Burt joined Madsen Giersing as a graduate engineer in January 2021, following the completion of his studies at the University of Queensland, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in 2020.
Originally from South Africa, Burt migrated to Brisbane with his family when he was ten and has called the city home ever since. With a natural aptitude for maths and science, Burt is one of life’s problem-solvers, which led to his career in marine structural design with Madsen Giersing.
We caught up with Burt to find out a little bit more about him, his passion for engineering, love of potatoes and the potential for floating cities.
Why did you become an engineer?
I have always been intrigued by how the things around me work. Why do air conditioners emit hot air outside? How does concrete “dry” underwater? (Hint, it doesn’t dry). Why do traffic lights seem to change just in time (Or sometimes annoyingly not)? Being an engineer is all about understanding how the world works and how you can use it to your advantage.
What do you love about engineering?
No two days are the same; there’s always a new puzzle to solve. I enjoy being challenged, but also knowing that what I’m doing might have a lasting impact for decades to come is very rewarding.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently designing berthing structures for a new 60m ferry cat to be used in South Australia. It has been interesting evaluating how current infrastructure can be repurposed to make up part of the design.
What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?
Madsen Giersing has very high standards when it comes to quality of work, systems and processes and adapting to meet the high standards has been a challenge, but one that I have risen to. We are proud of the quality of work that we do, and it is great that we all work together to ensure we retain our reputation for quality.
What’s the best project you have worked on?
There are so many to choose from. One of the best things about working at Madsen Giersing is that we have a variety of projects across a number of sectors in locations across Australia and South-East Asia.
My favourite to date has been the Woodlark Island Gold Project.
In my opinion, the most fun a structural engineer can have is setting up FEA models and seeing the rainbow of colours come out at the end. A memorable project stands out, where MG was engaged as the structural design engineers for a gold export wharf. The soil conditions were extremely challenging to work with, which led to quite an impressive design solution that utilised precast concrete elements used in combination with in-situ poured concrete. The construction sequence alone took me a couple of hours to fully grasp.
Another issue was the design of an unloading roll-on roll-off-ramp, which had to be designed for extremely heavy mining equipment. The ramp had to be close to the water surface so that vehicles could drive onto it from a barge. Coming up with a design that could deal with the poor soil conditions, be as cost-effective as possible and meet the requirements of having a low approach point was truly challenging.
What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?
Well, my career is still in its infant stages, but I would have to say a resilient mindset is important for continued personal and professional development.
What would your last meal be?
This is a tough one, but I am a sucker for potatoes. They’re so versatile; potato chips, hot chips, roasted potato, mashed potato, baked potato, potato salad. Potatoes also seem to fill scrawny people quite well, which is a plus.
What is the last movie you watched or series you binged?
I have recently finished the third season of the Netflix original “You”. There’s something very gripping about viewing the world from a psychopath’s perspective.
Who’s the greatest engineer of all time and why?
I remember giving a speech in grade 4 about Henry Ford, who I’m sure requires no introduction. He not only designed the first automobile but implemented the assembly line technique of mass production. One of the things he said which has stuck with me is that “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.” This is the type of humour I hear used around the office.
What excites you about the future of our industry?
I remember a uni professor fascinating us with stories of where countries like Singapore are heading. With an ever-growing population and very limited space, they are looking at expanding their cities onto the water. Floating cities not only sound cool but also gets the engineer in me excited for what’s to come with our changing climate.
What would be your dream project to work on from history?
The Millau Viaduct in Southern France, hands down. Not only is it the tallest bridge in the world (336.4m), but there is a certain elegance of a cable-stayed bridge that no other structure can match.
What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?
Develop a passion for learning new things. I know it sounds like a cliché, but great engineers never stop adapting, learning, and refining their technical ability. A career in engineering is a career spent constantly learning new things.