Doughty 1Kyle DoughtyMrs. CorbettAP Literature 4th Period8 April 2012 Engineering projects are the manifestation of man’s free will. When a person decides tocreate something, to affect change on his environment, to temporarily play God through the useof mathematics and science, he becomes free. For that reason alone, I chose an engineeringproject as my Senior Project; more specifically, I decided to build a bridge. I also researchedBechtel Corporation, the largest engineering firm in the world, for the associated research paperand to facilitate a greater understanding of what engineers can do in this world. Speaking of facilitation, my Project Facilitator was the architecture teacher at Creekview,Ms. Salas. She taught me how to approach design problems in the past, so designing the bridgeproved to be a relatively simple task. In addition to designing at home, I used Ms. Salas’sclassroom in the afternoon to design my bridge. For the most part, the project was completelywithin my pre-existing skill set, but she always had time available in the event that I needed toconsult her on an issue with the engineering. Bechtel Corporation also consults and solves engineering issues. The company began as acontractor for highway and railroad building in California. Over the course of a century, it helpedbuild the Hoover Dam, constructed half of all nuclear power plants in America, built the EnglishChannel-Tunnel system, and single-handedly constructed an industrial complex that generatesseven percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product. This company represents the verydefinition of tenacious engineering that I chose to pursue with my project.
Doughty 2 In comparison, my project seems fairly straightforward. The goal was to build afootbridge across a creek so that I could connect several trails on my property. This task provedto be more laborious than I had anticipated, but I prevailed. I began by drawing rough sketchesof what I wanted the bridge to look like, and then I made a formal, architectural drawing. Thisdrawing required accurate measurements, so I hiked into the woods on my land and measured thespan of the two banks and their heights. These measurements would serve as the basis for all ofthe dimensions of the bridge. After drawing all of the pieces of wood and metal that I wouldneed, I calculated the estimated costs of my project. The next logical step from cost calculation is purchase, and that holds true for my project.My father and I purchased lumber from JP Hayne’s and all other supplies from Lowe’s aftercarefully comparing online prices of their goods. Transport proved to be fairly simple, since myfather owns a trailer large enough to handle the kind of lumber I required. Once back at myhome, I cut all of the boards to the correct sizes required. The two-by-fours cooperated, while thefour-by-fours needed special care due to the cuts made. Only one six-by-six needed to be cut, soit was the easiest of all up to that point. Later on, the six-by-sixes in general proved to be themost difficult, because each one was sixteen feet long and hard to maneuver. Still, my father andI somehow managed to transport them, hike them into the forest to the construction site and thenposition them correctly. The first two six-by-sixes needed level footers to rest in. To acquire these footers, myfather and I had to dig. Each of us took a shovel and dug two holes on our respective banks.These holes, once dug, contained cinder blocks for the six-by-six beams to rest on so as to avoidmoisture and contact with the ground. Each block had to be perfectly level and had to be on thesame working plane as every other block. After that tedious task, the two main beams were laid,
Doughty 3and a bridge began to appear. Decking followed closely after the difficult task of accuratelypositioning two sixteen-foot-long beams. In comparison, the decking proved to be both easierand more tedious. Each board needed to be perpendicular to the beams, required two screws oneach side and had to have consistent expansion joints to avoid structural damage. Once done,about half of the work was completed. The second half consisted of railing and support columns. The support columns requiredtheir own footer, so my father and I dug a hole three feet deep in the creek bed. Needless to say,we encountered rocks and mud in copious amounts. After finally digging deep enough, thecolumns were set into position perpendicular to the beams. The concrete I bought was not marineconcrete, but my father and I used an abundant and nearby substitute. The creek contains manylarge gravel rocks just below the silt, so we dug up the rocks and packed them around thecolumns. The columns rest on solid bedrock, so they are now encapsulated in a stable and all-natural foundation that has proven its worth. With the major supports taken care of, the railingcame next. Five supports, made out of four-by-fours, served as the vertical components of therailing. These supports fit snuggly into grooves cut into the decking so that they touch the six-by-six beams. My father and I exploited this feature by using seven-inch lag bolts to secure thesupports. Then, it was a simple matter of positioning and securing two ten-foot-long two-by-fours and two two-by-sixes as handrails. The concrete came last, since it required a long, warmday to set in. Looking back, the project seemed to have no major mishaps, but there were still plenty ofminor problems. Chief among them was margin of error. Every cut made takes a tiny fraction ofthe board with it, and that fraction can be compounded after several cuts. In addition, the statedmeasurements of the boards are before they have been treated and dried. This leads to scenarios
Doughty 4where six-by-sixes are really five and three quarter inches to a side. Plans had to be altered onsite, but that represents the lesson of buying a little extra feet of board for surplus and reserves.The weather also did not participate half the time. When a project involves a creek, it is best ifthe creek does not get muddy. This does not happen in February. Only through sheerperseverance did I position support columns and tighten lag bolts instead of constantly gettingmyself bogged down in the mud. Several changes came up as the project took shape in the mud. The most obvious arestructural. Several diagonal supports were put in place to strengthen the vertical columns. Twocross beams were also added near these supports, and now my bridge seems indestructible. Thelack of marine concrete played a role in how the foundation was created, but the bridge is stillstable. The largest change, which seems more of a momentary lapse of reason on my part, is theuse of expansion joints. During my planning stage, I never thought about the small gaps betweenboards to allow for expansion in the event of moisture or temperature change. That being said,they made it into the final product, and I learned a valuable lesson in planning. Many other lessons came from this project. Time management and budgeting resourcescome to the forefront of my recollections, because I had never undertaken a project of thismagnitude before. It required discipline and a sheer force of will, but I was more than capable ofobliging its demands. I also learned that I still love the outdoors no matter the season, which iswhy I have a trail system that needed this bridge in the first place. Manual labor also felt good,because usually I am stuck behind a desk all day and doing homework all night. Those reasonsrank among the positives, but for there to be positives, there must also be negatives. My only realnegative was my attitude toward civil engineering. I enjoyed building the bridge, but I could not
Doughty 5see myself enjoying the process as much if I were doing it for someone else. Luckily for me,there are many branches of engineering and I have already found another one. The Georgia Institute of Technology accepted me to their School of Materials Scienceand Engineering, which will allow me to pursue a career that falls more in line with my interests.Materials science focuses on the chemical and physical properties of materials, which means thatI may still design and test materials for construction companies. It also means that I will have somany more options, because everyone needs materials. The possibilities range from new textilesto semiconductors, and I can play a meaningful role no matter which path I choose. Personally, Iplan to pursue nanotechnology as much as possible. The field is relatively new, jobs areincreasing at an exponential rate and the possibilities seem endless. I will still need to know basicmath and science that civil engineers know, but I will also delve deeper into the very nature ofcreation. Nothing excites me more than to be pursuing a career that will allow me to exercise myfree will to its maximum potential, but I have to always remember that my bridge took me downthe correct path. Judges, thank you for your time. Are there any questions?