I thought I was a Civil…

Fear not, my dedicated followers. I have not forgotten you, nor will I ever leave you to cry in your rooms with no one to speak of your pain. In the last few months this particular po’ed student has been silent, but that is just because school is kicking my butt. What everyone says about junior year is true. But enough about that, I have something to say.

I have heard the cries of my faithful few, the loud groans of those who must labor under the tyrannical rule of SolidWorks, MathCAD, and… dare I say it, dare I speak the words… Computer Aided Engineering (CAE). The pain cannot be fathomed, the burden cannot be lifted, and this torture cannot be lessened. We slave away, hours on end, doing our utmost to coax SolidWorks to give us good results. Please, oh please, I beg of you! Please give me the values I need.

That’s how it is in my mind, at least. In all honesty, I have trouble thinking of a more painful class at this school right now. I’m sure there are worse ones for others, but it just happens to punch me in the mouth just right so that I really have no idea how anything could be worse. Last week I spent two hours fighting SolidWorks, trying to get values that made some sort of sense, but to no avail. I had nearly given up on even doing the homework, but a dear friend sacrificed his precious time to walk me through the indomitable problem. I finished the assignment; quite well, in fact, but it should not have taken me five hours to do.

The problem with CAE is not that it is extremely hard, nor is it that the material makes no sense. The problem is that the class is designed to be very long and tedious and for no apparent reason. The stated goal of the course is to teach finite element analysis using SolidWorks Simulation, none of which is relevant, in any way, to me as a Civil Engineer. My career path involves working for a construction company (I have a job already). I do not need to know how to do finite element analysis. Not only do I have to learn something I will never use, I have to prove that the program is doing what it does correctly, using mechanics of materials and statics. Why? I know the computer is doing it right, I have already proved it once. Why should I have to do it with every single permutation of a problem?

What is really funny to me is that our instructors seem convinced that this class is useful to Civils. Here’s the thing… we use AutoCAD Civil 3D. SolidWorks, as powerful as it is, is used by about 0% of the Civil Engineering population. Mechanicals need this class because they will use this program all the time in their careers.

The farther along I get in this class the more I just get frustrated with the intentions of the instructors. They are bent on teaching us the fine manipulations of a program that we will never use, in ways that we cannot possibly apply in our careers. This class is for Mechanicals, and only Mechanicals. They try to make it relevant to Civils by talking about bridges, but that just pisses us off because they do not know what they are doing.

So what’s going on here? Why does it seem that they’re trying to force us to be mechanical engineers? I want to be a Civil – that’s what I love. So why can’t you let me be a Civil, and let me learn things that will be useful to me? More instruction in AutoCAD Civil 3D would be great. I can deal with hard classes when I know they’re actually teaching me something I need to know and will be useful to me in the real world. When they don’t, it is frustrating beyond belief.

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