For the loyal CEA audience out there that listened to a previous episode on the best resources for the AM portion of the PE exam, the School of PE is already a well-known and innovative player in the exam preparation material industry. With its recently released breadth review guide, it brought a modern feel to the industry by not only providing a different printing style but also an integrated use of technology to enhance the learning experience. Today, Isaac sits down to talk to the man in charge of all this.
Vinod Dega is a civil engineer and School of PE’s president who came from India to the US to get his Masters in Transportation Engineering at the Ohio State University. His passion for teaching and helping others made him notice that many people would struggle in their preparation for the FE and PE exams. Therefore, what started out as him personally teaching colleagues, has become a key company in the exam preparation industry today, with 7 books published, lots of question banks developed, and a lot of students enrolled in their courses.
Vinod and Isaac discuss the process for developing the PE manuals and review guides, the decision to include AR features in the books, and how the ever-changing NCEES spec may affect the School of PE’s materials. In addition, Vinod mentions the importance of getting a professional license no matter how long we’ve been out of school, as well as the best advice he’s ever received in his life and who gave it to him. Hint: The author of the “Bible” for the PE exam.
Some links below are affiliate links, which means that at no cost to you I get a little kickback for referring the products and services that I'm recommending. I've tried hard to only recommend tools and resources that I've personally used and think you'd enjoy.
Purple Mattress – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/purple
PPI is our partner to help you ace your FE and PE exams. Use our discount code of CIVAC and our link to get 15% off any book you order – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi
Visit School of PE to check out the PE Civil Exam Review Guide: Breadth – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
PE Civil Exam Review Guide: Breadth (Video Review) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGEN_0Wt8EI
All-in-One Civil Engineering PE Breadth and Depth Exam Guide, by Dr. Goswami – https://amzn.to/3iQoY2Q
All-in-One Civil Engineering PE Practice Exams, by Dr. Goswami – https://amzn.to/3olKJZu
Four Sample Exams for the Civil PE Exam With Step by Step Solutions, by Ruwan Rajapakse – https://amzn.to/39mQkup
Ultimate Civil PE Breadth Exam (Vol. 1 & 2) – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/breadth
Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
Civil Engineering Academy Resources Page – http://engineeringacademy.com/resources
Haven’t joined up in our free community? What’s wrong with you? J/K. Ok, just go there and join a group of like-minded civil engineers! – https://ceacommunity.com
Join over 4000 engineers like you and learn the tips and tricks to passing the FE and PE. We even have a free resource for you! – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
If you need exams, solved problems, or courses, make sure to check out our home base – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: All right! I'm excited. I got Vinod on here with us today. How's it going on, Vinod?
Vinod Dega: Good. Fantastic.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, good. So Vinod's in Ohio, where the headquarters is for school of PE, correct?
Vinod Dega: Yes. That is correct.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. That's great. So, I am going to read a little bit about your background, but I think it would be really helpful if maybe you could dive in to your own background. Tell us maybe how you started this, or even how you got into engineering and then started this. Like, give us a little bit about your background.
Vinod Dega: Well, thank you. Thanks for the time, Isaac. Yeah, my background is -- I'm a civil engineer by profession. I have done my masters in civil and transportation engineering from the Ohio State University. I practiced engineering for close to 15 years before I started the School of PE. So regarding how I got into School of PE there are two main reasons: My passion for teaching and helping fellow engineers. Actually when I came to this country, I moved from India and I came to this country, my goal was to do a PhD and go into teaching. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and that dream remained unfulfilled for me. So while practicing engineering I noticed my fellow employees engineers were struggling in their preparation for the FE and PE exams. So, I helped some of them to prepare and pass. So, during that process, I noticed that the struggle for them was not knowing what to study. So then I thought that, probably, lot of people like them need support in their exam preparation, and I started School of PE. So, that not only fulfill my passion for teaching, and also I'm able to help fellow engineers.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. So did you start that in Ohio then, where you just started teaching classes?
