mathematics
With this approach introduce the technology, then move onto design of the technology, give rise to need for science which in turn gives rise to mathematics. All four strands are increased in depth during the first year, then in second year only science and mathematics are increased.

If more breadth is required then first year may have to comprise of multiple certificate 1 programmes, and therefore will not complete Certificate V in the first year, and will not move onto an associate degree in the second year.

However with proposed system we are now starting the programme at grade 11 not after grade 12. So we have an extra 2 years to the typical 3 year bachelor programme, in which appropriate depth and breadth are developed. Hence my earlier proposal for Diploma I to Diploma V, and Masters I to Masters V. Where grade 11 = Certificate V and grade 12 is Diploma I, and 3 year bachelor degree is Diploma IV, and graduate diploma = Diploma V. Which also means that grade 12 = Associate Degree and thus no longer provides any status in a bachelor programme: as all bachelor programmes have to be completely redesigned to increase depth on the associate degrees.

The importance of the redesign is that people will be ready to enter the workplace earlier and they are qualified to be employed on meaningful work. So they can work whilst they study for higher level qualifications. This is important because many are studying because there is need to get a ticket to employment, low skilled jobs are rapidly taken, therefore difficult to get a job to pay for studies. Not everyone can get a job stocking shelves in a supermarket or working behind a bar: they need qualifications to get a job. So the qualifications need to be quicker to get, but more robust assessment of capability is required.

The staged progress from AQF-1 upwards is the more productive, efficient and higher quality approach than jumping to AQF-7 straight from school. We filter people out at AQF-1, and onwards. So AQF-1 has the harshest and most demanding assessment requirements. For example at AQF-1 expect some 50% are rejected and cannot progress further, by AQF-5 expect only 5% are rejected: by such point people should be on the right path. After AQF-5, still expect that programmes are split into 1/5th blocks or 10 week blocks, and that progressive assessments are made so that a person can quit before going to far. For example they can halt progress to AQF-6 and take another path starting with any other lower AQF level that they have passed. They may decide that AQF-5 is their limit and just choose to increase breadth at that level.

A clever workforce is not one with great depth of knowledge, but rather an adaptive workforce with broad multi-skilling. A builder who has skills in electrical and plumbing work is preferable than need for a group. At an abstract level plumbing and electrical systems are similar: both involve networks with some driving force. For that matter could design and build a fluid power computing device. Which raises the issue that plumbers don't go near fluid power systems whether hydraulic (typically oil) or pneumatic. A plumber is thus not a mechanical engineering technician.

So if could get plumbers and electricians to become multiskilled and move to the next level, that is potentially far better workforce than pushing people through bachelor degrees. As much can be designed and built at the technician level. And more is possible at that level if knowledge was being properly pushed down to where it can empower and enable people to do what they need.

Licensing doesn't enable and empower people to get things done, it hinders them. If I design something which is electrical do I need an electrician to make it, especially if it works of a battery? I can see the need for an electrician if needs to be plugged into the mains. However, they are not electrical technicians, so they wouldn't be entirely capable of  assessing the technology. So we get to the point where the license is the hazard not the safeguard: and we otherwise have no safeguard in place.

What I am doing designing electrical? Why wouldn't I, it's the main power source for factory automation besides fluid power. I know I don't know enough to fully verify fitness-for-function, but I can still design, propose and get full fitness-for-function verified by someone else. Design of a fluid power control system doesn't immediately consider the fluid mechanics, as need to specify a control system before start sizing pipes and pumps. I could probably verify the pipes and pumps if had an appropriate industry manual. Not so much a matter of science, but a matter of design data and standard practice.

Consistent and good practice is dependent on appropriate industry manuals and design data and such references based on local practice are in short supply or just plain none existent. It tends to reflect an inappropriate culture where knowledge is being held to ransom, rather than being appropriately shared to enable and empower the people. {By sharing, I don't mean knowledge has to be available at zero fee, I mean it has to be available from a variety of alternative sources.}


Related Posts

[17/02/2019] : Original
[26/02/2019] : Minor Edits

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Need or Not For Engineers

Back around 2010/2011 during the  Queensland floods I was relatively active on twitter, involved following: the flood, farmers (#agchatoz), teachers concerned about the purpose of education (#purposedu), and various humanitarian aid agencies especially engineers without borders (EWB). In particular one EWB from imperial college who went to a rural part of Udaipur working with Seva Mandir, in the process I learnt about stepwells. Not long afterwards there was news that India graduated around 1 million engineers each year. Which begs the question what was an engineering graduate from the UK doing with EWB in India, why not send Indian EWB's to London to help the homeless?

