In a group of friends that took a trip to Mexico during the holidays, there stood an engineer. This crew decided to take a trip to the mountains to sightsee foreign terrain. During their quest, the group stumbled upon an old bridge that led to another mountain. The bridge was in stable condition to cross from the perspective of the rest of the group. However, the engineer immediately noticed a couple of beams at the bottom of the bridge. These looked unsafe because they had developed heavy rust due to no maintenance. He had recently learned about statics, and he encouraged the rest of the group to refrain from crossing as it was not safe. Had there not been an engineer traveling with the group, a disaster could’ve occurred. I tend to mention this story often because it shows the importance of an engineer’s role.
Engineers are problem solvers. Depending on the branch they pursue, they will be able to unravel different types of adversities. That said, Structural Engineers are able to understand forces in an analytical way. This allows them to anticipate structural problems and prevent them from happening. Statics is part of the reason why they developed these abilities. Most of them acquire these skills while studying to become an engineer, and then further improve them in their field of work.
An individual studying to become a civil engineer begins to develop structural intuition through rigorous and conscious studying. In this branch, the students will be essentially introduced to the world of engineering through their statics class. The concepts learned in this course enhance their ability to recognize dangerous situations. I say this from experience since I am pursuing my Civil Engineering degree at FIU. From basic lessons to highly difficult problems, they coach us as engineers to employ creativity and technical skills. After we learn the technical knowledge they teach us in school, we are ready to begin our applicable journey in the field. In this article, I will dive inside the world of statics by explaining its importance and sharing my experience.
The Importance of Statics
Statics is the study of calculating and understanding the forces between bodies. Structural engineers will interpret this information to create designs where structural elements are in equilibrium. Equilibrium will be when the sum of all forces to consider equals zero. The importance of statics is evident in all walks of engineering. Without calculating the moment of a force, resultant force, the forces in itself, among others; a structure will not be able to be built to match requirements of safety that it needs in order to be approved for construction.
Statics focuses primarily on, but not limited to, calculating moments, shear, and forces on objects that are not moving such as beams, trusses, joists, and bigger objects in structures such as bridges and buildings. To give you an example of how a problem in statics will look like, imagine you have a beam with simple supports on each end. A force or load is placed upon this beam. Statics will allow you to find which response forces need to be present at each simple support.
Statics as a Student
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did” – Newt Gingrich. To me, this quote is gold, especially in the world of statics. Sometimes, the problems you have to solve for the class won’t be easy. However, if you dedicate yourself to learn this material and to do whatever it takes to do so, you will do amazing in the class. Students have no choice but to put forth effort into learning these new skills and techniques for making necessary calculations.
As a student that recently took the course of Statics, I can tell you that it is a whole different ball game from other engineering courses including mathematics and sciences. Upon starting the course, I was aware of how essential and extremely important it was going to be towards my career.
Statics is a prerequisite for several branches which include, Civil, Structural, biological, and aeronautical engineering. It uses algebra and trigonometry to calculate the forces between bodies. I strongly encourage you to enroll and familiarize yourself with Physics before taking statics. This with the objective to get a better understanding of the world of force vectors and scalars. Two and three-dimensional force systems are unraveled by vector algebra. Concepts like center of gravity, friction, distributed forces, moment of inertia, and centroids are introduced in Statics. However, they will be continued in follow up courses like Mechanics of Materials, Dynamics and Structural Analysis.
Having all this in mind, I encourage students to really engage with the material and it will be evident how useful and entertaining the concepts really are.
When it comes to my personal opinion about Statics, I believe that as of now, it is the most interesting class I have taken as a Civil Engineer in training. I really enjoyed how it introduced the problems and calculations that need to be made when designing a structure. Many students knew this would be a difficult class that would give them a hard time throughout the semester. However, in my opinion, the class was somewhat simple. As long as you are dedicated to learning the material consciously, this class should be interesting and exciting to students with a passion for engineering.
This course made me look at regular structures such as buildings and bridges in a completely different way. I began to imagine myself trying to calculate the moment of an imaginary force that I set upon balconies that I would see in cantilever, which I thought was pretty funny. After taking this class, you will feel like you are starting to think as a Structural Engineer. After being exposed to statics you will find yourself more aware of these concepts.
***Adrian Torres is currently a Civil Engineering student at FIU, and he has been an intern at Eastern Engineering Group for several semesters. Adrian, thank you for sharing your statics knowledge and perspective. We all love you so much. ***