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Project-based Learning in a Persistent COVID-19 Environment

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Project-based and Experiential Learning in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count

19

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37613

Download Count

276

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Paper Authors

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Cade Fleaher

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Dechathon Suwanakeree United States Military Academy

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Scott Amos Collins

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Geoff Kirk

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Antonio La Torre

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Peyton James Pisacane

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Kevin P. Arnett P.E. United States Military Academy

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LTC Kevin Arnett is a fifth year Assistant Professor at the US Military Academy. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from USMA in 2001, his M.S. Civil Engineering from U.C. Berkeley in 2011, and his PhD in Structural Engineering from UCSD in 2019. He teaches structural analysis and design of steel structures, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in California and Missouri.

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Brad C. McCoy United States Military Academy

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Brad C. McCoy is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, and currently an Asst. Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering and the Deputy Director of the Center for Innovation and Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA). He holds a BS degree in civil engineering from USMA (2001), and MS and PhD degrees in civil engineering from North Carolina State University (2011 and 2019). Brad is a licensed Professional Engineer (Missouri). His research interests include sustainable infrastructure development, sustainable construction materials, and engineering education.

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Aaron T. Hill Jr. United States Military Academy

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Colonel Aaron Hill is an Assistant Professor and Design Group Director in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from West Point, a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management from Missouri S&T, a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Aaron has served in the military for 23 years as an Engineer Officer with assignments around the world to include Afghanistan, Egypt, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is a licensed professional engineer in Virginia and a Project Management Professional. Aaron’s primary areas of research are engineering education, the behavior of steel structures, and blast. Aaron mentors students by serving as an advisor for capstone projects and through service as an Officer Representative for Women’s Volleyball and Men’s Basketball. His passion for teaching and developing tomorrow’s leaders resulted in his selection in 2009 for the American Society of Civil Engineers New Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2013 Outstanding Young Alumni Award for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.

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Abstract

The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world created an unforeseen challenge for both professional and academic institutions. Many institutions around the country, particularly academic institutions, are struggling to adapt to the challenges posed by the virus. In a persistent COVID-19 environment, people cannot meet in-person to collaborate as often as they once could. The environment has limited our ability to connect, work, and perform as society previously has. As such, academic institutions have recently been required to shift the means and methods of education to adapt to the virus. Historically, one of the more successful educational approaches has been project-based learning (PBL). PBL has a long track record as an alternative to traditional educational techniques. While the published benefits, as well as the drawbacks, of PBL are summarized in this article, what the authors anticipated and will demonstrate is that advantages of the PBL model relative to conventional instruction were accentuated in the COVID environment and that combined with newly minted capabilities, the model produced significant educational gains when compared to traditional instruction and earlier PBL experiences. Methodology for this research includes Likert Scale questions, CATME surveys, and open-ended survey feedback and interviews from students and instructors involved in three unique STEM-related capstone courses to obtain quantitative and qualitative feedback on project-centric learning before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The three capstone projects investigated were the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Concrete Canoe Competition, the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Student Steel Bridge Competition (SSBC), and a partnered project with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) investigating sustainable solutions for lock and dam components. Additionally, aggregate student performance reports from multiple undergraduate level courses were analyzed to determine quantitative differences in performance between both project-based courses and traditional courses, and between courses in pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 learning environments. Our study revealed that, in the midst of a pandemic, effective use of PBL will enable students to (1) capitalize on collaborative technology to efficiently and successfully solve complex engineering problems, and in doing so, improve student time management skills, (2) improve their critical thinking and engineering judgement, (3) improve their ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives, and (4) enhance their ability to acquire and apply new knowledge to real-world problems. These benefits were achieved to significantly higher degrees in our PBL capstones than in traditional coursework during the pandemic and compare favorably to pre-pandemic achievement levels as well.

Fleaher, C., & Suwanakeree, D., & Collins, S. A., & Kirk, G., & La Torre, A., & Pisacane, P. J., & Arnett, K. P., & McCoy, B. C., & Hill, A. T. (2021, July), Project-based Learning in a Persistent COVID-19 Environment Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37613

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