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.

Dr. Z's Corner

Dr. Z’s Corner (202009)

FE Exams During Covid-19: Most Frequently Asked Questions and Exam Day Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every corner of our lives including the FE and PE exams. In this month’s article we would like to list some of the questions regarding taking the exams during COVID-19 and what you are expected to do during taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (F.E) exam.

The most frequently asked questions about taking tests during the Covid-19 pandemic

When will test centers reopen? Why can’t I find appointment availability? Can I travel to a different state/jurisdiction to take my test? Am I required to wear a face mask? I would like to take my exam sooner. Is that possible? Why has my exam been moved to another location? Why was my exam canceled? My exam was canceled, but my friend’s exam wasn’t. Why is that? Will I get a refund if my exam is canceled? When can I reschedule my exam? Where can I find test delivery information specific to my country? I am scheduled to take my exam at a third-party test center, and I’m worried it is going to be closed. What should I do? Why was my cancellation notice so delayed? My window to certify is expiring soon. What should I do? What health and safety measures are you taking at your test centers? How can I find the latest information on test delivery during this pandemic?

The answers to these questions and more are given at Pearson VUE website: https://home.pearsonvue.com/coronavirus-update.aspx#face-masks

When approaching the FE Exam for the first time, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. The best way to build your confidence is to prepare for the test and familiarize yourself with the FE Reference Handbook 10, the only official reference material for the computer-based FE exams. Review the latest version of the handbook prior to exam day. Most importantly, familiarize yourself with the charts, formulas, tables, and other reference information provided. An electronic version will be available onscreen during the actual exam. Printed copies will not be allowed in the exam room.

Exam day experience

Once you register and know your exam date, NCEES recommends the following: First, you should plan to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. Upon arrival, a representative will provide you with a copy of NCEES-CBT exam rules for your review.

After doing so, you will be asked to provide your digital signature to confirm that you have read the rules and agreed to abide by them. Also you will be asked to provide a current government issued form of ID such as a driver’s license. Once the representative confirmed your identification and the exam that you are taking, you will be asked to provide palm vein scan and have your photo taken. Your signature, palm vein scan and photo will be stored with your exam result.

Prior to be admitted into the testing room, a representative will ensure that you have in your possession only the items that NCEES allows them to the testing room. These items include, your ID, an NCEES approved calculator and eye glasses. Most test centers have secure storage lockers on site for you to store prohibited items such as cell phones, other electronic devices and personal belongings such as a watch, wallet and bag.

Once you complete the check in process, then you report to an exam proctor who will ask you to confirm your ID by providing again your palm vein scan. Then the proctor will give you a reusable booklet and marker for scratch work. Then the proctor will review the exam rules and will escort you to the exam room and assigned workstation and launches the exam. Before starting your exam, all examinees will be required to read and agree to the NCEES’ non-disclosure agreement and complete a brief tutorial to learn how to ADVANCE to the next item, RETURN to a previous item and FLAG items for review.

The FE exam includes 110-questions. The exam appointment time is 6 hours long. Nondisclosure agreement (2 minutes); Tutorial (8 minutes); Actual exam (5 hours and 20 minutes) and scheduled break (25 minutes).

After completing approximately 55 questions, examinees will be prompted on screen with the option to take a 25-minute break. Examinees who wish to take the scheduled break should raise their hands and wait for the prompter tor assistance. Unscheduled breaks may be requested at any time during the exam by following the same procedure. However, examinees should be aware that clock will not stop during an unscheduled break. Examinees are allowed to access their lockers during the scheduled and unscheduled breaks.

After completing the exam and a brief survey, you should raise your hands and proctor will verify that you had properly exited from exam and escort you from testing room and collect your booklet and marker. You will receive an email from NCEES within 7 to 10 days notifying you that your results are available for viewing in your MYNCEES account.

And lastly, stay relaxed and confident. Always keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are going to do your best!

Until next time,
Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr. Z.)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Dr. Z’s Corner (202005)

To optimize, or not to Optimize, that is the Question for the Construction Industry

Nikos D. Lagaros

As stated by the famous mathematician and astronomer Leonhard Euler: “Nothing happens in the universe not relying on the rules of maximum or minimum.” The use of the mathematical term of optimization can be identified to the era of great mathematicians, physicists and astronomers like Cauchy, Lagrange, Kepler and Newton while minimization was presented a lot prior by Euclid. Notwithstanding these early advancements, engineers discovered the value of optimization not before 1950 when research innovation on optimization algorithms was supported by computing power. Nevertheless, civil engineers remain skeptical in incorporating optimization in their professional practices.

