Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Are Engineers Elitists?

Take the PBS survey and find out.


Hiring the Chutzpah Engineer

From the brilliant Richard Florida in CityLab - The Self-Confident City (Big cities are a powerful draw for confident people, who in turn benefit the most form their opportunities and resources):

"Self-confidence is a main factor in who moves to big cities. It’s self-confident young people, after all, who have the chutzpah to leave small towns behind. (An increase of the self-confidence percentile by one standard deviation raises the probability of initially moving to a big city by 12 percent, according to the study.) This decision compounds over time as younger workers in big cities gain the experience and background they need to get ahead in their careers and earn more money. Highly confident people with lesser abilities benefit the most here, since they gain access to the opportunities, networks, and experiences that these big cities provide."

Does Your Organization Have a Storytelling Culture?

Terrorism versus Infestious Diseases

Link to a report on the subject.

PipeDiver In Europe

Find a Business Book Club In Your Area

Will 1930-2030 Prove to Be Our Best Century?

Flint Water Advisory Task Force

Link to the final report regarding the Flint lead pipe/water problems.

Center for Opportunity Urbanism

Link to their website.

No Sign of Stagnation - The Self-Driving Golf Cart

Crime Shapes a City

Interesting article from the NY Times regarding criminal behavior modification and police helicopter utilization in Los Angeles.  From the article:

"Crime shapes cities — even Paris, the “City of Light,” takes its nickname, according to one story, from streetlights first instituted as part of a 17th-century police operation — but the reverse is also true. Cities get the types of crime their design calls for. This logic extends even down to their bedrock: Tunnel jobs are almost unimaginable in granite-based Manhattan, for example, but the soft sedimentary rocks of Los Angeles — a former seabed — make it more susceptible to subterranean crime. Infrastructure also plays a major role in permitting or preventing entire classes of criminal activity. The construction of the city’s freeway system in the 1960s helped to instigate a later spike in bank-crime activity by offering easy getaways from financial institutions constructed at the confluence of on-ramps and offramps. This is a convenient location for busy commuters — but also for prospective bandits, who can pull off the freeway, rob a bank and get back on the freeway practically before the police have been alerted. The maneuver became so common in the 1990s that the Los Angeles police have a name for it: a “stop-and-rob.”"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Term of the Week - Voice Banking

Automating Proofs

Automating Proofs: Math struggles with the usability of formal proofs.

Battle Space of Tech Talent

Black & Veatch - Where The Smart City Should Invest


Wearables Coming to Construction and Maintenance

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stockpile Reports

Game Theory and Water Resources Engineering

Design Build Adventure - Austin, Texas

Civis Analytics


Center for Urban Science and Progress - Quantified Communities

Graph of the Week


Kings of Nowhere - Underwater With Climate Change

Boom Technology

Link to the corporate website.

Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane

Update on My Son's Construction Project in NYC

North tower from 1st Avenue

MIT Project Underworlds - Sewage as Information Salvation

From MIT and more from CNN.

The Mayoral Dashboard

The link to the City of Boston's mayoral performance metric/information dashboard.  Also check out CityScore.

mayor's dashboard

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dams, SCADA, and Cyber-Attacks

From a DOJ press conference today:

"In addition to the actions we have detailed, one of the defendants is also charged with illegally obtaining access to the supervisory control and data acquisition system of the Bowman Dam in Rye, New York.  At the time of his alleged intrusion, the dam was undergoing maintenance and had been disconnected from the system.  But for that fact, that access would have given him the ability to control water levels and flow rates – an outcome that could have posed a clear danger to the public health and safety of Americans.  I would like to thank the Department of Homeland Security and the city of Rye, New York, for their assistance in managing this incident."

Our Looming Infrastructure Maintenance Crisis

From NewGeography - Why You Should Think Twice Before Building a Rail Transit System

What Is Infra-Culture?

Engineering and the Liberal Arts Need Each Other

Our world is increasingly full of "wicked" interdisciplinary problems that demand interdisciplinary solutions.  The matrix of modern business management is fundamentally about understanding the historical context, economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions of your environment.  Having a strong liberal arts outlook is increasing important for today's unusually uncertain world.

