Asee peer logo

Building A Water Tower And Learning About A Role For Service Learning In The Civil Engineering Curriculum

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

A Serving Profession: Service Learning in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.294.1 - 11.294.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Leslie Inniss Florida A&M University

author page

Enos Inniss University of Texas-San Antonio

Download Paper |

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

Building a Water Tower and Learning about a Role for Service Learning in the Civil Engineering Curriculum

Abstract Service learning is loosely defined as student participation in activities designed to serve a member of the community in a capacity that has a strong relationship to information presented in a particular class or in classes. Based on the experience of having students build a water tower for a museum exhibit, the question of the role of service in the civil engineering (CE) curriculum was explored. Service learning projects such as this one are contrasted to the steel bridge and concrete canoe projects done as part of the ASCE student competitions. This paper aims to consider the development and management of a service learning project for the civil engineering curriculum. Several example projects are listed along with their relation to various civil engineering courses. Additionally management suggestions are presented. Success of the project for both the students and the client depends on the number of students involved, on the investment of the client in the project, and on the level of the corresponding CE course. The possibility of extending the project over several semesters and therefore through the curriculum is explored.

Introduction As we become a more global and multicultural society we need educated workers who can meet the challenges of a rapidly-changing world. One way to ensure this type of worker is to train university students, not only in the classroom, but also in the real world. Service learning is one means of providing this type of education, particularly in engineering. If we define engineering as an applied science designed to solve practical problems and thereby improve community living, then service learning is crucial to engineering education. ABET’s recent changes in operating philosophy seems to reflect this realization. In its criteria for Civil Engineering Programs, ABET calls for curriculum that allows students “to perform civil engineering design by means of design experiences integrated throughout the professional component of the curriculum.”1

Although there is not a single, universal definition of service learning, the National Service- Learning Clearinghouse suggests that all the diverse definitions have a core concept, namely that “service learning combines service objectives with learning objectives with the intent that the activity changes both the recipient and the provider of the service. This is accomplished by combining service tasks with structured opportunities that link the task to self-reflection, self- discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and knowledge content.”2 In terms of service learning in higher education, Bringle and Hatcher suggest that it is “a credit- bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”3 According to the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse, during the 1999-2000 academic years at least 712,000 students on 349 campuses had participated in some form of service. Similarly, since the 1990s, service learning has been gaining acceptance as an instructional tool in engineering education.4

Inniss, L., & Inniss, E. (2006, June), Building A Water Tower And Learning About A Role For Service Learning In The Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1389

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015