As I understand it, the project was concerned with assessing different power supplies for water pumps. Pipes had been put down into the wells, some being stepwells, and then pumps used to draw the water up. As I understood most of the water was for domestic use, but there was some consideration being given to irrigation. Basically the consideration was whether diesel engines, windmills or solar panels was the most suitable power source.

Here in Australia, at the time, there was an article about our traditional windmill pumps being replaced by solar powered pumps and how this was a bad idea.The problem being that manufacturers of the mechanical components being long gone: and spare parts have to be custom fabricated and that was expensive. The argument however is that the solar panels and the submerged pumps, would have even shorter lifespans than the windmills, and more cumbersome to maintain.

Anycase I don't know what the EWB's conclusion for the pumps in India was, as she never posted the conclusion as she indicated she would. Such doesn't really matter though, as the issue here is: did she really need to go, and was an engineer really needed for the project? For example when she arrived she discovered she needed to do some surveying, she got hold of an auto level and took some levels. I learnt what an Abney Level was, as it was something she mentioned she ought to get for her travel kit.

Now if surveyors without borders had sent a surveyor and produced contour plans then it is likely that no EWB needed to visit Udaipur: dull maybe, but concerned with efficiency not interesting, nor experience of EWB's. All really need is a topographic map, a more detailed local survey plan, and some photo's, along with some reports on the needs and desires of the local communities. A civil engineering technician could have done a survey and taken photos, and other measurements. A mechanical engineering technician could have taken photos and assisted to repair any existing hand operated pumps and petrol/diesel engine pumps: not just an exploratory visit but improvements. Whilst someone in logistics or industrial management could have given consideration to supply problems concerning spare parts and people to service equipment, and potentially get supplies moving. In short there was potential to collect information on the ground, and most likely using locals, and forward such information to persons who could pull all the information together and determine the most suitable action to take: thus saving the humanitarian organisations the cost of flying people around the world. Really do not want to send an engineer unless really need an engineer.

Whatever the outcome of the feasibility study, whether go with hand operated, diesel/petrol, wind, solar power, the full solution requires supporting infrastructure not just dumping technology on the ground. But with 1 million "engineer" things produced, there should be supporting infrastructure. {Another project of interest at the time was the plywood hexayurt, the EWB's constructing it looked like a keystone cops comedy group. Admittedly it was a training exercise, but really needed someone with more experience to supervise and guide how it should be done. They were lucky nobody got hurt.}

In previous articles I have divided the world into 5 km diameter cells: such cells are convenient as limited of view at ground level is approximately 5 km and average walking speed is also 5 km/h. If the world land area was to be divided, then the current population could supply around 1000 people to each cell.

Furthermore if take a square 1 km in size, and create a central hub 500m x 500m, then in the surrounding ring can fit over 5000 single storey dwellings suitable for 1 person. A dwelling suitable for one person, is also suitable for a couple, and a baby. If increase the dwellings to 2 storey, then can increase the population to 20,000 persons. With multistorey dwellings and changes to block sizes can achieve the maximum densities of 100,000 persons per square kilometre. However sticking with the single storey dwellings (5m x 5m), on blocks 9m x 9m, with roads 9m wide. The dwelling can be reduced to the size of a caravan with two vehicles either side.

So looking at India, there are approximately 167,418 cells, 5 km in diameter, compared to Australia with 391,752 cells. India can place around 8419 persons per cell, whilst Australia could place 62 persons per cell. In either case the population can be concentrated at the centre of the cell in a space no more than 1km x 1km.

Now looking at this widget thing called an "engineer", Australia neither has enough to assign to all the cells nor produces enough to assign someone anytime soon. But India in 1 year produces enough to assign approximately 5 of these "engineer" things to each cell. For that matter India produces enough to assign 1 to all the cells in India and Australia.

