Engineering Intuition: Understanding Complex Problems And Generating Accurate Solutions – OpEd


“Engineering intuition” refers to an engineer’s ability to quickly comprehend and solve complex engineering problems using their experience and knowledge, akin to how an experienced medical specialist can accurately diagnose a patient within the first five minutes of examination.

During the process of engineering education, practical experiences derived from real-world applications complement theoretical knowledge and contribute to the development of engineering intuition. Complex engineering projects often abound with uncertainties, and traditional calculation methods may not always apply. In this context, engineering intuition encompasses the ability to understand complex systems, anticipate potential risks, and devise accurate solutions.

This skill, known as “intuition” among experienced engineers, evolves over time and is crucial for success in engineering applications. However, it is a fact that young engineers may not always be certain about the accuracy of their calculations, leading them to question their reliability.

A professor claiming that catastrophic failures can occur due to shifting commas still seems to believe they are back in middle school learning about fractions and decimals! For centuries, it has been recognized that arithmetic errors could occur, especially in the absence of modern calculators, and verification was necessary for all arithmetic operations. Due to the limited time allotted in exams, verification may not always be feasible. Moreover, a comma shift can alter the result by at least 10 times! For example, instead of 20 bolts, it could become 200 bolts; instead of a 2.5mm² wire section, it could become 250mm²; an HEA400 profile could turn into an NPU100 profile. I have yet to encounter a technical professional who wouldn’t say “something is wrong somewhere” after seeing such results; a bit of integrity would suffice.

Today, as alternative solutions are sought for energy problems and challenges such as charging and battery issues with electric vehicles, options like hydrogen energy are also being considered. However, there remains a debate about how much of the decisions made in these areas are based on accurate information versus speculation.

Especially in regions prone to earthquakes, the design and material selection of structures are of utmost importance. While reinforced concrete structures are generally preferred, it is known that steel construction cage structures are safer. Despite arguments advocating for steel cage structures in earthquake-prone areas in our country, universities only teach the technique of building reinforced concrete buildings.

Furthermore, the question of who will interpret and examine the accuracy of investment decisions made by politicians based on uninformed political considerations is an important one. These decisions should not be made solely to achieve political objectives; rather, expert opinions should also be taken into account.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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