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Legislative earmarks, the topic of
much recent national debate, are congressional
provisions directing approved
funds to be spent on specific
projects. Perhaps one of the most well known
earmarks is the Gravina Island
Bridge, dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere”
by Ketchikan resident Charlie Arteaga.

Criticized by both the right and the
left , this proposed bridge became the
butt of late-night jokes and comedy
routines as the white elephant of needless,
wasteful spending.

Unlike Gravina Island, the Public
Works Island in Second Life (SL) hosts
an entirely different kind of bridge.
Created for mere Linden dollars, Avatar
TEEX Clary’s virtual bridge symbolizes
a bridge that is going somewhere —
perhaps the future of civil engineering
—using 3D tools in SL for visualization.

The Public Works Island is the brainchild
of avatar Pam Renior. In real life,
Pam Renoir’s alter ego Pam Broviak is a
registered, professional engineer in Illinois.
According to Pam, Public Works Island
“…has been developed to introduce
general citizens to public works and show
them what we do—educate them—then
it is also a place for those of us in related
fi elds to build community.”

She also sees the island as an on-thejob
resource for members of the American
Public Works Association and others,
“… to train here and develop things
we can use in real life on our jobs.”

TEEX is short for Texas Engineering
Extension Service
SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT
a real-life organization that off ers a
wide range of technical skills and training
programs aimed at employed workers
and those entering the labor force. In
SL, TEEX Clary, like his namesake, off ers
“training, technical assistance and emergency
response in Fire Services, Homeland
Security, Public Works, Public Safety
and Security, Professional Regulator
Training, and Economic Development.”

According to the TEEX website, in
2007, the real-life TEEX provided training
and technical assistance to more
than 204,000 people from all 50 states,
fi ve U.S. territories, the District of Columbia
and 54 countries in over 8,300
deliveries across the nation and world.

Civil engineers typically apply the
principles of structural engineering,
environmental engineering, transportation
engineering and construction
engineering to public works projects
of all sizes and levels of construction.
Pam sees “public works” in the virtual
world as more than civil engineering.
Her vision covers education and tools
for “building and code enforcement,
planning, architecture, construction,
and municipal government.”

One of the innovative tools she is
developing is model house, “… a home that is fairly close to ‘scale’ — it will be a
code house — a 3D representation of the
building code.” This will be a working
house representing the 2003 International
Building Code that you, as your avatar,
can walk inside. Pam continues, ” I am
going to script it and put links and note cards
and displays to show the code so
people don’t have to read it in a book.”

Pam takes me to another building.
Hearing the low drone of an engine, I
see a message fl ash across the bott om
of my viewer, “Dumpster-1.4 whispers:
Surfdaddy Orca looks at the dumpster
and suddenly feels an insane desire to
harvest it!”

Pam laughs as I quickly move out
of the way, “In this garage I am temporarily
storing something I made for
my real-life job to show citizens with
fl ooded basements how to replumb
their home.” She talks about a complete
3D library of plumbing solutions accessible
to engineers visiting Second Life.

“What takes it further than conventional
3D drafting tools is the level of
interaction. Once you build something,
you can pick it up or walk through it;
it’s immersive, like the object is really
there. You can’t do that with CAD [Computer-
Aided Design],” says Pam in a recent
Design News article.

On my tour of the island, Pam shows
me her latest SL creation, a manhole design
kit, “It is all to scale to help size
manholes for a project.” I ask if can be
used to scale real-life projects. Pam replies,
“Definitely—we all do it usually
on paper or try to use CAD but this was
so much faster, better, and more lifelike.
Now that I have the kit ready, it is
really fast.”

Pam also contributes to an in-world
Second Life magazine called The SLEngineer,
published by MarcusSRB Raymaker
and Civil Writer and helps
coordinate the SL Civil Engineering
Group. This is one of four groups that
Pam says provide “a medium in which
civil engineers from all over the world
can meet, communicate, and share resources
and ideas.”

Real-life engineers learn drafting using
a standard Leroy lettering set consisting
of a set of templates, a scriber,
and a set of pens. “Perhaps I am just too
sentimental but I had to bring my old
Leroy Lettering set into Second Life —
my SL drafting table doesn’t look right
without one. I have attached the
set as a gift for group members,”
writes Pam in a recent
group notice.

Pam is not the only one to
see the potential of 3D immersive
technology for engineering
applications. The January
edition of The SLEngineer
describes some other major players
“setting up shop” in Second
Life. These include no
less than SolidWorks and
Autodesk. Autodesk,
the author of the industry-
standard
AutoCAD familiar
to several
generations of
college students
and professional
engineers, opened
an island in Second
Life early in 2007.

And TEEX’s bridge?
“I have been fascinated
with how this new soft –
ware tool [SL] can be used
to make my job easier, and
maybe a little more fun and
cool,” says Pam. TEEX’s selfguided
3D bridge tour is a
great use of SL as an educational
resource. Each informational
“podium” on
the tour provides a different
vantage point. Click a numbered
podium, and you get
a note card describing some
aspect of bridge maintenance.
Number 5, for example,
talks about drainage:

“Thank you for your
interest in the Texas
Engineering Extension
Service (TEEX) Bridge
Maintenance Tour! You
have reached the fifth of
six podiums.”

What’s the Problem?

Bridges are usually designed with
specific ways for water to fl ow and
drain from them.

As you walked the length of the
bridge, you may have noticed a number
of drain openings along the edge.
These drains are installed to provide
the best direction for rainfall runoff to
drain from the bridge without causing
issues or damage. But debris can accumulate
in these areas, blocking the fl ow
of drainage. As you can see, water oft en
ponds, creating a driving hazard, and
eventually drains elsewhere — and that
creates additional issues. Whether the
fl ow is redirected to another drain (possibly
overloading that drain), or drains
to another unintended location, it potentially
will cause a maintenance issue.

What’s the Maintenance?

Simple: Keep the debris removed.
This should be a routine maintenance
task. And the cost is
usually much less than the
eventual repair that might
be required if damage occurred.

Where do I go next?

Walk to the end of the
bridge and take a right.
The next podium should be
just around that corner.
You’re almost done!

TEEX’s bridge
is a metaphor
for what could
be a killer
app for virtual
worlds
—bridging
the gap between
real world
problems
and the instantaneous
modeling
and scaling of solutions
in 3D immersive
space. Whether
plumbing, building
codes, bridges, manhole
covers, or even
sewers (yes, there is a
virtual sewer on Public
Works Island), the
potential to visualize
solutions will likely
attract a new generation
of engineers
raised on AutoCAD
and Google Sketch-
Up to Second Life to
try out the “fun and
cool” tools.

For more information,
visit Public
Works Island or
the Public Works
website www.
p u b l i c wo r k s –
group.com

Contact Information

Kathy Fraser

Director of Marketing and Communications

The course turned out to be even better than we envisioned. To be able to come together to gain more knowledge of incident command/unified command structure allowed for some real hands-on type training.

— Cathy Haynes, Charleston County, South Carolina
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