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Work in Progress Paper: Advantages of Applied Engineering Programming in a Civil Engineering First-Year Course

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2020 First-Year Engineering Experience


East Lansing, Michigan

Publication Date

July 26, 2020

Start Date

July 26, 2020

End Date

July 28, 2020

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Paper Authors


Andrew Assadollahi Christian Brothers University

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Dr. Assadollahi is a native Memphian and a 2005 graduate of Christian Brothers High School. Dr. Assadollahi earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structural engineering from Christian Brothers University in 2009. He also earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Christian Brothers University in 2009, concentrating in applied differential equations. He earned a M.S. in Civil Engineering from The University of Memphis in 2010 with a concentration in structural seismic engineering. Dr. Assadollahi completed his Ph.D. in Engineering from The University of Memphis with a concentration in geo-structures in 2013. He currently an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Christian Brothers University. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Tennessee.

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Sarah Swain Christian Brothers University

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Sarah Swain was a graduate of Brighton High School in 2018. She is currently enrolled at Christian Brothers University to earn a B.S. in Civil Engineering with a concentration in geotechnical engineering, along with a minor in Business Administration, graduating in 2022. She plans to pursue a M.S. in Civil Engineering immediately upon earning her B.S. at Christian Brothers University. Outside of her academics Sarah is actively involved with the ASCE Student Chapter at Chrisitan Brothers University and is currently the chapters Vice- President and Concrete Canoe Captain.

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Sam Das

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This Work in Progress Paper discusses the advantages of applied engineering programming in a civil engineering first-year course. In civil engineering, there has been discussion as to what the most appropriate scientific programming content is for first-year students. In addition, how that content should be delivered, what programming language is most useful, and what prerequisite material should be required is of interest. Some civil engineering curricula require a traditional, mathematics-based theory in their scientific programming content. This often includes scientific programming topics ranging from root-finding methods, numerical differentiation, integration, solutions to ordinary differential equations, and matrix operations. Such topics may be delivered in a way that students can enroll in the course during their first year in engineering, while other delivery methods may require prerequisite material causing students to enroll during their second year. The application of traditional mathematics-based theory in a scientific programming course can refresh and sharpen the skills that students had been exposed to prior but may quickly become repetitive and lose the interest of the students. A scientific programming course can become very useful upon entering the engineering profession; however, with a programming course using only the mathematics-based theory, the connection to later courses of study and the engineering profession may not be as clear. If the programming content has a more direct relation to the engineering profession, students would be exposed to basic concepts of future courses and have an early understanding of these relevant engineering topics. While mathematics-based topics are important for the students to become familiar with, the questions that should be asked are “How do these topics complement freshman and sophomore-level engineering content?”, “How does exposure to these topics motivate or demotivate freshman and sophomore-level civil engineers to continue to pursue their degree?”, and “What are appropriate prerequisites for this material?” This research provides a list of topics that are easily integrated into a scientific programming course for first-year students majoring in civil engineering that can be useful and stimulating, while not requiring rigorous prerequisite material that will delay enrollment into the course until the second year. Specifically, this research shows how topics from Statics and Mechanics of Materials can be organized and delivered to first-year civil engineering students such that they are able to write programs to solve problems from said topics, prior to being enrolled in the sophomore-level Statics and Mechanics of Materials courses. This research also provides an outline for how other engineering programs can develop their own unique scientific programming course content that can have a positive impact on students’ performance in later engineering courses.

Assadollahi, A., & Swain, S., & Das, S. (2020, July), Work in Progress Paper: Advantages of Applied Engineering Programming in a Civil Engineering First-Year Course Paper presented at 2020 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan.

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