The Shweeb

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As the fear of global warming increases in the public, there are some who are trying to be productive and find a solution to global warming, or at least, slow the process.  A group of these individuals, whose company is called Shweeb, has found a way to contribute to the fight against global warming.  Their idea?  Pedal powered pods.  Shweeb submitted their idea to a competition held by Google, in which these pods are in some sort of track and you race the opposite pod by pedaling as fast as your legs can pedal.  Google found some merit in this idea, since they awarded the company one million dollars to get the project started.
Now, I applaud all and every intention to stop global warming and although I am not a fan of these pedal pods, I can see how this idea can help the environment.  If the project is taken off the ground, and if it is a hit with the public, the dependency on cars would drastically decrease.  With the cars’ disappearance, pollution would decrease as well as the dependency on oil not to mention relieving the Earth of greenhouse gas.  Since the pedal pods require you to pedal to your destination as if you are bicycling, it promotes cardio and would reduce obesity, which is a big problem in the U.S.
That being said, I really do not see it being a hit in society.  The whole “pedaling to your destination” seems a little too much for our society.  What if you are commuting a long distance?   Nowadays, more and more people are working in places in which they commute half an hour in a car, at least.  I do not see those individuals running to make a line at the pedal pod center.  How about the elderly? Not so much.  Yet, I still believe this idea can really work for society and benefit the environment vastly.  Maybe if the “pedal to your destination” were fixed, the people commuting to their work would be more incline to use the pedal pods.  I like to believe that this project was what inspired the individuals who thought of the pod cars system.  Although, the project illustrate its true motives a revision or improvement to the initial idea would have to be made in order for the publics approval.  Check out the video below for more details:
Reference:
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Driving While Intexticated

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I know this blog was intended for Transportation Engineering topics however, I felt like driving while texting is also relevant in the transportation world.  A few days ago, yesterday to be exact, my instructor for Transportation was talking to the class about a case, in California, on using the GPS features on your phone.  A court ruled that individuals who were caught with a cell phone in their hands while driving would be cited under no circumstances. A big problem which we are facing nowadays is the dangers of texting while driving.  It may seem harmless at first, but if the statistics are taken into consideration, texting and driving is not only dangerous, but at times, deadly.  With 77% of young adults feeling confident texting while driving and another 48% claiming to have seen their parents texting and driving, one can easily see how misinformed society is, in general, with the dangers of texting while driving.
Now, I will not deny that I have not been guilty of texting while driving however I do try to minimize my occurrences.  I noticed that whenever I do text and drive I am usually at the very edge of my lane almost crossing onto the other lane.  I also feared getting a citation since they’re up in the three digits.  Aside from that, it is impressionable to know that in 2011, 1.3 million crashes were due to texting and driving.  That is a high number for something that people feel “confident” doing.  It may seem like only half a second is used to check on a text but in reality, it is around 5 seconds.  Enough time to get in an accident.  Driving is dangerous by itself; there is no need to add distractions.
Now what can be done to reduce this number.  The state of California is doing all it cans to discourage the public from using a phone while driving.  Citations are very pricey and there are cracking hard on the culprits and yet there are many who still do it.  There is no way you can force someone to do something they are not willing to do but there are ways they might be convinced.  Maybe the cell phone providers can enclose Bluetooth’s in the cell phones along with the charger or the vehicle manufacturers can include Bluetooth in all the cars, not just the luxurious ones.  This might make the public more inclined to use a hand-free device but ultimately, it is up to each and every individual to act responsibly and stop taking huge risks; they are not worth it.  After all, WE ARE ALL SHARING THE SAME ROAD!
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Don’t Go Through Life Cutting Corners

