Lawrence Chiarelli
Lawrence Chiarelli, P.E., Esq.
It's hard to believe that it is already March. Spring is just around the corner, as confirmed by the non-appearance of both Punxsutawney Phil's and Staten Island Chuck's shadows; although the news reports of twelve degrees with a wind chill factor of below zero as I write this message leaves me somewhat skeptical. But, in some ways, that is the engineer part of me processing and trying to make sense of seemingly inconsistent information.

As engineers, we make judgments every day. Some may be very technical, requiring the application of complex engineering principles, while others might rely just on taking an engineering approach to general, business or management decisions. It is important that we learn to master both these skills. It is somewhat analogous to the way the two halves of our brains (I will reserve any witty comment about engineers' brains) work together. If the connection between them were severed, we could not function in a coherent, coordinated manner.

If you take a look at the Met Section's programs for the remainder of the winter and spring, you'll see a wide variety of offerings—certainly enough to satisfy to some extent both sides of our brains. There are technical group seminars on seismic and structural engineering and geo-hazards, sessions on airport planning and legal issues related to the professional engineering practice, as well as the younger member program on what it means to be a leader.

Speaking of engineering from different perspectives, I have recently begun looking at engineering programs at a variety of colleges and universities (my daughter is a high school junior). One notable characteristic of any program is the level of "nontechnical" content in the curriculum. The various state education departments and the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technologies (ABET) require that there be some minimum number of humanities credits included in engineering programs. However, some of these programs are recognized for their greater focus on the technical side, while others are regarded for the breadth of the curriculum and producing well-rounded engineers.

Is anyone approach to engineering education, or being one type of engineer or another better? Or is it better that we can have a variety of programs to satisfy all types of individuals and that we can get them to work together for everyone's benefit? I don't know that there is a definitive answer to either of these questions. But, as I've stated in the past, it's the discussion itself that's the most important and interesting.

When I was thinking of what to write about this month, I asked my kids (at home, not at school) what they thought was important that I could write about for the civil engineering community. My ninth-grade son suggested that I talk about how engineers, though known for being excessively practical and utilitarian, can actually contribute to creating something solely for aesthetic purposes. This is a far cry from the usual portrayal of engineers in Dilbert® cartoons or the occasional email of jokes. We must be getting better press these days.

Lawrence Chiarelli, P.E., Esq.
President, ASCE Met Section