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Evolution Of An Undergraduate Probability And Statistics Laboratory

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.475.1 - 6.475.16

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Paper Authors

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Robert Gilbert

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Cynthia Finley

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

Session 2793

Evolution of an Undergraduate Probability and Statistics Laboratory Cynthia A. Finley, Robert B. Gilbert The University of Texas at Austin


An interactive laboratory that combines experiential and cooperative learning is used as part of a probability and statistics course for undergraduate civil engineering students. The goal of the laboratory is to help students see how probability and statistics are used in real civil engineering problems, reinforcing lecture topics and giving practice in recognizing and managing uncertainty. In the laboratory, computer simulations of civil engineering problems are performed, with students working in groups to collect and analyze data. During the four years that it has been used, the laboratory has changed in response to student surveys and instructor observations. The laboratory has been successful in helping students to understand probability and statistics concepts and their application to actual civil engineering problems. The students have also seemed to develop an understanding of uncertainty in engineering practice. Cooperative learning has been a valuable addition to the laboratory, since it fosters discussion and interaction in solving problems and allows students to learn from one another.


An interactive laboratory has been used in a probability and statistics course for undergraduate civil engineering students for four years. The laboratory is designed to reinforce topics taught in lecture by providing examples of how the concepts are used in real-world civil engineering problems. More importantly, the laboratory provides students with practice in recognizing and managing uncertainty in these engineering problems. While homework problems allow students to practice the computations involved with probability and statistics concepts, the laboratory allows students to use the concepts to design civil engineering systems, making decisions based on performance and cost.

The first year of the laboratory was described and evaluated in Yarbrough and Gilbert1 and Yarbrough2. The laboratory has evolved in the subsequent three years. The laboratory was assessed each year and improvements made for the following year. This paper describes the current laboratory, and how the laboratory has been evaluated and changed to better fulfill its purpose and improve the learning experience of the students.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Gilbert, R., & Finley, C. (2001, June), Evolution Of An Undergraduate Probability And Statistics Laboratory Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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