Durham School News

Engineering Science Fiction

by Brett Meyer

As Director of The Durham School, Dr. Eddy Rojas spends his days researching, teaching, attending meetings, and most importantly, leading the School. Finding personal time for hobbies is rare, but when the Engineering News-Record (ENR) magazine sent out an unusual request this summer, he just couldn’t resist the challenge to do something different.

It was early June when Eddy noticed ENR’s call for short stories. ENR was asking their readers to break from the norm and submit construction related stories looking way into the future. It was a science fiction contest. No doubt an unusual request, but one that gave researchers like Eddy a chance to try out creative writing.

If you know Eddy, then you know he is well known in construction academia with almost 90 publications. But when it came to creative writing, like most of us, he was a rookie in the area of fiction publications.

Tapping into his creativity was a hobby he enjoyed, but just didn’t have the time to pursue. This contest was the opportunity to get creative, as well as an occasion to look to the future of what construction could look like someday. Eddy put pen to paper (or more accurately fingers to keyboard) and within a month, had written three short stories related to the future of construction.

The result of his creative writing is “Sammy”, a story about semi-autonomous robots in electrical construction. Sammy, as the story goes, was the result of one man’s mission to enhance safety in the electrical industry after losing a best friend.

The second story is “Eight-Point-Five”. Situated in an emergency response center, readers are brought to the end of their seats as a team of highly trained personnel responds to a major natural disaster, which occurred in a highly populated metropolitan area. As an outsider to the center looks on, tensions rise, when suddenly the plot takes an unexpected twist.

The final story is “Maestro”. “Maestro” is the future version of construction management. It involves a high-tech design center that puts project managers at the center of the action in design, construction and life-cycle management, leaving a lasting impression with owners as its potential is limitless.

Each story is independent of the other and gives readers a glimpse into the future of engineering and construction. And while Eddy enjoyed this break from reality, he never could have imagined a phone call from an ENR editor congratulating him for the selection of all three stories for publication on their on-line collection.

Illustrations from Eddy Rojas' 3 science fiction stories.  Eight-Point Five, Maestro and Sammy