Horizontal integration of the same design project in multiple structural engineering courses

Benjamin Z. Dymond, Matthew Swenty

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The effective use of design projects in engineering classes or capstone style courses has been well documented. Design projects introduced in a single course can help connect esoteric concepts, reinforce team-building principles, and bring practical considerations into the classroom. However, many of the concepts taught and learned in these courses may be left behind when the student moves on to another design course or focus area within civil engineering. Capstone style courses are frequently used to instill the importance of the overall design process, but this may not be completed until the final semester or year of study. The global objective of this research study was to horizontally integrate the same design project in multiple structural design courses to incorporate the concepts of iterative design, design options, and continuity among structural engineering classes (e.g., reinforced concrete, steel, prestressed concrete, etc.). The approach of horizontal project integration may better represent the concept of designbuild, which is a common project delivery technique in the structural engineering industry. The design and construction engineers work together as a team to efficiently design and build a project. The process often includes working on the design while construction is underway; design iterations and changes are inevitable as the project progresses. To simulate a design-build project, a real world design project was introduced into both steel and reinforced concrete design classes at multiple universities. There were several goals to achieve using this form of instruction. The first goal was to determine if the same project could be adapted in each course, such that students complete the same design with two different materials. The second goal was to expose students to different structural details within the same set of overall building plans (i.e., the details and requirements for concrete and steel vary) while bolstering their ability to read and interpret drawings used in the industry. The final goal was to assess if students connected topics from previous classes (e.g., structural analysis and statics) to the current design classes and if the project helped them retain knowledge. The project has been implemented in reinforced concrete and steel design courses. The basic design process for each class included tracing the load paths and using the applicable code to design a typical set of beams, girders, and columns. An initial survey was used to assess the student's ability to perform structural analysis and interpret construction drawings. A final survey assessed the gains made within each class (i.e., design of reinforced concrete and steel) and the gains made in material related to ancillary topics. Furthermore, comparisons were made between the initial and final project submittals in the different classes and between feedback recorded by the instructors of each class. The results indicate that horizontal integration is possible within a structural engineering curriculum and may lead to better global understanding and retention of the material, but implementation requires careful coordination and forethought because of the idiosyncrasies between the design courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017


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