From The Dallas Morning News today by Nicole Head - Why We Need Students With Liberal Studies Degrees:

"Indisputably, some of the most effective solutions to social problems of our age come from thinkers educated in liberal studies programs, because these people have the ability to holistically analyze multifaceted problems and understand the big-picture implications on humanity and relationships. We’ve seen the consequences when we ignore the intersectionality of problems plaguing our world with the recent surge in Zika and Ebola. Human rights and social justice experts are the first responders to global health crises, risking their safety to help others by working in disaster relief to create solutions for homelessness, violence, trafficking and other problems."

The Water Industry Needs Both Engineering and Economics

From The Dallas Morning News today - Fixing America's Water Problems Could Cost Trillions of Dollars:

"To fix our water systems, we need prices that lead to more rational water use and invite needed investment, data to track water resources and usage, and much more research and development.

Water prices should rise or fall according to supply and demand. The idea that the price should be the same in the dry season as the wet season is nonsense."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Strategic Planning Nightmare - 2016 to 2050

From the macro political/economic/demographic nexus - - between 2016 and 2050 is going to be a strategic planning/vision nightmare.  Trump could be the start (and frankly mildest version) of the road ahead around the globe - - global Trumpism marked by nationalism and populism.

Four huge forces that are problematic for the United States and many parts of Europe - - (1.) The exponential rise and expansion of automation and the Era of Robotics that will create huge pressure on traditional middle class jobs and communities, (2.) The disruptive and transitional shift from Majority White to Minority White between 2040 and 2050, (3.) The highly anticipated generational battles over paying for the past (i.e., public pensions, Medicare, Social Security) versus investing in the future (i.e., education and infrastructure), and (4.) Global inequality with a widening separation between haves and have nots.

 The good news for our industry is the broad consensus among policy makers and economists (Larry Summers is the leader of this school of thought) regarding the need and power of investing in public infrastructure.  In some form or fashion - - increasing infrastructure investing (and probably more and more embedded with the P3 delivery system) helps to mitigate parts of the four disruptive trends from above.  The way forward is rather clear - - the collective will and leadership is not.  Increasing infrastructure investment is no gimme putt given the uncertainty associated with the disruptive nature of the political/economic/demographic nexus.

There are no perfect models for strategic optimization in this new world.  Increasing uncertainty regarding the political/economic/demographic nexus will place a premium on flexibility, agility, and resiliency.  Being organizationally good at weighting the merits of various choices with potentially risky outcomes will separate the winners from the losers.  A new world that trades in terms of risks and probabilities is the only way forward regarding managing increasing uncertainty.

Another Way of Living

Official Trailer: Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VA from Rebekah Wingert-Jabi on Vimeo.

Engineering Terrorists

Data Science Bootcamp for Utility Asset Management

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mobileye - Mobility for the Future

Trends in Data Analytics

  1. Plumbers wanted: data management overhead demands professional data mangers
  2. Hardening models:  increasingly complex models require tighter approaches to diagnostics and validation
  3. The tunnel link: big data engineering and methodological approaches meet in the middle
  4. Change management to the fore: evidence-based decision-making requires management to contemplate new organizational forms
  5. Invisible architectures: enterprise architecture embraces systems management to forge a path through the mist of multi-systems complexity
  6. We’re not in Kansas anymore:  increasingly diffuse models requires a deeper methodological understanding of broader research paradigms
  7. Living with the paradox: coming to terms with irresolvable methodological quandaries
  8. Cyborg enterprise:  industrial-scale analytics ushers in the age of highly integrated, large-scale techno-organizational decision programs
  9. Not for everyone, but necessary none-the-less:  analytics as a service and outsourcing analytics as a function
  10. On-ramping AI: organizational operationalization as a step towards machine automation
  11. Emerging profession: professional computational decision engineers and AI stewardship
  12. Far-future: the birth of the Chief Meaning Officer – equal parts decision scientist, IT manager, storyteller, and organizational anthropologist
List is from Data Science Central.

