Dr. Z’s Corner

Dr. Z

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., Ph.D., Fellow-NSPE, Fellow-ASCE is an award-winning professor, structural engineer, author and mentor living in Washington, D.C. Since joining academia, "Dr. Z", as he is known by his students and colleagues, has distinguished himself on campus and beyond. He is passionate about engineering, gifted in teaching, and is a true champion for professional licensure. Dr. Z. has extraordinarily high standards; has produced award-winning designs; is prolific in professional service; and infects others with these same values. He is the recipient of numerous local, regional and national awards, including recent national awards from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Since 2014, he has been regularly writing monthly articles for “Dr.Z’s Corner “ and offering hundreds of engineering problems, for free, every month for students, engineers and engineering educators worldwide. Dr. Z. also offers pro-bono Saturday classes for students and engineers; his free classes are open to all in the greater Washington metro area and cost nothing, nada, zilch! Starbucks coffee is always a must have for Dr. Z.

Do You Know Who Your True Ally is During the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam?

Almost all engineering students know the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is a computer-based test (CBT), and the NCEES FE Reference Handbook (version 9.5) is the only resource material that will be displayed on your exam monitor as a searchable PDF file. In this month’s article we will talk about this important “ally” and even create a practical case study.

By now, our readers, students and practicing engineers who are preparing to take their FE exam for the first time know that the most important advice they is to review the FE Reference Handbook (v. 9.5) as often as possible before the exam day and becoming familiar with the formulas, tables, charts, and other information in the reference book.

As we have indicated in earlier newsletters, you will not be allowed to bring your personal hard copy of the Handbook into the exam room. You must rely on the electronic PDF version of the FE Reference Handbook, which will be very similar to the printed hard-copy version. Quite often students ask us about the best strategy to find a formula or specific information in the searchable PDF file as quickly as possible. For this, the keyboard shortcut “CTRL-F” comes to the rescue. Below, we will create an actual case study to decipher the whole search process.

When you use the keyboard shortcut “CTRL-F”, you will be prompted with a dialogue search box to enter the keywords you would like to search for. Once your keywords have been entered, the keywords will show up highlighted in the reference manual and you can skip from one result to the other until you find exactly what you are looking for.

Case Study: Searching for the numerical value of the Modulus of Elasticity of Steel in the FE Reference Handbook (v. 9.5):

Most of us who regularly use values for the Modulus of Elasticity know that the modulus of elasticity of steel is E = 29 x 106 psi (29.0 Mpsi) in the U.S. Customary Unit System or E = 200 GPa in the SI unit system. These values are found on page 89 of the FE Reference Handbook.

As a case study, let us try to find these values in the PDF version of the FE Reference Handbook. Here are the possible steps for the search:

1. First you open the PDF file and once you see the cover of the Reference Handbook on your monitor, enter the keyboard shortcut “CTRL-F”. You will be prompted with a dialog search box with PREVIOUS and NEXT keys.

2. Type “Modulus of Elasticity of Steel” and hit the ENTER key. Surprisingly you will get the following message: “Acrobat has finished searching the document. No matches were found.” Then what do you do?

3. One possible next step would be to remove the word “steel” and leave the “Modulus of Elasticity” part and hit the ENTER or NEXT key again. Immediately Page 67 of the Reference Handbook will open, and you’ll see the following highlighted definition: The elastic modulus (also called modulus of elasticity, Young’s modulus) describes the relationship between engineering stress and engineering strain during elastic loading. But this definition is not what we are searching for. We are searching for the numerical values of the modulus of elasticity of steel, not its definition. Then what do you do?

4. The easiest way would be clicking the ENTER key or NEXT key on the dialog box again, then you’ll see another reference on page 67.

5. Clicking the ENTER/NEXT key again, will open the page 88 of the reference handbook.

6. If you keep clicking the ENTER/ NEXT key several more times, you’ll see references on other pages as well and finally the unpleasant message “Acrobat has finished searching the document. No matches were found.”

Now let us try to use another term as the search word in the dialog box for the Modulus of Elasticity, that is: Young’s Modulus. Once you enter “Young’s Modulus” and hit the ENTER key repeatedly, you’ll see references on Pages 246 and 248 of the Mechanical Engineering section of the handbook. Still we are not getting the numerical values. If you keep clicking the ENTER/NEXT key repeatedly, you’ll see references on several pages of the handbook and finally, BINGO! You’ll see the page that you’re looking for, the “Typical Materials Properties Table” on Page 89.

And lastly, we remind our readers that the F.E. and P.E. are very fast-paced exams and you will have little time to look up information. Therefore, make sure you are familiar with the electronic and hard-copy versions of the FE Reference Handbook. This will help you to build your confidence and conquer  the exam on your first attempt!

Good Luck,

Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr.Z.)
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