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Teaching with GIS: Developing a project-based framework to teach civil engineering using software

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Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference



Publication Date

April 9, 2021

Start Date

April 9, 2021

End Date

April 10, 2021

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Kevin A. Waters P.E. Villanova University

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Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Villanova University with a specialty in water resources engineering and GIS.

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Virginia Smith Villanova University

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Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Water Resources in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. She received her PhD studying hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, and sediment transport at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Prior to earning her PhD Dr. Smith received a master’s degree in civil engineering from UT and her BS from Georgia Institute of Technology in civil and environmental engineering. After finishing her graduate work Dr. Smith worked in international development in Asia, the South Pacific, and Afghanistan, overseeing water and natural resource management projects. Since starting at Villanova University Dr. Smith has leveraged her experiences in her research focusing on rivers, floodplains, and flooding dynamics, particularly in urban settings. She also has several funded research projects investigating sediment transport into and through green stormwater infrastructure. She is the winner the of the Early Career Award from the University Council on Water Resources (2020) and the Villanova College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award (2021).

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Geographic information systems (GIS) technology is a platform for creating, managing, analyzing, and visualizing the data associated with developing and managing infrastructure. Faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at XXXX University have developed a project-centric course focused on the application of GIS within the various disciplines of civil engineering. The course covers basic principles to facilitate a working knowledge of GIS, but also allows students to tap into the data revolution, leverage large spatial data sets to create sustainable designs, make informed decisions, and educate project stakeholders in innovative ways through graphical communication. Applications of GIS are highlighted as the course steps through different phases of a civil engineering infrastructure project, referred to as the core project, including planning, data collection, environmental analysis, design, construction, and data collection for operations and maintenance. ArcGIS Pro software is used to teach fundamental civil engineering topics in each project phase. Thus, key concepts such as zoning requirements and calculations, elevation surfaces, watershed delineation, earthwork volumes, and roadway profiles are taught through application in a GIS environment. A variety of active-learning techniques are utilized in the course, following a hierarchy where activities progressively increase in level of complexity and instructor guidance. Interactive software demonstrations introduce concepts and GIS tools. Scripted tutorials then build on that knowledge, requiring students to utilize GIS with real data sets to work through a guided project that is framed within the context of a realistic civil engineering problem. As skills are developed, tasks become less guided, promoting students to think more independently about how to utilize the software to accomplish specified outcomes without being told the exact process. This higher level of learning is applied directly in completion of tasks for the core project, the final submittal of which requires a presentation using GIS-based digital story telling. Ultimately, this course seeks to simultaneously teach both civil engineering concepts and software skills through interactive and project-based learning, providing a pedagogical framework that can be applied in other courses that are based on discipline-specific software.

Waters, K. A., & Smith, V. (2021, April), Teaching with GIS: Developing a project-based framework to teach civil engineering using software Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . 10.18260/1-2--36323

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