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Designing A Project Based Construction Engineering Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Trends in Construction Engineering Education I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.470.1 - 12.470.13



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Paper Authors

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Eric Asa North Dakota State University

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Zhili (Jerry) Gao

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

Designing a Project-Based Construction Engineering Course


The traditional approach to the design and delivery of an engineering course is the delivery of a series of lectures, which are supplemented by the solution of manageable, small problems at the end of chapter of the book used in the course. These lectures are based on discipline-specific or general theory of the subject matter in question. Students are expected to understand (and sometimes memorize) the underlying theories with the hope that they will be able to apply them in their future professional careers. In this case, students are limited to the solution of small problems, most of which are not representative of real-world problems. It can asserted that, prior to the genesis and adoption of ABET EC 2000 accreditation criteria, engineering programs are not required to teach team and real world problem-solving skills to their graduates. Wulf and Fisher acknowledged that “many of the students who make it to graduation enter the real workforce ill-equipped for the complex interactions, across many disciplines of real-world engineered systems”. Engineering projects and systems encompass a broad spectrum of issues ranging from technical details, politics, economics, societal effects, environmental impacts, time/cost constraints, regulatory requirements to corporate entities and management styles. Understanding and effectively dealing with the complex interactions of these factors will define the success or failure of the project. However these important skills are learnt on the job through trial and error. Sometimes the results are unfortunate. This work involves the incorporation of a real-world project (a Commercial Building Project) into the design and delivery of a Construction Engineering course. Students are taught a limited quantity of theory. Most of the theory is to refresh their memories of what they have already learnt in other classes. The theory is meant to jog their thinking and make them relate what they have learnt to the problem they are trying to solve in a real world setting. However a greater emphasis is placed on applying what they have learnt in the classroom to solve various aspects of this complicated building project in a multidiscipline environment. The entire project is broken down into bit-size projects that can be completed in a week or two. Each sub-project is used to address a particular aspect of the construction management process. The initial project involves the submission of resumes and the formation of teams based on the expectations/experience of the students in the class. The course design, delivery and assessment are driven by ABET EC 2000 – Criteria 3(a)- (k). The course objectives will be assessed at the end of the course and remedial actions will be devised to address any shortcomings.


In an era of changing market forces and increasingly complex projects/designs/systems, engineering students are expected to be introduced to real world problems as part of their training. Engineering students must be exposed to the complex interactions, across many disciplines, of real-world engineered systems. Teaching engineering and engineering-related courses to undergraduates is an interesting and rewarding task. Graduates from engineering programs must not only be technologically capable, but they are also expected to exhibit real- world problem solving skills, be team oriented, be able to function in a multi-disciplinary environment. Construction graduates must possess technical strength coupled with

Asa, E., & Gao, Z. J. (2007, June), Designing A Project Based Construction Engineering Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2694

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