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Interactive Site Investigation Software To Drive A Design Project In Contaminant Hydrogeology: Successes, Failures, And Future Developments

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Technology in Environmental Engineering Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.763.1 - 8.763.7



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Harmon

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

Session 2251

Interactive Site Investigation Software to Drive a Design Project in Contaminant Hydrogeology: Successes, Failures and Future Developments

Thomas C. Harmon Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering University of California, Los Angeles


This paper summarizes the past efforts and proposes future developments associated with a major educational development intended to serve as a problem-based learning environment for helping students to gain a deeper understanding of theory-based course content while accelerating their exposure to the practical aspects of an engineering design project. The curriculum development centers on an environmental engineering design project simulator called Interactive Site Investigation Software (ISIS). This paper reviews the background work and development of ISIS, as well as the instructional applications from 1999 through 2003 and the main educational assessment of ISIS in 2000. ISIS successes are documented and include the significant stimulation of lower achieving students, the major instructor time-saving aspects associated with automating such a project, and others. ISIS failures include an apparent lack of dissemination of ISIS to other instructors, and the related lack of educational assessment due to small ISIS test beds to date. Potential solutions to these problems, including ISIS workshops and user groups, are discussed. Future ISIS developments are proposed and may encompass inter-campus cyberteams comprising multi-disciplinary student teams and similar groups of on-line instructors and/or evaluators.

I. Introduction

This paper provides an overview of the development and application of a major environmental engineering instructional software package known as Interactive Site Investigation Software (ISIS). ISIS is job- environment simulator for the specific environmental engineering problem of hazardous waste site assessment. The software executes an interactive database that was custom-developed in Java for creating an environment where students could engage in a simulated site investigation.

Details about the workings and capabilities of ISIS are chronicled elsewhere (Harmon et al., 2002). In short, ISIS packages an instructor-fashioned three-dimensional soil and contaminant distribution in the context of a realistic subsurface environmental site assessment scenario. The students are then charged with the managing data collection under time and budget constraints, and interpreting their data in a consulting-style report.

The purpose of this paper is to provide instructors with an accurate impression of the level of effort and expected payoff of this type of instructional software. The paper provides an overview of the development, application, and educational assessment of the ISIS package. Throughout this overview, significant pitfalls and failures associated with the effort are presented. The paper concludes by outlining possible improvements and extensions of the ISIS package.

II. ISIS Developmental History and Resource Requirements

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Harmon, T. (2003, June), Interactive Site Investigation Software To Drive A Design Project In Contaminant Hydrogeology: Successes, Failures, And Future Developments Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12608

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