The Water Industry Needs Big Data

Monday, March 21, 2016

VR Coming to Engineering

Public-Private Partnerships Come to Stormwater

All the Design Professions Should Thank LEGO

25 Principles for Designing a Retail Mobil Site or App

Mental Strength

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Power and Promise of Education - CBS 60 Minutes Looks at St. Benedict's Prep

Engineer of the Week - Mauricio Macri

Macri is the President of Argentina.  From Wikipedia:

"Mauricio Macri was born in Tandil, in the province of Buenos Aires, son of the Italian-born tycoon Francisco Macri and Alicia Blanco Villegas, a woman of Spanish descent.[citation needed] His father influenced him to be a businessman, as well as his uncle Jorge Blanco Villegas. Franco expected Mauricio to eventually succeed him as leaders of his firms. Macri preferred the company of his uncle, to avoid the constant scrutiny of his father. Macri studied at the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA), where he received a degree in civil engineering. During this time he became interested in neoliberalism, and joined a think tank led by the former minister Álvaro Alsogaray. As a result, he affiliated to the now defunct Union of the Democratic Centre party.[7] In 1985, he also attended short courses at Columbia Business SchoolWharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the local Universidad del CEMA.[8]"

The Future of Engineering Education Depends on LEGO

[Webinar] The Smart City Effect, A Review of the Annual Smart City / Smart Utility Strategic Directions Survey and Report, presented by Black & Veatch | ETS Insights by Zpryme

[Webinar] The Smart City Effect, A Review of the Annual Smart City / Smart Utility Strategic Directions Survey and Report, presented by Black & Veatch | ETS Insights by Zpryme

Selling to the Pointy End of the Pyramid

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Term of the Week - Learning Cycle

Helping Students Solve Real World Problems with The Engineering Design Process

I really enjoyed Charles Duhigg's Smarter Faster Better.  My current vote for non-fiction book of the year.

The story below highlights the power of engineers - not just to be designers and builders - but to bring engineering problem solving skills to the classroom to address some of our more "wicked" social problems:

"So the school district shifted its focus for high school students.  Alongside the Elementary Initiative, the district began creating engineering classes within Western Hills High and other schools in partnership with local universities and the National Science Foundation.  The goal was a "multidisciplinary approach to education that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real world problems," a summary of the program read.  Ninety percent of students at Western Hills lived below the poverty line.  Their classrooms had peeling linoleum floors and cracked chalkboards.  "Leveraging technology" was not what most students worried about.  Delia [Delia Morris, a high school sophomore at Western Hills High in 2009] signed up for an engineering course taught by Deon Edwards, whose introductory remarks reflected the reality that surrounded all of them.

"We're going to learn how to think like scientists," he hold his class.  "We're going to leave your parents and friends behind and learn to make choices with clear eyes, without the baggage everyone wants to put on you.  And if any of you didn't have anything to eat this morning, I keep energy bars in my desk and you should help yourself.  There's nothing wrong with saying you're hungry."

The real focus of Mr. Edwards class was a system for decision making known as "the engineering design process," which forced students to define their dilemmas, collect data, brainstorm solutions, debate alternative approaches, and conduct iterative experiments.  "The engineering design process is a series of steps that engineers follow when they are trying to solve a problem and design a solution for something; it is a methodical approach to problem solving," one teacher's manual explained.  The engineering design process was built around the idea that many problems that seem overwhelming at first can be broken into smaller pieces, and then solutions tested, again and again, until an insight emerges.  The process asked students to define precisely the dilemma they wanted to solve, then to conduct research and come up with multiple solutions, and then conduct tests, measure results, and repeat the procedure until an answer is found.  It told them to make problems more manageable until they file into scaffolds and mental folders that were easier to carry around.

The class's first big assignment was to design an electric car.  For weeks, students in Mr. Edward's class arranged themselves into teams and followed flowcharts detailing each engineering design process step.  The classroom had few materials to work with.  But that was okay, because the real point of the exercise was to learn how to squeeze information from your environment, no matter where it comes from.  Soon students were visiting car dealerships, going to mechanics' shops, and raiding aluminum cans from recycling bins to make battery-testing kits from instructions they had found online.  "My first job it to teach them to slow down a little bit," Deon Edwards told me.  "These are kids who solve problems all day long.  They deal with missing parents and violent problems all day long.  They deal with missing parents and violent boyfriends and classmates on drugs.  Everything they experience says they have to choose quickly.  I just want to show them that if you have a system for making choices, you can afford to slow down and think.

