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Student Engagement Across The Civil Engineering Curriculum

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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

A Serving Profession: Service Learning in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1157.1 - 11.1157.12



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Paper Authors


Warren Cambell Western Kentucky University

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He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University specializing in fluid mechanics and water resources. He is currently the Hall Professor of Civil Engineering at Western. Prior to coming here, he was the City Hydrologist for Huntsville Alabama. As a karst (cave and limestone) researcher, he feels he has come to Mecca. His goals are to improve flood mapping and stormwater system design in karst areas.

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Shane Palmquist Western Kentucky University

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Shane M. Palmquist is an assistant professor of civil engineering in the Department of Engineering at Western Kentucky University. Prior to becoming a faculty member at WKU, Dr. Palmquist was a structural engineer for Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers in Natick, Massachusetts. He received his BS in civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire, his MS in civil engineering from the University of Rhode Island, and his PhD in civil engineering from Tufts University. His technical interests include project-based engineering education, bridge engineering, construction, and project management.

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Greg Mills Western Kentucky University

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Greg Mills is a full professor in the Department of Architecture and Manufacturing Sciences at Western Kentucky University. He teaches courses in surveying, applied mechanics and structural analysis. He received a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Dayton, a BS in Computer Science from Western Kentucky University, and an MS in Civil Engineering from Cleveland State University.

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

Student Engagement Across the Civil Engineering Curriculum Abstract

Engineering students at our university experience a project-based curriculum and work on many community projects during their academic careers. The civil engineering program has been able to engage students from freshmen to seniors in projects that are badly needed by the local community. Our city engineer wanted a device to record high water marks (crest gages). Ten were constructed by two civil engineering freshman experience classes learning to use machine shops. Several of the gages have been installed at locations around the city and are providing data that will be used to calibrate watershed models developed by a senior hydrology class. Elementary surveying students (freshmen) and advanced surveying students (sophomores, juniors, and seniors) developed topographic surveys of sinkholes prone to flooding. These maps were used by hydrology classes for models to improve flood maps for the community. These maps are sorely needed because of the poor quality of existing maps. For example, when flood zones were superimposed on topographic data, one end of a sinkhole flood zone was 6 m higher than the other end. Once the flood maps are revised, several homes will be moved into flood zones and residents with federally-backed mortgages will be required to obtain flood insurance. To assist the residents, surveying classes performed surveys so the residents could estimate the cost of flood insurance. All of these projects engage students at all levels and provide valuable learning experiences. In particular, freshmen gain a better understanding of the work of civil engineers through these projects.


Our university is a strong proponent of student engagement and of project-based learning. The ultimate aim of engagement is to perform projects of community interest that enhance student learning experiences. A very successful example of this paradigm is described here.

The university is situated in one of the best-known karst (cave and limestone) areas of the world. Most flood problems in the area are associated with sinkhole flooding, but many sinkhole flood zones are inaccurate. Often the zones do not conform to topography (one sinkhole flood zone is 6 m higher on one end than the other). Remapping of four sinkhole flood zones was selected as a project for a senior hydrology class. Arising out of this community need for improved flood maps, 10 different undergraduate classes with a total of 105 students were engaged in projects. The engagement of freshmen to senior engineering students will also be used as a springboard for launching one of the first floodplain management minors in the country.

These multi-class projects had many benefits, but some pitfalls were encountered. The purpose of this paper is to share these experiences with the general academic community and to offer this as a teaching paradigm that can be implemented by others.

Cambell, W., & Palmquist, S., & Mills, G. (2006, June), Student Engagement Across The Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--380

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