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Using Real Field Construction As A Platform For Teaching Introductory Geotechnical Engineering

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1113.1 - 6.1113.7



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Charles Pierce

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

Session 2793

Using Real Field Construction as a Platform for Teaching Introductory Geotechnical Engineering

Charles E. Pierce University of South Carolina


This paper describes a unique approach for teaching geotechnical engineering to civil engineering undergraduates. While many undergraduate students recognize the discipline of structural engineering early in the curriculum, most students are not aware of geotechnical engineering until their first course on the subject, which is usually taken in the junior year. Thus most students do not recognize the strong link between the disciplines of geotechnical and structural engineering. To help students understand this connection and more fully comprehend fundamental geotechnical engineering concepts, an approach of using a real field construction project to support the teaching of this introductory course is being developed. For this approach to work most effectively, the entire course must be centered on a selected project. The University of South Carolina and metropolitan Columbia are experiencing a building boom, making this an ideal opportunity for this approach. One of the most recognized projects on campus is the construction of a new arena for basketball and ice hockey. The high visibility of this project generates greater student interest about learning concepts necessary to “build” the arena. This method has not yet been utilized in a course but is being developed for the next offering of Introductory Geotechnical Engineering. The paper provides a description of the new course platform and summarizes survey results of former students on the proposed method.

I. Introduction

Teaching the fundamental concepts of geotechnical engineering using traditional methods of lecture-based instruction and hands-on laboratory testing can be effective, based on the author’s experience. However, using a real, on-going field construction project as a platform for teaching these concepts can enhance these traditional methods. It is important to recognize that this teaching strategy does not intend to create an entirely project-based learning environment1; in other words, students will not, for example, design a foundation for a new structure by investigating the properties of the soil strata. Undergraduate students experience project-based learning in Senior Engineering Design where each group is required to design structural foundations. Rather than repeat this experience, the proposed concept uses a real, on-going construction project as a central theme for teaching concepts in geotechnical engineering. The resulting teaching strategy essentially becomes enhanced activity-based instruction1 that draws from some project-based learning objectives.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Pierce, C. (2001, June), Using Real Field Construction As A Platform For Teaching Introductory Geotechnical Engineering Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9973

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