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Work in Progress: The Strategic Importance of Data Science in Civil Engineering: Encouraging Interest in the Next Generation

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division - Huh? What Did You Say? What Does That Mean?

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Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She is also the Director for the Engineering Plus program, which is in the process of being renamed to Integrated Design Engineering. Bielefeldt also serves as the co-director for the Engineering Education and AI-Augmented Learning Integrated Research Theme (IRT) at CU. She has been a faculty member at CU since 1996, serving in various roles including Faculty Director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program (2014-2017), Director of the Environmental Engineering program (2006-2010), and ABET Assessment Coordinator for the CEAE Department (2008-2018). Bielefeldt is active in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), serving on the Civil Engineering Program Criteria Task Committee (2019-2022) and the Body of Knowledge 3 Task Committee (2016-2018). She is the Senior Editor for the International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering (IJSLE) and a Deputy Editor for the ASCE Journal of Civil Engineering Education. Her research focuses on engineering education, including ethics, social responsibility, sustainable engineering, and community engagement. Bielefeldt is also a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Cristina Torres-Machi

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Dr. Cristina Torres-Machi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a dual PhD degree from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain and the Catholic University of Chile. Prior to joining University of Colorado Boulder in 2017, she worked as a Research Associate at the Centre for Pavement and Transportation Technology (CPATT) at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Dr. Torres-Machi has more than 10 years of experience working on advancing the current management of infrastructure assets, with a focus on highway projects.

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Qin Lv University of Colorado Boulder

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Over the last decades, the increased availability of data has significantly changed civil engineering practice. A wide range of jobs in virtually all sectors demand computing and data analysis skills to an unprecedented extent. Unfortunately, students from civil engineering often lack programming skills and the motivation to acquire competencies in data analysis. The intuition driving this research is that the approach currently used to teach data science in civil engineering is failing to gain the interest of students. This study has two objectives: (1) to explore the attitudes and beliefs of civil engineering students towards data science and (2) to propose pedagogical activities aimed at integrating data science into undergraduate civil engineering courses. Toward the first objective, an instrument was developed using items adapted from the Computing Attitudes Survey (CAS) and the Engineering Professional Responsibility Assessment (EPRA). The survey was administered to civil engineering students, with responses received primarily from senior-level students. An exploratory factor analysis of the survey responses identified five factors related to computing attitudes, professional connectedness, data science value, abilities in data science, and importance of skills in engineering. The analysis of specific survey items found that students’ perception of the importance of data analysis is likely lower than that of professionals and employers. These baseline survey results are promising to use the instrument after interventions that target computing and data science issues in civil engineering, tied to social issues. To address this misalignment between students’ perceptions and industry needs, we propose the development of pedagogical activities integrating the capabilities of data science with the social responsibility of civil engineers in undergraduate courses. Future research is needed to gather additional student response data and to deploy and pilot the proposed pedagogical activities and evaluate their impact on students’ perceptions.

Bielefeldt, A., & Torres-Machi, C., & Lv, Q. (2022, August), Work in Progress: The Strategic Importance of Data Science in Civil Engineering: Encouraging Interest in the Next Generation Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--40713

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