Asee peer logo

Designing Experiments In A Civil Engineering Curriculum

Download Paper |


2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Unique Lab Experiments

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.384.1 - 7.384.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

J. Ledlie Klosky

author page

Allen Estes

Download Paper |

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

Main Menu Session 2526

Designing Experiments in a Civil Engineering Curriculum

Allen C. Estes and J. Ledlie Klosky United States Military Academy


As all ABET-accredited institutions become more familiar with the Engineering Criteria (EC) 20001 on which their accreditations depend, it is important for various institutions to share information on how they are meeting these new requirements. The new accreditation philosophy requires institutions to define their own missions and objectives and to develop a process of assessment and continued improvement. The emphasis is on demonstrating how the educational objectives and outcomes are being met. Many outcomes have been specifically prescribed in the now-famous criterion 3 (a-k) requirements. One of the most controversial among civil engineers has been criterion 3b which requires engineering programs to “demonstrate that graduates have an ability to design and conduct experiments, analyze and interpret data.” While most civil engineering programs conduct experiments, many have struggled with demonstrating that their students can design an experiment. This paper describes three instances where the students design experiments as part of the Civil Engineering program at the United States Military Academy.

Beam Bending Laboratory

The earliest opportunity for students to design an experiment occurs in the Mechanics of Materials course. Student will have already conducted a simple tension test and pure torsion test on specimens under controlled conditions using prescribed methods in previous laboratory experiences. The objective of the beam-bending lab is for the students to demonstrate the validity of the elastic bending stress equation. Students are given a bucket of parts and told to design their experiment. The parts include an instrumented beam, weights, clamps, measuring devices, and assorted spare parts. Students are asked to design a scale for the measurement of mass using these pieces. They define the beam support conditions, make all necessary measurements, attach the strain gage leads to a strain indicator and apply the weights. Assuming elastic behavior, the students can use the strain readings to compute stress and compare the results to the elastic bending equation. They can then use the device they built in a competition with the other lab groups for the determination of the unknown mass of an object. There is no approved solution and there are a variety of ways to conduct the experiment properly.

In designing this laboratory exercise, we had two principal objectives; first, to reinforce the fundamentals of beams in bending, to include the application of the shear and moment diagrams and confirmation of the flexure equation, and second, to expose students to conceiving, designing and executing an experiment. To add punch to the process, it was decided that some competition between the design teams would be beneficial. It was thus decided that the lab exercise would take the form of a scale-

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

Main Menu

Klosky, J. L., & Estes, A. (2002, June), Designing Experiments In A Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11118

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2002 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015