Vinod Dega: Yeah. I came here and went to Ohio State University, and I stayed back in Ohio. So yes, started in Ohio.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. That's great! So, fast forward to today, and School of PE is a bigger company. And what I've noticed is that School of PE is starting to really develop some really neat resources to help engineers with their studies as well. And so I thought it would be fun to kind of dive into how you're developing these, because we're kind of on the front end of this a little bit and maybe pull the curtain a little bit on howthese resources were developed which would be fun. We share a similar story, I think. I was in the same boat, you know? When I started Civil Engineering Academy, I kind of just wanted to be a guy in the trenches that wanted to help other people earn the professional license and that's kind of how it developed. We were able to connect through some of the resources you guys are providing, and so I wanted to kind of dive into that. But,can you tell us about some of the books and resources you have out right now and what you have going on?
Vinod Dega: Okay. So, as of todaywe have seven publications. So, one is thePE Civil Exam Review Guide for the breadth exam. And as of yesterday, we established five depth books as well. So construction geo-tech, structural, transportation, water resources, and environmental. So, all these depth books are also prepared. Now they are out. Out in the sense that we just got out last publication yesterday. And in addition we also have developed the FE Civil EngineeringManual as well. So we have seven publications now.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. Could you dive into a little bit about how, I guess any one of those, how one is maybe developed? How did you start that? I mean, what's the --
Vinod Dega: Yeah. So first, what we do is we look at our instructor support. We help so many instructors as well. Throughout our journey, we have established relationships with so many people who teach for us. So, what we do is first we look into our instructors. And also another thing we do is we don't want, like, a one person writing the entire book. So, because we believe each person has their own specialized field, so we make sure that the specialized person writes their own section. So that's why we always go with the multiple authors. The same thing we do to our courses as well. And then we assign which topic goes to which author and then we also decide the deadlines. Once we decide the deadlines and we set to it, wewalk with them and help them, you know, on how other people review as they develop it. So, that's how the book preparation works out.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. I'm curious maybe how -- I mean, I have a couple books in front of me. One of them is the PE Civil Exam Review Guide, which is the breadth book that I think you guys developed. Right there. And I'm looking through it and you've got some neat things in here. One of them I can tell off the bat is that it's definitely got a modern feel to the book. You know, I'm used to seeing black and white, but this is a colored copy of this book. I mean, was that a decision that had to be made if you were going to use color or not, because I imagine all those things add to the cost of the development of this.
Vinod Dega: Yes. So yeah, you're absolutely right. So we wanted our books to be as useful as possible to our students. So we made some design decisions in line with our goals. So we think that use of colors would help students understand figures better. So, we actually started something like, we tried to use color for every figure or something. We tried to use color only where it would enhance the image and make it very clear to them. And then we also used color to set -- So, sometimes when you look at the things, you know, how it catches your eyes, right? So what we also tried to do is there is an introduction content portion, reading portion that are examples. Even those, also, we tried to separate when someone opens the book and they want to jump to the examples. So, it is very catchy that they can just jump to the examples with the color separation.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I'm going to hold this up to my camera, but you can see that there's tabs in there, you know, color-coded sections of the book already, that you could easily -- You know, if you're studying for the PE exam, you could put a tab in there real easily if you wanted it to, or it might not even need it. You just go to these color-coded sections, which is really nice. I want to talk a little bit about the use of something I've never seen in books before, but it's these VR codesAR codes is I guess what you call them. So can you talk how the decision was to use those, maybe how those are even developed and why you threw them in here? And I'll show on the camera a little picture of this. So there's an example of some of those. What they do and how those are developed?
Vinod Dega: Yeah. So, we wanted our books to be dynamic, okay? Or in other words, interactive rather than just to be static when you open a book and you read it, okay? So we wanted to make them dynamic andinteractive. So as students read the book we wanted them to get some supplemental information to help enhance the reading experience and also learn faster. So, we are fortunate to have a sister company, Holopundits, which is specialized inaugmented reality and virtual reality, which is AR and VR short terms. So, as part of that company, there's a platform called TotalAR. So the TotalAR allows when you -- I mean, these days, [inaudible], everyone would have when they are awake, there's one night of the [inaudible] will carry his mobile device, right? Without mobile devices, you don't go anywhere. So that's the device you always have. So even when you're reading the book, you would have the device next to you. And we felt what if you use that device, and when you're reading, get more information from the book rather than just what is in there. So that's why we brought thistechnology, augmented reality technology into that book, and we called them -- It's similar to QR codes, but we call them TAR codes, which are specific to the augmented reality. So we implemented them. So we wanted the students to have useful study tools to learn the material like quizzes, flashcards. All those things they can get it while they're reading. And the one most important thing is: So today, when you focus to that one, you get likesome flashcards. And then the next week, it could be different flashcards. So we can always change the content, and then they always get the latest one when they're studying.
