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Experiencing Failure - Recreating the Hyatt Regency Collapse to Teach Statics, Ethics, and Lifelong Learning

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Your Best in 5 Minutes: Demonstrations of Hands-On and Virtual In-Class Teaching Aids

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Laura Doyle Santa Clara University

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Dr. Laura Doyle is a lecturer in the Civil Engineering Department at Santa Clara University where she teaches undergraduate courses in civil engineering. Before coming to SCU, Laura was a post doctoral scholar for the John Muir Institute of the Environment at University of California, Davis where she used multi-dimensional models to examine water quality of the San Francisco Bay Delta system. She earned her masters and doctoral degrees in environmental fluid mechanics at UC Davis

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Tonya Lynn Nilsson P.E. Santa Clara University

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Tonya Nilsson is a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University (SCU), where she regularly facilitates pedagogical training for other faculty. Prior to joining SCU, Tonya was an Associate Professor at CSU - Chico.

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The Hyatt Regency Hotel disaster continues to be an important civil engineering ethics case-study. In engineering statics, this disaster is used to teach students about lifelong learning, the importance of licensure and ethics in engineering design and build. The assignment has evolved over the years and now includes a demonstration, free-body diagram and statics analysis. The demonstration and statics analysis of the original design and as-built conditions are completed before the Hyatt Regency disaster is described. Students are initially provided with schematics of the original and as-built designs and tasked with drawing the free body diagrams, completing the statics analysis and explaining the difference in the two systems. During the following demonstration, students load weight on scale models of both the as-built and original design configurations of the suspended walkways of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In both cases, the models are loaded to failure and the total weight added before failure is compared. After a short discussion, a video of the Hyatt Regency Hotel tragedy is shown. The in-class assignment is followed up with a reflection paper assignment. In a survey administered to students in the course during fall 2017, 89 percent of student respondents (n = 48) indicated the activity added to their understanding of the topic and indicated in descriptive questions that the activity was helpful and increased their interest in engineering.

Doyle, L., & Nilsson, T. L. (2019, June), Experiencing Failure - Recreating the Hyatt Regency Collapse to Teach Statics, Ethics, and Lifelong Learning Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32792

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