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Rethinking Computer-Aided Design in the Civil Engineering Curriculum: Impact and Lessons Learned

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Construction Engineering Division Technical Session 6 - Technology & Simulation

Tagged Division

Construction Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jeffrey M. Otey Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Jeffrey Otey is an associate professor at the College of the Ozarks. He received his PhD from Universitat Politècnica de València and his research interests include CAD model quality and complexity, visualization, and rubrics.

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Jorge D. Camba Purdue University

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Jorge D. Camba is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

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Nicholas Danney Texas A&M University

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Nicholas Danney is a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University, and will begin employment with Walter P. Moore Houston Structures Group in Summer 2019.

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Title: Rethinking Computer-Aided Design in the Civil Engineering Curriculum: Impact and Lessons Learned

In response to the removal of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) instruction from the First Year Engineering Program at a large Southwestern University, and at the urging of the department Industrial Advisory Committee, a visualization course comprised of CAD and Building Information Modeling (BIM) was developed and instituted in the Department of Civil Engineering beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year. The CAD component in the prior college-wide course was a combination of mechanical parametric modeling and two-dimensional AutoCAD topics, neither of which satisfied all departmental needs, with some departments (ex. Electrical Engineering) completely opting out of requiring it. The newly developed course is specifically designed to cater to the needs of civil engineers, emphasizing topics that are most relevant to the civil engineering profession. The course has undergone continuous modification in an effort to respond to industry and follow-on course requirements, but has historically included training in AutoCAD, AutoCAD Civil 3D, Revit, and various visualization and projection techniques. Desired outcomes include increased CAD skills needed in follow-on courses, increased competitiveness for internships, and expertise with industry-standard CAD tools so that newly minted engineers are immediately productive.

In order to facilitate the incorporation of these topics in other courses in the curriculum, guest lectures, class project support, open office hours, and instructor assistance were provided so that CAD and BIM are not seen as compartmentalized topics, but tools which can be readily used to solve various civil engineering design problems.

This sophomore-level course, mandatory in all specialization tracks, provides a unique foundation to assist in the attainment of visualization and design skills needed further in the curriculum and also in industry. Specific course topics include two-dimensional and three-dimensional projection methods, linking files, data extraction, topography and catchments, virtual surfaces, earthwork and grading, surveying and parcels, corridors and intersections, pipe networks, rendering, and animations. Preliminary results reflect that the course has been successful in student competitiveness and preparation for industry and that student visualization skills have improved, validated by pre- and post-course completion of the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test (object rotation) and the DAT for PCA Space Relations Test (3D object from 2D pattern). This paper discusses specific steps completed for implementation of this ambit, problems encountered and remedied, lessons learned in this process, and future plans to improve the course.

Otey, J. M., & D. Camba, J., & Danney, N. (2019, June), Rethinking Computer-Aided Design in the Civil Engineering Curriculum: Impact and Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33244

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