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Implementation and Assessment of a Failure Case Study in a Multi-Discipline Freshman Introduction to Engineering Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 6: Course Content and Educational Strategies

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.703.1 - 24.703.11



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Paper Authors


James E. Lewis University of Louisville

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James E. Lewis, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville. His research interests include parallel and distributed computer systems, cryptography, engineering education, undergraduate retention and
technology (Tablet PCs) used in the classroom.

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Norb Delatte P.E. Cleveland State University Orcid 16x16

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Norb Delatte is Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cleveland State University

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Implementation and Assessment of a Failure Case Study in a Multi-Discipline Freshman Introduction to Engineering CourseAbstractTwelve university partners are extending the use of case studies across multiple engineeringdisciplines. This paper focuses specifically on the implementation and assessment of a failurecase study in a first year Introduction to Engineering course by the Department of XX at theUniversity of XXX.Case studies tie together technical, ethical, and procedural aspects of engineering and requirestudents to undertake higher order thinking in order to synthesize the relevant issues. Casestudies require students to synthesize the facts and engineering principles they have learned. Amajor objective of the case studies is to expose students to some aspects of the modern practiceof engineering, namely: teamwork, problem and data analysis, design creation, presentation anddefense of a designed solution, and professional ethics. In the fabric of a first year course, wherestudents do not have existing engineering principles to build upon, case studies help introducethe engineering profession, teamwork, critical thinking, and presentation of supporting materials.A common case study used in engineering training is the examination of the failure of theskywalk at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City. This failure is beneficial for incomingstudents because the technical reason for the failure is easily understandable and straightforward.However, the most challenging part of this particular case study is understanding how thedeficient walkway supports were allowed to be constructed and installed. Most incomingstudents have little knowledge of the complex relationship of the design, fabrication, andconstruction steps in large projects such as the Hyatt Regency Hotel, some instruction in theroles and responsibilities of each entity is presented and discussed with the students before theybegin digesting the information of the case.In prior use of this case study in the Introduction to Engineering course, students were asked toread published papers reporting on this event, formulate an opinion on the party most responsiblefor the failure, and write a paper explaining and defending their opinion. These early effortswere somewhat successful, but lacked fully engaging the students in the necessary work ofdelving into the details, developing a full understanding of the problem, and logically reaching adefensible conclusion. To increase the engagement of the students, a group paper and a mockhearing before the Professional Engineering Board of Licensure was added to the case studyactivities. The mock hearing allowed the students to assume the roles of the involved entities(owner, fabricator, project engineer, etc.) and represent each of these entities at the hearing.The students are surveyed after all case study activities are completed. The surveys collectinformation regarding how each of the elements of the case study impacted the students’ interestin the engineering profession and their understanding in the engineering profession. This paperpresents a discussion of the modified case study as well as student survey results.

Lewis, J. E., & Delatte, N. (2014, June), Implementation and Assessment of a Failure Case Study in a Multi-Discipline Freshman Introduction to Engineering Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20595

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