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There is a phrase which my mother always says to me, don’t go through life cutting corners.   Although I feel that this principle can be applied to every aspect in life, I feel that it fits perfectly the Tacoma Narrow Bridge. The plans to start construction on the Tacoma Narrow Bridge started as early as the late 1880s.  There were plans to build a bridge between Tacoma and Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State.  The plans were pushed back for many years due to the lack of funding.  It was not until the late 1930s that an engineer, Clark Eldridge and Leon Moisseiff went head to head, trying to get the contract.  Clark Eldridge proposed a plan in which he would build the Tacoma Bridge using 25 feet deep plate girders and use a budget of eleven million dollars.  Leon Moisseiff was the designer and consulting engineer in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California and he had plans to build the bridge for a lot less than the eleven million that Clark Eldridge foresaw spending.  To do this, Moisseiff proposed to use shallow support, which would give the bridge a more elegant look, would only require approximately six million dollars to construct and would not require years to construct since he would only use eight feet deep plate girders to support the bridge.
Needless to say, Leon Moisseiff won the contract and started building the Tacoma Narrow Bridge on September 27, 1938.  It took 19 months to build and a little over the six million.  The Tacoma Narrow Bridge opened to the public on July 1, 1940.  From the start, the bridge was nicknamed the Galloping Gertie because it was easily moved by the winds.  The bridge ran 5,939 feet in length and although it was so long, it had only two lanes. The high winds would sway the bridge since the eight feet deep plate girders were not strong enough to resist the winds.  On November 7, 1940 there were high winds in the state of Washington.   At around 11 in the morning, The Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsed.  Thankfully there were no fatalities as a result.
So what can engineers and aspiring engineers take from this unfortunate occurrence? NOT TO CUT CORNERS.  Had the engineers and designers done the project right, using the right supplies and relying on 25 feet deep plate girders as Clark Eldridge proposed, the bridge would not have fallen.  Yes, it is important to be cost efficient, but not at the risk of civilians’ lives.  It was fortunate that no lives were lost when the Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsed, but that is not to say fatalities will not arise in another collapse.  It is crucial to do the job right the first time.

A Fun New Way to Travel

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When I am not working on an assignment, helping others, or any other activities that I might have I like to kick back and watch some good quality television.  Some of my favorite tv shows consist of The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family to TV’s most lovable family The Simpsons.  A few days ago, I was conversing with a few colleagues discussing different means to transportation.  One of them started enlightening the group on a project that would allow people to have flying vehicles that would not require a pilot’s license to operate: and would still be street legal to drive.   Another colleague discussed a project that included pod cars that will operate themselves which would not require too much from the user and so on.  After they had all given their opinion it was my turn to engage in the discussion.  I started by explaining that a good means to transportation (that would have a minimum impact on the environment) was a project that consisted of tubular tubes and air pressure regulator.  However, some of my colleagues had no clue of what I was talking about.  So, in a desperate approach to try and clarify what I was referring to I compared my idea to something I thought I would never use as a reference when it came to such intellectual conversation.  I told them “You know, like the tubes they travel in the show Futurama.”  To my surprise, they were admirers of the show and knotted in agreement.  The conversation continued and soon we started to dispute the quickest way to travel; speed of light, sound, or gravity.  Although, the conversation was getting intense I still had the lingering thought of the tubular tubes.

Once I arrived home, I searched for projects that had a similar idea or concept to what I was speaking of.  A project by the name of “hyperlooping” came up.  The project insert a capsule into underground tubes in which the traveler will sit in.  Once the travelers have boarded the capsule, a vacuum tube extract most of the air from the tubes reducing the amount of friction on the capsule.  Similar to how a puck works on an air hockey table, the capsule will levitate and travel down the tubes in a similar fashion.  By allowing such technology, the capsule could reach speeds of 350 to 400 miles per hour, which would be three times faster than the bullet train.  As stated by a Colorado inventor Daryl Oster, who is also in pursuit of making such project a reality, “It is an irresistible way to get the 400 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco in barely enough time to eat a tuna salad sandwich, forget the dessert.”  However, in order to get the project off the ground several billion of dollars would have to be invested.  Nevertheless, the project will relieve cities of congestion and will be a more sufficient way to travel since most of the tubes would be placed underground or in a overhead passage manner.  Furthermore, the project would cost a fraction of the price of $68 billion proposed for the bullet train linkage from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

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The project is still in the brainstorming phase and is opened to any outside ideas on improving it.  No solid model has been created for the project yet but with more enthusiastic individuals joining in, advancement in the project should be seen in the near future.  What are your opinions on the hyperloop system?

