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 at UDC, "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 (201801)

New Specifications (2018) for Structural Engineering (SE) Exams, Part-1


We wish all our readers a happy and prosperous new year. This month we would like to talk about some significant changes that will take place in the SE exams in 2018. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) will be using new specifications for the Structural Engineering (SE) exams next year. Effective beginning with the April 2018 examinations the NCEES Structural-I and Structural-II exams will be administered as a single 16-hour exam given in two days.

Unlike the computer-based Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, the Structural Engineering (SE) exam is still administered in a pencil-and-paper format and is an open-book test.

The SE exam consists of two modules BREADTH and DEPTH and is offered in two 8-hour components on two successive days. It includes integrated design, analysis and detailing questions. No single component of the exam is a sufficient stand-alone exam for any purpose. We recommend our readers to see the NCEES website for exact specifications.

The 8-hour Vertical Forces (Gravity/Other) and Incidental Lateral component is offered only on a Friday. It focuses on gravity loads and lateral earth pressures. The 8-hour Lateral Forces (Wind/Earthquake) component is offered only on a Saturday and it focuses on wind and earthquake loads.

The 16-hour SE exam uses separate vertical and lateral components to test the applicant’s ability to safely design buildings or bridges, especially in areas of high seismicity and high wind. It is important to remember that the exam uses the US Customary System (USCS) of units only.

The breadth modules are in the morning sessions. These modules contain questions covering a comprehensive range of structural engineering topics and all questions in the morning are multiple-choice. The depth modules are in the afternoon sessions. These modules focus on a single area of practice in structural engineering. The examinee will choose either buildings or bridges, but must work the same topic area on both components. All questions in the afternoon depth modules are essay-type problems, constructed response (essay).

The examinee is required to obtain acceptable results on both 8-hour components of the SE exam in a single exam administration. It is acceptable to sit for and obtain acceptable results on one component, and then sit for and obtain acceptable results on the second component at a later date. The examinee must obtain acceptable results on both 8-hour components within a five-year period in order to pass the Structural Engineering exam.

New Structural Engineering BREADTH Exam Specifications

The 4-hour Vertical Forces (Gravity/Other) and Incidental Lateral breadth examination is offered on Friday morning and focuses on gravity loads. It contains 40 multiple-choice questions. The exam uses the US Customary System (USCS) of units. The breadth exam is developed with questions that will require a variety of approaches and methodologies, including design, analysis, and application. The knowledge areas specified as examples of kinds of knowledge are not exclusive or exhaustive categories. Score results are combined with depth exam results for final score of this component.

Topics and approximate number of questions of BREADTH exams

Analysis of Structures

Design and Details of Structures

1 – Analysis of Structures part has a total of 13 multiple-choice questions and consists of two categories. The first category is Generation of Loads with total 5 questions. Topics include: dead loads, live loads, moving loads, impact loads, vessel collision, earth pressure, differential settlement, hydrostatic and hydrodynamic loads, flood, snow, rain, ice, thermal, shrinkage and load combinations.

2 – Load Distribution and Analysis Methods with a total of 8 questions. Topics include: static (e.g., determinate and indeterminate, location of forces and moments, free-body diagrams), shear and moment diagrams, code coefficients and tables, truss analysis methods, approximate beam or truss analysis methods and approximate frame analysis methods.

The Design and Details of Structures section has a total of 27 questions and includes the following five categories:

A-) General Structural Considerations, 3 questions
B-) Structural Systems Integration, 2 questions
C-) Structural Steel, 5 questions
D-) Cold-Formed Steel, 1 question
E-) Concrete, 5 questions
F-) Wood, 4 questions
G-) Masonry, 3 questions
H-) Foundations and Retaining Structures, 4 questions

For detailed topics in each category, our readers should consult with www.NCEES.org. But to give an idea about the topics covered in structural steel for example, the subject-list includes: tension members, columns and compression members, trusses, flexural members, plate girders, secondary support systems, shear in steel members, combined axial and flexural members, composite design, bolted and welded connections, base and bearing plates, thermal effects and bridge piers. You can find Dr Z’s practice problems for this month here.

In our February article we will talk about the Design Standards and Structural Engineering DEPTH Exam Specifications.

And finally stay relaxed and confident. Always keep a good attitude, focus on the ultimate goal and remind yourself that you are going to do your best!

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E.
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Dr. Z’s Corner (201711)

A New Record: Columbia University Gives Five Scholarships to One University in the Washington Metro Area


When I remember the 1994 Tom Hanks movie Forrest Gump, I always smile. In the movie Tom Hanks said “My mom always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” I think this is very true in academia as well. I’ve been in academia for more than 40 years and have worked as a project engineer, researcher and professor in Europe and Japan before moving to Washington, DC. Throughout my career, I’ve consider myself to be a very fortunate college professor since I have been honored by numerous local, regional and national awards from various engineering organizations and universities, including my own institution.

(Photo: Scholarship Winners from Columbia University: All of them are Civil Engineering students from UDC. Standing from left: Kwame Baah and Dr. Z. Seated from left: Patricia Wolfbauer, Suraj Narain and Brahim Sidi M’Hamed. Not shown: Andrew Asiimwe)

While these honors and accolades are meaningful, nothing gives me more joy than seeing my students achieve significant milestones in their preparation and careers. And today, I’ve decided to write about some of our students; who they are, what they do and why they are so unique?

Is it possible to inspire, motivate, and transform a sanitary worker from Washington, DC to ultimately become a structural engineer designing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner? Hard to believe, but this was a true story. As many of our readers know, I have been offering pro-bono Saturday classes at UDC that are open to all engineering students and practicing engineers from the DC metro area who may be preparing for their FE and PE exams. These highly-intensive, informal sessions, some call “Boot Camp,” present a two-way opportunity to learn from the students about their professional goals, dreams, aspirations and sometimes even their daily struggles and challenges and help them academically and prepare them to be successful and productive engineers and citizens. Editor’s note: find all of Dr Z’s practice problem sets, including this month’s, here.

About two years ago an engineering student from my Saturday class told me, “Dr Z, I would not hesitate to tell you that when I’m not at school, I work at a small restaurant on Georgia Avenue. I’m working there as a dishwasher and making minimum wages. It may sound strange to tell others what I do for living, but I am proud. I work very hard to help my family. My father is not working and my mother is sick; therefore I have to work to help them. Washing dishes helps me to go to school, get my education, and take care of my family.” And another said that to support myself and pay my tuition, I have to deliver pizza until 4 a.m. Every day I sleep for a few hours and then come to school and study. For us, these are amazing stories of dedication, values, priorities, and grit.

And the great news is, two months ago we were thrilled to learn that five UDC students, four of them Civil Engineering Students, all from Dr. Z’s Saturday classes, have received full scholarships, including tuition and housing, to pursue their graduate studies at Columbia University. This great honor is a testament not only to their extraordinary academic and co-curricular achievements but also to the quality of the engineering education that students receive at the University of the District of Columbia. By the way, the student working at a restaurant and the otehr delivering pizza until early in the morning were of course among those that received prestigious scholarships from Columbia University.

That reminded me my brief remarks during a national award ceremony back in July 2015 in Seattle. At the podium, speaking to educators and engineers from all over the country and also executives from Microsoft and Boeing:

“UDC is a small university in the nation’s capital. This prestigious award is truly a testament that while we often take a different approach, when it comes to inspiring, motivating and most importantly, educating students – our future engineers – The University of the District of Columbia is unquestionably one of the best in the nation. While our program may be small, it is mighty! It is a transformative opportunity to change lives, broaden the field, and help engineering students achieve their dreams.”

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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