Postprint version. Published in Proceedings of the 2005 ASCE Structures Congress & Exposition: New York, NY, April 20, 2005.
Copyright © 2005 American Society of Civil Engineers.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Allen Estes was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/40753(171)125.
This paper describes a unique project-based course used successful by the ABET-Accredited Civil Engineering Program at the United States Military Academy (USMA) to greatly enhance the academic program. The three general project classifications available within this senior course are service-based (i.e., USMA, the Army, local community, etc.), competition-based (i.e., steel bridge, concrete canoe, timber bridge, Big Beam), and research-based. The exceptional student work provided at little to no cost to the client has opened up a ground swell of service and research projects now constantly offered to the program coordinator by prospective clients. We believe these independent study projects are successful due to our students being prepared through open-ended design in nearly every course we offer and through some initial project-based learning in earlier courses. The mix of these open-ended projects usually ensures that each student can list a minimum of 3.5 project choices that meet their individual needs for a challenging, yet rewarding academic experience. Approximately 90.98 percent of the senior CE majors each year choose to work on one of these open-ended projects. With 45 to 60 CE majors graduating each year, it is easy to understand that one faculty member cannot advise the required 15.20 projects each spring. So many, if not all, of the CE program’s 17 faculty must buy-in to the project-based senior program from the onset. It will be shown through student assessment that this form of experience not only challenges, but also motivates the students like no other aspect of their academic experience. The students are providing a solution to a real world problem for a real client. The assessment will show that the students find project-based learning demanding, but enjoyable and worthwhile because it forces them to push the boundaries of their knowledge through initiative, self-study, perseverance, and creativity.