Engineering Problems

I have been a major slacker lately when it comes to posting, because my time has been consumed almost entirely by two things:

  1. Incredibly busy projects at work – we can barely keep up despite 100% utilization and a few hours of (unpaid) overtime per week
  2. Incredibly frustrating study problems for the PE exam – this test is a doozy: 8 full hours of engineering problems, averaging only 6 minutes of solution time per problem

Mind you, I am a water/wastewater engineer who works primarily with pipe lines, pump stations, and treatment plants… so all of the traffic, structural, stormwater, and geotechnical engineering problems are outside of the scope of my day-to-day work. In fact, I haven’t done some of this work since I was a sophomore in college, nearly 8 years ago! Hence the need for review. And because I am taking the Civil: Water Resources version of the exam, I need to spend a lot of time reviewing the type of work I’ve done at my job over the last four years: it makes up 70% of the exam!

Just so you know I’m not making up the need to study like an adderal popping college student (though without the adderal and without the free time of a college student, unfortunately), I’ve posted a few sample problems below.

Anyone want to take a crack at solving them? Can you do each problem in 6 minutes or less?


Categories: Engineering

Tags: , , ,

8 replies

  1. I read this yesterday and it really made me smile. Eight hours???? A whole working day of your life? Ouch! Many moons ago when I began working as a trainee accountant, statistics were part of our course. And that was ok, because at least that was interesting. But when we switched over to proper maths and something called linear programming, they may as well have been speaking a language from another galaxy. So while I can look at the first one and work it out, my mind has been metaphorically sticking its fingers in its ears and going “ha ha – can’t hear you”. Glad those days are mostly gone for me, save for putting proposal costings together, of course!

    • Yep – 8 hours – and the worst part is that it’s actually a working day of my life – the test is on a Friday! Therefore I have to take a personal day just to take the exam. My company will reimburse me for the $400 registration fee if I pass the test, but they won’t give me my personal day back (boo!).

      I remember taking linear programming in college and it sucked 😦 So did the Physics course that covered waves and optics, and a bunch of other courses I never used again.

      But it’ll be worth it to study like a crazy person for the next month and a half, because if I pass the test, not only do my testing fees get reimbursed, but I get a $1000 raise at the next fiscal year (July 1). Gotta love a bit of concentrated effort for a permanent raise!

  2. Hey Jen. This is the sort of stuff that frequently goes unnoticed by the general public, but it’s good to know that there’s someone out there taking care of it. ~James

    • That’s frequently my comment when someone who doesn’t know much about engineering asks what I do. If we do our jobs correctly, you don’t even think about us – you turn on your faucet, flush your toilet, and everything works like magic. The only problem with this “invisible” approach is that people get upset when it costs money to repair pipes and pumps and treatment plants.


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