Midway through the semester, after the class had completed their car designs and moved on to building marble sorters.  Delia's twenty-one-year-old sister had a baby.  The child's father was out of the picture and Delia's sister, exhausted, begged her to babysit in the afternoons.  If felt like a request that was impossible for Delia to refuse.  The right decision, Delia's dad told her, was obvious.  This was family.

So one day in Mr. Edward's class, Delia pulled the engineering flowchart from her binder and, with her group, put her dilemma through the design process's steps.  If she babysat, what would happen? One of the first tasks in the engineering design is finding data, so Delia began making a list of experiences than seemed germane.  Another sister, Delia told the group, had taken an after-school job a few years earlier and the family had quickly come to rely on that paycheck, making it impossible for her to quit and putting her hopes of community college on hold.  If Delia started babysitting, something similar would happen, she suspected.  That was data point one.

Then Delia began writing out what her schedule might look like if she was responsible fro an infant every afternoon.  School from 8:30 to 3:30.  Babysitting from 3:30 to 7:30.  Homework form 7:30 to 10:00.  She would be tired after watching her nephew and would probably end up watching television instead of doing her math or studying for a test.  She would become resentful and make bad choices on the weekends.  Data point two.

As her group walked through the flowchart, they broke her dilemma into smaller pieces and brainstormed solutions and role-played conversations while the rest of the class discussed how to separate colored marbles from clear ones.  Eventually, an answer emerged: Babysitting seemed like a minor sacrifice, but the evidence suggested it wasn't minor at all.  Delia prepared a memo for her father listing the steps she had gone through.  She wouldn't be able to do it, she told her dad.

Psychologists say learning how to make decisions this way is important, particularly for young people, because it makes it easier for them to learn from their experiences and to see choices from different perspectives.  This is a form of disfluency that allows us to evaluate our own lives more objectively, to offset the emotions and biases that might otherwise blind us to the lessons embedded in our pasts.  When the animators behind Frozen were trying to figure our their film, the Disney system pushed them to look to their own lives as creative fodder.  But it's not just creative material we can mine from our experiences - we can find data in our pasts, as well.  We all have a natural tendency to ignore the information contained in our previous decisions, to forget that we've already conducted thousands of experiments each time we made a choice.  We're often too close to our own experiences to see how to break that data into smaller bits.

But systems such as the engineering design process - which forces us to search for information and brainstorm potential solutions, to look for different kinds of insights and test various ideas - help us achieve disfluency by putting the past in a new frame of reference.  If subverts our brain's craving for binary choices - Should I help my sister or let my family down? - by learning to reframe decisions in new ways."

Resilience and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

Report from the World Energy Council.

Rethinking America’s Cities’ Success Strategy

Excellent post from NewGeography - Rethinking America’s Cities’ Success Strategy

High Tide

Death of the Traffic Signal

GE's FastWorks

The World of Bechtel - Superior Relationships or Crony Capitalism?

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Production / Politics / Policy Quagmire


Talking About the Digital Era

Disrupting the Rules of the Road

The Water Treatment Plant Control Room of the Future - The VR Version

Hiring Really Smart Engineers and the Era of Facebook

Freese and Nichols Looks at Precipitation

Nature Looks at 2040

Why Infrastructure Asset Management Needs Good Information

Good information relating to the infrastructure matrix does three things:
  1. It creates the demand for more good information.  
  2. Good data changes behavior regarding how we utilize and management our public infrastructure.
  3. Good data ignites innovation.

How Would a President Trump React to Muslim Engineers?

What a Resilient City Should Look Like

The Arup prepared plan for the Municipality of Vejle, Denmark.