For India these 5 engineers could be:

  1. Agricultural
  2. Environmental
  3. Civil
  4. Mechanical
  5. Electrical
But do they need to be engineers. What happened to the barefoot technicians of the 1980's? Doubly important given that many articles now indicate that the vast majority of the engineering graduates are not employable. Though that may have to do with studying computing related disciplines and expectations of work outsourced from overseas to India: rather than focus on more local needs. Though there are indications that many seek government jobs, but that begs the question: where is the government in the rural villages and what is it doing about water resources?

Note the 5km diameter cells are just a planning device to split the whole into more manageable chunks. There is no expectation that they should be produced on the ground. For example large numbers of the cells in Australia would be uninhabited wilderness, or wilderness part of a sheep or cattle station. Australia is basically an undeveloped country with the population concentrated in coastal cities.

Now India I know even less about than Australia, however I assume India has mountainous wilderness, and lots of rural communities. That some of these rural communities are extremely remote and isolated, but that most are within reasonable distance of local towns and from there they can get to any city within India. That is city populations wouldn't be growing due to migration of people from rural communities if the people in the rural communities had no practical means of travelling to the cities. With walking and train taken as being the most common means of travel.

So if have a rural community it seems reasonable that the local government authority (LGA), whatever more specific name such are given, should have an agricultural engineer or technologist on staff. If have a mining region, then a mining engineer or technologist, and geologist on staff. With an environmental engineer in both rural and mining communities to keep track of the impact of the farming or mining activity.

All the communities need roads, and stormwater drainage, and water resources management. However locally this is mostly an implementation and management requirement, with design being a national activity. Design should be national as it includes rivers and flow of water to the oceans: this flow is either increased or restricted affecting downstream communities: it therefore has to be coordinated nationally, but otherwise require some local technical input.

With over 8000 people per cell, each person can be responsible for a square segment 48.3 m in size. Assuming strips 600 mm, and walking speed of 80 m/min, it would take 48.6 minutes to travel around. So they can walk around the site several times a day and explore it.

Whilst if assume the cell is a 5 km x 5 km square, with farming machine 5m wide, and operating speed 10km/h, it would take 500 hours to work the land. Assuming 8 h/day (though may operate 24 hours), it would take 62.5 days, assuming a season is no more than 91 days: it thus takes less than 1 season to work the land. Machines can be wider than 5m, and maybe able to function at speeds greater than 10km/hr (most machines seem to have maximum speed between 25 km/hr and 40 km/h: these are for moving along roads between fields. The actual function of the machine, ploughing, harvesting require lower operating speeds.)

So there is potential for one person to farm the land with appropriate machine, whilst a large population of people can explore every inch of the land or otherwise work the land. Since one machine can work the land in less than a season, the total number of machines required matches the number of cells. Though not all cells would be used for agriculture the number provides a starting point for production output of manufacturing facility. The number can be refined as agricultural and environmental scientists classify the function of each cell.

Note that the cells can be set out from anywhere, so that each state can start the cells centred on  the capital or most populous city. Such cells will collide and form a mess at state boundaries and require more people to be assigned.

Now what are the engineers going to do? According to their professional cults, they built civilization, and without them we wouldn't have anything. Now I have a problem with that declaration as these mass produced "engineer" widgets weren't around when civilisation was conceived, and they certainly didn't build anything.

So here's a nation with wide spread poverty, producing widget "engineers" by the million, and whilst it has advanced technology it isn't raising the population out of poverty. So why waste national resources producing irrelevant widgets, when could be better spending resources on more useful widgets?

A starting point would therefore to be to identify resources: natural resources of India. From which 56.78% of the land is cultivable, which roughly halves the number of agricultural engineers needed. I am assuming that the cells determine the number of people required as principal person responsible for an area. So the number of cells for example determines the number of agricultural engineers required in a state department. Beyond land for farming India seems to have plenty of other resources, though it seems to be using too much oil and gas, with the need for imports. It otherwise exports agricultural and mining products.

So why inequity, and disparity between incomes of the people? I'm not suggesting everyone should live in the same kind of houses, or be in close proximity to shopping centres, where they can buy junk they don't need. But they should have equitable access to appropriate: shelter, education, health care, potable water, food and clothing, and other basic essentials.

... to be continued ...

