ENGINEERING SOFTWARE PACKAGES
Perhaps you are wondering why we are about to undertake a painstaking study of the fundamentals of some engineering sciences. After all, almost all such problems we are likely to encounter in practice can be solved using one of several sophisticated software packages readily available in the market today. These software packages not only give the desired numerical results, but also supply the outputs in colorful graphical form for impressive presentations. It is unthinkable to practice engineering today without using some of these pack- ages. This tremendous computing power available to us at the touch of a but- ton is both a blessing and a curse. It certainly enables engineers to solve problems easily and quickly, but it also opens the door for abuses and misinformation. In the hands of poorly educated people, these software packages are as dangerous as sophisticated powerful weapons in the hands of poorly trained soldiers.
Thinking that a person who can use the engineering software packages without proper training on fundamentals can practice engineering is like thinking that a person who can use a wrench can work as a car mechanic. If it were true that the engineering students do not need all these fundamental courses they are taking because practically everything can be done by com- puters quickly and easily, then it would also be true that the employers would no longer need high-salaried engineers since any person who knows how to use a word-processing program can also learn how to use those software pack- ages. However, the statistics show that the need for engineers is on the rise, not on the decline, despite the availability of these powerful packages.
We should always remember that all the computing power and the engineering software packages available today are just tools, and tools have meaning only in the hands of masters. Having the best word-processing program does not make a person a good writer, but it certainly makes the job of a good writer much easier and makes the writer more productive (Fig. 1–20). Hand calculators did not eliminate the need to teach our children how to add or sub- tract, and the sophisticated medical software packages did not take the place of medical school training. Neither will engineering software packages re- place the traditional engineering education. They will simply cause a shift in emphasis in the courses from mathematics to physics. That is, more time will be spent in the classroom discussing the physical aspects of the problems in greater detail, and less time on the mechanics of solution procedures.
All these marvelous and powerful tools available today put an extra burden on today’s engineers. They must still have a thorough understanding of the fundamentals, develop a “feel” of the physical phenomena, be able to put the data into proper perspective, and make sound engineering judgments, just like their predecessors. However, they must do it much better, and much faster, using more realistic models because of the powerful tools available today. The
engineers in the past had to rely on hand calculations, slide rules, and later hand calculators and computers. Today they rely on software packages. The easy access to such power and the possibility of a simple misunderstanding or misinterpretation causing great damage make it more important today than ever to have solid training in the fundamentals of engineering. In this text we make an extra effort to put the emphasis on developing an intuitive and physical understanding of natural phenomena instead of on the mathematical details of solution procedures.
Engineering Equation Solver (EES)
EES is a program that solves systems of linear or nonlinear algebraic or differential equations numerically. It has a large library of built-in thermodynamic property functions as well as mathematical functions, and allows the user to supply additional property data. Unlike some software packages, EES does not solve engineering problems; it only solves the equations supplied by the user. Therefore, the user must understand the problem and formulate it by applying any relevant physical laws and relations. EES saves the user considerable time and effort by simply solving the resulting mathematical equations. This makes it possible to attempt significant engineering problems not suit- able for hand calculations, and to conduct parametric studies quickly and conveniently. EES is a very powerful yet intuitive program that is very easy to use, as shown in the example below. The use and capabilities of EES are explained in Appendix 3.
Throughout the text, problems that are unsuitable for hand calculations and are intended to be solved using EES are indicated by a computer icon. The problems that are marked by the EES icon are solved with EES, and the solutions are included in the accompanying CD.