Reference:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/10235261/Inside-the-Hyperloop-the-pneumatic-travel-system-faster-than-the-speed-of-sound.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10240535/The-Hyperloop-flawed-fantasy-or-achievable-challenge.html

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-california-bullet-train-versus-hyperloop-20140121,0,6935012.story#axzz2uGmpbt6Y

Engineering for Obstacles

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge

Everyone can relate to the feeling of frustration and impotence that being stuck in traffic can cause someone.  It is not a pleasant occurrence; especially in other than pleasant weather, or after a hard day at work.  Traffic is also a major contributor in automobile accidents.  It is, overall, a horrible experience.  One of the biggest cities to experience horrible traffic was Boston, Massachusetts.  The Central Artery, or Interstate 93, was a six-lane highway that would, at times, be used by over 75,000 vehicles a day and by the 90’s it increased to approximately 190,000.  This caused great dilemma for the city of Boston, and a solution was sought out.  The central Artery/Tunnel Project, or the Big Dig, was a project which was designed to alleviate congestion in the metropolitan area of Boston.  It would take over 2-3 decades to complete, and billions of dollars would be spent; but in the end, was the only solution to the Central Artery.

The roads in the city of Boston were built before the invention of the automobiles.  As the years passed, the roads were not suitable for the growing population and the dependency of automobiles.  These roads would be traveled by thousand of people, and the traffic was one of the worst, if not, the worst in all of the United States.  Aside from the problems that the horrific traffic caused the people of Boston, the elevated highway cut off the Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown Boston, thus affecting their revenue.  The solution to these problems was the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, which would replace the elevated highway with an eight-to-ten underground highway and a highway that would have better access to the Logan Airport.  The Big Dig was thought up in the 1970’s but it was not until 1982 that the plan was put into motion.   In 1991, Congress approved the Big Dig after President Reagan vetoed it in 1987.  The plan was to dig the tunnels underground without affecting traffic.  It was anticipated that it would cost 2.8 billion dollars to complete the project, which would conclude in 1998.  Due to difficulties, it was not completed until 2007, costing the Untied States well over 14.6 billion dollars.

The Big Dig faced many obstacles throughout the years.  From the very beginning, President Reagan vetoed the bill because he thought it was too expensive.  When the project was approved and put into motion, the workers had to deal with subway lines, which were already in existence, pipes and utility lines.  Moreover, to the public, the project did not seem to alleviate their city congestion but rather made it worse.   The economy and inflation rates also affected the project, as well as trying to carry on with the project without affecting the traffic.  With a project of this magnitude to work, it is crucial to have the support of the public.  To have this support, and being able to use the taxpayer’s money to fork the bill, it was important to communicate with the public and get their approval.  A primary reason why it took over three decades to complete The Big Dig project can be traced back to public disapproval and billions in taxpayers’ money.

The reason for this blog entry is not to talk to you about The Big Dig project but rather give you an example of obstacles that might arise when working on a project of this magnitude.  The Big Dig, in theory, seemed to be a great solution for the city of Boston traffic dilemma but once implemented it was a disaster and 30 years in the making.  However, the full potential of The Big Dig project, can now be appreciated.  As a result of the Big Dig project, the travel time per vehicle during busy hours has been reduced to 62%.  The annual saving for travelers is estimated to be at $160 million. Therefore, it is vital that engineers learn to communicate their thoughts clearly so that they can get the approval of the public.  Even a great thought-out project, like the Big Dig project, cannot become a reality without the support of the public and proper funding. Therefore, as future engineers we should take into consideration possible obstacles and plan to minimize them accordingly.

Reference:

http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway/TheBigDig.aspx

http://www.bigdighighwayrobbery.com

https://www.boston.com/beyond_bigdig/

Intro: What Is?

What is Engineering?

Engineering is a field that incorporates the fundamental theories of science and mathematics in order to solve real life problems.  Such problems arise from population growth, supply and demand, and even making human life less complex.  Engineers are needed to intellectually abstract real life problems and transform them into reality.

What is Civil Engineering?

Civil Engineering is about developing new concepts and services for the community.  Civil Engineers are responsible for planning, designing, and constructing facilities for the general public.  Such accommodations include: housing, building, roadway and any essential material to sustain life.  All in all, Civil Engineering is the ability to solve problem that meet the demands of the people and the challenges of life.

What is Transportation Engineering?

Transportation Engineering is the application of science and technology in order to meet people demands.  Transportation Engineering incorporates science and technology to safely move people and goods around in an efficient and rapid manner.  Technology is used in transportation engineering in order to forecast future developments as well as economic and environmental impact.  Transportation Engineering is a fundamental element in the movement of people and goods through methods of air, water, rail, and even highways.