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Influence of Integrating GPS and Civil 3D in Engineering Technology Courses

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Software Applications in ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.960.1 - 26.960.11



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Paper Authors


Maher M Murad University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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Dr. Maher Murad is a faculty member in the Civil Engineering Technology department at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Dr. Murad served as a visiting professor at Bucknell University. He also has overseas teaching and professional experience. He worked as a technical manager at Modern Contracting and as a highway project manager at Acer Freeman Fox International. He is a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) in the state of Ohio. Dr. Murad received a Masters degree in Civil Engineering and a Ph.D. in Engineering Science from the University of Toledo.

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Brian L Houston P.E. University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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BRIAN L. HOUSTON is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Prior to academia, he worked as a Senior Design Engineer in the petrochemical industry and is licensed in several states. He continues to provide structural engineering consulting services for industrial contractors and fabricators. He received a B.A. from Northwestern University in 1986, and a B.S./M.S. in Civil Engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1997/99.

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Influence of Integrating GPS and Civil 3D in Engineering Technology CoursesAbstract In order to remain current in surveying practices, the Civil Engineering Technologydepartment (CET) at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ) purchased advanced GPSequipment for use along with the available traditional surveying equipment. The CETdepartment emphasizes incorporating current technologies and computer applications as part ofthe CET continuous improvement plan, heavily emphasized by the Accreditation Board forEngineering and Technology (ABET). Four CET courses (surveying, civil computations, highway design, and senior design)utilize surveying data. In the surveying course, students are trained to use both traditional andmodern surveying equipment including tapes, automatic levels, total stations, and GPSequipment. The use of such equipment allows students to complete basic surveying tasks such asdifferential leveling loops, traverse studies, and hand-drawn topographic maps. The civilcomputations course utilizes data collected during the surveying course to allow students to carryout tasks including traverse computations, layout, and electronic topographic maps using Civil3D software. Part of the data is collected manually using total stations and the rest is collectedusing GPS equipment. The highway design course involves a semester long project to design aroad. In past years, students performed route surveys using total stations. The surveying portionof the class would typically take two weeks to finish because of the rugged, wooded terrain andpoor visibility within the survey area. In the senior design course, every team surveys a projectsite to develop a topographic map. Historically this survey would take three eight-hour sessionsto complete, often requiring three or four days of activity. By utilizing GPS equipment, studentscan collect three to four times the data in approximately four hours, reducing the survey portionto a single activity, easily scheduled in a morning or afternoon session. Students embrace usingthe GPS equipment as they manage to finish their surveys in a remarkably short period of time,and the responsibility of using expensive equipment in an independent activity helps transitionthem mentally into practical engineers. In addition, the electronic output can be read by Civil 3Dwhich has been utilized to help students complete a comprehensive road design includinghorizontal and vertical alignments, cross sections, and earthwork computations. Integrating theGPS equipment and Civil 3D has improved the mentioned CET courses and is expected to betterprepare our graduates for careers in civil engineering technology. This paper describes the pedagogical aspects of developing, teaching, and coordinatingthe four CET courses to maximize the use of the GPS equipment and Civil 3D software as wellas discussing the positive impact this had on student learning. Related course and labcomponents are presented and discussed. Feedback from students is also discussed. Theexperience gained may be useful to those considering ways to develop and teach enhancedcourses that meet both ABET criteria and industry demands.

Murad, M. M., & Houston, B. L. (2015, June), Influence of Integrating GPS and Civil 3D in Engineering Technology Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24297

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