Contractor Workspace

Contractor Workspace by Jerry Bartels

Finding all kinds of tools tonight and this one is a Contractor Workspace as detailed by the Autodesk Transportation blog. If you move dirt or pour concrete and asphalt for a living, do yourself a favor and download this custom workspace provided by Jerry Bartels! Yeah, he’s gonna kill me for that mug shot….


3rd Annual Synergis Student Competitions are Open!

Synergis is having its 3rd Annual Student Competition with Architecture and Mechanical categories! The architecture theme this year is adaptive reuse of an existing main street shop into a children’s museum. The mechanical category is based on the Pennsylvania F1 competition. We are only judging entries submitted to us and will focus on design from creative and functional aspects.

The competition is currently open to anyone in K-12th grade.  So pass this along to kids or your friend’s kids to enter! Prizes include cash awards and acknowledgement at Synergis University 2013 next June.

I’m hoping to get them to introduce a Civil Engineering category next year as well as add an age group for university students! What do you think?

Here are some entries from last year to peak your interest…

Random Engineering Beauty

Update: Turns out this particular bridge is on the national historic list –

Over the weekend, we had a kids birthday party to attend in Allentown PA. Instead of taking our normal route, we decided to punch up the Droid GPS and see which way it took us.  We ended up well off the beaten path, but what we found was quite enjoyable.  As is often the case, a different perspective will give you a completely new understanding. Take for instance this bridge.  Nothing real great at least from above.

But drop down to the surface road below and you gain an eyeful….

BTW, I took this with the mighty HTC Evo phone.  Enjoy!

Design Software = Commodity?

Over the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve spent my time working with the plumbing department on a large project using Revit.  Incidentally, I hear the same complaints about Revit as I do about civil 3d.  🙂

But what often comes up is that while each application has reached a certain stability and functionality, they may not work or function as we expect. Often times, I’ll hear a comment like “thank goodness the steering wheel in my car knows what to do when I turn it to the right…” or “would you buy a car with no rear wheels?”

Those comments are often in response to some aspect in the software that doesn’t do what it should or is missing what we deem a typical “part of the model.” So, I usually reply with something to effect that we have to take that blank car and customize it to how we work, kind of like trucks for instance. Mack trucks make the cab and frame and then supply them to many types of users who put all sorts of equipment on the back for their use.

But, then thinking to myself, is design software really to that point?  I think in some industries that may be the case, like auto manufacturing.  But in the AEC world, design software still has a bit of boutique feel.  Why do I think this?  Primarily 2 things.  First, the user base of Revit or Civil 3D is actually quite small compared to something like Photoshop.  That would explain the price difference . Second, because the funding of development is limited, design software often requires users to develop their own processes to generate a final product.  Think of the software used on the shuttle. I can only imagine that those apps are probably built from scratch or re-use & tweaking of existing modules to define a certain measurement or experiment in space.

So, are our expectations out of whack with reality? It seems so in this case.  More so to the point, do we have an expectation in today’s workforce that every tool should function like a commodity? Even MS Word needs a custom template for your office right? Unless, of course, your company name really is Northwind Traders.  🙂

Old School vs New School

“What happens with old school grading…”


Everyone’s heard the paradigm that Civil 3d is a shift in thinking for civil engineers. Is it really? Haven’t true engineers been working this way for a long time, and we simply adapted to our toolset over time?

Now before people shoot me funny looks or weird comments, let’s define a few things.  A “true engineer” is someone who has received either a PE license or has so much experience should have a license.  One of my first experiences with this type of person was unexpected. He wasn’t licensed and had been a “designer” for longer than i had ben alive. How did he design?


Yes, he drew contours and such for drafters. But, to get those contours, he first created spot shots all over the place. Did he add those sweeping proposed contour tie-ins? Nope. Couldn’t justify it. He would say something to the effect of “why add something to the design that i can’t replicate in my head?”

My young jedi mind was confused. I just figured they used those curves to indicate 2 “soft” surfaces coming together. After much time, i think i came to realize what he meant – i have a 3:1 slope down from a known point, not a 3:1 slope with a 200:1 “elliptical” slope within a foot of tying to existing ground. How would you even stake that out as a surveyor?

Where am i going with all of this. The point was, He was thinking three demensionally all the time. From a macro project level all the way down to individual spot grades along property lines. It’s this vision that forms the basis for design. Yes, i said it – civil engineers DESIGN stuff.  Civil 3D is merely a tool in that design process. Does it do it’s job? For the most part, yes. It fails because of our industry practices and politics; always chasing what this person wants or that agency “needs.”

Stepping out a bit, we see that effect is slowly changing. Primarily because of BIM and the larger architecture community driving the change. Hopefully, some of the larger civil engineering firms will help facilitate this change along with the various vendors like Siteops adding innovation.  To the future!

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