Sunday, October 31, 2010

USS Kidd

5" Gun
The day before the P.E. exam, I wanted to relax and not do any more studying. I drove to Baton Rouge, scouted out the exam site, and then entertained myself for the afternoon. I went to the Old State Capitol Museum, saw the gun that killed (?) Huey, and checked out the USS Kidd.

The Kidd is a Fletcher-class destroyer from WWII. It survived battles, a Kamikaze, post-war mass-scrappings of ships, age, and has been lovingly restored to it's WWII configuration. It has a unique anchorage that's a big part of why it's in such good condition. Half the year, the vessel floats, but it also rests during low tide on a set of blocks.
Support blocks
The ship dry-docks itself each year, which reduces corrosion and allows for easy maintenance of the hull. There are lots of museum ships that may soon end their lives because of corrosion (see the Olympia and the Texas).

The ship itself is an engineering marvel, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to go the day before the exam. It was built in 1942, but the ship is practically all powerplant (45-Megawatt) underneath the waterline, HUGE propellers has a top speed of 39 knots*. That's a ship that will really move! Part of the key is the "destroyer hullform":
Destroyer Hullform
A very narrow, tapered bow that slices through the water. It's not necessarily a great hull for heavy seas (see Typhoon Cobra), but when you want to go fast with reasonable fuel efficiency, accept no substitutes. It's a marvel of naval architecture.

I chatted with a USS Kidd veteran who was on duty at the museum for a while. I mentioned I had stayed on the Kidd when I was in scouts and I was an engineer and was taking the exam tomorrow and he said, "Oh, if you're an engineer, you'll want to see the engine room." JOY! He grabbed the key, and let me go down the ladder to the turbine room (the boiler rooms apparently are still sort of a wreck).
USS Kidd

As I left, I did have one sort of sad thought: there's a casino boat right next to the Kidd. How many more visitors does that ship get than the Kidd?

Full Flickr set here.

USS Kidd
* 39 knots = 44.8 mph. There is some ambiguity about the exact top speed. The tour guide said 39 knots, the USS Kidd veteran said 39 knots, the USS Kidd website says 37 knots, Wikipedia lists 35-knots for the Fletcher class.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

P. E. Exam Day

BR River Center
Originally uploaded by Noladishu
Well, yesterday I took the exam. I stayed in a hotel the night before nearby and man, Baton Rouge sure does suck.

I made sure to load up on coffee. I arrived early (they threaten you with not letting you in if you show up late) and the other test takers, being engineers, also showed up early. It was a pretty interesting sight there, all the engineers with their suitcases full of books. Wish I had taken a photo.

One nice thing: the proctors were extremely efficient and courteous. They kept the exam on time (unlike when I took the F.E.) and you didn't notice them during the exam, as it should be.

The exam was flat out hard. There's no other way of putting it. The test makers are extremely paranoid about content being posted, so I'll skip through that. I'll say that there were a few of my strengths that were completely absent from my question bank.

The morning section I was almost finished after 2 1/2 hours. There were a few questions I struggled with the rest of the time.

The afternoon section was far harder than the morning (although it matched up with my areas of expertise more). Each question took much longer. I used all the time allotted to me.

Especially in the afternoon, you've got to move quickly. There's no time to look through solved problems (I tried in the morning and it didn't help). The references that are the best are those that provide shortcuts or are tabulated data. A book full of tabulated data (like Keenan and Keyes or Crane 410) beats out the equations. I now know how all the old farts were able to launch a rocket to the moon with slide rules and all. It was those books of tabulated data. They are awesome and go a long way towards cutting down on calculation errors.

Out of the entire suitcase of books, here's what I actually touched during the exam:
The MERM (all hail the MERM). I also xeroxed the index (3-hole punched and bound, so it met the rules). That saved a lot of time.

Keenan and Keyes Steam Tables

Mark's Standard Handbook. I was able to pull a problem from one of the weirder tables inside.

Keenan's Gas Tables. A book I really, really wished I had studied with more.

Engineering Unit Conversions. A must. Big time saver.

Cameron Hydraulic Data. All the info in Cameron is in the MERM, but Cameron is so much handier. I think I also may have used Crane 410.

Shigley's Machine Design. I think I used it once.

Pocket Ref. Flipped through it for a value on something, I think.

All other texts in my giant suitcase were useless. For all of the code questions (CFR/ASME/etc.), they gave you the section of the code and you had to interpret it.

The best thing I did, honestly, was my own 3-ring binder full of material. I had several psychrometric charts, tons of Wikipedia data on the molecular weight of common gases, etc. I was flipping through that almost as much as the MERM.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

P.E. Exam Tomorrow

Open Book Test
Originally uploaded by Noladishu
I'm in Baton Rouge. Tomorrow, it's me and the MERM (with a few other resources) vs. the P.E. Exam.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Originally uploaded by Noladishu
Took a break from studying to go see "Race", When I first got there, the filmmaker introduced herself with a British accent and then the movie started with lots of Doug Brinkley interviews and I thought, 'oh crap, time to head for the exit'. I stuck around and it thankfully got much better than that.

The later parts of the film featured much less of Brinkley and much more of Jim Carvin, the political consultant who has never lost a mayor's race. He's a fascinating character who can at a instantly dissect both candidates strategies and their chances of victory. Among his main features of advice: run for politics like you're playing golf (stick to the plan, don't get flustered and don't pay attention to what the other guy does).

There was also lots of Nagin. My favorite part was when Nagin interrupts an interview, says, 'hey man, let me tell you about Sun Tzu', reaches into the top drawer of his desk and gingerly pulls out this copy of "The Art of War" that's covered in dog ears and book marks and underlines. The book is falling apart and it looks like he reads the book every single day.

The movie is only 60 minutes long, so there's plenty that's left out, but nothing that really throws the story off too much. If I could give one piece of advice: cut Brinkley's scenes and add much more Carvin.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

P.E. Exam - Still Studying

8 days left until the trek to Baton Rouge for the exam... Still buried in engineering books...