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 (202010)

BLOCKCHAIN: A New Technology for the Future. How will it Affect the Construction Industry?

Vagelis Plevris

This month we have a surprise from Norway! As the readers of Dr. Z’s Corner know, quite often, we invite world-famous scholars and engineers to share their knowledge and wisdom with our readers in this column. This month’s guest author is the Co-Editor of Dr. Z’s Corner and my good friend Prof. Dr. Vagelis Plevris. He will talk about a new technology called BLOCKCHAIN.

Bitcoin: The first implementation of Blockchain

In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto introduced Bitcoin to the world. In his paper “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” he explained the idea of a system for electronic transactions that does not rely on trust, in other words a “trusted third party” is no longer needed. Nakamoto was the first to solve the double-spending problem for digital currency, proposing a novel idea based on a peer-to-peer network using proof-of-work to record a public history of transactions.

Although the name Satoshi Nakamoto is nearly synonymous with Bitcoin, the physical person that name represents has never been found. The real identity of Nakamoto still remains a matter of dispute.

Nakamoto proposed a decentralized approach to transactions, ultimately culminating in the creation of blockchains. In a blockchain, timestamps for a transaction are added to the end of previous timestamps based on proof-of-work, creating a historical record. Because the record of transactions is distributed across many nodes in the system, it is practically impossible for a bad actor to gain enough control of the system to rewrite the ledger to their own advantage. The blockchain records are kept secure because the amount of computational power required to reverse them is enormous. This technology allows bitcoin to transfer value across the globe without resorting to traditional intermediaries such as banks.

Bitcoin, with a market cap of more than $170 billion, is the largest implementation of Blockchain technology to date. The first Bitcoin transaction in the real world occurred in May 2010 when a Florida man paid for pizzas with the cryptocurrency. The man paid 10,000 Bitcoins for two pizzas, which today is worth over $100 million!

General purpose technologies

General purpose technologies (GPTs) are technologies that can affect an entire economy. They impact economic growth and transform both household life and the ways in which firms conduct business. They have the potential to drastically alter societies through their impact on pre-existing economic and social structures. Examples of GPTs include the steam engine, electricity, the computer and the internet. These technologies fundamentally impacted how we live, expanded our lives (physically and emotionally), helped build our cities and changed how we interact with the world.

Blockchain as GPT

Distributed Ledger Technology or simply Blockchain is a nascent technology that can simplify and secure transactions among parties. It is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a network. By many, it is recognized as a new form of GPT. Naturally, it takes time for a GPT to diffuse through the economy. Although Blockchain is still at the infrastructure building stage, it is expected to unleash several applications across different verticals within the next 5 to 15 years. Like the internet in its early years, Blockchain is hard to understand and predict, but could become ubiquitous in the exchange of digital and physical goods, information, and online platforms. According to Harvard Business Review “Blockchain is the first native digital medium for value, just as the internet was the first native digital medium for information.”

How Blockchain can revolutionize the construction industry

Blockchain technology is new and there are several early challenges to tackle, but the potential of reshaping the construction industry for the better is too great to miss. Construction is one of the largest industries in the world and the infrastructure it creates is the backbone of economic growth and productivity. It is our inherent responsibility to facilitate its digital transformation to make it ready for the challenges of the future. Blockchain can be applied to several areas of the construction industry:

Contract Management: A Smart Contract is a computer program that works on an “if/then” principle. Smart contracts can identify accountabilities and trigger milestone-based payments. They could automate agreements thus revolutionizing construction contracts and payments.

Project management: Projects can benefit from a more decentralized and agile approach based on Blockchain, where transparency is high, and parties can be compensated for outcomes as well as for work performed.

Construction supply chain management: Blockchain can help trace physical items from origin to destination. It can improve payment settlements, compliance management and material planning, while smart contracts can be used to automatically purchase, track, and verify items in the supply chain, in real-time.

Building information modelling (BIM): Blockchain can be used to provide live and trustworthy information for BIM, by information sharing among present and future information owners. Furthermore, it can help enhance the benefits of BIM by allowing architects and engineers to design on the same BIM model with clear ownership, while design and construction decisions can be recorded on the blockchain for future analysis and liability.

Property ownership and land titles: All real estate ownership and transaction records can be stored securely as tamper-proof digital records on the Blockchain. Such records are fully accurate, safe, and immutable. Blockchain immutability proves ownership and facilitates transactions.

Asset management and maintenance: Data and information related to the built asset need to be tracked at every stage of its life cycle. Blockchain provides a living ledger of everything that has happened with the asset. Blockchain can allow tracking and access to all the necessary data throughout the asset life cycle. Any improvements and refurbishments to the building can be documented, and the whole repository can be transferred to new owners if the asset is put up for sale.

Blockchain in construction: An exciting future ahead

We are moving to a digital economy where financial and physical assets will increasingly have digital representations. Looking towards the future, Blockchain is going to be something that we will be hearing a lot more of. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025, Blockchains will store around 10% of the world’s GDP. Countries are trying to make the necessary legislative and regulatory changes to adapt to the new environment and make this change a reality. New opportunities arise. Blockchain has great potential to become an extremely positive force of change in the construction industry.


About the Author

Dr. Vagelis Plevris is a Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering and Energy Technology of Oslo Metropolitan University in Oslo, Norway. He is the Head of the Research Group “Structural Engineering” at OsloMet. He serves as Chief Editor for “Computational Methods in Structural Engineering”, a section of the journal Frontiers in Built Environment, by Frontiers in Switzerland.


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.)
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