So if they are producing and exporting, then it would seem the problem is political not technical.So an agricultural engineer is not likely to provide any benefit to local community. Not the least of which, aggregating land together and working with a few machines, doesn't help the majority of the community it just helps a few largely to exploit the many.

So around the world, have people who walk some five miles (8 km) every day to collect water (9L to 20L) is this something that needs to be eliminated? Apparently 30 minutes of exercise is required each day to keep the heart healthy (Seems in last few years, I lost need to walk anywhere, and therefore spent more time at the computer, eventually resulting in heart attack. I wasn't impressed, I was under the impression I could still walk anywhere I needed when I wanted to. So do everything else right, but make sure disrupt the time spent inactive. Apparently just getting the exercise isn't good enough, need to disrupt large periods of inactivity: like every 20 minutes do something other than sit or stand (Yep! The standing desks aren't going to help.).).

Assuming 5 km/h walking speed, then the trip occupies 1.6 hours, or 3.2 hours round trip everyday: possibly longer if walk back more slowly due to extra weight: so allow 4 hours. With 8 hours work between, thats 12 hours total each day. Whilst may not want to remove the trip, due to the social aspect, may otherwise want to reduce the over all time. A bicycle is typically taken as averaging 4 times faster than walking. So operating at 20 km/hr, the trip is reduced to 24 minutes, or 48 minutes round trip: so allow 1 hour each day. Total active hours reduced to 9 hours per day.

Given that bicycles potentially have longer learning period than tricycles, and tricycles are more stable with cargo, the supply of tricycles could make a significant impact in these regions. More over the rider of a tricycle could transport the load of more than one person, thus reducing the number of people who need to collect water. However people then likely to need some means of paying for such service. Though the concept  reduces the number of tricycles which need be supplied, for example one for every three people, rather than one to every person. The tricycles however will need maintenance. An alternative is to install pipes and have pedal powered pumps: such machines in suitable building, would require less maintenance than wheeled vehicles on rough unsealed roads.

So water and transportation are major issues. As is hygiene and sanitation. Assume clothing is adequate, as is amount of food and water. More food and water maybe better, but in the main need cleaner water not more. Similarly need more hygienic food preparation not necessarily more food: and lack of hygiene in food preparation is mostly related to lack of clean water. Another problem related to food preparation is lack of fuel for cooking.

Can civil engineers help. Well, they'd say they can because they gave us the contrivances of civilisation, such as water supply and sewage treatment. But not quite, because they weren't around when we got such things. The modern "engineer" is an elitist widget mass produced by an industrial highly commercial education system: and largely is a poor fit with the industrial machinery that is modern society. We could waste national/global resources producing these "engineer" things, but maybe we could produce another thing faster and better for the task at hand.

We have a planet and humans just about occupy every inch of it: they would if had towns 5 km diameter with 1000 people to each. However we haven't mapped every inch and we haven't developed every inch. What would happen if we did? To do this we do not need qualified surveyors and cartographers, we just need technicians who can use the appropriate instruments to collect local data: directional compass, dumpy level, abney level, measuring wheel, tape measure, camera, pencil and paper. Basically only need one dumpy level for each cell, though could probably use less than that. Once the data is collected then more qualified persons maybe needed to produce appropriate drawings and maps.

For the most part an army of civil engineering technicians could construct unsealed roads, dig stormwater drainage channels, catchment ponds, and otherwise modify the local landscape. However the systems they implement need to be documented and coordinated nationally or internationally. In Africa for example, international agreements would be needed between neighbouring nations: as may cause flooding in a neighbouring country or cut off its water supply.

Consider that the bulk of the technology of civilisation was implemented qualitatively, and has it origins in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. So we can put a hold on graduating more people with bachelor degrees and instead produce an army of appropriately qualified technicians. Ahhh! The world will fall apart. No it won't. A bachelor degree is a meaningless piece of scrap paper if the graduates have no ability to put knowledge to work, and no curiosity to ask questions and generate new knowledge. The people reaching that height need to be better.

