The dream to become a structural engineer dates back to my childhood. Once passing a construction site I noticed a group of yellow hats as we called them then huddled over some gigantic drawings. I remember telling my mother, “these guys must be big painters.” She responded saying no they are a group of structural engineers, the guys who make buildings safe for us to live in and bridges comfortable and time saving for us. I thought then, a cool set of guys these structural engineers are.
It is funny but true that structural engineer is one of the oldest professions in the world. In fact, it may be among the oldest professions on earth (I hope I’m not stealing anyone’s thunder). However, it was the primitive structural engineer who lashed together tree branches with vines to make a shelter. Throughout recorded history, structural engineers have pushed the frontiers of science back by designing and building increasingly larger and more sophisticated structures. We have traveled from the prehistoric primitive hut to the International Space Station and the journey has been a challenge for every structural engineer who ever lived a fact that fill me with pride.
To date many years and numerous degrees and lots of learning under my belt I still believe a structural engineer’s main responsibility is to use math and science and cutting-edge technology so as to design a building’s underlying strength. Let me add here
It’s not all in the drawing that a structural engineer is involved in, as many of you may think. I work closely with architects and other professional engineers and the man on the ground the civil contractor to design and execute everything from homes to offices hospitals airports bridges to ships, aircraft, and even the rockets that are launched into space. As a structural engineer, my best friends are the materials I use as they have to withstand the harshness of outer space rain and sunshine and the environment. Materials, such as aluminum and concrete, steel, timber glass plastic and fiber all go through my hands to be sculpted and shaped into the form what I desire.
I feel the critical skills that anyone needs to be a structural engineer is an in-depth understanding of physics and mathematics. I have as a student and later studied in great depth and detail the properties of various materials, such as their density, hardness, tensile strength, bulk modulus and bending strength. These are important as I working a structural engineer am called upon ever day to calculate how different materials will perform under different forms of stress and pressure. Therefore as a structural engineer compression, tension, bending and twisting, and a materials ability to withstand various environmental conditions of temperature, pressure, corrosive gases and liquids, and even radiation form an important part of the analytics of the job
As a structural engineer, it is my primary task along with the architects and designers is to analyze the configuration in terms of materials and placement of the structural components of a building or other structure. Next, as a structural engineer, I use my math and science knowledge to calculate the pressures, strains that each component, in a structure will be put under, and if I have any doubt test it out in a mock or prototype.
For instance, in a building, a beam is being placed to support a roof. A structural engineer will first identify the base material of the beam, its malleability, and tensile strength. Then with the aid of different calculations determine if the beam will be able to stand the human use and environmental pressures for the lifetime of the building. In this process, the structural engineer like me is aided by many technological tools like computer-aided design (CAD) technology for simulation of real conditions.
Being a structural engineer is by far one of the most satisfying careers to choose as there are a challenge and responsibility at every turn.