Trial and error vs optimization

The first production-worthy light globe was the outcome of a long and repetitive trial-and-error procedure by Thomas Edison for identifying the optimal material. While Edison had limited knowledge on material properties as electrical resistance and conductance, modern engineers present remarkable technical experience and knowledge that empowers them to deliver high-quality designs based on their expertise. Designs’ weaknesses are detected via testing and are corrected through experience-based make-it-and-break-it procedures.

Advancements in available computing hardware technology and software enabled the development of numerical prototypes of designs, used for performance assessment prior to construction while time and cost efficiency of the trial and error phase was improved. It is worth pointing out that there exist two constraints that restrict further efficiency improvement. The first one is the significant workload demand for interpretation of design cycles of the trial and error approach. The second factor concerns the balance between project complexity and uniqueness versus human intuition. The physical limitations of the human brain in combinatoratorial calculations have been exceeded by the computational abilities of available hardware technology. The inventive solutions of engineers are limited by time and cost but could be assisted in achieving near-optimal design solutions in an algorithmic manner.

The added value created by improved productivity and production of near-optimal solutions establish the need for algorithmic aid in structural design. The added value is generated by reducing design cost and time while increasing responsible material usage, eco-friendliness and construction cost efficiency of projects. Numerical optimization is the means of transportation from a far-optimal design to a near-optimal one with respect to predefined parameters, restrictions and goals.

Optimization in the engineering profession

Since the 1960’s many research studies on applied structural design optimization have been published, where structural design optimization was effective in various problems. However, civil engineers (especially structural engineers) seem susceptible to applying optimization-based design procedures. Nevertheless, mechanical and aerospace engineers have already adopted optimization into their profession practice. For instance, in the automotive industry, BMW has adopted optimization procedures in the development of new diesel engines. While in the aeronautic industry, Airbus used a design optimization approach for developing the wings of the aircraft A380.

First steps of optimization in AECI, what is the benefit

Aiming to identify the benefits of adopting optimization-based structural engineering by the Architectural, Engineering & Construction Industry (AECI), it is important to underline that: (i) The Building Sector (BS) is the higher contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (30% of GHG emissions) while it also consumes almost 40% of global energy, 25% of global water, 40% of global resources, (ii) BS estimated worth is around 10% of the global GDP (USD 7.5 trillion) with more than 120 million people employed, whereas (iii) AECI is expected to expand by 85% to USD 15.5 trillion worldwide in 2030, with U.S., China and India accounting for almost 60% of this growth. With respect to the above issues, the question for AECI is: “To optimize, or not to optimize?”. The answer to this question is straightforward, definitely Yes; if AECI adopts design optimization principles the environmental impact and economic development of AECI is expected to be severe. More specifically, a hypothetical scenario of 10% average material usage reduction is achieved on 5% of the project volume of AECI, the cost reduction translates to USD 15.0 billion for 2016; while the environmental benefit translates to 6.0 million metric tons of CO2 reduction, equal to the annual emission of cities like Pittsburgh, Paris, Milan or Athens.

Worth noticing are the pioneering steps in the field of structural engineering design optimization performed by OptiStructure, a startup recently established in London UK, that aims to institute value engineering revolution in AECI via structural design optimization. OptiStructure optimization services have recently been applied to a 535 meters high-rise reinforced concrete building, to be constructed in the Persian Gulf area. The environmental benefit achieved by the optimized design delivered corresponds to 12.7% and 11.2% reduction on GHG CO2 emissions and energy consumption, respectively; while cost reduction of 8% was achieved that corresponds to USD 6.8 million.

Construction technology leaders are preparing for a massive storm of innovation as the AECI moves to a digital era. As optimization represents a pillar of digitizing construction and BIM technology, we expect that structural engineering will undergo a lot of changes in the near future. OptiStructure since its inception has been present in Singapore, Indonesia, India, United Arab Emirates, Greece, UK, Mexico and the USA looking constantly to expand its reach and impact. If you are interested in partnering with OptiStructure, please do not hesitate to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via our LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/optistructure/, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikos-lagaros-086323/ anytime. We are constantly looking for new partners.

About the Author

Prof. Nikos D. Lagaros is the Dean of the School of Civil Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece and advisor at OptiStructure.


Relevant Articles

2019-20 Gold Sponsors

2019-20 Silver Sponsors