SEAOI Structural Engineers Refresher Course
History and Philosophy

The Structural Engineers Refresher Course has been continuously presented since the mid 1960’s. The course was begun by Dr. Robert Gerstner, a professor at the University of Illinois and past president of the SEAOI. Dr. Gerstner and subsequent presenters of this course have donated most of their time in creating and updating this course. They have continued this endeavor to advance the profession.

The course was brought to the SEAOI in 1990 and has been presented under the auspices of the SEAOI since then. The original purpose of the course was to assist engineers in preparing for the Structural Engineers Exam (SE Exam). That purpose continues through to this day.

Preparation for the SE Exam has typically taken two forms. For some engineers, preparation has consisted of their work experience and a self directed review of material that was outside of their day to day practice. For others, the preparation has consisted of their work experience and attending the Structural Engineers Refresher Course. The self motivated exam preparation is effective if the examinee is able to maintain a strict regimen of material review and is able to anticipate the wide breadth of subject matter. The reality for most Examinees is that the work and personal demands on their time makes it very difficult to maintain a meaningful review of the necessary material. Also, if the Examinee/Attendee does not do design work in certain areas of structural engineering, a simple review may not be adequate; the material must be learned as new information.

The Structural Engineers Refresher Course, then, provides a structured method for the review of material that would reasonably be expected to be on the SE Exam. The course provides a review of a wide range of areas of structural engineering analysis, design and loading requirements. The course does not, however, provide the answers to the SE Exam. The organization that prepares and administers the exam (the NCEES) makes every effort to keep the specific content of the exam secret and the presenters of this course do not have access to that content.

From its inception, the course included class discussion, but the discussion was and is based on problems given to the attendees. It has been understood that the best way to review or learn material is to go through the process of reading, understanding and solving problems. Optimally, solving a problem prior to class discussion forces the Attendee to go through the mental process of understanding what is being asked. After that is understood, the process of solving a problem forces the attendee to address the method of analysis, building code requirements, and structural standard requirements. Manually going through this process assists the attendee in remembering where building code and structural standard requirements are located and, more fundamentally, how these documents are organized. As time permits, the problems provided by the presenters, are reviewed in class to assist those having difficulty in solving the problems. Simply listening to the presenters in the classes will not replace the mental process of solving the problems.

As practicing structural engineers with considerable experience in the field, the presenters of the course try to relay their experiences to the attendees in addition to providing a compressive presentation of structural engineering principles and requirements. In an effort to present as comprehensive a review as possible, the scope of the course has been increased over the years with the understanding that the course must still occur over a limited time. Because of the sheer quantity of material that must be addressed, the atendees should expect that the content of the course will be covered in a rapid manner. The fast pace of the course should be helpful in that it will acclimate the attendees to the time constraints inherent in the SE Exam. But unlike the exam, questions are always welcome and are encouraged.