Isaac Oakeson: That's smart. I think what I liked when I was reviewing this book -- If you guys want to check it out, I have done reviews of these books on our YouTube channel. If you just go search in their Civil Engineering Academy, you can find these. But one of the things I really liked is when you can scan these and you can meet the instructor for each chapter and they kind of give their own introduction to the chapter. I think that's pretty neat. You know, like you mentioned, there's flashcards, you can provide feedback, there's errata meet the author, quizzes, searches, unit conversions, and then you can jump into like tutoring or anything in that nature. So I think that's kind of cool too. So, I imagine thatthese codes, these TAR codes, will eventually find themselves also in the new books. I think last time we talked, they weren't in the newest editions of the depth manuals. Is that correct?
Vinod Dega: That is correct. The reason they are not in the part of the depth manual -- So we were going to include them. So our plan was to release the depth books sometime this year. I mean, actually we wanted to release them last year, but with the pandemic it got delayed. So they were going to come sometime this year, but it takes time to establish all those courses. So, once the NCEES advancedchanging this exam to the CBT in 2022, originally it was going to be 2023, so it would have helped us that additional time to add all these things. So now, as soon as we realized this exam is advancing and we don't have many exam opportunities to have people to use this book, so we rushed it. And as part of it, we did not include this AR features for the depth books. But we were thinking about creating an extra sheet and distributing as a separate later up
Isaac Oakeson: And correct me if I'm wrong, but the depth books that are being released right now will be available for School of PE students in the courses that you're providing. Is that correct?
Vinod Dega: That is correct. Yes.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, cool. And then eventually, I imagine, when things in 2022, when things get released with the spec and things of that nature, you'll probably release that to a bigger audience.
Vinod Dega: That is correct. It depends on how the syllabus come out. So yeah, we will berefining it to fit for the new syllabus.
Isaac Oakeson: Lots of changes coming. So, I meanI guess that's the beauty of trying to provide test prep material and being tied to the NCEES is that you always have to adjust when they do. That's always fun. Can I briefly talk about, and I'm just looking at the AMPE Civil guidebook how did you determine what you wanted to cover for the table of contents? Because I noticed in this book that it'sbasically covering what's in the specification, but like we just mentioned those specs always change. And a lot of times when people develop a resource like this, they try to make it, I don't know, "future-proof", I guess you would say. So if the specs do change, do you find that you'll be updating this book or are you trying to make it future-proof or is it pretty tied to what the spec is when NCEES releases those? I guess is my question.
Vinod Dega: So one thing is our studentsI mean, as you also know, they refer to the NCEES syllabus when they're preparing, right? So we always try to tie the material with the syllabus. So that's why we decide to follow the syllabus for the book's organization. So, as you mentioned, that's the challenge. If NCEES changes the syllabus, we have to be ready to change the book. Fortunately, we have established a process. We can make those changesquickly. On our school, we have [inaudible] instructorsand they're ready to jump in, and also since weseparate each topic based on the specialty. So we feel like when NCEES change the syllabus, we can also change quickly and bring the book to the new standards.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. So let's go back to these instructors. I guess, how did you develop that relationship with these instructors? Did that just start at Ohio, the Ohio State, or these are relationships that you've built just over time? I think it's pretty neat that you've got that.
Vinod Dega: So these -- I mean, I'm really happy, you know, for the instructors that we have been working with. Most of them, who started with us back in 2004, they're still teaching for us. And one thing I've noticed from our instructors is their passion, also, for teaching and helping fellow engineers. So that kind of matched withour goals and their goals. So that's why they have -- It's not they're doing it for just money-making purpose. So they're fulfilling their passion and then helping fellow engineers. And they have been with us even though they have their own full-time jobs and all that. So they continue to help us teaching and writing these books, all those things.
Isaac Oakeson: That's fantastic. What's been the biggest challenge in creating this?
Vinod Dega: That's a good question. The main thing is -- It would have been a challenge if we didn't have the [inaudible] instructors. That challenge is not there for us. So that's a fortunate thing. So, the other main challenge is meeting schedule. So as I mentioned earlier, most of our authors of all the books are all instructors. So they have full-time jobs and they also teach for us. So we need to be synced to about the availability of their time. And we work around them. Around their schedules. So that is our biggest challenge, honestlyWhen there's two -- I mean, they also have their family time too, right? So we have to make sure that we balance with them along that. And they have been very accommodating. So, that's the main challenge that we see as an item.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. I guess my other question then is, is there anything that you would do differently in preparing these? It sounds like you've got a pretty good system and how you did this.
