Friday, June 1, 2012


The past 4 weeks have flown by! I've been extremely busy with my semester finals and a 3 week intersession course. Today, I take my final for the intersession course and I'm really excited to share what I've learned in it. The class title is Water Resources for Emerging Regions: Field Methods and we really got down and dirty for this class, including water quality testing, drilling a well using both a hand auger and the LS-100, surveying, building a bio-sand filter, and building and testing an Oxfam water table. So, I'm really excited to post about those different topics in the coming weeks since I plan to devote a few posts to each topic. Unfortunately, I don't really have many pictures, but I tried to pay attention and take good notes.

Also in good news, I'm really excited that I passed the F.E.! I received the email about a week ago and now I just have to graduate to be fully F.E. certified.

Now off to finish studing for my final...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Today's post isn't focused so much on engineering, per se, as it is on a couple of the funner things in life. For starters, I am so excited about this: I discovered a new hair product that will probably save me a LOT of time--smooth serum. I have fairly wavy/curly hair, but I also like to brush it--which means it gets super frizzy and takes almost an hour to blow dry and straighten (when I put the time in). Not with this stuff! I used the Herbal Essences smooth serum this morning before blow drying, and my hair is fairly straight and frizz-free without needed to use my straightener. I realize that this topic is kind of far from the engineering field, but if you're a nerdy female like me and haven't invested much time or effort into beauty, you need all the help you can get.

The second thing I want to highlight is the new Lego Friends series. I've read and seen various reviews about them on some of the blogs I follow and on tv, and agreed with them: that Lego Friends is a bit condescending to girls and how silly it is that Lego put out a line of pastel legos specifically for girls. That is, I felt this way until I saw Stephanie and looked at some of her friends. Stephanie is the Lego friend who's into animals and baking. She even has an ATV to go pick up animals in. How cool is that? There's also Mia the vet, Emma the fashion designer/hair stylist, Andrea the rock star, and (my favorite) Olivia the inventor. I like Olivia the best because she gets this cool workshop:
I like all her toys--the chalkboard, the robot, and the power tools. I know she isn't a civil engineer,  but she's pretty awesome. Even though Lego Friends initially  seemed sexist, I have been converted 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Heilmeier Catechsim

A couple months ago, I was reading the IEEE blog (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Today's Engineer and they profiled George Heilmeier--a groundbreaking electrical engineer who made LCD possible for everyone. At least, that's his major claim to fame. He also worked for the Department of Defense and Texas Instruments, where he was a manager and engineer. According to the article, Heilmeier was the lead in many research projects and part of his impressiveness comes from what is now known as the Heilmeier Catechism. He developed a set of questions to help lead his engineers develop new products and ideas, and this list has been adapted for many uses. The version that Today's Engineer posted is as follows:
  • What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
  • How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
  • What's new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
  • Who cares?
  • If you're successful, what difference will it make?
  • What are the risks and the payoffs?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • What are the midterm and final "exams" to check for success?
Almost immediately after I read the list, I copied it down and have kept it on my desk next to my computer where I can glance at it periodically. I know I'm not at a place where these questions could actually impact anyone yet, but they are definitely something for me to keep in mind as I do my homework. The questions also inspire me to try to think outside the box when I am working on a design homework problem. Even though I know there is a standard answer, I usually try to think about the impact my choices would have if I were designing for an actual client. Regardless of your discipline, I hope these questions will help you do better in whatever you choose.

If you would like to read the article that inspired me, here's the link.

Water RE-sourcing?

I constantly think about the predicted water shortages here in the States, and especially in Oklahoma. Last fall, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board published the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, which examines water needs and sources for the next 60 years and predicts that there will be a 33% gap between demand and supply. In addition to this shortage, Oklahoma is currently involved in legal battles over water with Arkansas, Texas, and the Cherokee Indian tribe.

Water is becoming a bigger and bigger issue around the world, but especially here in the US. I've read before that the most effective way to conserve water is to increase water prices and I agree with this theory. Currently, water is extremely cheap. It costs many times more to get clean water in a developing nation than it does here in the US. Also, our infrastructure needs to be replaced very soon. According to the Comprehensive Water Plan, approximately $84 billion will be needed to improve OK's water infrastructure, however we will only be able to provide about $1.9 billion.

I also believe that a K-12 outreach is incredibly important in helping to conserve water and making our living situation sustainable. Reaching out to kids has proven very effective in developing worlds to improve health and sanitation, and it makes sense to me to employ this strategy here in the US. I'm not entirely sure what exactly can be done to connect with kids, but I'm sure that I can get ideas and figure something out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FE Tips

There have been several things on my mind recently, but the biggest one is some advice for the FE. I took it on April 14, and want to help out future FE-takers while everything is still fresh on my mind. Also, I found out that tomorrow is the sign-up day at my university for the fall exam, so I thought the timing might be appropriate as students get ready to start studying for next fall's exam.

--Get the Casio fx115ES-plus. It was just under $18 at Walmart, it's available at Staples for $19, and  I'm sure you can find it at any office store or online. It's legal and does so much! There are about 9 or 10 different modes that include basic math, complex numbers, base-N (for decimal, hexadecimal, octal, etc), matrices, vectors, and quite a bit more. The main advantage is that it saved me about 20 minutes because I was able to type in some numbers and it popped out the answer. Made it very easy, especially since anything beyond a dot product or finding the determinant of a 2x2 matrix was something that I only wanted to put effort into when I was in physics and calculus. Also, since I bought this calculator, I have started using it day-to-day more often than my beloved TI-89.

--For the morning session, study with Michael Lindeberg's FE Review book. It's big, fat, yellow, and incredibly helpful. I started going through it in January and was finished in mid-March. I did a chapter a day though I took some days off, but towards the end, I did 3-4 chapters for a few days. The problems in it were definitely harder than what was on the actual FE. Also, it helped me learn the handbook since I used it while going through the book. Bottom line: I highly recommend it.

--For the afternoon session, I used Lindeberg's discipline-specific review book. Be forewarned, it's only practice exams and solutions instead of explanatory chapters, but mine was very helpful.

--Take 2 calculators. Hopefully they're only for peace of mind, but if you need a 2nd calculator, it's nice to have one on hand.

--Take 2 straight-edges. I took an engineering scale and a protractor, but I really only used them to mark my place in the handbook. Since civil engineering was spread across fluid mechanics, civil engineering, and environmental engineering, it was handy to stick a straight-edge in the section and be able to flip back to it easily and quickly.

--Take a CLEAR water bottle into the exam. I know the contract says that you can have non-alcoholic beverages and that implies you can bring coffee with you...if you have a drink, it needs to be in a clear container.

I hope this helps!