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Coordinating Field Trips for Design Courses

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Best in 5 Minutes: Demonstrating Interactive Teaching Activities

Tagged Divisions

Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Scott A Civjan P.E. University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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Scott Civjan is a faculty member at UMass Amherst where he has taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses over the past 20+ years. He has 4 years of consulting experience between obtaining his BSCE from Washington University in St. Louis and his MS and PhD in Structural Engineering from the University of Texas Austin.

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In teaching Design of Steel Structures for 20+ years I have found field trips to be very effective at relating class assignments to real structures, giving students a perspective on the interaction between disciplines (owner, architect, construction managers, sub-contractors and engineers), and boosting confidence of engineering students.

In order to be most effective, construction site tours need to have a clearly defined purpose, directly relate to the curriculum and communicate information effectively. These goals are difficult to accomplish if the faculty member is not directly involved in the planning and guidance of the tour. Too often faculty members feel uncertain about the site conditions or design experience and therefore place the responsibility on a construction manager or alumni. These individuals may be similarly uncertain of leading a tour to engineering undergraduates, or have misconceptions of what is covered in the curriculum. This can lead to tours being ineffective at tying issues back to curriculum and having inconsistent content from year to year.

This will be organized into three quick topics.

1) Defining the goals of a construction site tour. What are the key takeaways you want your students to have? How can you most effectively organize the tour to reach those goals?

2) Specific examples of construction tours. Example structures will be shown with brief samples of unusual features that can be highlighted. This will include example references to design class topics (steel design, concrete design, geotechnical design) based on past tours. Effective building types and stages of construction should be matched to course specific objectives. Examples will allude to steel and concrete design classes, geotechnical and foundation aspects, site conditions, finishing trades and BIM modeling.

3) Examples of effective coordination of construction site tours. How do you clearly define the input sought from construction site managers without putting undue burden on them or minimizing their input? What are effective roles for different disciplines that can be included and what are reasonable expectations? How can issues such as litigation and construction/design errors be addressed in a positive light? What expectations should there be for students? How can safety issues be coordinated to minimize frustration? How do you build relationships to maintain these as ongoing activities?

This presentation will not be able to bring participants on a site tour, but use of photos from previous tours will be used throughout. The purpose is to stimulate thought on how getting students into the field could add value to your class and take the intimidation factor out of planning these activities, whether the instructor has significant field experience or feels trepidation at the thought of being on an active construction site.

Civjan, S. A. (2020, June), Coordinating Field Trips for Design Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34336

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