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GIS and Introductory Environmental Engineering: A Way to Fold GIS into an Already-existing Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Problem- and project-based learning in environmental engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.642.1 - 23.642.15



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Paper Authors


Mary Cardenas Harvey Mudd College

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Mary P. Cardenas, Ph.D.
LaFetra Chair in Environmental Engineering
Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA

Dr. Cardenas earned her B.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State Engineering. She joined Rocketdyne as a propulsion engineer and worked on the Space Shuttle Main Engines, Atlas Engine, and the X-30 propulsion system. Dr. Cardenas received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Environmental and Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying the transport and fate of PCBs and sediments in the Saginaw River. She has been a member of the Engineering department at Harvey Mudd College since 1995, and has served as Associate Dean of Faculty for Academic Affairs. She is the co-author of the Journal of Engineering Education paper, "Use of "Studio" Methods in the Introductory Engineering Design Curriculum" and co-developer of the sophomore-level rocket-based experimental engineering lab course at HMC. Dr. Cardenas is currently exploring novel pedagogy for Introductory Environmental Engineering courses.

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David Wayne Kelley Department of Geography, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

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Dr. David Kelley, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Geography
David has a B.A. in Biology and a M.S. in Agronomy, and spent almost 10 years working with international development projects in various African countries before moving to Minnesota in 1995. He earned his Ph.D. in soil science and water resource science from the University of Minnesota and joined the Geography department at St. Thomas in 2000. David currently teaches courses in GIS, physical geography, remote sensing, and weather and climate. He is particularly interested in working with students and other researchers to explore landscape processes related to environmental quality, and in the application of geographic information science for land assessment and management.

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Warren Roberts

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GIS and Introductory Environmental Engineering: A Way to Fold GIS into Already-Existing Assignments and ProjectsThe use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) was implemented in the upper-divisionundergraduate technical elective Introduction to Environmental Engineering. Students integratedtechnical engineering skills, newly-learned geographical information system (GIS) skills, and theengineering design process, all in the context of the design of a debris flow barrier for awilderness land parcel acquired by a local conservancy group.Junior and senior engineering students, the majority of whom had no experience with GIS, weretaught ArcGIS (a GIS mapping program) in the context of an Introductory EnvironmentalEngineering course. Students learned how to map locations, find and download geoencoded data,and join data layers, in order to graphically present toxic release hazards near their home towns.ArcGIS skills and knowledge were assessed through completion of homework problems, andthrough the students’ use of GIS data, software, and mapping during the design of a debris flowbarrier for a local wilderness land parcel.Assignment #1 consisted of students learning how to map and characterize toxic releases neartheir hometowns; these data were downloaded into a spreadsheet for later use in the ArcGISsoftware package. In Assignment #2, the students used ArcGIS to analyze these data for thepotential of water, soil, and atmospheric transport. In addition to the homework assignments, thestudent team completed a team-based design project involving the characterization of thewilderness site; acquiring relevant GIS data; and studying the physics of debris flow. The teamproduced alternative designs for the barrier and chose the best design by applying design metrics.The alternative designs and rationale for the chosen design were presented to the board ofdirectors of the local conservancy group.Pre- and post-assessment data were gathered to analyze the success of the learning objectives.The design project in particular was useful in evaluating the students’ skill, knowledge and easein using the GIS tools for analysis of the wilderness land parcel.

Cardenas, M., & Kelley, D. W., & Roberts, W. (2013, June), GIS and Introductory Environmental Engineering: A Way to Fold GIS into an Already-existing Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19656

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