A Scavenger hunt to connect the as-built world to structural engineering theory

Matthew Swenty, Kacie Caple D'Alessandro, Ben Dymond

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


Many students enter the Civil Engineering field because of an interest in famous engineered structures. Although they may be familiar with these structures in name, they have difficulty connecting the concepts from their course work with the structural components from these fascinating structures. In order to help alleviate this problem, a new assignment based on a scavenger hunt was created for an introductory Structural Analysis course. The assignment was administered to encourage students to apply their knowledge to the world around them and observe the relevance of their education. Once students identify unique structures demonstrating specific features, they must try to use basic free body diagrams, loading concepts, and statics principles to estimate how a structure carries load and what types of loads may be applied. In addition to analyzing the written and oral submissions, a survey was developed to determine gains made after participating in the assignment. Feedback was obtained from surveys administered before and after the activity. The surveys inquired about the following topics: examples of structures in the student's world, load types and magnitudes applied to structures, and application of their knowledge to these real world structures. The initial survey responses confirm the perception of many professors and employers. The students struggled to connect real world structural examples with their knowledge base. Results from the initial and final surveys and the scavenger hunt assignment indicate that students make gains in knowledge with this activity. The students became more capable of using terminology to describe structural features such as fixed versus roller connections; applying environmental, dead, and live loads; computing structural determinacy; and describing structural function with free body diagrams. The responses show that it is possible to use a simple assignment based on real world structures within an established class to help students span the knowledge gap between the academic and as-built world. The implementation and collection of results is ongoing, but positive trends have been observed and the scavenger hunt assignment is being implemented at additional universities in Statics and Structural Analysis classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2016 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


Other123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans


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