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Combining Hands-On Design, Engineering Analysis, and Computer Programming in a Freshman Civil and Environmental Engineering Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.339.1 - 22.339.12



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Paper Authors


James D. Bowen University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Peter Thomas Tkacik University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Peter Tkacik is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering within the Motorsports focus area. His largest area of research is in the engagement of High School Students and early career Engineering College Students through Hands-On learning activities and exciting visual and experiential research programs.

Other research activities are related to the details of the visual and experiential programs and relate to race car aerodynamics, vehicle dynamics, color-Schlieren shock and compressible flow imaging, and flows around multiple bodies in tandem.

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Kimberly Warren University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Combining Hands-On Design, Engineering Analysis, and Computer Programming in a Freshman Civil and Environmental Engineering CourseAs part of an integrated project supported by the NSF to increase student retention in the Collegeof Engineering, we are implementing course curriculum enhancements in our second semesterIntroduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering course. The larger project seeks toimprove retention of first and second year Engineering students throughout the College throughimplementation of these five new initiatives: 1. A high school recruitment program aimed at increasing the number of qualified applicants to the College of Engineering, 2. A five-day Summer Engineering Fellowship Camp providing interactive learning activities and field trips to highly qualified juniors and senior high school students, 3. The expansion and enhancement of an undergraduate student mentor program that provides formally trained student coaches to freshman and sophomore engineers, 4. Further development of the first-semester Engineering seminar experience to provide additional exposure to engineering applications and additional targeting of engineering freshman learning communities, and 5. Course curriculum enhancements in each of the discipline-specific Introduction to Engineering courses taught in the second semester of the freshman year.Each of the five project elements described above includes an assessment program that collectsboth quantitative and qualitative data on the effectiveness of the particular initiative.This paper describes in detail efforts to further develop the discipline-specific Introduction toEngineering course taught within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering(initiative 5 above). The overall objective of the course is to combine quantitative engineeringanalysis, computer programming, and a hands-on design experience that engages all Civil andEnvironmental Engineering students. The existing course combines the concept of staticequilibrium with instruction on Excel and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros and adesign project that uses these two elements as part of the design of a truss-style balsa woodbridge. As part of this project’s curriculum development we are broadening the course toinclude a second section that combines all three elements (engineering analysis, computerprogramming, hands-on design) in an Environmental Engineering project. In this new sectionthe unifying engineering analysis concept is steady and unsteady conservation of mass. A seriesof lectures and computer programming exercises, again using Excel and VBA, will introducethe mass balance concept, with applications that begin first with water balance and conservativesubstance balances in tank reactors. The culminating hands-on design experience uses pilot-scale activated sludge basins and clarifiers that can be analyzed by student teams with Excelspreadsheets and VBA macros that they construct. Using the pilot plants and spreadsheet-basedsimulation programs the student teams will investigate the plants sensitivity to changes insystem design. Together the existing and new course sections are intended to engage freshmanCivil and Environmental students in a hands-on design experience that introduces fundamentalengineering analysis concepts while providing instruction on computer programming basedanalysis tools.

Bowen, J. D., & Tkacik, P. T., & Warren, K. (2011, June), Combining Hands-On Design, Engineering Analysis, and Computer Programming in a Freshman Civil and Environmental Engineering Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17620

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