Twitter and Disaster Response/Damage Assessment

Abstract from ScienceAdvances - Rapid assessment of disaster damage using social media activity:

"Could social media data aid in disaster response and damage assessment? Countries face both an increasing frequency and an increasing intensity of natural disasters resulting from climate change. During such events, citizens turn to social media platforms for disaster-related communication and information. Social media improves situational awareness, facilitates dissemination of emergency information, enables early warning systems, and helps coordinate relief efforts. In addition, the spatiotemporal distribution of disaster-related messages helps with the real-time monitoring and assessment of the disaster itself. We present a multiscale analysis of Twitter activity before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy. We examine the online response of 50 metropolitan areas of the United States and find a strong relationship between proximity to Sandy’s path and hurricane-related social media activity. We show that real and perceived threats, together with physical disaster effects, are directly observable through the intensity and composition of Twitter’s message stream. We demonstrate that per-capita Twitter activity strongly correlates with the per-capita economic damage inflicted by the hurricane. We verify our findings for a wide range of disasters and suggest that massive online social networks can be used for rapid assessment of damage caused by a large-scale disaster."

Graph of the Week

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Infrastructure Failures Are Our Own Fault

Fix Water Data

Three Trends for the Next 50-Years - All Will Impact Engineers

Engineering Students Should Take an Anthropology Class

Technology and the Future of Cities

report to the President from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Book That Someone Needs to Research/Write

Someone needs to tackle this book and project - - projecting out to 2050 and look at the political implications of (a.) the rise of automation and robotics and the impact on employment - especially those with only a high school degree, and (b.) the coming decline of the white majority and transition to the new white minority.

The Changing Face of America, 1965-2065


From the City of Toronto:

"MyWaterToronto is a convenient way to view your water use information anytime, anywhere, from your computer or mobile device. Log-on to MyWaterToronto and view your total and average water use by day, week, month or year in an easy-to-read graph or chart format. Check the boxes to add in extra details, such as temperature and precipitation, to better understand why you may have used more or less water during a particular time period." 

The Era of the Team

From Schumpeter - Businesses are embracing the idea of working in teams:

"Companies are abandoning functional silos and organising employees into cross-disciplinary teams that focus on particular products, problems or customers. These teams are gaining more power to run their own affairs. They are also spending more time working with each other rather than reporting upwards. Deloitte argues that a new organisational form is on the rise: a network of teams is replacing the conventional hierarchy. The fashion for teams is driven by a sense that the old way of organising people is too rigid for both the modern marketplace and the expectations of employees. Technological innovation puts a premium on agility. John Chambers, chairman of Cisco, an electronics firm, says that “we compete against market transitions, not competitors. Product transitions used to take five or seven years; now they take one or two.” Digital technology also makes it easier for people to co-ordinate their activities without resorting to hierarchy. The “millennials” who will soon make up half the workforce in rich countries were reared from nursery school onwards to work in groups."

Expanding Infrastructure Investment - Blueprint 2025

What Great Designers Need To Think About

From Medium - Eight important lessons for designers:
"The best designers I know excel at communication. This is because they apply the same theories of designing products — imagining how the person on the other side will think and feel as they encounter the design work — to telling the story of the design. They think deeply about what hooks would best get and keep someone’s undivided interest. They consider what is critical to convey up front, and what details can be saved for later. They use easy-to-understand language, visuals, storyboards or animations to convey what the outcome of the idea will be.
Being a designer is like having a superpower that allows you to show other people the future. You can help make a bunch of abstract concepts tangible through your work. You can help other people visualize what a better version of the world might look and feel like. This is an incredible thing to be able to do. But wielding the power effectively means the work must be paired with a strong narrative. And the first step is recognizing that clear, succinct and compelling communication is a key skill to master as a designer."

Should We Engineer a More Dangerous Bus?

From Jeff Kaufman:

"Buses are much safer than cars, by about a factor of 67 [1] but they're not very popular. If you look at situations where people who can afford private transit take mass transit instead, speed is the main factor (ex: airplanes, subways). So we should look at ways to make buses faster so more people will ride them, even if this means making them somewhat more dangerous.

