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 (201903)

More Rigorous Structural Design Procedures Create Debate
Structural Engineering (SE) vs. Professional Engineering (PE)

This month, we would like to start our article with good news. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, new jobs for engineers projected for 2016–2026, Civil Engineers placed at the top of the list with 32,200 new jobs with a median annual wage of $83,540. Mechanical Engineers, Industrial Engineers, and Electrical Engineers followed Civil Engineers.

Engineers of all disciplines in the United States are charged with “protecting the safety, health, and welfare of the general public.” Because of this responsibility, all 50 states currently require a PE licensure to practice engineering within their geographic bounds.

In the last decade, there has been a movement across the nation to better the life safety of our structures by requiring a separate licensure for structural engineers. A failure in a structural system, as evidenced by Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway disaster in 1981 that killed 114 people or the I-35 W Minneapolis Bridge Collapse in 2007 that killed 13 people, are just two examples of numerous accidents. Over the years, engineers and code officials have learned from these failures and implemented more rigorous structural design procedures.

Advances in understanding the impact of natural forces on buildings have led to more complicated requirements for structural analysis. The failures of buildings due to earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornados have resulted in new approaches on how we design buildings to respond to seismic and wind events. Engineers now incorporate these lessons learned in the design of structures to prevent catastrophic failures under extreme events; some structures such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations must remain operational even after an event.

Due to the risk involved and the increased complexity of structural design requirements, several states have begun to recognize structural engineers separately from professional engineers and increase their licensing requirements. Because each state has its own licensing board, there is a large variation in the requirements to obtain an SE license and the significance an SE license carries. While an effort is underway to develop a national SE certification, one of the most common questions from some professional engineers (PE) looking to market their expertise across state lines is to know which states recognize the Structural Engineering (SE) license. While licensing clearly protects the public, the specifics of how licensing is carried out are often debated. Nowhere is this clearer than in the debate between NSPE and other structural engineering groups such as the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (SEI-ASCE), the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA), the Structural Engineering Certification Board (SECB), and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) formed the Structural Engineering Licensure Coalition. Since its formation, there has been considerable legislative activity pertaining to whether, or not, there should be a separate license for Structural Engineers.

Brief Overview of NCEES Structural (SE) Exams

Unlike the computer-based Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, the Structural Engineering (SE) exam is still administered in a penciland- 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 review the NCEES.ORG for exact specifications.

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 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 focuses on wind and earthquake loads.

BREADTH Modules (Morning Sessions)

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.

DEPTH Modules (Afternoon Sessions)

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.

The examinees are 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. We will continue discussing the current SE exam specifications in our next month's article.

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr.Z.)
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Dr. Z’s Corner (201902)

FE Exam-Day Experience: From Testing Environment to Exit Procedures

Season’s Greetings! New Year brings not only joys, but it makes us happy with a hope to satisfy our dream or maybe even a new beginning of our life. We would like to wish all our readers a VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!

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 to know the ins and outs of the test. To answer many of our readers’ questions, in this month’s article, we would like to review the exam day experience and what you are expected to do that day. Make sure you review the website of NCEES. Once your registration is approved, you will receive an email notification that you have been authorized to take the exam and are eligible to schedule your exam appointment. NCEES computer-based tests (CBT) are offered in testing windows throughout the year during the following months: January, February, April, May, July, August, October and November.

After 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 agree 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 has confirmed your identification and the exam that you are taking, you will be asked to provide a palm vein scan and have your photo taken. Your signature, palm vein scan, and photo will be stored with your exam result. Prior to being admitted into the testing room, a representative will insure that you have, in your possession, only the items that NCEES allows into 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. Next, the proctor will provide a review of the exam rules, escort you to the exam room, assign you a work station, and launch the exam period. Then the proctor will review the exam rules and will escort you to the exam room and assigned work station 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. 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 to offer 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 hand and the proctor will verify that you have properly exited from the exam. They will then escort you from the testing room and collect your booklet and marker. You will not receive any type of score before leaving the testing center. 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.

Finally, in both FE and PE exams, timing is everything. To conquer these exams, speed is crucial, but remember, speed can only be attained through practice and more practice!

Good Luck,

Ahmet Zeytinci, Ph.D.,
P.E., F-NSPE, F-ASCE (Dr.Z.)
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