David Farmer BS Civil Engineering Staff Engineer |
As a Civil Engineer a large part of my job consists of calculating and analyzing various situations. Some of these include (1) the cost to build a residential subdivision or housing project, (2) the amount of dirt required to be excavated, and (3) the amount of storm water runoff (rain) a project can hold before flooding occurs. The analyses I regularly perform range from sizing pipes for water distribution and sewer collection to determining the required horsepower to pump storm water out of farm fields before the crops die. The best part of having a mathematics background is that I am able to make a difference in other people's lives on a daily basis. Without my math foundation, I would not be competent to design roads, drainage systems, flood relief projects or water and sewer systems. My first calculus teacher emphasized during each class, and I quote, "you need to know this stuff'. I did not realize the huge part calculus plays in everyday life. Calculus may not help you with wrapping your Christmas presents. But, if you wanted to know what shape to make the package to minimize surface area and the raw materials to make the package (and thus save money if you were manufacturing the package) then calculus is the tool you need. I want to be honest with you, math is a tough subject. Mathematics can be as boring or interesting as you want to make it. I have recently financed a new car. Using my math skills, I performed a cost analysis to compare several lending institutions to determine which was offering the most cost effective deal. I used a computer spreadsheet program (EXCEL) to compare the down payments, interest rates and length of the loan. What I determined was that I could save a lot of money by getting a 3-year loan instead of a 4-year loan. When I did some research I discovered banks drop their interest rates when a customer wants to pay off the loan before the maturity date. My math skills helped me make an informed decision without relying on a "slick" salesman to interpret the numbers. To wrap this up, my mathematics tools help me make life better for my community, they help me make wise choices as a consumer and they give me a valuable skill that ALL employers want. The last point I would like to drive home is that everyone capable of reading this article can do what I am talking about! I cannot tell you how many times I thought, "oh, I am too dumb to understand this", and thought about quitting my career in math. What I have learned in my 30 years on this earth is that anything worth having takes a mountains' worth of effort. Follow me and we will move mountains!! |