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Engineering is grounded in reality. If you break the laws then bad things happen. August 29 2017 was the 110th anniversary of when an RPI grad's negligence killed about 75 people.

They were workers on the record-breaking cantilever bridge across the St Lawrence River at Quebec City. Theodore Cooper, an RPI grad and leading American civil engineer, was the chief architect. However, he was 70 years old and was managing the project from New York City.

Therefore when the free ends of the two halves of the incomplete bridge started drooping because of under-design caused by cost cutting, he didn't realize its seriousness. Then, in August 1907, the bridge collapsed. Refs: 1, 2.

Nevertheless, most of our grads are excellent, see Famous Alumni. Roebling's Brooklyn Bridge is still standing. None of Roebling's bridges ever fell down. That was exceptional for the time.

I had to go back 110 years to find the bad example.

Even today, bridges fall down.

In the past 40 years, within 30 miles of this classroom, two major bridges and at least one small bridge have totally collapsed, one overpass failed, and one bridge is now being rebuilt because the steel is cracking.

  1. Green Island Bridge on 3/15/77
  2. I-90 Schoharie Creek Bridge on 4/5/87
  3. Mill Point Bridge over Schoharie Creek on 4/11/87
  4. A Dunn Memorial Bridge access ramp to the Empire State Plaza on 7/27/05
  5. Patroon Island Bridge over the Hudson

In the USA in the last few decades I can think of four interstate highway bridges that have collapsed because of design or maintenance problems.

  1. I-90 over Schoharie Creek in 1987, killing 10.
  2. I-35W in Minneapolis in 2007, killing 13.
  3. I-95 in Connecticut in 1983, killing 3.
  4. I-10 in southern CA in 2015, scour, killing no one.

I'm ignoring these collapses not due to design or maintenance:

  1. I-5 in Washington hit by a truck,
  2. I-40 hit by a barge.
  3. I-285 burnt by a fuel tanker.
  4. I-95 again burnt by a fuel tanker.
  5. I-10 destroyed by a hurricane.
  6. I-85N destroyed by a fire.

And people complain about software problems.