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 (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.)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dr. Z’s Corner (201803)

Discover Engineering Family Day & Advice to College Students

The National Building Museum in Washington, DC, held its annual Discover Engineering Family Day on Feb. 17, 2018. Discover Engineering Family Day is a fun-filled day designed to introduce students 4 to 12 to the wonder of engineering. It attracts thousands of people and kicks off Engineers Week activities as well.

Engineers Week is a time for everyone to celebrate and wonder what the next big innovation will be. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for volunteers and educators to inspire students by engaging them in hands-on engineering outreach, showing them that their school subjects can help solve real problems, and, of course, encouraging them to wonder “is engineering my future?” It is always fun to be part of these activities and this year I enjoyed not only talking to many parents and young future engineers but also some of the readers of ASCE-NCS monthly newsletters.

And surprisingly we met some of our former students. Especially two engineers from our Saturday classes were very happy since they’ve conquered their FE and PE exams, thanks to our pro bono classes and ASCE-NCS, Dr. Z’s Corner articles.

We met some engineering students as well. Of course, as usual, they’ve asked for some tips for college students. I promised them I would include the advice of an MIT professor in this month’s column. As always, students and professionals alike are invited to visit Dr Z’s monthly practice problems here.

Dr. Edward Crawley is a professor of engineering and director of the Bernard M. Gordon Engineering Leadership Program at MIT. He gives the following advice to his students at MIT:

“Identify the people who inspire you and find out what makes them tick. If you love Apple products, Steve Jobs may be your idol. Then emulate his good traits in your personal, scholastic, and professional life. 

“Develop a portfolio of your projects. Participate in every hands-on, experiential learning opportunity. This way, you’ll have something unique to show a prospective employer.

Learn the value of networking. When it comes to being a leader, whom you know is almost as important as what you know.

“In addition to E-mail, you can use LinkedIn or other social media tools to connect online. But remember: There’s no substitute for a traditional, face-to-face meeting, so if you can find a way to meet in person, that’s always the best.

“Work in teams as much as you can. Whether it’s creating a solar-powered car, participating in a sport, or writing for the school paper, get involved with an organization that requires a team effort to produce great results.

“Throughout your career, you can be sure you’ll work in teams, and the skills you develop in school will help prepare you to lead teams when you graduate.

“Seek informal leadership roles. You’re always a leader, whether you’re officially in charge of a team or not. Sounds counterintuitive, but you can lead from any position in an organization by influencing how people work together and how they make decisions.

“Find your flaws – and fix them. As with any skill, leadership needs constant improvement. When you are part of a team, try to create a way to get feedback from team members, group leaders, and professors.

“When you have concrete feedback on how people view you, you can work to improve your skills, including communication and leadership.

“Take a business class. As an engineer, it’s not enough for you to be technically proficient; you need to have business savvy. If you’re going to be a leader, you need to understand what a P&L is (also known as an income statement), read organization charts, know how to negotiate contracts, and be familiar with the myriad other functions that every top engineer needs to know. 

A business course or two can take you a long way, and these classes are often easier to pass than your calculus course! 

“Take design and other humanities classes. There’s a wide world out there beyond problem sets, laboratories, and theory. 

“Tomorrow’s leaders will have to communicate effectively across international borders and be familiar with other cultures, so develop some proficiency in another language, travel abroad, or meet students from other cultures. Start “globalizing” right at college. 

“Make your summers productive. Employers place tremendous value on practical experience. Seek out internship opportunities actively and early in your academic career. Try to demonstrate through your internships a series of evolving leadership experiences and use the internships to build your portfolio of actual projects/ products.

“Recruit and develop your personal board of directors. As an undergraduate, you might feel alone when confronted with hard decisions about the courses to take, jobs to apply for, or even balancing school work and your personal life. You won’t feel alone if you develop a personal board of directors just for you.” 

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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