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Integrating Problem Solving And Communication In The Structural Engineering Laboratory

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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

3.356.1 - 3.356.8

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Paper Authors

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Michael Tarnowski

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Sara Wadia-Fascetti

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

Session 1275

Integrating Problem Solving and Communication In the Structural Engineering Laboratory

Sara Wadia-Fascetti and Michael Tarnowski Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115

ABSTRACT The Structural Analysis and Design Laboratory course (CIV 1226) first developed in 1986 had the objective to tie the concepts covered in the analysis course to laboratory models and experimentation. In 1996 the course outline, syllabus, assignments, labs, quizzes, and computer software were outdated and did not adequately meet the needs of students engaging in civil engineering professional careers. A new laboratory curricula (presented in this paper) designed to combine modeling and experimental activities with computer analyses and theory enables students to achieve an improved understanding about structural behavior. The resulting curriculum (description of each laboratory) and strategies to increase student learning are presented in this paper.

INTRODUCTION At Northeastern University all civil engineering students are required take a theory-based structural analysis course and a structural laboratory course simultaneously. Building off elementary statics and mechanics courses, the theory-based course teaches students how to calculate deflections and forces in statically determinate and indeterminate frames. Specifically, students learn concepts such as virtual work, moment area, the flexibility method, slope deflection, and moment distribution. Over the past 10 years the curricula for the two courses diverged. The activities in the laboratory course remained static consisting of traditional activities such as working with strain gages, material properties, and concrete strength.

This paper focuses on a new laboratory curriculum that has been successfully integrated with the theory-based course. The design of the new laboratory curricula must have the following characteristics:

• The new laboratory curricula must complement the topics taught in the theory-based course and be modular to adapt to changes in the course content or instructor. • The laboratory activities and project are to be designed such that students work in groups and participate in active, experiential, and cooperative learning. • Each laboratory exercise will be linked with computer exercises to reinforce computer applications used in engineering practice. • All laboratory activities and projects will be designed to reinforce written communication, teamwork, leadership, and problem solving skills.

The revised and updated curriculum consists of several independent laboratory modules, each requiring approximately 2-3 hours of student work. Within each module students are required to,

Tarnowski, M., & Wadia-Fascetti, S. (1998, June), Integrating Problem Solving And Communication In The Structural Engineering Laboratory Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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