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Hands On Geotechnical Engineering At The Undergraduate Level

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.307.1 - 3.307.8

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Paper Authors

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Jay S. DeNatale

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Gregg L. Fiegel

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

Session 3615


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407


Defining the characteristics of a subsurface profile is a challenge that is unique to geotechnical engineering. It is important, therefore, that aspiring geotechnical engineers have knowledge of site exploration strategies and sampling techniques before entering professional practice. In most undergraduate geotechnical programs, students are taught these topics using textbooks and/or videotapes. This practice is often frowned upon by industry professionals since the students are unable to get a true feel for the work and thought involved in a typical site investigation.

A primary goal of the geotechnical engineering program at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo is to integrate field and laboratory experiences into the undergraduate curriculum using a hands-on approach. The faculty of the geotechnical engineering program believe that students must have a complete understanding of geotechnical exploration practices if they are to appreciate the judgment required in geotechnical analysis and foundation design. Described in this paper is the geotechnical engineering program at Cal Poly. Emphasized are experiences that the program has had incorporating field and laboratory testing procedures into the undergraduate curriculum. A brief discussion focuses on technical and financial support from industry that has helped to enhance the program.


California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo is one of the twenty-three (23) campuses of the California State University, the nation’s largest four-year university system. Cal Poly’s primary mission is undergraduate education, and it specializes in preparing its 15,000 students for careers in applied professional and technical fields.

Cal Poly’s College of Engineering has been consistently identified as one of the nation’s top state-funded engineering programs. Its “learn by doing” motto, while cliché to some, is taken very seriously by the students, faculty, and staff. Undergraduates are required to take numerous laboratory classes as well as a two-quarter, capstone senior research/design project. The hands- on experience gained in these activities stimulates self-discovery and creativity while preparing students for the rigors of professional practice.

DeNatale, J. S., & Fiegel, G. L. (1998, June), Hands On Geotechnical Engineering At The Undergraduate Level Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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