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 (201805)

Approaching the FE Exam for the First Time

I owe my editor an apology. This month’s article was supposed to be at my Editor James Palmer’s desk a week ago. Thank you, Jim, for your patience and for the great work that you’ve done for the Newsletter. As you may know, Jim is also a Structural Engineer working in Washington, DC.

For educators like us May means the end of another academic year. To say that this past semester was “busy” would be an understatement. Lectures, quizzes, finals, research papers, proposals, consulting, MATHCOUNTS and ASCE Steel Bridge Competitions, pro-bono Saturday classes, . . . the list goes on.

According to NCEES, every year 55,000 people take the FE exam and most of them are college seniors within one year of graduating or are recent graduates. The FE exam is the first step in the process leading to the Professional Engineer (PE) license and it contains 110 multiple-choice questions. The exam appointment time is 6 hours long, which includes a nondisclosure agreement, tutorial (8 minutes), the exam (5 hours and 20 minutes), a scheduled break (25 minutes), and a brief survey.

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 readers’ questions, we would like to review the exam day experience and what you are expected to do that day.

Once your registration is approved by NCEES, 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.

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.

Then 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 insure 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. The proctor will review the exam rules and will escort you to the exam room and assigned work station and launch 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 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 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. 

Good Luck!

Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr. Z.)
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Dr. Z’s Corner (201804)

ASCE Steel Bridge Competition 2018


It’s always fun to have an event to look forward to, but it can be hard to stay patient when you have to wait for something you’re excited about. The more you focus on the event, the more you want it to happen right away.

On March 23, 2018 the regional steel bridge competition for the Virginias, which includes the District of Columbia, was held at Catholic University in Washington, DC.

The AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition is an annual competition where student groups from all over the globe design and construct a bridge within strict guidelines. Winners and first runners-up from most conferences are invited to compete at the national level. However, invitations are extended only to the winner from a conference with two, three or four participating universities, and to the top three teams from a conference with eleven or more participating universities. A university may enter more than one bridge in conference competition but only the best one may qualify for national competition.

At the national level, AISC assists with travel funds for teams from North American schools invited to compete. Each qualifying team from each conference from North American schools receives $500 from AISC.

I asked my young colleague Dr. Bryan Higgs from UDC, who is also the ASCE Faculty advisor and coach of TeamUDC, give us the full report about this exciting event and here is what Bryan sent wrote:

The AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition begins at the regional level and only the best bridges from a region qualify for the national competition. Each bridge must be 17 feet long and be constructed from steel members that are a maximum of 3 feet long, 4 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.

Scoring: Scoring of the bridges is based on minimizing the total cost across four main categories: (1) timed build, (2) weight, (3) lateral load test, and (4) vertical load test.

Timing: The timed build consists of a build team carrying each member of the bridge, one by one, from a staging area across a transportation zone to the construction site. There, the members of the bridge are bolted together forming the bridge.

Major Challenge: The major difficulty is that there is a river in the middle of the construction zone which means that the bridge must be built from both sides of the river at the same time. The overall weight of the bridge is factored into the score as a cost per pound, so it is very beneficial to keep the bridge very light.

The lateral load test: The lateral load test places a 50-pound lateral load to the middle of the bridge and if the sway exceeds one inch, the bridge fails. The vertical load test is the most menacing where 2500 pounds of weight is loaded onto the bridge and if the deflection exceeds 3 inches, the bridge fails. Given all the scoring categories, a good bridge must be fast, light, and strong.

Competing Teams: The competition consisted of Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, West Virginia University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Virginia Military Institute, West Virginia Tech, Bluefield State College, Howard University, Catholic University, and Marshall.

The bridges produced by the students of each of these universities covered a wide array of different designs each with a unique identity. The fastest build time of the competition belonged to the first-place holder, Bluefield State College, at a mere 17 minutes and 34 seconds. UDC Firebirds weren’t far behind with a build time of 18 minutes and 3 seconds.

The vertical load test: The vertical load test was the most feared test as it eliminated most of the competing teams. UDC bridge stood strong and held all 2500 pounds with only a 0.97” deflection.

The UDC bridge received second place at the competition thus earning UDC the right to compete at the national level at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Catholic University was the third and George Mason received the fourth place.

Here, it is important to remember these three key words: being fast, keeping it light, and making it strong.

We were proud to be representing the UDC Firebirds in this momentous occasion and are looking to not only survive the competition but thrive.

UDC’s bridge team feels the hopes and support of all UDC students, faculty, staff, and alumni behind them propelling them to greatness.

But we have to give credit to all the schools from the Washington, D.C. metro area for their participation and hard work and wish them good luck for future competitions!

Again, the National Competitions will be held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne on May 25th and 26th. Until then, challenge yourself with this month’s practice problems here.

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr. Z.)
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