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Challenges Of Teaching Earthquake Engineering To Undergraduates

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Structural Education Methods

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.312.1 - 14.312.14



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Paper Authors


Hector Estrada University of the Pacific

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Hector Estada is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at University of the Pacific; a position he has held since August 2006. Prior to joining Pacific, Professor Estrada was chair of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. While at Texas A&M Kingsville, he was instrumental in establishing a new program in Architectural Engineering. Professor Estrada received his B.S. (with honors), M.S., and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993, 1994, and 1997, respectively.

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Luke Lee University of the Pacific

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Luke Lee is Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at University of the Pacific; a position he has held since August 2008. Prior to joining Pacific, Professor Lee was Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Louisiana Tech University. Professor Lee received his B.S. in civil engineering from UCLA, M.S. in structural engineering from UC-Berkley, and Ph.D. in structural engineering from UC-San Diego.

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

Challenges of Teaching Earthquake Engineering to Undergraduates Abstract

This paper presents a detailed discussion of challenges faced by instructors who teach earthquake engineering at the undergraduate level; particularly in an era of increased pressure to limit the number of credit hours required to complete a bachelor’s degree in engineering (both civil and architectural). The challenges that we have faced in teaching the subject of earthquake engineering include: having only two semester credit hours allotted to the subject, having students with limited background in structural dynamics, a lack of a textbook that presents the subject matter at an undergraduate level, and the lack of available computational tools that can be used to solve the complex mathematics involved even in the simplest of earthquake engineering problems. To address these challenges, the instructors have developed a six topic course outline that includes the following: seismology, single-degree-of-freedom (SDOF) dynamic analysis, response spectrum analysis in the context of SDOF system analysis, generalized SDOF system analysis, multi-degree-of-freedom (MDOF) system analysis, and code based seismic analysis. This paper emphasizes the development of computational tools (in MS Excel and Mathcad) for Modal Response Spectrum analysis of MDOF systems. In addition, a commercially available computer program (RISA 3D) is used to compare the results. Discussion of the other five topics is included in order to properly place the computational tools in terms of the challenges in teaching this course. The course has been taught twice (once without the use of the tools and a second time with the tools). The course average exam scores on questions related to the six aforementioned topics (embedded indicators) and scores of relevant student evaluation questions are used to assess the effectiveness of the computation tools. The tools will be made available for other instructors via the internet.

I. Introduction

Earthquake engineering is widely taught in civil and architectural engineering graduate programs around the country. However, at the undergraduate level, there are few schools that offer a course in earthquake (or seismic) engineering; though most graduate programs allow qualified undergraduates to enroll in a graduate level course as an elective. On the other hand, the University of the Pacific requires all the undergraduate students in civil engineering to complete a course in earthquake engineering. The motivation for this requirement came from an assessment of the program educational objectives; one of which is to develop graduates who are capable of professional licensure. Based on the program’s assessment process, which incorporates alumni surveys, performance on the California Civil Professional Engineering Special Seismic Principles Examination (henceforth, the seismic portion of the PE exam), the program faculty chose to enhance the preparation of all civil engineering graduates in the area of earthquake engineering. However, given the pressures to reduce the number of units required to complete a bachelors degree, it was decided that a new course in earthquake engineering would essentially be a two-unit semester based course, which is approximately 32 contact hours of instruction. A further challenge is that structural dynamics is not required as a prerequisite, so the instructor must present background material in structural dynamics in order to make the earthquake engineering principles comprehensible to the average student. Furthermore, available textbooks are either too advanced or dated. It is in this light that we present the material and

Estrada, H., & Lee, L. (2009, June), Challenges Of Teaching Earthquake Engineering To Undergraduates Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5084

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