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Hands On Experiences In Civil Engineering

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.620.1 - 8.620.14



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Paper Authors

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George List

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Stacy Eisenman

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

Session 2793

Hands on Experiences in Civil Engineering

Stacy Eisenman and George List Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Abstract New “hands-on experiences” are being incorporated into the undergraduate civil engineering program at Rensselaer. The aim is to have students see real civil systems; better relate their classroom knowledge to the real world; tie their knowledge together, within and across the disciplines; and learn how to learn through experimental investigation and analysis. Various options are being explored ranging from three two-credit classes to a set of experience modules distributed across all four years. The areas being addressed are structural, geotechnical, transportation, and environmental engineering. The experiences will range from basic experiments to multi-disciplinary charettes. Some of the more advanced ones will emphasize simulation, where virtual systems are compared with their real-world counterparts. Others will tie together concepts from several disciplines. Some will be visits to construction sites, traffic management centers, and special lab facilities at other universities. This paper describes the experiences being devised, their potential packaging, and the findings from a pilot implementation. Overall, the experiences will help the students tie their classroom knowledge to the real world.

1.0 Introduction There is a national trend to increase the amount of hand-on experiential learning seen by civil engineering undergraduates [1]. Educators are recognizing that classroom-based learning can benefit substantially from experiential learning wherein the students see how their classroom knowledge applies to real-world situations. Through these experiences, theory becomes real and reality adds depth to theoretical understanding.

This paper considers basic questions about these hands-on experiences. What kinds of experiences are important? How should they be integrated into the curriculum? Should they be independent or inter-related? What duration should they have? Should they be team efforts? Should they focus on individual disciplinary areas or integrate them together? Rensselaer’s civil engineering program is used as a case study setting.

Building on prior efforts such as the Admiral Combs Design Retreat [12] and the required course in Sensors and Instrumentation [2], the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer is creating a suite of hands-on experiences that span the undergraduate program and tie closely to the sequence of courses being taken. The program also provides opportunities to show the students how information technology (IT) has become an integral part of civil engineering systems.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

List, G., & Eisenman, S. (2003, June), Hands On Experiences In Civil Engineering Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11405

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