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Innovative Shake Table Laboratory Instruction: Implementation and Assessment of Student Learning

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Pedagogical Innovations in Laboratory Education

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.883.1 - 22.883.28



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Paper Authors


Alyn Marie Turner University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Alyn Turner is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her research interests are in education policy evaluations, social stratification and inequality, and sociology of education.

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Sandra Shaw Courter University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Sandra Shaw Courter is co-PI for “Deployment and Integration of Shake Tables Using the NEES Cyberinfrastructure.” She is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Engineering Professional Development and Wendt Commons: Teaching and Learning Services. Her area of research is engineering education including assessment of student learning. She taught technical communication courses to undergraduate engineering students and currently consults with faculty and teaching assistants. She also is PI for the “Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN): How People Learn” project. She earned her Ph.D. in educational administration at UW-Madison.

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Shirley Dyke Purdue University

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Dr. Dyke is Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University and the director of the Intelligent Infrastructure Systems Lab. Before Purdue, she was the Edward C. Dicke Professor of Engineering at Washington University-St. Louis. Dr. Dyke investigates ways to reduce losses and property damage from earthquakes. She also studies the use of structural control and monitoring systems for improving the behavior and lifetime of structural systems. Dr. Dyke earned her B.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the University of Illinois and her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame.

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Innovative Shake Table Laboratory Instruction: Classroom Implementation and Assessment on Student LearningHazard mitigation has been an important addition to the undergraduate civil engineeringcurriculum in recent years. Integration of the fundamental concepts of thismultidisciplinary topic, namely the integration of structural dynamics and emergingtechnologies with more traditional structural analysis and design, is an opportunity fortraditional civil engineering education. However, one of the most important challengesfacing civil engineers is mitigating the severe human and economic consequences ofstructural dynamic responses to various large scale excitations (e.g., earthquakes,hurricanes, blasts).This paper describes the classroom implementation and impact on student learning of aninnovative laboratory experience designed to integrate the fundamental concepts ofhazard mitigation into civil engineering education across the country. This laboratoryexperience utilizes the tele-operation and tele-observation of an instructional bench scaleshake table lab station (shake table). The goal of this laboratory experience is forundergraduates to learn the fundamentals of structural dynamics while gaining experiencewith sensors and sensor technology, data acquisition, emerging technologies for seismicresponse modification, and established cyberinfrastructure tools.We report analyses from multiple studies at 8 universities where the shake tables havebeen used in the classroom. The data were generated by surveys and interviews withinstructors (N=26) and surveys of students (N=613). Data were collected through theacademic years 2007-2010. We related the characteristics of the instructors, the students,and the courses in which the shake tables were used to the implementation and evaluationof the shake tables and to the perceived impacts on student learning includingunderstanding of course content and the development of civil engineering skills.Students’ evaluations of the shake tables were generally favorable, however a non-trivialnumber of students were either neutral or negative in their evaluations. Contentcomprehension and skill improvement increased as a result of increased familiarity withthe shake table technology and with improvements to the shake table technology and thedeployment of the shake table technology over time within universities. Class levelfactors such as the size of class and whether the course was advanced were not associatedwith variation in student learning. Individual level factors such as the race and year ofcollege were not associated with student learning. However, being female was negativelyassociated with student learning.While improvements to the shake table technology were made over time in response tothe student and instructor survey responses and instructor interviews, students andinstructors in the last wave of data collection (Spring 2010) identified a number ofrecommended improvements to the shake tables. These included aspects that wouldclarify how to use the shake tables, such as the development of clearer instructions,requiring instructor demonstrations, and specific improvements to the technology such asincluding a stop button and a timer, improving the data export and saving functions,including a graph output, increasing the number of variables, and simplifying theinterface. In addition, connectivity issues such as long lag times and excessive “timingout” issues were complaints. These issues are being resolved.By Spring 2011, the shake table lab, as it is commonly called, will be available broadly touniversities across the US by way of the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation(NEES) Program of the National Science Foundation under award number CMMI-0927178. DIVISION OF EXPERIMENTATION AND LABORATORY ORIENTED STUDIES (DELOS)The Division of Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies (DELOS)invites abstracts for papers for the 2011 ASEE annual conference. DELOS is amultidisciplinary division devoted to laboratory innovations for instruction andexperimentation. Papers addressing, but not limited to, the following topics arerequested: computer-assisted data acquisition; virtual and distance experiments;the use of the Internet in executing experiments and laboratories; unique,multidisciplinary laboratory experiments and programs; laboratory exercises ordesign projects that use systems such as the Lego® NTX, etc.; horizontal orvertical curricular integration of laboratory experiments and courses; and thepedagogy of laboratory courses.Abstracts should be 500 words or less. Authors of accepted abstracts will beinvited to submit full-length papers for peer review. Please see the 2011 Call forPapers ( for the mostup-to-date information regarding abstract and paper submission (including deadlines).DELOS sponsors three (3) Best Paper Awards consisting of plaques and cashprizes. All papers submitted to the division will be considered for these awards.In addition, DELOS sponsors one (1) Best Poster Award.For more information, contact DELOS-2011 Program Chair Ahmed Rubaai: (202)806-6616; e-mail:; or DELOS-2011 Division Chair LisaHuettel: (919) 660-5237; e-mail:

Turner, A. M., & Courter, S. S., & Dyke, S. (2011, June), Innovative Shake Table Laboratory Instruction: Implementation and Assessment of Student Learning Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18182

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