Evolution of Engineering

As I sat last week at lunch with a group of engineers who have worked at GBA for more than 25 years, I was amazed to hear the stories. They reminisced about using drafting tables and T-squares to draw plans with ink pens and electric erasers. Who among us has ever seen an electric eraser? And about how excited they were when they got their first plotter that only took three hours to print a set of plans. I started to sense just how far this industry has come in only 25 years. The drafting tables they spoke of are no longer seen in the office. They’ve been replaced by computers that create 3D renderings and store them in “the cloud” for our clients to see. Our surveyors use satellites to get their work done, and texting has become a legitimate form of business communication. The world of engineering has changed dramatically.

Through the advancement of technology, engineers are able to use their problem solving skills to make our lives better. For example:

• Our water environment group is currently working with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, to help repair sewers that have been in place for more than 100 years. Did you know we now can line a sewer pipe with a fabric while it’s still in place to avoid having to dig it up to stop leaks which add to the volume of water being treated?

• GBA transportation engineers are involved in projects such as the K-7 and I-70 interchange in Bonner Springs as well as the Johnson County Gateway project. The Gateway project is the first major design/build highway project done by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). The design/build method creates a shorter overall project schedule and construction period, saving drivers from extended traffic headaches.

• Structural, mechanical and electrical engineers now design projects in BIM, a building information modeling software that shows in 3D an entire building and all utility systems together to identify and remove any conflicts in construction before they happen.

• The AutoDesk Civil 3D Software helps our engineers prepare construction documents that are automatically updated as design changes are made. The 3D surface data generated from the software can be populated in “the cloud” and then readily downloaded to earth moving equipment fitted with machine controls allowing for more efficient site grading operations.

• gbaSI is helping smaller cities upgrade their copper based traffic signal communications through the use of Ethernet over Copper (EoC). This solution is affordable and will deliver enough bandwidth capacity to extend the city’s traffic signal system by 10 years or more while maintaining the ability to install fiber at a later date.

• Autonomous cars are an engineering feat being created and tested around the world. These cars are being touted as safer and more energy efficient because they remove the human-error element of driving. GPS will become more prevalent to help these cars get you to where you need to go. How will this change how our transportation engineers design roads, bridges and traffic signals?

The list goes on and on about the advancement of technology and how engineers are solving problems to make our world a better place. Where will we be in the next 25 years? Will computers be a thing of the past? Will we commute in cars that drive themselves? With the rapid rate of technological advances, it’s difficult to predict but it will be interesting to sit around a table in 2040 and reminisce about how we used to use Twitter and actually drive ourselves to work.

Whether you are a civil, chemical, computer, electrical, mechanical or any other type of engineer, you’re problem solving skills have helped to make the world a better place. Engineers truly are creating remarkable solutions for a higher quality of life.


* Image of Johnson County Gateway Project, I-435 at Pflumm