So the shutdown isn't direct, it's just making it harder to get higher, by making the lower levels more demanding: and making sure that have to pass through the lower levels to get to the higher levels. That is, there will be no leaving school and studying for a bachelor degree: can only start studying for a certificate. If pass then can move up, if don't pass then stay at that level. There is no need to drop out unqualified, and no need to do extra studies to get qualified. As I proposed in the earlier posts, you start out risking a fifth of a year, if get through the first year and complete Certificate V, then start risking a whole year. We make sure we have properly articulated programmes, which ensure mobility between work. Primary concern of people is being able to do work, not belong to an occupational or professional cult. The primary concern of the employer is whether or not a person is suitably qualified to perform the work.

And cannot properly determine the suitability of  a person for a task, if cannot properly define the task, and the necessary characteristics to complete the task. Civil engineering is not a valid description of a task: thats a declaration have no idea what the task is, hope can get someone who can figure it out. We want to stop local flooding is a better description of the task at hand. We propose to dig storm water drainage ditches, but need to know the best place to dig them: is getting a more refined description of the task. Drainage ditches maybe to refined, and inappropriate, but that is what we want to do, because it is what we can do, and afford. Someone may offer an alternative option, if they think it is better: but they can only do this because we gave them something to assess to criticise. If we identify we want to stop local flooding during the monsoon season, then we are getting still more refined: we also get some idea of the time during which we can implement a solution.

As the saying goes 2/3rd's of the answer lies in putting the question clearly. The same goes for work descriptions and job descriptions. Defining a job by occupation rather than the work that needs doing, maybe fast, but it is unlikely to find the person best suited to the task.

So there are basic qualitative approaches to getting things done, without expending excessive amount of time on crunching numbers and drawing pictures. If we want drainage we can wait till it rains and follow the water. We could get a dumpy level and measure levels. Or we could just release a ball and watch where it rolls. Where it stops is the natural low point. We can make it lower. We can shift soil around and relocate the high points and the low points. We can dig ditches and dig sumps. And all the time we can just watch where the ball rolls. Of course the rain can come and erode everything away, and then none of it works. So we need to be able to test our materials and our construction. What ever these refinements are, there is an expectation that it doesn't take too long to train someone in the required knowledge. So expect that relatively easy to train someone to either hold water back or drain from a 50m x 50m block: and that can do so with little more than a spade and the available soil.

The engineer things are useful, if they can actually do engineering and there is engineering to be done.

"To define it rudely but not inaptly, engineering is the art of doing that well with one dollar which any bungler can do with two after a fashion." [Arthur M Wellington :The Economic Theory of Railway Location]
There is no value to the "engineer" if they do for $5, and create a dependence, and ongoing operating expenses which cannot be sustained. For example you have coal and they come along and design/construct an oil fired power station. They spawn agriculture in a region where water doesn't naturally reach, and create dependence on power supply for pumped water, all the time whilst population increases due to increased food supply, whilst fuel supply to pump the water diminishes.

So to put it rudely but not inaptly, it is the modern "engineers" who are becoming the bunglers. Too lost in abstract esoteric mathematical models, to look out the window and see what is actually happening.


  1. Now if I had any skill in writing and expressing the ideas flowing around my head, I might be able to produce something that was half readable.

Related Posts

[16/02/2019] : Original

Index to Politics of Profession


An index to my posts about politics of profession's, and the emergence of professional cults masquerading as learned societies. Primarily with respect to "engineers", and mostly those in Australia, and otherwise hampered by the dictates of Engineers Australia, which is increasingly operating like a modern day rum corp.

Note that these are largely essays, opinions, and generally freewriting. As freewriting, they are written off the top of my head, without references, and without proof reading to check typing errors, or checks on spelling errors. In some instances on reading, I have noticed small important words missing, such as the word "not". The rest of the context typically indicates my viewpoint. Each post typically has a revision block at the bottom, indicating when revised. Where the post has been edited and corrected the word "not" is typically in red, on the other hand where I have wanted to emphasise in the first place it is also coloured in red.

The essays can be considered as drafts, and the foundation for something more concise and more focused (see about). They are also katharsis, and general brain leak.


Mostly attempted to place everything in reverse chronological order. The top of the stack has the newer posts.




Seems I managed to stay away from being irritated.



Nothing found so far.




