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Integrating Design Throughout The Civil Engineering Curriculum The Sooner City Project

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.349.1 - 3.349.9

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Paper Authors

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M. A. Mooney

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K. K. Muraleetharan

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H. Gruenwald

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B. E. Vieux

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Randall L. Kolar

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1526

Integrating Design Throughout the Civil Engineering Curriculum - The Sooner City Project

R. L. Kolar, K. K. Muraleetharan, M. A. Mooney, B. E. Vieux, H. Gruenwald University of Oklahoma

ABSTRACT Evaluations of existing undergraduate engineering programs continually cite three weaknesses: graduates lack technical literacy; graduates lack oral and written communication skills; and graduates lack design experience. To address these weaknesses, the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science (CEES) at the University of Oklahoma, is proposing a systemic reform initiative that will incorporate four themes throughout the curriculum. The centerpiece of the initiative is a common design project, entitled $Sooner City,# that will be introduced during the freshman year and continue for the entire curriculum. Design tasks range from population estimates to the water supply system. A common design project can unify the curriculum and allow material learned in early courses to carry forward. Another advantage is that the students will have a professional design portfolio that can be presented to perspective employers. Second, the design project will be taught using the just-in-time learning paradigm. By focusing on real-world applications up front, students will be interested and motivated to learn. Third, courses will be restructured to incorporate team learning and group presentations, which enhances the students interpersonal and communication skills. Fourth, starting in Fall 1998, all incoming engineering freshman will have a laptop computer with wireless communication technology so that each classroom becomes a networked computer lab. Together, the efforts will produce graduates who are self-disciplined, responsible, computer literate, and who can communicate effectively with fellow engineers, management, and the public. Also, the reformed curriculum can serve as a template for other reform efforts around the country, with an obvious name change for the city!

INTRODUCTION For the past five decades, undergraduate engineering education has, for the most part, followed this paradigm: class lectures on technical concepts, little or no discussion, homework consisting of numerical computations, and problem-solving exams. Furthermore, many institutions have been slow to adopt high technology (computers) into the classroom, relying instead on hand-held calculators and traditional design charts and nomographs. While this formula has produced generations of competent design engineers, it is ill-suited to producing graduates who can contribute in a dynamic, team-oriented environment, which must rely on computers to solve complex design problems, and which must be able to communicate effectively with management and the public. Articles7,9,12,14,26,29 and interviews with our own graduates, alumni, and employers document that graduates from such programs often have poor computer and communication skills. Our four-pronged curriculum reform effort to addresses these weaknesses. The elements are as follows: 1) use a four-year design project, $Sooner City,# as a common theme for all undergraduate civil engineering courses; 2) introduce an alternative classroom format that mimics the dynamic, team-oriented setting used by engineers and scientists to resolve difficult problems, problems that are too large and too complex to be tackled by individuals; 3) couple team-learning with a pedagogical approach that is primarily project- and student-driven, also

Mooney, M. A., & Muraleetharan, K. K., & Gruenwald, H., & Vieux, B. E., & Kolar, R. L. (1998, June), Integrating Design Throughout The Civil Engineering Curriculum The Sooner City Project Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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