Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Is Social Justice Begining To Contaminate Tech And Engineering Schools?

The was an interesting rant today on the Ace of Spades website ace.mu. The question was, were major universities going to have to become split between the "liberal arts" departments and the math, science and engineering schools. It was Ace's position that he was more concerned that so called Social Justice was going contaminate the hard science fields.

I felt compelled to comment that I thought it had already happened and with frightening consequences. Namely this brand new, "revolutionary design" pedestrian bridge in Miami Florida that collapsed killing six innocent people.

Bridge failure do happen. Usually they come about because of
accumulated stress and corrosion over extended periods of time.
Failures coming even before completion however are very rare.
The investigation will no doubt be on going but two salient facts have come out. Firstly that this bridge was designed by an "all female," team of engineers. I have not the slightest doubt that at some point this bunch allowed "estetic appearance" to take precedence over sound engineering practice, design standards and margins of safety.

I'm sure that FEA analysis was done but I'm also sure that there was some critical element that was designed to the bottom end of required safety margins which was then exaserbated by a manufacturing error or an "as built" condition being at the very bottom end or below the design tolerances that some "engineer" signed off on as an "exceptable variance" or both.

Secondly it has now become noted that someone reportedrepor there were already cracks in the structure before it was moved into position over this six lane highway. The obvious question is, was this defect reported to Quality Control and documented? If no, whose decision was it ignore the verbal report? If yes, where is the report? Who signed off on the reported defects again as an "acceptable variance"? If it was excepted, was quality control pressured to do so by either the engineering manager, the erection manager or the city's or university's civil engineer in order to maintain schedule and budget? Additionally were their bonuses involved for anyone for maintaining schedule and budget?

Sister Jane or Sister Joan screwed up, badly.
Was it the lack of adult, read male supervision?
Bottom line is that in the end this disaster will be revealed as multiple engineering minimums, design tolerance stack-up failures and minor deviations combining to equal more than the sum of their parts. I also think that it's very possible that this group of all female engineers became something of a coffee clatch and BFFs that allowed personal relationships to out consider critical and dispassionate analysis of the work as it is being performed.

Heaven forbid that "Sister Joan" might hurt "Sister Jane's" feeling by criticising her work as sub-standard or unnecessarily minimalist.

But hey what do I know? I'm just a retired design engineer. When working in teams tearing each other's work apart is an important part of the process. It wasn't personal. It was just the best way to produce the best product. Why was this designed as a long single span made from reinforced concrete? Was single span a design requirement? Was fabricated steal beam design considered? If it is was why was it rejected? Was dual beam with central support considered? Was it rejected? If so why?
If the answers to any of this is visual estetics or "that's what the "art director" wanted, this is going to be ugly. I'm sure the wrongful death or injury lawyers are lining up, calling the victims and their families.