Vinod Dega: Yeah. We started in 2018 and first one year, one and a half years, has been a learning experience for us. How to put a process, developingtools. We have developed our internal tools to make a smooth process. That's what the first two, one and a half year was. And then now it's going in a process. So, everyone knows what their role is and it's going fine now.
Isaac Oakeson: That's fantastic. That's great. I'm curious to, what can we expect in the future from School of PE?
Vinod Dega: So, what can you expect there? We will continue to put our great books for other exams. So right now there are so many other books in the pipeline like a power, another FE exams and also thecushion booklets we are working on. Because even though we have the full review guides, so some people are asking for question booklets, so we are working towards them. So those are all coming. I'll tell you a lot of them will be coming this year. As I said, we have established a process. Now it's a kind of manufacturing plant so we just have to keep adding more products. So there are certainly a lot of them coming this year.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. You ready to churn out the books now you've got the process in place. That's fantastic. I guessa fun question -- I mean, I like to ask what advice you might give someone that's pursuing their licensure. Now that you've been in this position, you have a passion for teaching, what are some tips you would give to somebody that's either hearing this and starting for the first time, or even as a, as a repeat taker that wants to get over the turtle?
Vinod Dega: Okay. Good question The PE license is very important and every engineer's carry it, let me put it that way. So having a PE license opens upYou know, it will carry options. You can become a specialist or establish your own engineering consulting business. So, when it also protects you during industry downsizing. Having this licensure, you know, allows you to go as far as you ínaudible] you and your talent will take you. So industry will always look at you having a PE license when there's a downsizing and those things. So having that licensure, you will always get -- You know, you'll be in the priority to keep those people in theirbusiness.
Isaac Oakeson: I fully agree. I just think having your license, just -- It not only sets you apart, but it's kind of a springboard to the rest of your life and will help youadvance, or move around, or start your own consulting business, whatever it is.
Vinod Dega: Sure. You mentioned that. You asked about the repeat exam takers. I mean, my suggestion is don't give up, okay? So you fail once, it doesn't mean that, you know, you're not knowledgeable on anything. Again, lot of you know, these peopleprepare for the exams while having their full-time jobs, right? And some of them think about after five years, 10 years, they might have family, kids. So there's so much time to be balanced. So it is not like you don't have a knowledge, you fail. It's probably like because of lots of other commitments. So, don't give up, you know? Keep fighting. There's so many people do not pass and then the past eventually. So keep playing.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, I think that's great advice. I actually interviewed somebody thattook the exam in their sixties and was finally able pass. But they had come from another country and just wanted to get that licensure, you know? And he's probably looking at retirement here in a few years, but there's just -- You know, there's a personal development and personal passion of getting this license too, doesn't matter what stage you are in your civil engineering career. So, that's good.
Vinod Dega: When I go and teach on-site class -- You know, online we do teach. It's different. But when you teach onsite, you know, I seeI have seen people who are about to retire and then they're still attending and the past. And one of the students I met, who was about to retire in upper sixties. And I asked him why you are taking now. He said, "My doctor challenged me. I should get the PE before I retire. So that's why I'm taking it". He did pass.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. I love those stories and they're very motivational. So, if you're struggling to get through this, you know, there's many people in your shoes. Don't give upRegister for the next one and keep going. Definitely good advice.
Vinod Dega: Another question I hear from people, "Oh, I have been out of college for 10 years, 15 years. Do you think I should take the exam?" Yes, absolutely yes. So there's nothing like age or something like you are restricted or you cannot do. So, I mean, so many of people I have seen, they have been out for 15 years, 20 years. So they still pass the exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's great advice. Well, I guess that kind of answers what -- What's the best advice you've ever received, either in starting this business or in helping others? Is there any other good advice in general you might have?
