Asee peer logo

Horizontal Integration of the Same Design Project in Multiple Structural Engineering Courses

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Horizontal and Vertical Integration

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Benjamin Z. Dymond University of Minnesota Duluth Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Ben Dymond obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech before obtaining his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Ben is currently an assistant professor of structural engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

visit author page


Matthew K Swenty P.E. Virginia Military Institute

visit author page

Matt Swenty obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering from Missouri S&T then worked as a bridge designer at the Missouri Department of Transportation before returning to obtain his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. He worked at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McClean, Virginia on concrete bridge research before coming to the Virginia Military Institute. He teaches engineering mechanics and structural engineering courses at VMI and enjoys working with the students on undergraduate research projects and with the ASCE student chapter.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The effective use of design projects in engineering classes or capstone style courses has been well documented. Design projects introduced in a single course can help connect esoteric concepts, reinforce team-building principles, and bring practical considerations into the classroom. However, many of the concepts taught and learned in these courses may be left behind when the student moves on to another design course or focus area within civil engineering. Capstone style courses are frequently used to instill the importance of the overall design process, but this may not be completed until the final semester or year of study. The global objective of this research study was to horizontally integrate the same design project in multiple structural design courses to incorporate the concepts of iterative design, design options, and continuity among structural engineering classes (e.g., reinforced concrete, steel, prestressed concrete, etc.).

The approach of horizontal project integration may better represent the concept of design-build, which is a common project delivery technique in the structural engineering industry. The design and construction engineers work together as a team to efficiently design and build a project. The process often includes working on the design while construction is underway; design iterations and changes are inevitable as the project progresses. To simulate a design-build project, a real world design project was introduced into both steel and reinforced concrete design classes at multiple universities.

There were several goals to achieve using this form of instruction. The first goal was to determine if the same project could be adapted in each course, such that students complete the same design with two different materials. The second goal was to expose students to different structural details within the same set of overall building plans (i.e., the details and requirements for concrete and steel vary) while bolstering their ability to read and interpret drawings used in the industry. The final goal was to assess if students connected topics from previous classes (e.g., structural analysis and statics) to the current design classes and if the project helped them retain knowledge.

The project has been implemented in reinforced concrete and steel design courses. The basic design process for each class included tracing the load paths and using the applicable code to design a typical set of beams, girders, and columns. An initial survey was used to assess the student’s ability to perform structural analysis and interpret construction drawings. A final survey assessed the gains made within each class (i.e., design of reinforced concrete and steel) and the gains made in material related to ancillary topics. Furthermore, comparisons were made between the initial and final project submittals in the different classes and between feedback recorded by the instructors of each class. The results indicate that horizontal integration is possible within a structural engineering curriculum and may lead to better global understanding and retention of the material, but implementation requires careful coordination and forethought because of the idiosyncrasies between the design courses.

Dymond, B. Z., & Swenty, M. K. (2017, June), Horizontal Integration of the Same Design Project in Multiple Structural Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28443

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015