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Bridging Bear Hollow: A Service Learning Capstone Design

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

How to Effectively Teach Using Teams

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.323.1 - 12.323.13



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Paper Authors


Norman Dennis University of Arkansas

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Norman D. Dennis, Jr., is a Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is active in both ASCE and ASEE, currently serving as a member of ASCE's committee for faculty development and as a program coordinator for the EcCEEd teaching workshop. Dennis is also a director of the CE division of ASEE and past chair or the Midwest section of ASEE. His research interests include laboratory and field determination of geotechnical material properties for transportation systems and the use of remote sensing techniques to categorize geomaterials. Dennis holds BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla, an MSBA from Boston College and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Austin. He is a registered professional engineer in Arkansas and Colorado and a Fellow of ASCE.

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Kevin Hall University of Arkansas

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Professor Kevin D. Hall is the Head of the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas. His current research interests are in the areas of asphalt paving materials and the reliability of pavement systems. Hall holds BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He is a registered professional engineer in Arkansas.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Bridging Bear Hollow: A Service-Learning Capstone Design

Abstract: Service learning is loosely defined as a structured activity that extends learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom and promotes that learning through active participation in service experiences. Service learning is uniquely distinct from pure volunteer or community service in that learners are afforded the opportunity to apply previously acquired knowledge and skills to the solution of real life problems for the betterment of both the community and themselves. In theory, the model of service learning is an ideal vehicle for simultaneously satisfying the culminating design experience required by ABET Criterion 4, producing a product for the betterment of the community, promoting university goodwill and instilling an ethic of public service in the student. In practice, however, poor project selection and poor conceptual development of service learning activities will negate any of the positive attributes listed above. In fact, the difficulty in creating meaningful service learning projects for the capstone design courses has limited their use. Fewer than 30% of the 477 campuses that responded to the Campus Compact survey on service learning have used service learning projects as culminating design experiences in all disciplines. The statistics for engineering disciplines is even lower. In light of the proposed “Body of Knowledge” for civil engineering programs the use of well crafted service learning activities should increase significantly. This paper describes the attributes of a service learning activity, used as the senior culminating design experience, which resulted in the successful design and construction of a timber bridge for a non-profit educational organization located about 45 miles from campus. The bulk of the paper focuses on a discussion of the planning and organizational activities required to meet logistical, environmental and permitting challenges faced by students. In addition the tasking, scheduling, design, monitoring and assessment activities undertaken to insure the successful completion of the project are discussed. Assessment data is presented to establish the successfulness of the project in integrating previous knowledge to the design of a system, dealing with real life constraints, engineer-client relations, and instilling an increased commitment to community or public service in the future.

Introduction According to some researchers, service learning has its roots in the Morrell Act of 1862 which created land grant colleges to promote “…practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” [1]. The reasoning is that land grant institutions would create a core of citizens with an education rich in agriculture and mechanics who would further the goals of the Nation. However, service-learning as we think of it today did not really start to evolve until the 1960s when VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) was created as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty program. It was VISTA, the Peace Corps and the National Teachers Corps that really started to focus on bringing a unique skill set to volunteerism. In 1990 Congress passed the National and Community Service Act which authorized grants to schools to support service learning. It was after this legislation that the current definition of service learning evolved. A broad definition of service learning which is nearly universally

Dennis, N., & Hall, K. (2007, June), Bridging Bear Hollow: A Service Learning Capstone Design Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2981

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