International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Art of Civil Engineering

By Lucas (Wai Keat, Lau)

We are creating the world!

A discipline with a rich history, a noble cause, of high intricacy and achieves revolutionary results, civil engineering perfectly envelopes of all these merits and still has so much more to offer to anyone bold enough to tread down this path. Trust me, I’m a future civil engineer.

As humans abandoned the nomadic lifestyle, there arose a need for humans to alter the environment to sustain ourselves and the communities we thrive in. Hence, we have expended the entirety of our existence in accumulating knowledge to shape nature according to our own will. As our knowledge base grew, we began to shape landscapes, erect structures and establish robust systems that safeguard our livelihoods and catalyse human development. Today, the legions of civil engineers throughout the world are tasked with this momentous duty. In becoming one, these engineers have armed themselves with vast arsenal of knowledge about the physical universe and are applying it to sculpt our flourishing civilisations.

From huts to skyscrapers, from dirt paths to highways, from wells to complex water systems, we as humans have utilised our ingenuity to find innovative means to challenge the limits of this volatile environment. The end results are spectacular…

Oh, the marvels that civil engineers have bestowed upon humanity!

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They have taken the heavens!
The Burj Khalifa, a testament of modern civil engineering is the landmark megastructure of Dubai. Designed and constructed to an awe-inducing height of 829 metres, this modern day colossus overlooks the city and dominates its skyline. It is one of humanity’s bold attempts to breach the frontier of the sky that was once inaccessible to us, reclaiming it for the expansion of humankind.








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They braved the depths of the sea!
Beneath the English Channel that had once divided England and Northern France, a rail tunnel was put into reality with the combined brilliance and effort of 13 000 engineers, technicians and workers. Spanning over 50 km and having a maximum depth of 75m below the sea bed, the rail tunnel connects the two nations. Through the Channel Tunnel, it is now possible for humans traverse over the sea on high speed passenger and shuttle trains.








These are only two of the seemingly countless engineering marvels around the world, and the number is increasing every day. Ideas and projects for taller buildings, efficient cities, and more robust systems to overcome harsher environments, all conceived for the greater good of human kind.

However, civil engineering has a more vital role in humanity, perhaps one that will put this discipline in a more noble light.

Dear reader, what if I were to tell you that these engineers may be the salvation of mankind?

A very bold assertion indeed. I found it to be a challenge to highlight this without sounding too cliché or vague. Therefore, if you would allow me, I would like to share the message that lead me to this realisation, a message that had also sparked a passion within me to pursue this branch of engineering…

The message that changed my view of civil engineering came about in an early morning design lecture conducted by our lecturer, Mr. Paul Hulbert. He had prepared a case study about the construction of a skate park that he was personally involved in. Being a usual late-riser, I was anticipating the struggle to stay awake while he explained about how he came about the design for a skate park and the science behind it.  However, he had surprised me as he chose to focus on another critical aspect of the project: the stakeholders. In his lecture, Mr. Hulbert highlighted the effects of the simple construction project on the youths and residents in the area. He shared of how the youths voiced their desires for a skate park and enthusiastically raised funds for it, how the skate park provided a sanctuary for youthful entertainment and how he dealt with oppositions from local residents.

The message of the lecture was this: civil engineering goes far beyond the scientific knowledge and calculations needed to erect a structure, but instead it focuses on weaving into the fabric of society infrastructure that fulfils a need and brings improvements to the lives of all its members. When extrapolated to a global context, the messages highlight the significance of civil engineers in impacting humans around the globe. These engineers strive to bring safety and security to the international community by devising physical solutions that address issues such as resource shortage, global warming, pandemics and disasters.

In shielding populations from the forces of nature, civil engineers create infrastructure that serve to minimise damage to populations or prevent it altogether: surge barriers that protect lives and properties against flooding, seismic houses that ensure the safety of all its inhabitants in the event of devastating quakes, tsunami barriers that guard coastal cities and settlements from the ruthless force of towering waves, sewerage systems that stem the outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

In promoting the welfare of populations, civil engineers set into place infrastructure that ensure access of each individual to resources needed to develop themselves and the community around them: water and electrical systems that fuel productivity, gas distribution systems that provide warmth in a cold environment, roads and bridges that overcome geographical barriers to provide accessibility, structures that house educational institutions and medical services.

Countless examples of such infrastructures can be found on the Institution of Civil Engineer’s (ICE) website, but the inspirational work of one particular engineer deserves to be highlighted in this article. Chartered civil engineer, Josh Macabuag, had initially pursued civil engineering due to his interest in Mathematics and Science, in return was gifted with something much more fruitful than a satisfying career, the satisfaction of being a life-saver and being a beacon of hope to a family in Nepal. I’ll let him tell you his experience himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D8j3l0ogUE .


It has only been a semester into my undergraduate studies, but the University has on numerous occasions revealed to me the significance of engineering in the past and in contemporary times. With the years ahead that my talent will be nurtured by the University, I will be absorbing every last drop of valuable knowledge that this historical institution has to offer. I will do this in the prospects that one day, I will be able to apply my craft and propel humankind further into the frontiers of the environment, overcoming any physical obstacles that limits us. I will do this … because I’m a civil engineer. 

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