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Teaching/Learning Soil Mechanics with Mnemonics, Intuition, Insight and Inspiration

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Physics and Physics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

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Paper Authors


Jiliang Li P.E. Purdue University Northwest, Westville Campus, INDIANA, USA

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Dr. Jiliang Li, D.Eng (Mining Engineering, USTB), Ph.D. (Civil Engineering, UA), P.E., M.ASCE, M.ASEE, is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue University Northwest at Westville campus, Indiana. Before returning to teach at University, he had industrial experience in several States with consulting projects ranging from small residential, commercial and subdivision projects to large scale State DOT and federal projects after additional geotechnical courses and research study at UAkron. Dr. Li has teaching and engineering education interests ranging from engineering mechanics (statics, soil dynamics, mechanics of materials) to geotechnics (including geomechanics, rock mechanics, soil mechanics and engineering geology/hydrology), Probability and Statistics Applications in Civil Engineering, reliability based LRFD of geotechnical structures, design of earth structures, soil and rock exploration, geotechnical and foundation engineering in particular. With an interdisciplinary background, Prof. Li also has interests in transportation, water resources and geoenvironmental engineering and other pertinent disciplines closely tied to geo-system engineering’s learning, discovery, engagement and collaboration study.

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Jinyuan Zhai University of Akron

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Jinyuan Zhai is Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Akron. She earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from The University of Akron in 2016 specializing in solid mechanics areas. Her dissertation work was on Modeling Ductile Damage of Metallic Materials. She has also worked as a lecturer (assistant professor) of mechanical engineering at University of Science and Technology, Beijing. Dr. Zhai received her B. Eng and M. Eng degrees in Engineering Machinery from Taiyuan University of Science and Technology, formerly known as Taiyuan Heavy Machinery Institute where she pursued MS studies on Reliability Design of Box Girders of Cranes Based on Probability Theory. She has teaching and research interests in solid mechanics and their applications to different engineering fields and in particular mechanical and civil/structural engineering.

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"Teaching/Learning Soil Mechanics with Mnemonics, Intuition, Insight and Inspiration (MI3)"

ABSTRACT: This paper focuses on soil mechanics/physics engineering education with mnemonics, intuition, insight and inspirational study. One of the early giants of soil mechanics pioneers, Ralph Peck, Prof. Karl Terzaghi’s assistant once said that “Soil has a merit of memory and it never lies, people, however, sometimes do”. Nene and Landge (2009) [9] summarized mnemonics as “the art of assisting the memory, by using a system of artificial aids - rhymes, rules, phrases, diagrams, acronyms and other devices—all to help in the recall of fundamentals of soil mechanics concepts, names, principles, facts and figures, etc.” We all have used this technique knowingly or unknowingly in our life and educational learning. Many engineering subjects, for example, soil mechanics, contain abstract concepts, principles and ideas. In the beginning, soil mechanics may appear hard for students to visualize, comprehend and remember at first. As a professor instructing soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering, we are obligated to help and motivate students to learn as much as possible besides developing their enthusiasm for the soil mechanics subject. To achieve these objectives, educators and many authors of classical textbooks on geotechnical engineering have used effective methods of teaching which strengthens these concepts and help students to retain, retrieve and apply the concepts mastered in soil mechanics class. The paper presents some of the effective mnemonics techniques learned or created over the years which should be helpful for teaching and learning soil mechanics. Students are also encouraged to cultivate their own mnemonics, intuition, insight and become inspired by their own independent study or reading inspiring pioneers of soil mechanics creators and developers.

Li, J., & Zhai, J. (2017, June), Teaching/Learning Soil Mechanics with Mnemonics, Intuition, Insight and Inspiration Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28930

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