Postprint version. Published in 42nd Structures Congress Conference Proceedings: Las Vegas, Nevada, April 14, 2011.
To this day, the 1981 skywalk collapse in the Kansas City Hyatt Regency resulted in the worst loss of life from a structural engineering mistake in United States history. While many important engineering lessons can be drawn from this disaster, it is just as important to recognize the broader lessons learned in the design and construction process as a whole that can be successfully brought into the classroom. Numerous organizations have undertaken the task of envisioning how engineering education can meet the demands of the future. ABET’s baccalaureate degree accreditation criteria, ASCE’s Body of Knowledge and Body of Knowledge 2 as well as the National Academy of Engineering have documented the need to change engineering education from its historical focus on technical content knowledge to include greater emphasis on professional issues and to integrate engineering practice into education. To this end teaching methods such as project based learning, active learning and the use of case studies are being explored to address these broader learning outcomes while actively engaging students. Because of the attraction students have in extraordinary events, the Hyatt disaster provides an ideal backdrop to introduce many of the professional issues needed to broaden the undergraduates’ learning experience. This paper discusses the use of the Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse in design coursework with specific application to third and fourth year civil and architectural engineering student learning. Besides the traditional concepts of load flow analysis and member design, broader concepts relating to professional roles and responsibilities, design team interplay, the design process, the construction process and professional practice ethics are emphasized.