Here are some ideas, roughly in order from "we should definitely do this" to "this is crazy, but it would probably still reduce deaths overall when you take into account that more people would ride the bus":
  • Don't require buses to stop and open their doors at railroad crossings.
  • Allow the driver to start while someone is still at the front paying.
  • Allow buses to drive 25mph on the shoulder of the highway in traffic jams where the main lanes are averaging below 10mph.
  • Higher speed limits for buses. Lets say 15mph over.
  • Leave (city) bus doors open, allow people to get on and off any time at their own risk.
Other ideas? If we made buses more dangerous by the same percentage that motorcycles are more dangerous than cars, [2] they would still be more than twice as safe as cars. (I wrote something similar a few years ago, focusing on cost instead of speed.)
[1] See Comparing the Fatality Risks in United States Transportation Across Modes and Over Time (2013). They find buses have a fatality rate per billion passenger miles of 0.11 while it's 7.3 for cars. (pdf) [2] Motorcycles are 29 times more dangerous than cars, with a fatality rate per billion passenger miles of 212."

Texas Arsenic Hotspots

Average Arsenic Concentrations in Community Public Water Supplies 2014-2015. The federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires the nation’s public water systems to limit arsenic levels to 10 parts per billion.

IoS - Internet of Scent

From the Inhalio' wesite:

"Inhalió delivers Dry Air Scent on Demand, improving the in-store at the counter experience for the world of Personal Fragrance. Ending annoying sprays and impossible paddles, Inhalió delivers up to 400 different fragrances, engaging consumers. It’s an experience that’s both enjoyable and measurable.

Our Dry Air USB, takes the store to the consumer. In the privacy of their home, it deploys Scent on Demand and takes them to a web landing page where they can order the product."

What Will Your Drone Do For You?

ESRI -- What Will Your Drone Do For You?

Term of the Week - Peak Millennials

Having Fun with Primes

A Supply and Demand Guide to Digital Disruption

Walter P. Moore Fun Fact

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Underestimating the Cost of Natural Disasters

Freese and Nichols and the Art of Community Service

From the current issue of Engineering, Inc. by Calvin Hennick - One Person, One Hour At a Time: Freese and Nichols challenges its employees to volunteer 100 hours or more for worthy causes each year:

"Ultimately the volunteering program is good not just for the nonprofit that receive help or for the employees who participate, it also benefits Freese & Nichols itself.  The program boosts the company's reputation with clients, prospective hires and the communities where the firm works, and it helps establish a positive culture that lives up to the firm's lofty guiding principles.

"It's absolutely a positive thing for the company," says Pence [Bob Pence, president and CEO].  "People want to be part of an organization that goes beyond just what their business is.  They want to feel good about whom they work for, and they want to feel good about the company's role in the community.  It's a big piece of our culture.""

Interesting how this interfaces with the management of millennial talent.  From the current issue of Fortune - Five Things You Can Do to Attract Millennial Talent:
  1. Forget the 9-to-5 schedule
  2. If you want them to stay, offer training resources
  3. Don't wait for the next annual review for feedback
  4. Give them purpose beyond the bottom line
  5. The perks matter too

Paying for the Past versus Investing in the Future

Funding Waterway Projects

The United States as a Coastal Nation in the Age of Sea Level Rise

Report is dated but still an excellent resource.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Block'Hood - The Sustainability City Simulation Game

Geography and Gender

Term of the Week - Backcasting

The Battle of Productivity - Uber vs. Taxis

Report from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

"In most cities, the taxi industry is highly regulated and utilizes technology developed in the 1940s. Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, which use modern internet-based mobile technology to connect passengers and drivers, have begun to compete with traditional taxis. This paper examines the efficiency of ride sharing services vis-à-vis taxis by comparing the capacity utilization rate of UberX drivers with that of traditional taxi drivers in five cities. The capacity utilization rate is measured by the fraction of time a driver has a fare-paying passenger in the car while he or she is working, and by the share of total miles that drivers log in which a passenger is in their car. The main conclusion is that, in most cities with data available, UberX drivers spend a significantly higher fraction of their time, and drive a substantially higher share of miles, with a passenger in their car than do taxi drivers. Four factors likely contribute to the higher capacity utilization rate of UberX drivers: 1) Uber’s more efficient driver-passenger matching technology; 2)the larger scale of Uber than taxi companies; 3) inefficient taxi regulations; and 4) Uber’s flexible labor supply model and surge pricing more closely match supply with demand throughout the day."

