Aidan joined Madsen Giersing in 2016 as a structural design engineer. Since joining Madsen Giersing, Aidan has been involved in the design of permanent and temporary works including pontoons, bridges, temporary berthing structures, temporary jetties, access platforms and other various marine structures.
We caught up with Aidan to find a little more about what he enjoys most about engineering.
Why did you become an engineer?
When I was eight years old, my family decided to sail around the world. As you can imagine, it was the trip of a lifetime and there were sights to see in every port; however, it was marine structures that I became fascinated with.
I can remember sailing into Singapore harbour and being amazed by the scale of the yacht club and the boats moored there. But the real highlight of the trip was the Panama Canal. At that age, I was in awe of the size of the project, the genius of the idea to join two oceans across the narrowest point of a continent and how miserable and dangerous the concept of rounding Cape Horn was.
Instead, we sailed through a human-made channel, perhaps the most fantastic part of which was the monkeys. They learned that boats scared away the alligators and crocodiles and took full advantage of a passing ship to swim across from one side of the channel to the other before the predators returned.
What do you love about engineering?
I enjoy the variety of projects I work on, but most of all I like heading out to site and seeing a project come to life. There is a real tangibility and sense of achievement when you see a structure that you have designed take shape and become real.
I like to think that as engineers, we leave a positive mark on society through our work.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on an industrial subdivision in Redbank Plains designing the stormwater infrastructure and drainage. It’s a very challenging area and project as it is subject to flooding and a key factor in our design will be the need to ensure water doesn’t pool and cause issues with settlement and earth movement.
What has been your greatest professional achievement to date?
It’s early days still. Watch this space.
What’s the best project you have worked on?
I’m currently working on a rail heritage project where we are attempting to reinforce 150+ years old cast iron piers that hold up railway bridges on the mainline along the state’s east coast. It is a challenging project because the piers are heritage listed; therefore any engineering solution cannot fundamentally alter the look of the structures.
We are hard at work identifying weak points in the piers, such as bolted joints and testing their capacity and the strengthening solutions that we have developed. Testing is done at the University of Queensland using old bridges that were decommissioned, allowing us to test existing capability and capacity when we have added potential solutions.
Our solution involves a reinforced concrete and FRP wrap around the cast iron concrete-filled piers, which doesn’t destroy the look of the piers and complies with the heritage guidelines. Essentially we have engineered a strong, yet thin second skin for the outer of the pier.
There is also something rewarding about helping to preserve Queensland’s engineering heritage and ensuring its longevity.
What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned throughout your career?
The value you get from being on-site. You cannot be an engineer and never leave the office.
Seeing a project in context and experiencing the location and users at first hand is invaluable to the design process and gives you so much more information and knowledge than even the best briefing.
What would your last meal be?
Italian or Japanese – too hard to decide….but maybe a good lasagne.
What is the last movie you watched or series you binged?
I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV or movies, but I like a good mob film – The Godfather, The Departed and Goodfellas would be three of my favourites.
Who’s the greatest engineer of all time and why?
I remember learning about Squire Whipple and the amazingly named Triple Whipple Truss at uni and it has always stuck with me; has any other engineer managed to create such an amazingly named structure?
The Laughery Creek Bridge in America was the only bridge built with this design. It’d be great to see the bridge, or maybe even work on it, one day.
What excites you about the future of our industry?
Artificial Intelligence, it can speed up design and trial concepts, potentially opening up whole new methods of design. For example, we could use AI to complement Finite Element Analysis and create unique shapes that are highly efficient and can be tested virtually across thousands of variants.
We use rectangles, squares, arches and circles because they are easy to make and design, AI could open up a whole new world of shapes that could transform design.
What would be your dream project to work on from history?
The Panama Canal is the obvious choice, not sure I would have liked site visits with the safety and yellow fever, but it would have been amazing to connect the Atlantic and Pacific, creating humanity’s greatest shortcut.
What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring engineer?
Learn to code. I am currently learning to code in R because you can take everything a lot further when you can code. From automation to a deeper level of design, you can make the process more detailed and faster when you can code your own systems and processes to suit your needs.