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Design, construction and investigation of an earth retaining structure - a foundation for active learning

27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016

Abstract: Context: An increasingly evident tenet in engineering education, particularly in geo-engineering is that engineering students must be equipped to 'do' (Atkinson, 2012). How do we train them to 'do'? By doing. Bloom et al. (1971) and more recently others (Biggs and Tang (2007), Jaksa (2012) etc.) have further evidenced the positive impact that active learning or 'doing' can have on student outcomes. This paper presents an undergraduate engineering initiative at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, where 3rd year geotechnical engineering students 'did' a semester long project that incorporated the design, construction, testing and analysis of a campus-sited earth retaining structure.

Purpose: The purpose for this initiative was to provide geotechnical engineering students with an immersive semester-long 'doing' experience that would expose them to all necessary professional engineering facets of the course, within a 'real-world' project based environment.

Approach" At course commencement students were grouped and designated as Project Engineers. They were then tasked with the requirement to manage a small onsite geotechnical engineering project, that being the construction of a small 1m high earth retaining structure. Each group carried complete responsibility for the project including: risk analysis, budget and project planning, site investigation (laboratory and field based), project design, contractor engagement, construction and proof testing of the earth retaining structure. Throughout this process, a different Project Engineer from each group was required to provide a weekly verbal briefing to the Project Manager (Lecturer) on project progress and at the end of the semester, a final project report was submitted and a summative verbal briefing delivered.

Results: This approach resulted in a self-motivated and engaged student cohort. After recognising the responsibility that had been granted to them in assuming management of the project, students generally self-organised their groups, allocated tasks and devised timelines to ensure successful project completion in a timely manner. Destructive testing of the wall did not occur and the Engineering Test Precinct within which the structure was constructed continues to be utilised for additional 'doing' based geotechnical engineering learning.

Conclusions: In this initiative discrete 'doing' tasks were not prescribed, but a complete semester-long geotechnical engineering construction project was allocated to student groups to manage from inception to completion. This project enabled the students to 'do' many things, beyond those that may have been discretely defined for the project. This exposed them to necessary 'real-world' construction and project management issues. By transferring project 'ownership' to them, their self-assertiveness and confidence was increased, enabling them to serve more effectively as graduate civil engineers.

To cite this article: McCallum, Adrian; Porter, Mark and Fairweather, Helen. Design, construction and investigation of an earth retaining structure - a foundation for active learning [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 545-551. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=697560989218830;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 27 Apr 17].

Personal Author: McCallum, Adrian; Porter, Mark; Fairweather, Helen; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 545-551. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Engineering--Study and teaching; Student activities; Earth sciences--Study and teaching; Geotechnical engineering; Internal structure of the Earth; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, email: amccallu@usc.edu.au
(2) Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast
(3) Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast

Database: Engineering Collection