June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
23.1009.1 - 23.1009.15
Public Works for Public Learning: A Case StudyLarge scale and small scale public works projects are important in the smooth operation of everycommunity, yet a majority of the population has little awareness of how these projects work andwhat their functions are. Few non-engineers understand the engineering challenges of deliveringclean water, disposing of our sewage, or changing a traditional intersection into a round-about, aproject that seems quite simple on the surface.A consortium of public works engineers, science museums, faculty, and exhibit evaluators wereawarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to build an outdoor museum next to a largesuspension bridge. The exhibits explain concepts such as forces in the main cables andsuspenders, the function of the towers and the anchorages, aerodynamics of the bridge deck,torsional resistance of the bridge deck, and bridge vibration, to name a few. A 1:75 scale replicaof the bridge provides an opportunity for people to see all of the elements of the bridge close up,and to see the structural elements inside the towers. Many of the exhibits are hands-on. Forexample, one exhibit that describes the trade-offs between tower height and main cabledimension, displays three suspension bridges side by side with towers of different heights(resulting in catenaries with different sags). By pulling on the cables of each model the visitorcan “feel” that the shorter tower results in higher tension forces. The exhibits are complementedby web content (in multiple languages) so that visiting school groups and the general public canexplore the topics in more detail after their visit. Formative assessment was used throughout theexhibit development to incorporate public feedback into the exhibit design. Summativeassessment is ongoing.As part of the dissemination plan for this project, a conference on public works for publiclearning brought together representatives from both large scale and small scale public worksprojects from around the world to share their successes in using these projects for raising publicawareness. Strategies ranged from teaming with local Arts Councils to host events at publicworks sites, to more traditional visitors center displays and tours.This paper will provide a case study of the outdoor bridge exhibit and summarize key lessonslearned from developing the exhibit and from the conference.
Anagnos, T., & Carroll, B., & Weiss, S., & Heil, D. R. (2013, June), Public Works for Public Learning: A Case Study Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22394
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