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Design and Implementation of Experiential Learning Modules for Structural Analysis

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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

Are You Experienced? Approaches and Tools for Experiential Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors

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Alec Colin Derks Saint Louis University


J Chris Carroll P.E. Saint Louis University, Parks College of Eng. Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Carroll is an Associate Professor and the Civil Engineering Program Coordinator in Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology at Saint Louis University. His experimental research interests focus on reinforced and prestressed concrete, while his educational research interests focus primarily on the use of experiential learning techniques.

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James H. Hanson P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. James Hanson is Professor and Department Head for Civil & Environmental Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His teaching emphasis is structural analysis and design. He has conducted research on teaching students how to evaluate their analysis results.

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Matthew D. Lovell P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Matthew Lovell is an Associate Professor in the Civil Engineering Department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and he currently serves as the Senior Director of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment office. He is also serving as the director of the Making Academic Change Happen (MACH) program. He received his Ph.D. from Purdue University, and he holds his PE license in Indiana. Matt is very active with respect to experimentation in the classroom. He greatly enjoys problem-based learning and challenge-based instruction. Matt is the 2018 recipient of the American Concrete Institute’s Walter P. Moore, Jr. Faculty Achievement Award. He was awarded Teacher of the Year for the Illinois Indiana section of ASEE in 2017. Also, he was awarded the Daniel V. Terrell Outstanding Paper Award from ASCE. Matt is highly active in ASEE, currently serving as the ASEE CE Division’s Freshman Director. In 2014, Matt received the ASEE CE Division Gerald R. Seeley Award for a paper highlighting a portion of his work regarding the development of a Master’s Degree at Rose-Hulman.

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Kyle Kershaw P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Kyle Kershaw is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Kyle's primary teaching duties include courses in geotechnical engineering and construction materials. His research interests include behavior and monitoring of in-place foundations and retaining structures. In addition to his teaching and research duties, Kyle is involved in geotechnical consulting and Engineers Without Borders.

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Structural analysis is the foundation of a structural engineer’s education, which generally includes topics ranging from basic statics to solving complex indeterminate structures. Most courses focus on theoretical approaches to solving and understanding problems with a large focus on determining internal forces, external reactions, and displacements. In many cases, courses also include concurrent discussion about deflected shapes and actual behavior compared to theoretical assumptions. Courses may also use pictures, videos, simulations, and small, table-top models to illustrate such behavior. However, students still struggle with understanding structural behavior and the effects of as-built versus theoretical connections. Such differences are difficult to convey simply using photos, videos, simulations, and small, table-top models. Students never have the opportunity to physically feel the differences and experience large-scale models that illustrate such behavior mainly due to cost, fabrication complexity, and material stiffness. The authors from University A and University B designed large-scale, lightweight models for in-class use that allow students to experience structural behavior and feel the differences between various types of as-built connections.

This paper provides a detailed overview of the design, fabrication, and implementation of four large-scale experiential learning modules for an undergraduate structural analysis course using lightweight and flexible fiberglass reinforced polymer (FRP) structural shapes. The first module focuses on the behavior of beam-to-column connections compared to theoretical assumptions; the second module focuses on load paths and tributary areas related to a typical floor system; the third module focuses on the deflected shapes of determinate and indeterminate beams; and the fourth module focuses on the behavior of a portal frame subjected to both vertical and horizontal loads with various support configurations. The four modules were used throughout the structural analysis course at University A and University B to illustrate structural behavior concurrent to the presentation of various structural analysis concepts.

Derks, A. C., & Carroll, J. C., & Hanson, J. H., & Lovell, M. D., & Kershaw, K. (2020, June), Design and Implementation of Experiential Learning Modules for Structural Analysis Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34393

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