Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Many students find it easier to learn about mechanics (the study of forces and their effect on structures) when they can see load-carrying structures in 3D and can feel the forces they carry.

Led by Professor Wayne Brodland and Dr. Rania Al-Hammoud, students in CivE 104 and CivE 204 are gaining valuable hands-on experience in the world of civil engineering. Prof. Brodland's research into computational modelling and mechanical testing, along with Dr. Al-Hammoud's interest in rehabilitation of structures and active learning in engineering education, provide a solid foundation for their interactive teaching style.

students testing bridge structure

Students test one of the bridge models

A new set of models that were custom-made for our students, and two courses (CivE 104 and 204) that are largely “wrapped around” them, have helped students to become excited about learning how bridges, arches, gothic cathedrals, retaining walls, culverts, tanks and other structural systems actually work. - Prof. Brodland

The models were made sufficiently large and heavy that students could feel the forces. Many of the models were purposely designed to challenge student intuition, with arch designs they think will stand collapsing and designs they are “sure” will fail not only standing, but supporting considerable additional load.

diagram of bridge supports and beamsBeam Model Drawing

One of the beam models comes with a spreadsheet that plots deflection, slope, moment and shear diagrams, and students use dial gauges to confirm its deflection predictions. Students enjoy experimenting with the models and coming up with their own structural designs.

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