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Is Minecraft leading kids to see engineering as a job?

In fact, they may just be learning the fundamental skills that puts them on the path to a career in engineering.

Minecraft is one of the most popular computer games on the planet with over 40 million users worldwide. The game sees users create virtual worlds, building structures, literally, brick by brick.

Children learn while playing Minecraft as it rewards getting information, combining resources and solving design problems.

The game has also found its way into classrooms across Australia, and could be developing the next generation of engineers, without them knowing it, according to Director of Yenem Engineering Services, Dave Meney.

“Minecraft can build various structures and they all just click together. Simplistically, so too do our new ways of working with structural models and building information modelling (BIM),” Meney said.

“Using new technology in our field, you basically layout all the infrastructure, grabbing all the objects from a database – like Minecraft,” he said.

“Parents of children and children using Minecraft would probably not even know this is what they do in the engineering field.”

Digital skills are becoming increasingly important for engineers like Meney, as new technology, programs and software change their way of working.

Gone are the days of using hand calculators, and drawing on film with ink, as was the procedure when Meney began in the profession.

“I don’t even remember all the theory I learnt in university, I don’t need it. I just need to know how to think like an engineer,” Meney said.

“When I started employment in 1988, I wasn’t even allowed to use a computer.

“These days you just have to know how to use the tools. Technology is doing a lot for us.”

“Innovation is breaking new ground in the engineering, mining and construction sectors and Meney’s West Australian engineering firm is leading the way with this new technology.

They plan to help clients improve safety, efficiency and potentially save them millions of dollars.

Just like Minecraft, Yenem plan to use more elaborate software to create a digital twin of any given structure. This can then be continually updated and changed in real time, based on what that structure is experiencing.

This approach could transform the industry, increasing safety and preventing collapses.

“A structure is corroding, it’s losing strength, it’s having modifications done to it and back in the cloud there’s a digital twin that keeps an eye on the structural safety,” Meney explains.

“Often structures collapse because their deterioration goes unnoticed. If structures had a digital twin, and even IoT sensors that reported stress states, we could minimise failure. We could stay on top of changes due to deterioration and modification just by playing with the computer model and see what could go wrong.”

New technology is set to open new possibilities in what can be achieved. The industry has progressed from 2D drawings to 3D modelling, virtual assemblies and high-speed computing simulations.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has moved from internet-enabled fridges to bridges and infrastructure, in which sensors monitor structural integrity, loading patterns etc and this information is transferred wirelessly to the digital model.

The Australian and Asia Pacific region is set to lead the world in this innovative technology, with automation in the mining sector alone to be worth $3.29 billion by 2023.

For Yenem, this new way of working is not only tied to its structural audits of existing structures, but also those in the construction phase.

“We can take old structures, we can 3D scan them, we can turn them into digital twins and we can look after them between now and the end of their life.

“But also with new structures we can model them in that environment. They can be constructed, and we can monitor the entire process across its life cycle.”

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