Vinod Dega: Yeah. I mean, I told you earlieras part of my passion for teaching on helping fellow engineers. So that's how I started the business. But as part of the business, the best advice I actually ever received was from Michael Lindeburg. So, you know who Michael Lindeburg is, right? He authored so many books for exam preparations. And you know that there are competitors in all business. So even we were competitores in this field, we had very good, friendly relationship. Actually, not just me and him. Our families have really good friendly relationships. I appreciated his contribution to the industry. Andhe also appreciated my contribution to the industry. And one time when we were talking, he said since we have so many instructors teaching for us he suggested that we should be looking into -- Until that point we were doing only review classes. So he said since how so many instructors, he suggested that we should be looking into preparing our own question banks and books. So that was my inspiration. One thing he mentioned was, even for the review courses, you know, that one thing he said, I [inaudible] im or how we are doing is he used this exact word. He said, "Vinod, you found a code to break that you are able to do so many classes with so many instructors". He said that we struggle. And so many other rganizations struggled. He said, "I don't know how you broke it. Continue the same thing. New book preparation and the question bank preparation and use those resources and prepare them". Until that point, we were not even thinking about going to publication. So that was my inspiration to start the publication division. So in couple of years we have published seven books and several question banks with thousands of questions. So, I think you know that he's now retired. So now we are hoping to fill that gap for that industry.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's great. That's a great story. Yeah, Michael Lindeburg. I mean, he's kind of been the go-to source for the Civil Engineering Reference Manual. It's been kind of the Bible when preparing for this and, you know, there's a lot of other resources out there too. And I think what I pride Civil Engineering Academy on is that we are open to pointing people to what resources are out there and available for engineers to study from. And you've got good stuff. Michael Lindeburg, he's retired now, but his book is still pretty good too. And so there's a lot of ways that people can find material to help them prepare. But I like what you're doing. If people do want the resources therewe have link civilengineeringacademy.com/sope. That's it for School of PE. So civilengineeringacademy.com/sope. Takes you over to the site and you can go check out all the resources there. Vinod, I'd like to know if you had all the knowledge in the world, what's something that you would like to take part of in the world of engineering to make the world a better place?
Vinod Dega: Okay. Well, I'm always into these technologies, okay? Well, you see, even on the AR, VR, all these things we are trying to do. So, if there's something [inaudible], unlimited money available to do anything. So the only thing get chip to put in a human body that automatically downloads and keep all the knowledge you need to be in the professional.
Isaac Oakeson: That would be great.
Vinod Dega: I'm sure it will come one day. I'm sure. I don't know if I will be there. But I I'm hoping that I could see those things coming. So, I mean --
Isaac Oakeson: Then you'd be the subject matter expert in all five depth categories, Vinod. Yeah. That would be awesome. You know, who knows? The way technology is advancing so fast, It would not be a surprise if that stuff hits. That's great. Well, is there any last piece of guidance? Also, could you share with us how our audience could connect with you if they had questions or wanted to reach out to you about anything? So, is there any last piece of guidance and the best way to get ahold of you you could share with us?
Vinod Dega: Yeah. Yeah. So, actually it's not only connecting with me. Thanks for asking that question. So, I mean, connections is very important, not only to external people, even within the organization as well. When you establish connections with people within the organization, you become increasingly valuable to the people running it. It's also really important to not shut the talent of others, especially other engineers within one company. So even though I'm a founder and president for the company, I get big [inaudible] to my colleagues. And then even in mypracticing profession, I used to help the younger engineers. So that's something I actually enjoy. And if anyone in the audience need to reach out to me he best way is through my LinkedIn account by searching my name, Vinod Degas. They can connect with me. And always love to helpengineers. And I'm sure that some of your audience would be experienced engineers as well. Well, my suggestion to them also, you know, help other of younger engineers to succeed in their profession.
Isaac Oakeson: Great advice. Well, I appreciate you jumping on, this has been a fun journey to hear about how these resources are developed, where kind of you're headedthese QR codes. I know that's a whole separate ball game and technology that you've got going on. So, it's just fun to kind of catch up with that, know what's going on and kind of where you're going. So, appreciate you jumping on. Like I said, if anybody needs these or wants to check out School of PE's material, go check it out: civilengineeringacademy.com/sope. You'll be directed there, and you can connect with school of PE. So, thanks Vinod for joining me.
Vinod Dega: Thank you, Isaac. Thanks for doing all these things, helping fellow engineers, making your contribution to the engineering community. That's very nice, I feel. I truly appreciate that.
Isaac Oakeson: Hey, no problem. All right. Thanks, Vinod. We'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.