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Brief Design/Build/Remove Assignments For Structures Courses

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.91.1 - 2.91.18



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Paper Authors

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James E. Simon

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

Session 2606

Brief Design/Build/Remove Assignments for Structures Courses

James E. Simon University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract Two types of brief student assignments to design and build rudimentary structures that are big enough to stand under have enhanced understanding of a variety of structural planning, design, and construction issues. Problem statements, grading criteria, and examples of completed projects illustrate the use of this vehicle to augment the study of building stability and behavior of non-horizontal roof structures. Among the benefits discussed are the opportunity to see three-dimensional deformation, develop a feel for forces in materials, and experience some of the ways that the building process influences planning and design decision-making. It is believed that these projects are adaptable to a range of architectural engineering courses and topics.

Introduction Engineering and architecture faculty employ a wide variety of assignments to simulate the experience of designing and constructing buildings. Most often these are small models or segments of the process, but some1 attempt the construction of entire structures. The central objectives of these projects are (1) To help students synthesize and attach physical meaning to the qualitative and quantitative elements of their academic coursework and (2) To foster heightened intellectual and emotional commitment to their studies.

However, it can be very difficult to devise a project that does not require inordinate amounts of faculty and student time when the goal is to illustrate the entire design, build, remove process with structures that are large enough to provide a real sense of building forces. Observations of the beneficial results of two assignments that require relatively little contact time and (if carefully monitored) reasonable expectations for students are offered as examples that may be adapted to illustrate many issues at various levels of architectural engineering education.

There seem to be at least three characteristics of these projects that must be addressed at the outset. First, the size of the constructed object must be appropriate. Structures that have been big enough for adults to stand under with arms outstretched in every direction have proven far more successful than the alternatives. Second, since few students have experienced the entire process of designing and building an object larger than themselves, with others, as a course assignment, the uniqueness of such a task must be balanced by a limited scope of stated requirements. These are the types of projects wherein integrated experience is the greatest reward for the students and positive accounts from “veterans” of earlier years are the most convincing evaluations for the instructor. Third, the assignment is, in itself, a design task for the instructor that requires thoughtful consideration of the “clients”, “site”, and resources. Consequently, the following account of two projects describes the specific context in which they are assigned, provides problem statements of requirements and evaluation criteria, reports some examples of both technical and general learning that may be observed, and offers some concluding remarks.

Simon, J. E. (1997, June), Brief Design/Build/Remove Assignments For Structures Courses Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6436

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