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A Hands-on Project for a Wood Structures Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Encouraging Students to Think Critically

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

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Paper Authors


Royce Woodrow Floyd P.E. The University of Oklahoma

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Royce Floyd is an assistant professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma. He teaches courses related to structural engineering including reinforced concrete design, prestressed concrete design, and design of wood structures. His primary research focus includes prestressed concrete structural behavior and behavior of specialty concrete materials, but he is also involved in research focused on improving wind resistance of wood structures.

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Seamus F Freyne P.E. Mississippi State University

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On the civil engineering faculty at Mississippi State University, Seamus Freyne teaches structures courses and his research interests include innovative class projects.

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The material behavior of wood used in structural applications is a complicated topic. The strength values differ in each direction and for each type of loading as opposed to the relatively simple yield and fracture strengths of steel, or the trusty compressive strength of concrete. Professors at two universities have implemented a hands-on project in the Structural Wood Design course at their respective universities with the objective of stimulating critical thinking in relation to the behavior of wood structural members. Teams of four to five students are given a list of available wood members including dimension lumber, plywood, OSB, and sets of nails and wood screws. They are then given time to plan for an in-class fantasy sports style “draft” where they select one member or set of connectors on each of their turns. The teams are then tasked with building beams using their chosen members to span a given distance and fit within designated height parameters. Once the beams are constructed, they are load tested using a hydraulic ram. The team whose beam has the highest capacity to weight ratio receives a bonus on the assignment. Each group submits a report outlining their thought process for design, experience in construction and testing, and the lessons learned. The project not only stimulates critical thinking about wood behavior, but requires careful planning ahead to meet the design goals with different possible combinations of members. It also provides hands-on experience hammering in nails and installing screws, something which many students have never experienced. The students are able to see different wood failure types first-hand, which provides a visual and memorable reference point for in-class discussion. Direct assessment of student performance is made using the structural capacity to weight ratio of the resulting beams. Indirect assessments are made using a survey administered through Google Forms. Student performance is assessed at each individual university and performance is compared between the two distinct groups of students. Student comments provided in the assessment survey indicate that the students perceive the project as providing valuable practical experience and a useful contribution to their learning in the course.

Floyd, R. W., & Freyne, S. F. (2017, June), A Hands-on Project for a Wood Structures Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27467

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