Godwin I. Ubanyionwu, P.E.
BS Civil Engineering
University of Texas at El Paso
MS Civil Engineering
University of Texas at El Paso
Texas Department of Transportation
El Paso Community College
The interest I have in mathematics was instrumental in my choice to study engineering in college. I am a licensed Professional Engineer, and I have practiced engineering in the areas of Civil, Geotechnical and Transportation engineering. I started teaching mathematics at the El Paso Community College as an adjunct Faculty member from spring of 1986 to present. As I joggle these two interesting and rewarding careers, I was able to bring to the classroom the discussion about the relationship between mathematics and engineering and how mathematical concepts can be applied to engineering.
I currently practice Transportation engineering with the Texas Department of Transportation where I oversee a myriad of roadway schematic projects. I develop roadway schematic design for various functional roadway classifications such as Freeway design, Major and Minor arterial roadways. The schematic design essentially delineates design speed, right-of-way needs, traffic volumes, location of retaining wall, location of interchanges, main lanes, grade separation, ramps, bridges and bridge class culverts, storm water drainage, and roadway geometrics such as pavement cross slope, slope ratio for fills and cuts.
As it is the case in all engineering projects, estimation of construction cost is a major factor that must be considered. In roadway projects, quantities of roadway elements are calculated and applied to either state wide bids or local bids unit prices to figure out the construction costs. The quantities in most cases are calculated utilizing the basic mathematical concepts of finding areas of geometric or composite figures or volume of geometric or composite solids. The knowledge of Calculus with respect to integration can be useful in estimating volumes of embankment needed for roadway project. Hence, in the Excel spreadsheet, an engineer can quantify the required concrete riprap in square yard, roadway excavation in cubic yard, cement in tons, concrete pavement in square yard, retaining wall (mechanical stabilized earth) in square feet, concrete sidewalk in square yard and so on.
Over the years of my teaching profession, I have watched with keen interest how often students have consistently asked me where this math stuff will lead them in real world situation. The examples of what I do as an engineer tends to some degree address some of their concerns. For instance, if an engineer is interested in calculating the discharge through a trapezoidal conveyance system, the area and velocity need to be calculated, and the knowledge with regard to finding the area of the trapezoid will be useful in this case. I am currently overseeing US 54 roadway widening project in El Paso, Texas from Hondo Pass to Transmountain road that will require the relocation of existing entrance and exit ramps as a result of proposed construction of direct connectors between US 54 and Transmountain road. Some of the challenges include access management and proper placement of ramps to provide access to Transmountain campus of the El Paso Community College and the base ball stadium. On the other hand, I am also involved in the roadway project to provide access point to Mission del Paso campus of the El Paso Community College through the proposed Old Hueco Tanks road. I proposed a wide turning radius for this access point because this campus utilizes semi-trailer as one of its driving school training vehicles.
In any event, the applicability of mathematical concepts in our everyday endeavor is alive and well. It is incumbent on all mathematics instructors to strive and bridge the gap between conceptual theory and practical applications. Students should be encouraged to take up summer internships in their respective field of study to experience first-hand the role to which mathematics could play in their chosen careers. Mathematics is the key to all engineering disciplines and is sine-qua- non to most careers especially those in the areas of science and technology.