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Implementation of a Laboratory Experience in Reinforced Concrete Courses

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Are You Experienced? Approaches and Tools for Experiential Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Benjamin Z. Dymond University of Minnesota Duluth Orcid 16x16

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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.

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Matthew K Swenty P.E. Virginia Military Institute

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Matthew (Matt) Swenty obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering from Missouri S&T and then worked as a bridge designer at the Missouri Department of Transportation. He obtained his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech and worked at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center on concrete bridge research. He is currently an associate professor of Civil Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). He teaches engineering mechanics and structural engineering courses at VMI and enjoys working with the students on bridge related research projects and with the ASCE student chapter.

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Christopher R. Shearer South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Shearer is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. His research investigates the chemical, physical, and mechanical properties and durability performance of infrastructure materials, with a focus on sustainable concrete materials technology. He also researches new strategies to improve STEM education.

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College students enrolled in an engineering curriculum learn in a variety of ways (e.g., sensory vs. intuitive, visual vs. verbal, inductive vs. deductive, active vs. reflective, or sequential vs. global). In a reinforced concrete design course, where students learn how to design components of large structures, it can be hard to implement a hands-on, active environment that may benefit students. There were two main objectives of this research: (1) quantify student perception of learning before and after completing an experimental activity in a reinforced concrete design course; and (2) compare various methods of implementing these activities under the assumption that the existing course structure did not have and could not add an official lab section that would increase the course credit count.

An experiment with a common goal, which was to participate in the construction of and observe the destruction of reinforced concrete beams, was conducted differently at three universities. Students at University A used out-of-class time to build eight beams with differing amounts of reinforcement and in-class time to test them to failure. Students at University B used only in-class time to build four beams and observe tests to failure. Students at University C participated in a competition where they were tasked with designing and building the most efficient beam cross section to achieve the most ductility and highest flexural capacity.

Student learning and feedback was quantified using a common survey. At least 95% of the students completed three short-answer questions before and after the experiment. Results indicated that initially, 13% of students thought mixing concrete would be hard; after the experiment, this dropped to 2%. Initially, designing the beam, making the formwork, and placing the reinforcement were perceived as hard by at least 21% of the students; after the experiment, half of the students thought tying the reinforcement cage was the most challenging. Results from the post-experiment short-answer questions indicated that 38% of students thought that the experiment helped them comprehend crack patterns or failure types; the construction process (21%) and simply participating in construction of a full-size reinforced concrete beam (11%) were also commonly listed answers. The majority of students indicated that the construction process helped them better comprehend the course material.

The different methods of implementing the lab in a traditional three-credit lecture course received mixed feedback. Forcing students to participate outside of class, even under the guise of a homework lab assignment, was not always embraced. Furthermore, requiring an in-depth lab report in this homework-based and lecture-based course was perceived as extra work, even if the lab report was a portion of the final grade. At the same time, the students gained a much better understanding and appreciation for reinforced concrete design, detailing, and construction. This was especially true when the lab was administered with a design option that allowed the students to create their own beam. The results demonstrated that adding a lab to a lecture class can greatly augment student learning as it relates to the construction and design processes, but it can also overburden the professors and students if care is not taken when deciding on the implementation method.

Dymond, B. Z., & Swenty, M. K., & Shearer, C. R. (2020, June), Implementation of a Laboratory Experience in Reinforced Concrete Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34770

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