  1. Samuel Smiles
  2. The Building Code of Australia: Evidence-of-Suitability
  3. SA Development Regulations: independent technical expert
  4. Engineered Products and Evidence-of-Suitability
  5. Realising an innovative economy: a practical roadmap to ease the engineering skills shortage in Australia
  7. On Regulation ...
  8. Registration of Engineers: Paper shuffling Bureaucratic Nonsense.
  9. Education and Qualification Frameworks
  10. Killing the Engineering Team
  11. More Engineers Australia on LinkedIN group ...
  12. More on Education and Engineering.
  13. Problem of reducing Dependence on Consultants, and other meanderings...
  14. Moving forward with Associate Technologists #pt1
  15. Views on Engineers Australia
  16. Lives of the Engineers
  17. Movie: Engineers, Education and Employment: To Sir, with Love. #purposedu
  18. Structures or why things don't fall down: Theory versus Pragmatism.
  19. Education Blogs: #purposed
  20. On Science : pt#1
  21. Education or Experience?


Related Posts

[16/02/2019] : Original

Friday, February 15, 2019

Engineering is not becoming a Commodity, You Just Don't Know What Engineering Is

In recent years there have been comments and articles suggesting that engineering is becoming a commodity, that is its price can be pushed down and bought and sold like say spuds. Some supermarkets certainly believe they can buy services that way and impose same %20 discount as they do when buying spuds and the likes in bulk: but they don't buy services in bulk, or provide business of any significance.

Nevertheless, those who believe engineering is becoming a commodity are mistaken. The problem is they don't know what engineering is. They think they are engineers. They think they provide engineering services. They think their degree makes them an engineer. They want to use the title engineer, and many want to claim sole use of the title. Unfortunately the service they are providing is not engineering.

In the past people were needed to push numbers through mathematical formula, this may have been significant skill, and it may have been possible to base a career simply crunching numbers. But this is no longer  the case. A brainless, unimaginative block of silicon can crunch the numbers faster and with greater consistency.

Engineering takes place at the frontiers of science and technology.

Engineering is not merely a rational scientific approach to design of systems. As I have mentioned many times before, a rational scientific approach to the design of established technologies and variants off such technology can be taught in a very short time: less than 12 months if needed.

A building is an established technology. We can check that it was designed correctly, we can check that it was constructed properly. The Opal Towers building either wasn't designed and properly assessed as fit-for-function, or it wasn't built to the specifications, or a combination of both.

Will licensing civil engineers prevent the problem on future projects. No it won't! Civil engineers only study structures as part of their education, they do not spend 4 years studying structures. More over the application of structural mechanics to buildings and/or bridges depends on industry experience, and the competence and experience of those supervising graduates. So a supervisor with trite experience, merely begets a graduate with trite experience, it does not produce the required level of competence.

I know writing career episode reports and work practice reports is time consuming and difficult to get right. From an industrial engineering viewpoint, job description is time consuming and difficult. Merely explaining how to make a cup of coffee can be difficult, getting the instruction correct for a robot to follow is even more difficult. So for certain, a person may have gone through a hard and difficult time to become chartered, but that doesn't mean it was in anyway a reliable assessment of required competence for the task for which a person is to profess expertise.

Expertise in the appropriate technology is the requirement. Civil, mechanical and electrical "engineers" do not have adequate knowledge of buildings. As for architects, they seem more like graphic artists than competent building designers: hence apparently more buildings designed by "building designers" than "qualified" architects. In short, these people, are just not competent, for the task for which they profess expertise.

We cannot rely on industry to pass on the required knowledge, we cannot rely on industry to maintain and safeguard a body of knowledge for future generations. Most especially if the knowledge goes out off practical use for a significant period of time. A system can be designed once and built many times, so it is possible for years to pass, before require anyone who can design. But when the need for design arises as a community we have an established expectation for performance: and low tolerance for anything below the desired performance.

This is where modern "engineers" have lost track of their role. These modern "engineers" do not engineer, they are code cruncher's, they assess compliance with national codes: such activity is not engineering.

Sorry Roma The Engineer, but I very much doubt there was any engineering involved with the design of the Shard, sure there was a requirement for structural design: but the structural design would have been based on established body of technical science.

