June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.163.1 - 15.163.8
An Integrated Graduate Level Course Sequence in Structural Engineering Abstract
This paper presents the development/re-structuring of a Masters of Engineering degree to provide for the greatest development of the skills and knowledge of students focused on entering the structural engineering profession. The program now includes a major design exercise during their second semester of study, represented by a graduate level capstone experience. This new capstone course is coupled with two other required graduate courses: 1) a newly developed applied finite elements (analysis) course, and 2) a pre-stressed concrete design course. This structure requires the students to be a cohort through these courses and allows them to develop learning communities, to gain experience on high stakes teams, and to work on a larger project than normally available in an academic setting. These integrated projects allow for leveraging of resources and just-in-time teaching and learning. The capstone design course is designed to function as a small structural engineering design office, where the class as a whole is developing alternative design solutions for a common client. A detailed peer design review will be required of the design teams, and time provided for individual teams to refine their designs based on peer feedback. The program will be assessed by comparing the performance of ME students in the core program courses that are part of both previous and new program requirements.
Most masters programs have two tracks: one track preparing students for industry and another preparing them for research and future PhD. Though the needs of both groups have substantial overlap, the specific goals are different. In a large program, it is possible to provide significantly different learning experiences to the two groups and more specifically addressing their needs. The Structural Engineering program within the Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University has two distinct Masters degrees: the Master of Engineering (ME) program and the Master of Science (MS) program. The MS program is research based, requiring the development of thesis research, while the ME program is the pre-professional degree. Both programs share a core set of courses and include an increase in basic structural engineering skills. However, while MS students are working on their thesis research, the ME students are taking additional courses focused on professional preparation. The dual tracks by no means limit a student’s career path; it is simply a different emphasis.
Prior to the Fall of 2009, the ME degree differed from the MS only in (1) not requiring the writing of a thesis, and (2) students taking additional elective courses in engineering. While the additional knowledge gained through coursework is valuable, this degree structure was not specifically geared towards the further development of the critical skills needed by our pre- professional students. While all our graduate students need a sound foundation in theory, our pre-professional students require an understanding of how the theory will be applied in actual applications, whether they be in analysis or design, and the limitations of available tools and how to best utilize them. Similarly, all our students need to develop their abilities to integrate knowledge and skills from various sources to tackle a new problem, as well as how to pursue information that is not presented to them in a structured classroom format and work
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