Asee peer logo

National Trends in the Civil Engineering Major Design Experience: Part Deux

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Trends and Applications in Curricula and the Capstone Experience

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.922.1 - 23.922.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Tonya Lynn Nilsson P.E. Santa Clara University

visit author page

Tonya Nilsson is a full-time lecturer in the department of Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University. Previously she was on the faculty at California State University, Chico where she was a tenured associate professor. Dr. Nilsson has her professional license and has worked in industry on structural engineering projects. Dr. Nilsson worked for a number of years with ASCE's ExCEED Teaching Workshops and served for four years on the national ASCE Committee on Faculty Development. She is currently a member of the Santa Clara University School of Engineering ENGAGE team working on Everyday Examples in Engineering.

visit author page

author page

Kevin D. Hall University of Arkansas


Ronald W. Welch The Citadel

visit author page

Dr. Ron Welch, P.E., received his B.S. in Engineering Mechanics from the United States Military Academy in 1982. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1990 and 1999, respectively. He became the dean of Engineering at The Citadel in July 2011. Prior to his current position, he was the department head of Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Tyler from Jan. 2007 to June 2011. Dr. Welch served in the Corps of Engineers for over 24 years, eleven of which he spent as faculty at the United States Military Academy.

visit author page

Download Paper |


National Trends in the Civil Engineering Major Design Experience: Part DeuxCivil Engineering Programs applying for accreditation by the Engineering AccreditationCommission (EAC) of ABET, Inc. are required to describe their major design experience thatprepares students for professional practice. What is a major design experience and how isstudent performance evaluated? This paper presents the results of a survey of Civil EngineeringDepartments across the U.S. to further define the major design experiences that exist. The initialsurvey results (XXX, 2012) identified the common length of design experiences, types ofprojects, team or individual requirements, multidisciplinary characteristics, gradingmethodologies, and professional skills instruction provided during the design experience.After analyzing those results, a number of new questions surfaced which would provide clearerinsight into the nuances of the many forms of major design experiences that currently exist.Additional questions to be investigated include: Is your program ABET accredited? If so, whenis your next ABET visit? When did you begin your capstone/major design experience? Why didyou begin a major design experience, e.g. Was it to assess student outcomes; an ABETdriven/required major design; to be included as part of a multi-disciplinary experience; theprogram always had one - so not sure; to provide a team building experience; a desire to include:professional skills - leadership, communication, ethics, business practices, public policy, globaland contemporary issues, advisory board/industry/alumni/ employer input? Do you have varyingcapstone design experiences for each Civil Engineering sub-discipline? Do you increase themajor design project requirements for larger team sizes? What is the typical enrollment in thecourse and how many faculty support the major design experience? Do faculty members act asconsultants? What are the credit hour totals for the major design experience and how are theyallocated? Do you use grading rubrics - and if so, how and/or what is assessed?Analysis of the survey results also highlighted the need for more in-depth questions in areasaddressed by the original survey. Original questions modified to provide a clearer picture of aprogram’s major design experience include: What do you teach within the major designexperience course and what you assess? What is the number of expected hours per week perstudent and how do you track it? How is team versus individual work assessed? What is multi-disciplinary, i.e., how do you define your student's experience to be multi-disciplinary? Areindustry mentors used, and if so, how many mentors per team? What evaluation methods areused - including point allocation for technical, professional skills, foundational, communication,etc.?This paper does not evaluate or assess the effectiveness of any one method. Rather, in aggregateform the results offer a comprehensive look at current practices employed by civil engineeringprograms related to the major design experience.XXX, National Trends in the Civil Engineering Major Design Experience, 2012 ASEE Annual Conference,San Antonio, TX.

Nilsson, T. L., & Hall, K. D., & Welch, R. W. (2013, June), National Trends in the Civil Engineering Major Design Experience: Part Deux Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22307

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015