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New Spaces in Civil Engineering: Education in Smart Technologies

New Spaces in Civil Engineering: Education in Smart Technologies

March 31, 2022
Prof Dr Mrudula S Kulkarni

Civil engineering is a continuously changing industry, it has not been the same as 20 years before. With advancements in technology and the IT revolution, we have seen the civil engineering field evolve from working with reinforced concrete to now designing and building everything from bridges to buildings with precast, composites. From 3D printing of with concrete/ mortar for architectural spaces to the use of robotics in construction, civil engineers are no longer using blueprints drawn on desks – they’re using all sorts of technological advances to make their project successful.

Here are some of the new spaces fuelled by technology that has shifted how civil engineers work today

1) Using drones for surveying land, reducing costs significantly when compared to traditional methods which require more manpower than necessary just to get the job accomplished. Also, engineers have said bye-bye to tiring surveys in the hot sun or cold windy weather. The curriculum also needs to imbibe this change to give hands-on training to students to use drones for survey practical.

2) Civil engineers deploy CAD software to design structures, which is significantly more advanced than the tape measures, range rods, plane table surveys, and Abney levels they used in the past. Thanks to computer-aided design software, the process has also gotten much less tiresome over time.

3) Civil engineers may now watch building progress from the comfort of their homes thanks to remote sensing technology enabled by cloud technologies. They could, for example, deploy a thermal camera to detect hot spots on underground pipes, or send an unmanned aircraft system into airspace or to an underwater subsea installation site for aerial views and images.

4) Civil engineers are not only responsible for developing and building infrastructure that sustains us, but also for creating automated systems to help make our lives easier in today’s industries (oil and gas, manufacturing, food, dairy, and so on). This is why the term “Industry 4.0” was coined: it focuses on increasing production efficiency by allowing automated machines to communicate with one another without the need for human involvement via sensor networks connected by the internet of things (IoT). The internet of things has taken another step closer to becoming a reality. As more smart gadgets become connected, a whole new level of creativity opens up, changing everything about how we live and work in cities, as well as how we connect from rural areas. The education of aspiring civil engineers must include a thorough introduction to the Internet of Things (IoT).

5)Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a booming sector, and professional civil engineers are in high demand. BIM technology has been around for at least 15 years, but it’s only recently become a household word among civil engineering professionals as they’ve had to cope with increasingly complicated projects that have necessitated the usage of more data visualisation technologies than were previously available. Surprisingly, many users of this type of software are unaware that it was built by civil engineers. Building Information Modeling (BIM) and data visualisation technologies are being used by civil and structural engineers to construct more efficient and sustainable buildings. This is a sophisticated technology that assists in the tracking of all building structure components. This is an advanced system that uses cameras positioned around the construction site and data collected from sensors embedded within the materials used at each stage to keep track of all parts engaged in the construction process.

6) Big Data has become a powerful tool for Civil engineers. They are always on call during major storms or earthquakes; however, today’s civil engineer is much better equipped at assessing their impact, thanks to all that information swirling about. Civil engineers use big data to forecast the behavior of natural disasters and assess environmental impacts. Big data is important for construction technology because it can help to uncover hidden trends and patterns in behavior that might not be seen with a small sample size. Bigger samples allow us to make more informed decisions about the way we use our resources, which leads to an increase in productivity within any industry.

7) Innovation often come as small ideas that transform into larger concepts with potentially huge impacts. For example, the elimination of excess water is so important in our current drought conditions that the use of water conservation technology could be a solution to this problem. Similarly, civil engineers have been working tirelessly for years on developing sustainable and efficient technologies relating to sustainable water management practices.

8)3D printing solutions have enabled civil engineers to prefabricate ready-to-use materials, both offsite or directly on-site.

Civil engineering has come a long way since the days of clay bricks. Large-scale 3D printing is used today to create houses, bridges, and other structures that would have been difficult or impossible before. For India we are yet to see this technology taking good shape, days are not far away.

Dr Mrudula S Kulkarni is a professor of Civil Engineering, MIT World Peace University, Pune

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