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Public Works Projects as Vehicles for Engineering Education and Outreach

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1010.1 - 23.1010.19



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Paper Authors


Shannon Weiss David Heil & Associate, Inc.

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Shannon Weiss is a project coordinator and specializes in the design and implementation of evaluation and market research projects related to DHA's core areas of emphasis in science, engineering, health, and environmental education; and institutional strategic and business planning. Her work serves a range of academic institutions, government agencies, corporations and non-profit enterprises including projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Prior to joining DHA, Shannon designed and conducted evaluations for Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, and the Pacific Science Center. Shannon received a B.A. in Art History from the University of Evansville in Evansville, IN; an M.A. in Museum Studies from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA; and was a member of the initial cohort of the University of Washington's IMLS funded New Directions in Audience Research Program.

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David R. Heil David Heil & Associates, Inc.

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David Heil, President of David Heil & Associates, Inc., (DHA) is well known as an innovative educator, author, and host of the Emmy-Award winning PBS science series, Newton’s Apple. Active in promoting public understanding of science for over 30 years, he is a frequent conference and workshop presenter on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, and his firm provides research and evaluation services for a broad range of government, corporate, non-profit and university clients. Heil is a co-author of Family Engineering: An Activity and Event Planning Guide, and serves as a member-at-large on the Executive Committee of ASEE’s K-12 Division.

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Thalia Anagnos San Jose State University

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Dr. Thalia Anagnos is a professor in the General Engineering Department at San Jose State University where she has taught since 1984. Her research interests are in structural engineering, earthquake loss estimation and risk analysis, engineering education, and informal education. On this project she is helping to develop K-16 materials to complement the exhibits and expand the learning opportunities.

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Public Works as Vehicles for Engineering Education and OutreachAmerica is built on small and large feats of public works engineering that, although often takenfor granted, affect almost every aspect of our daily lives. So how can we celebrate these marvelsof utilitarian infrastructure and use them to teach public audiences about the engineeringprinciples, materials, and human innovations that make them possible? This case study willshare how one project addressed these questions by leveraging informal learning strategies,multi-agency collaborations, and new media technologies to explain the history and engineeringof one of the world’s most recognizable public work sites: the Golden Gate Bridge.This paper will first discuss the nature of public works projects in general as visible examples ofengineering for public benefit and chronicle the development and installation of outdoor exhibitsdesigned to explain factors (historical, engineering, and environmental) that influenced theGolden Gate Bridge’s design and construction. The exhibit includes photographs, text panels,interactive components, and Quick Response (QR) codes linked to additional web-content andlanguage translations - all of which provide on-site visitors, as well as online and school-basedaudiences, the freedom to direct their own learning. The paper will also share findings from asmall international conference that brought pioneers of this field from around the globe togetherto discuss other iconic public works projects and their experiences leveraging these sites forpublic education and a professional development course for public works professionals designedto increase professional awareness and elevate the outreach capacity of other sites. Finally,research and evaluation data collected throughout the project from university studentparticipants, public works professionals, and public audiences, will provide a broader view of theproject’s impact, lessons learned, and illustrate the inherent potential these projects offer asvehicles for engineering education and broad public engagement.

Weiss, S., & Heil, D. R., & Anagnos, T. (2013, June), Public Works Projects as Vehicles for Engineering Education and Outreach Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22395

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