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Integrating Sensing Technology and Building Information Modeling into a Construction Engineering Curriculum

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

BIM and Virtual Construction Environments

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.806.1 - 25.806.10



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Paper Authors


Pingbo Tang Western Michigan University

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Pingbo Tang is an Assistant Professor of civil and construction engineering at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich. He obtained his bachelor's degree of bridge engineering in 2002, and his master's degree of bridge engineering in 2005, both from Tongji University, Shanghai, China. In Aug. 2009, he obtained his Ph.D. degree from Carnegie Mellon University and joined the Mapping and GIS Lab at the Ohio State University (OSU) as a Postdoctoral Researcher. At OSU, he was responsible of managing multiple research projects, most of which are related to computer vision-based robot localization and spatial data management for interplanetary exploration. Tang left OSU in Aug. 2010 and started teaching and research at Western Michigan University. His teaching and research interests lie in the general area of sensing and spatial information technology for construction, and facility and infrastructure management.

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Haluk M. Aktan P.E. Western Michigan University


John Stephen Polasek P.E. Western Michigan University

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John Polasek retired from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) in 2009 with 39 years of service. He started out as a Student Highway Technician. After graduating from Ferris State University with a degree in highway technology, Polasek went on to pursue his next degree at Michigan State University (MSU). Polasek received his B.S. degree in civil engineering from MSU in 1972 and was hired at MDOT. Over the years, he has worked in the Design Division, as a Staff Engineer for the Local Government Division, as the Kalamazoo District Design Engineer and Project Development Engineer, and as Region System Manager. In June 2003, Polasek was appointed Director of the Bureau of Highway Development, which oversees road and bridge design, including quality assurances and specialty areas such as electrical, hydraulic, and municipal utilities. The bureau is also responsible for administration of federal aid to local agencies and has statewide responsibilities for real estate, utilities, and transport permits. Polasek is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Michigan. After his retirement for MDOT in 2009, Polasek accepted a position of Adjunct Faculty in the College of Civil and Construction Engineering at Western Michigan University (WMU). He is the instructor and Coordinator for the capstone senior design program.

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Integrating Sensing Technology and Building Information Modeling into a Construction Engineering Curriculum AbstractAs the U.S. construction industry starts exploring and adopting various sensing technologies(3.g., 3D laser scanners) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) in recent years, a strategicplan of the Civil and Construction Engineering program at Western Michigan University is toequip students with relevant knowledge in response to this trend. As shown by multiple pilot stu-dies in the past decade, various sensors, such as RFID tags and laser scanners, have substantialpotential of collecting real-time observations of the job site to improve the situational awarenessof construction engineers. On the other hand, various BIM packages (e.g., Autodesk Revit) havebeen adopted in various construction projects to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of in-formation management and collaborative decision making in the design-construction process.Overall, effective construction management need both the real-time field observations from jobsites (Sensing) and various analysis supported by virtual models (BIM), especially for large andcomplex construction projects in urban areas. Construction engineers, therefore, need to havecomprehensive understanding about sensing technology and BIM for increasing number of large-scale urban constructions.Even with their potential known, effective integration of sensing technology and BIM into theconventional design-construction process is still challenging due to technical and organizationalbarriers. On the technical aspect, multiple types of sensors and BIM tools are available on themarket while new sensors are being developed, while the learning curves for most of these tech-nologies are steep. Tim and resources investments related to training engineers to effectively usethese technologies are not trivial. On the organizational aspect, most existing construction engi-neering programs provide students some hands-on experiences of selected sensors and BIMtools, while systematical introductions about how these technologies can transform the construc-tion practice are limited. As a result, students may master particular technologies, while lacking acomprehensive understanding on the relationships among construction practice, data collection(Sensing), and information management (BIM). On the other hand, such a systematical view isnecessary for educating engineers capable of adopting new tools according to a variety of do-main requirements.Aiming at addressing the barriers described above, we are initiating efforts on systematically in-tegrating sensing technology and BIM into the construction engineering curriculum at WesternMichigan University. In an engineering design course offered to freshmen, we introduce BIMtools and their implications for the design-construction integration. In a series of constructionengineering courses (planning and scheduling, construction cost estimating, project control,project management) offered in the junior and senior years, we expose students to various sens-ing and BIM tools in various application scenarios (e.g., construction productivity monitoring,time-cost trade-off analysis). This program concludes with a comprehensive course “Sensing andModeling for Construction Management” in the senior year to provide students a systematicalview of the roles of sensing technology and BIM for responsive management of complex con-struction projects, as well as senior design projects for students to apply the skills learned fromthese courses in real-world projects. This paper provides an overview of these efforts, and pro-vides examples of course implementations and senior design projects.

Tang, P., & Aktan, H. M., & Polasek, J. S. (2012, June), Integrating Sensing Technology and Building Information Modeling into a Construction Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21563

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