I don't do multistorey buildings, but basically have a stick cantilevered out of the ground. The higher from the ground the higher the wind load, the taller the stick the greater the tendency to buckle under dead and live loading. If taper the building as it goes up, than it reduces the weight as it goes up, it also reduces the surface area exposed to the wind. Tapered building: Blackpool tower, the Eiffel tower. Roma is right that history is interesting: why reinvent the wheel if going to produce something inferior. Need a reference point for what to surpass.

This isn't to diminish the value of the input to the project. It is just to highlight, that if we are going to be picky about who is and is not an engineer (like Engineers Australia, and RPEQ's like to be), then we need to be able to define engineering without reference to the word engineer.

As I mentioned in an earlier post. If technologist can do the work, then not engineering. If an associate technologist can do the work then not engineering.

The architectural engineer is potentially more qualified to design a building than either an architect or a civil engineer. Assuming the architectural engineer studies, structures, electrical and mechanical systems.

{Sorry! It is extremely rare that someone graduates in Structural Engineering: structural engineering is a specialisation after graduating in either civil engineering or mechanical engineering. A machine is a structure which moves. A non-machine structure is a mechanism which is locked.}

An architectural engineer, is thus something of a variant to a naval architect, which begs the question why are garden variety architects not more competent at design of structural, mechanical and electrical systems. Why do we need a team of architects, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers to design a building? And more importantly, where is the engineering? The building comprises of an assembly of established technologies.

Electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, in each instance we are defining technology. If the technology exists then the engineering is over. We can educate and train people to design these technologies in the first instance not rely on professional cults and industry to pass on the required knowledge. Knowledge itself requires better organising and managing.

Looking at another situation, Elon Musk, seems like an engineer, when considering Tesla Inc. But electric vehicles are an established technology, as are diesel electric vehicles. Diesel electric vehicles comprise of trains, ships and heavy industrial, construction and mining equipment. Electric vehicles comprise of milk floats, industrial tugger and lifting vehicles, and scooters.

Tesla electric vehicles are not at the frontiers of science they are pushing at the frontiers of practical technology. The technical science is there to design and build an electric vehicle. The problem is the weight of the vehicle and especially the weight of the power source. So need improved battery technology. We have had batteries for a long time, so expect that there is an established body of technical science to allow design of a battery, using established technology, for a specific purpose.

So the technology is a variant of established technologies based on established science. The engineering starts when seek an alternative power source: generate electricity by means other than the traditional chemistry of batteries. Not seek by blind mindless experiments, but by controlled experiments. This is the scientific knowledge we have, therefore: what new technology can be developed to generate a power source? Once got an answer to that question, and found a practical method of generating power and a scientific basis to design a system to be fit-for-purpose, then the engineering is over. Then we can train technologists to design and further develop the technology.

It is not the engineering which is the commodity, it is the technology which is the commodity. Furthermore when it comes to buildings, engineers have been inserted into the process of design, where they were not previously required.

The result is that engineers having been an unwanted insertion into the building design process, they are a  bottleneck to be removed. They hinder rapid supply of buildings: there is a shortage of housing, schools, and hospitals. There is certainly not a shortage of this rubbish {What's the expected radial reach of such building, as it is this kind of building which generates urban sprawl not the car.}.

Take sheds, carports and verandahs as an example. When I started in structural design around 1996, most manufacturers had standard calculations. If a clients proposed building was enveloped by a standard design, then the standard design was taken as suitable for that building. The typical supplier consistently indicated that 90% of the time they could get approval without something they called "engineering". Now in 2019 many suppliers have product configurator software which can do the structural calculations at the point of sale, operated by salespeople. The next stage would be to shift this online, and have the configurator operated by the buyer.

That something they called "engineering", wasn't "engineering" in 1996, and it certainly isn't "engineering" now. But regulators haven't kept pace they send people off to get "engineering" or an "engineers" report.

But there is no engineering involved and I'm certain most people don't want to be involved with an engineering project, certainly don't want to pay for one, rather they want reliable established technologies.

So have a choice:

  1. Either continue calling this stuff engineering and accept that a person can be educated to design such technology in a 2 year academic programme.
  2. Or Stop calling this stuff engineering, give it a new name, such as technical design, and accept that a person can be educated in a 2 year academic programme.
The fundamental requirement no matter what other options may consider, is accepting that a 2 year academic programme can provide the necessary knowledge and capability to design established technologies. The architectural engineering programme maybe 3 to 4 years duration, but that is because it contains breadth of technology, not depth in understanding a specific technology.

