Engineering Licensure: Foundation of Success


In a discussion with Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) Principal Kerry Cooley Bruggemann, Professional Engineer, goes behind the scenes at the Minneapolis airport to discuss the role engineers play in designing electrical, fire protection, and HVAC systems that safeguard the public — and how professional licensing ensures high engineering standards.

Transcript of Video:

My name is Kerry Cooley Bruggeman; I’m a licensed professional engineer.

Engineers aren’t great at telling our story, and at telling what’s happening behind the scenes to make sure that facilities, buildings, bridges, are safe, and the work that goes into those things; in the calculations, and the science and math, to make sure people end up safe every day.

Here at MSP and in the airport, we use high-pressure steam to heat the building. It’s Minnesota, it’s cold in the winter, and high-pressure steam is at 150 PSI or more. Whether or not you have a concept of how fast that is, in the event that you were to be impacted by steam, in many cases, you could instantly die. So, it’s very important to keep systems safe so that they’re designed well.

We would design, for example, your heating and ventilation system, the lighting and power systems in the building, the fire protection systems. In the event of a fire, how does the fire go out? Do the sprinklers go off? Does that suppress the fire and keep the rest of the building from having an issue, and keep the people in the building safe? And it’s through our licensure and our continuing education and our ethics that we’re able to do this.

Professional licensure makes sure that really strong, qualified individuals are the people performing these functions; that there’s a procedure in place to make sure that they continue to grow their profession through continuing education, and that they continue to get better.

I absolutely don’t think that you can learn what you need to be a professional engineer without the rigorous academic background. Think in thermodynamics or fluid mechanics, on what’s going to happen if a pipe bursts. You understand the basics of that in school, but then when you get in the real world and you’re putting in a pipe, you now are responsible to figure out: “Okay, this pipe is over a high-voltage electrical gear. This pipe can’t break. What do I need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen?”

I personally find it to be relatively frightening, if the licensing for professional engineers was scaled back. It’s an expectation as you walk into a building that it’s going to be safe, you’re not going to get sick, it’s not going to fall down. Remember that professional engineers and licensed engineers are keeping you safe every day. We’re working very hard to put together the best facilities possible, and it’s because of our experience, our licensure, and our continuing education, that we can make this happen.