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Projects In Department Wide Junior Civil Engineering Courses

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Civil Engineering in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1046.1 - 11.1046.22



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Paper Authors

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Luciana Barroso Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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James Morgan Texas A&M University

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

Projects in Department-Wide Junior Civil Engineering Courses


The civil engineering department at Texas A&M University (TAMU) has modified two junior- level courses, dynamics and introductory structural analysis, to incorporate design-oriented team projects based on realistic civil-engineering systems. This change represents a move towards project-based learning, a pedagogical approach that closely models engineering practice. These projects are open ended problems with multiple possible solutions and are designed to emphasize interpretation of numerical results rather than pure numerical computations. As such, they serve to improve learning outcomes through critical thinking and evaluation. In addition, the project teams serve to give the students experiences intended to improve ABET1 and TAMU departmental outcomes, specifically:

TAMU 1. Ability to apply knowledge of basic mathematics, science, and engineering [ABET a] TAMU 2. Ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams [ABET d] TAMU 3. Ability to formulate and solve civil\ocean engineering problems [ABET e] TAMU 4. Ability to communicate effectively (verbal & written) [ABET g] TAMU 5. Ability to use computers to solve civil\ocean engineering problems [ABET k]

These projects have several objectives: (1) to allow students to tackle a larger and more realistic civil engineering dynamics problem, (2) expose students to computational tools used in solving problems, (3) evaluate critical thinking and communication skills. The projects are designed to be solved by student teams, who are told they are acting as consultants on the project posed (TAMU 2). As the problems posed are more realistic than standard homework assignments, the structures to be analyzed are more complex and computer software applications are used to solve the numerical component of the projects. The content in these courses was modified to include how to convert a physical system (structure and corresponding loads) into the most adequate mathematical model in order to perform the analyses (TAMU 1 and 3). To emphasize good written communication skills, a detailed written report and discussion is part of the submission requirement and counts as a third of the project grade (TAMU 4). Additionally, the students are required to use approximate methods to evaluate the results from the computer software package (TAMU 5). This requirement is important in addressing a major deficiency that many new graduates have: the lack of ability to evaluate whether the computer results make sense or someone committed an error in the input.

This paper discusses the changes in the courses and the implementation of the projects. Assessment and evaluation of the impact of these projects include data from faculty and students. These include an evaluation on how the courses and projects address specific Department and ABET outcomes. Student perceptions are evaluated immediately at the conclusion of the course and substantially after the conclusion of the course, for example in a follow-on course. Performance in a senior design course is used to compare the impact of having exposure to these projects prior to the complete design experience at the senior level.

Barroso, L., & Morgan, J. (2006, June), Projects In Department Wide Junior Civil Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1425

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