New Engineers Talking About Engineering

Can We Engineer Safer Tiny Homes?

Story from NPR.


From the Wall Street Journal today - A New Way to Train Workers, One Small Bite at a Time (As attention spans shrink, companies turn to short digital lessons) by Lora Kolodny):

""The way that people learn has shifted," says Calvin Ng, director of learning and development at Pernod Ricard USA.  "Employees are not necessarily engaged by sitting down in a classroom and looking through hundreds of slides and being talked at today," he says.  "And time is a big concern, with regards to training."  There's never a good time to take an employee out of a busy workday, but training is still requested and people want to feel like the company cares about their development, Mr. Ng says."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

HDR Helping Cincinnati

Getting Engineers to Think in Terms of Probabilities - The Monty Hall Problem

The Ohio Myth

18 Best Analytics Tools

From Forbes magazine.

Inheriting Our Maintenance Liability

From the current issue of Foreign Affairs by Larry Summers - The Age of Secular Stagnation:

"But those future generations will be better off owing lots of money in long-tern bonds at low rates in a currency they can print than they would be inheriting a vast deferred maintenance liability."

Rachel Kuhr - Engineer for Shark Tank

Rachel Kuhr is a UT educated mechanical engineer who helps contestants and companies on Shark Tank with product innovation and development.  She is profiled in the Dallas Morning News today in the Cheryl Hall column - The Innovator's Innovator.

Her tips on becoming a better innovator, engineer, and designer:

  • Take an improv class.  This process of letting the situation evolve is similar to starting a company.  You come in with an idea and see how people react.  You have to turn it into something that everybody wants.
  • Create discomfort.  If you have no reason to innovate, you won't.  Needle yourself to feel a little less comfortable and actually want something.
  • Widen your horizons.  Talk to people you wouldn't outside your circle of friends.  Travel.  Push yourself to try something new and different every day, even if it's something tiny.
  • Have the courage to toss out wild "what if" ideas.  Don't take it personally when your concept doesn't fly.  Let people beat it up, move it around and expand it.
  • Ease into risk-taking.  Start with baby steps.  You will be amazed at how you can talk yourself into taking on bigger and bigger opportunities overt time.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Creative Control Trailer

Donald Trump in the Age of Robotics

Maybe a wall to keep out the machines.  From the current issue of Rolling Stone - The Rise of Intelligent Machines Part 2 by Jeff Goodell:

"If any company could be a poster child for how robots are transforming American manufacturing jobs, its Boeing.  According to Reuters, Boeing is turning out 20 percent more planes, but with one-third fewer workers, than it did in the 1990s.  In just this past year, it replaced hundreds of employees with 60-ton robots.  Boeing says they work twice as fast as people, with two-thirds fewer defects. The impact of automation on the company's workforce has been dramatic.  In 1998, the company made 564 planes a year, employing roughly 217 people per plane.  In 2015, it made 762 planes, using about 109 workers per plane.  Not surprising, a recent White House economic report concluded that labor productivity gains from robotics are similar in magnitude to the productivity gains from steam engines in the 19th century."

We are Ahead of Schedule on AI

An Interactive Idea Generator at Your Next Conference

City of Denver Looks at Resiliency

Link to the City of Denver's climate adaptation plan finalized in 2014.

The Power of Culture - Burns Engineering

Tech at SXSW

Tracking Tankers - U.K. Based Oil Movements

From the website:

"Oil Movements reports on current and near term sea borne oil flows, looking at events through the window provided by visible activity in the spot tanker market. The weekly review gives timely signals of change in global oil flows, and implications for the crude oil market.

The point of looking at the spot tanker market is to get a forward view of crude oil flows, looking 1-4 weeks ahead. We have developed methods of predicting major oil flows from available tanker market information, using our extensive historical databases on global tanker movements, and spot fixture reports.

