Bridges Over Troubled Waters

I was speaking with a couple of civil engineers tonight that specialised in bridge design. She told me that she had tried a number of her bridge designs to date, with each one lasting only a couple of years before they fell down. “That is how I learn to build a more effective one, you know, one that will last a life time.” The other engineer was a bit more coy about the bridges that he had built. But maintained that his bridges were not experimental.

I told them that I too was a bridge designer but had only designed one bridge to date and built a to-scale experimental option that lasted for 2 years.

“So you have only had one small scale, experimental bridge built and you call yourself a bridge designer?”
I told him that I considered his question rhetorical but he denied it, citing that he did not hear me tell him that I only had designed the one bridge in some 52 years. I asked him then if he could give me feedback on my record but he said it was not his place to make a comment.

Somehow I think that he considered that a real bridge designer will have designed and built a number of bridges and had them fail, to show a level of competence as an engineer. I prefer to think that a mark of a good bridge designer is someone that has studied hard, learning from actual bridge failures (from other engineers) and has tested a number of small scale options before they actually set out to build a full scale structure of their own. Having a design last one’s life time, to me is one of the marks of a good designer. None of us could claim that, so far.

After 12 years of trawling through the data from my trial and hopefully learning what were its strengths and weaknesses, I am hoping to test my first full scale structure soon.
I do consider my training has come to a point where I am confident my design could stand the test of time and life stresses.

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