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Integration of Remote Major Research Instrumentation in Undergraduate Civil Engineering Education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Involving Undergraduates in Research

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.788.1 - 23.788.15



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Paper Authors


Usama El Shamy P.E. Southern Methodist University

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Dr. Usama El Shamy is an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Southern Methodist University. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2004. He is the Principal Investigator and Project Director of the NSF funded TUES-Type 1 project: “A Multi-Institutional Classroom Learning Environment for Geotechnical Engineering Education.”

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Tarek Abdoun Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Flora P McMartin Broad-based Knowledge, LLC


Miguel A. Pando University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Miguel Pando is an associate professor of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at UNC Charlotte.

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Integration of Remote Major Research Instrumentation in Undergraduate Engineering EducationWe report the results of a pilot study aimed at developing and assessing an educational modulethat integrates remote major research instrumentation into undergraduate classes. This studyemploys Internet Web-based technologies to allow for real-time video monitoring and executionof cutting-edge experiments utilizing the George E. Brown Network for Earthquake EngineeringSimulation (NEES) facility at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Engaging majorexperimentation in the typical geotechnical engineering classrooms provides undergraduatestudents with broader insight into advanced research equipment and motivates them by creating anew learning environment. The specific educational goals of this study are: (1) to build, organizeand test an online module for students at a remote campus; (2) to assess the impact on studentlearning within a technology environment with regards to learning content; (3) to test theviability of remote lab assignments taking advantage of NEES technology; (4) to introduce aunique physical modeling experimentation environment and make it conveniently accessible tostudents, faculty and other learners; and (5) to save instructors and educational institutionsresources by providing sharable lab resources.The students’ activities within the developed module are centered around building a model of ashallow foundation on a sand deposit utilizing the RPI-NEES centrifuge facility and use thismodel for: (i) visual observation of the response of soil and soil-foundation systems, (ii) learningthe use of instrumentation, (iii) interpretation of acquired data, and (iv) comparing theexperimental results to theoretical predictions. Undergraduate students at a remote campusparticipated in the design of the experimental model. During the experiment, students observedloading of the footing online in real-time. Students were able to observe the stress distribution atdifferent depth locations below the footing. The footing was then loaded to failure and studentswere able to watch the development of the failure wedge underneath the footing.Assessment of the module was performed by addressing the following evaluation questions(guided by the educational goals): (a) did the project accomplish its goals as planned? (goals 1-5); (b) what were the outcomes and impact of the module on student learning? (goal 2); (c) howdid students use the technology to achieve the outcomes associated with the module? (goals 3and 4); (d) what are the key aspects of remote lab assignments that affect students learning,teaching and how might they be improved? (goals 3-5). An assessment survey was designedaccordingly and was distributed to the students after submitting all the assignments.The implemented course module aided filling a precarious gap in undergraduate geotechnicalengineering education. Students were able to acquire actual system test data from the centrifugeexperiment that are similar to field data. Students used the data to compare against the outcomeof theoretical analysis. Such a comparison stimulate critical thinking to identify theapproximations in the theory and/or the setting of the experiment that may lead to differencesbetween computed values and measured data. The module proved that remote sites can be madeconveniently accessible to students and faculty; thereby helping in saving educational institutionsresources.

El Shamy, U., & Abdoun, T., & McMartin, F. P., & Pando, M. A. (2013, June), Integration of Remote Major Research Instrumentation in Undergraduate Civil Engineering Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19802

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