Oil Movements has attracted a wide audience for its analysis of oil exports (tanker sailings) two weeks ahead; oil in transit, and regional imports. For long haul crudes, prospective imports into the key Atlantic basin markets are sized up four weeks ahead.

We have published a weekly newsletter since late 1987, and built an industry wide reputation on this platform (see press references). Six years ago, in the course of a commercial dispute with a leading maritime information supplier – which put their data sources out of reach - we rethought our strategy. We had achieved good coverage of events in the recent past, but had not achieved our primary aim - “reading” the tanker market to get a view forward. History is great, but we’ve been there. The question everybody wants answered is - what happens next? This is where the new Oil Movements focuses attention."

The Urban vs Suburban Sustainability Debate

Defining Problems in Terms of Engineering Ignorance

Problem classification according to Adam Kucharski in The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling:
  • If we know an object's exact state - such as its position and speed - and what physical laws it follows, we have a textbook physics problem to solve.  Termed the first degree of ignorance.
  • If we know the physical laws but don't know the exact state of the object, or cannot measure it accurately.  Engineering in this case must either improve the measurements or limit predictions to what will happen to the object or system in the year near future.  This is the second degree of ignorance.
  • The third degree of ignorance is the most extensive form of ignorance.  This is when we don't know the initial state of the object or system or the physical laws.  Engineering can also fall into the third level of ignorance if the laws are too intricate to fully unravel.

Civil Engineering Needs to Focus More On Resiliency

Project Management Support In Your Eye

Sony's Xperia might be your AI support assistant in your ear during the project management meetings.  Link to the article.

"The device features a proximity sensor that informs a wirelessly linked Android smartphone when it is in the user's ear.
An app on the phone then provides location and time-based prompts about the weather, diary appointments, social media posts, missed calls and the news.
It can also respond to voice commands for internet searches, navigation directions and message dictations.
The idea is to free users from having to handle their phone so often.

Its battery life is limited to three-and-a-half hours of active use, but Sony suggests this will be enough for most people most days."

Friday, March 11, 2016

Planning for a Decentralized World

Getting the Lead Out

From the AWWA - A new analysis published by the American Water Works Association estimates 6.1 million lead service lines remain in U.S. communities, suggesting progress in lead service line removal over the past two decades but indicating an estimated $30 billion challenge remains.

Foster on Simplicity

Dream Big

I Highly Recommend Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Reengineering the Grocery Store

Bloomberg Associates - Rethinking Urban Planning and Design

What Is PolyHop?

Bernie Wants Additional Spending on Infrastructure Spending, But....

The Market Is Starting to Thing About Climate Change

Is Engineering Education Signaling or Skill Building?

Google Versus GO Challenge Viewing

Monday, March 7, 2016

Construction Time Lapsing as an Art Form

Alexander Hamilton - The Greatest President Civil Engineering Never Had

From Hamilton - - "Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of a country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighborhood of the town. They are, upon that account, the greatest of all improvements. They encourage the cultivation of the remote, which must always be the most extensive circle of the country. They are advantageous to the town, by breaking down the monopoly of the country in its neighborhood. They are advantageous, even to that part of the country. Though they introduce some rival commodities into the old market, they open many new markets to its produce. Monopoly, besides, is a great enemy to good management, which can never be universally established, but in consequence of that free and universal competition, which forces every body to have recourse to it for the sake of self-defence. It is not more than fifty years ago that some of the counties in the neighborhood of London petitioned the parliament against the extension of the turnpike roads into the remoter counties. Those remoter counties, they pretended, from the cheapness of labor, would be able to sell their grass and corn cheaper in the London market than themselves, and they would thereby reduce their rents, and ruin their cultivation. Their rents, however, have risen, and their cultivation has been improved since that time."

Job Title of the Future - Resilience Practice Leader

Graph of the Week

Computer History Lesson

DOT's Driverless Car Challenge

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Covering Engineers Like Celebs

The Engineer and Artist

Engineering and the Power of Global Service

Graduate School Alternative - MS Program Management

Occupied Movie Trailer

Shorting West Virginia

Engineers Benefiting From a Law Degree

ACSdegfig 3 revised


The Best Time to Invest In Infrastructure

Water Lessons From Down Under