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Renovating Education Inside and Outside of the Classroom: An Update on an Ongoing NSF Grant Featuring Innovative Initiatives to Revolutionize a First-Year Construction Materials Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Materials Experiments, Labs, Demos, and Hands-On Activities

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1241.1 - 22.1241.10



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Paper Authors


David S. Cottrell University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. David S. Cottrell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1978 and retired in 2000 after more than 22 years of service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Studies at Texas A&M University resulted in an M.S. Degree in Civil Engineering in 1987 and a Ph.D. in 1995. He is a registered Professional Engineer with the Commonwealth of Virginia. With more than 13 years professorial experience, he has taught a large variety of courses including statics, dynamics, mechanics of materials, graphic communications, engineering economy, and construction planning, scheduling, estimating, and management.

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Chung-Suk Cho University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Dr. Chung-Suk Cho is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Department of Engineering Technology. His teaching and research focus on project scope definition, pre-project planning, sustainable construction, project administration, construction safety, construction simulation, and project management. He has prior teaching experience at North Carolina A&T State University in construction management and working experience with Fluor Corporation as a project manager. His studies at University of Texas, Austin resulted in a Ph.D. in 2000.

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Transforming Construction Materials Inside and Outside the Classroom The paper describes emerging results from an ongoing aggressive NSF funded researchproject involving a successful implementation of active-learning, student-focused educationalprotocols coupled with the deployment of student teams to Habitat for Humanity constructionjob sites. The course is a first year introductory course in construction materials that studies thehistory, physical properties, behavior, and application of basic construction materials. With two75-minute lectures and a 3-hour laboratory each week, this traditional course covers topicsincluding mineral aggregates, Portland cement concrete, masonry, wood, asphalt concrete,metals, plastics, and other materials. Despite the relative rigor of a comprehensive lab program,students still lack a good, first-hand experience employing the materials and the techniques orprocedures to produce a constructed facility. Under this innovative project, students inside theclassroom are engaged and compelled to take responsibility for their own learning. Outside theclassroom, Habitat for Humanity serves as a gateway to hands-on opportunities for students withlittle or no experience in construction. Beyond the education of the 125 students enrolled eachsemester, the project merit and impact extends outward to many targets. This paper reports on deliberate efforts to integrate research into education. Thisinnovative approach validates an active-based, student-focused methodology as a successfulmeans for student achievement, engagement, and mastery of learning objectives and projectoutcomes. Further, the paper will present evidence that when classroom instruction isaugmented with an out-of-class experience that provides a defining hands-on experience – formany perhaps their first – the classroom experience itself also takes on a new aura of reality andrelativity. Synergistically, the students emerging from this innovative project in educationalpedagogy appear more confident and better prepared for follow-on courses in the curriculum. This relatively low cost venture deliberately advances discovery and understanding of theutility of a newly emerging classroom teaching and learning paradigm coupled with integrationof a real world, hands-on opportunity to apply fundamentals of construction methods andmaterials. This paper will describe a project that promotes engaging teaching, trains faculty inactive-learning techniques, and gauges success through evaluating student learning. The paperwill report on the significance of this effort which extends to the University as well as to thecommunity. This project reports enhanced student learning stemming from the transformation ofthis course from a passive mechanism of lectures to an environment where students play a keyrole in mastering course objectives. Further, the Habitat operation gives the students a timelyopportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of materials and methods employed to produce aconstructed facility. Beyond the students, engaging in charitable endeavors such as Habitatbenefits the University by demonstrating its commitment to the surrounding community. This paper will also present future plans for expanding the program to other members ofthe academic community. A successful partnering program will demonstrate the portability ofthe pedagogy, initially with schools with similar curricula and courses, but certainly success on arelatively small scale should open routes to other disciplines within engineering technology aswell as STEM. Partnering supports dialogue, brainstorming, and collaboration on futureinnovations. Page 1 of 1

Cottrell, D. S., & Cho, C. (2011, June), Renovating Education Inside and Outside of the Classroom: An Update on an Ongoing NSF Grant Featuring Innovative Initiatives to Revolutionize a First-Year Construction Materials Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18839

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