Though for certain can most likely create a 3 year programme in structural mechanics or applied mechanics. Likewise a 2 year programme should cover the static design of building structures, whilst a 3 year programme could expand to structural dynamics. No need to waste time with 4 year B.Eng in civil followed by a M.Eng in structures (with focus on structural dynamics).

In short we can educate and train people in technology and the associated technical science, but that doesn't make them engineers and neither does the work they do.

We are wasting national resources training people in 4 year B.Eng programmes, if they never get the opportunity to "engineer" and they are not otherwise competent in the technologies for which they are assigned responsibility.

So really do need to define engineering.

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[15/02/2019] : Original
[25/03/2019] : Minor Edits and Formatting

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Anger Management

People don't need anger management classes. Their anger is well managed, and everyone else should be well aware that a person is angry.

Being aware that you are in the path of someone who is angry, it is you that needs to either step aside or be prepared to deal with the anger.

Of course the problem is, the person facing someone who is angry, is typically completely oblivious to the fact, that they are the total twonk that caused the anger in the first place.

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[14/02/2019] : Original
[17/05/2019] : Minor Edits

Professional Cults Deserve No Respect

I got annoyed on Linkedin, on the other hand my declaration was appropriate, valid and correct.

Appropriate because I started out by implying I was annoyed.

Secondly the acronyms MIEAust and CP.Eng are meaningless twaddle to the population at large, and they would decide meaning based on experience and interaction with those using. Builders simply use a large number of expletives to describe engineers. I avoided those expletives as they don't fit well with the acronyms, though would fit nicely with FIEAust.

As I recollect Engineers Australia spent around 5 years (it could have been less, just seemed like forever) dreaming up CP.Eng to improve status, as MIEAust had lost status as a reliable indicator of competence. But as I say this post nominal detritus is meaningless twaddle and the public will adapt to express their feelings. So any derogatory word starting with "M" is a good starting point. Mindless Imbecile puts two letters to use, and so on we can go.

Engineers Australia seems to like publishing the value of projects. Consultancy 1 has a $2 billion contract, consultancy 2 has a $1 billion contract: therefore could conclude that consultant 2 is more efficient. No sorry consultant 1 is the better consultant because they are getting more for less.

As for professional, you can dig up all the ancient mythology about ethics of monks that you desire, but as far as modern usage goes a professional does something for money (irrespective of ethics or competence). The flim flam man can make profit without making good on their promise to supply. You do not have to be technically competent to make a profit, you do not have to provide quality to make a profit. Profiteers seek short term gain.

As for capitalists, well they can be good or bad. Apparently there are no real capitalists left. Those calling themselves capitalists aren't, they don't have any capital, they are using other people's money and largely ripping everybody off.

If the primary motivation for seeking legislation, is to be granted a monopoly of trade, is so that can hold the population to ransom,  because believe deserve higher income, that somehow the whole of society owes you, even though you have contributed zilch, then basically you are a profiteer.

Thus M=moron and CP=Capitalist Profiteer are appropriate descriptors of a professional cult which is focused on the wrong objective. A professional cult which does not deserve any respect.

{NB: It should be noted that a large portion of the membership of Engineers Australia has held for a long time that, it should introduce legislation to grant the membership a monopoly over work. This is not to protect the public welfare. No! It is contrary to that, it is so that they can increase fees, hold the population to ransom, because they believe their fees are too low, and that the community owes them something. Except these people are not the people who gave us modern civilisation. These are not the people who discovered scientific approach to designing technology. These are not the people with the imagination and ingenuity to invent new technologies, nor are the people with the technical competence to properly design established technologies for specific purposes. These are just arrogant graduates with a degree, and trite experience gained under the supervision of persons with equally trite experience. To gain significant experience then Australia needed to, and needs to sustain significant work on significant projects. If someone cannot put the required effort into say the design of a connection on a small residential structure, should they be permitted to design multistorey buildings or bridges? Should they be permitted to supervise people who are designing multistorey buildings, now that such projects are increasing in number? Hopefully your answer is no! No! NO!}

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[14/02/2019] : Original