Multi-institutional physical modeling learning environment for geotechnical engineering education

Tarek Abdoun, Usama El Shamy, Anthony Tessari, Victoria Bennett, John E. Lawler

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper discusses the preparation and pre-evaluation for the development and implementation of an educational module that integrates major remote research facilities into undergraduate classes. The developed educational module incorporates state-of-the-Art experimental tools (geotechnical centrifuge) into the undergraduate education curriculum via web-based technologies that enable real-time video monitoring, tele-control, and shared execution of experiments. The students' activities within the developed module are centered around building a model consisting of a shallow foundation on a sand deposit utilizing the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) centrifuge facility. The project provides students at three different engineering universities with new educational tools for improving their understanding of various geotechnical engineering concepts. The main goals of this project are: To develop and pilot test educational models utilizing the centrifuge facility at one of these universities; to provide visual observation of the response of soil and soil-foundation systems; and to promote student-based use of instrumentation, interpretation of acquired data, and utilization of the NEES 3D data viewer in order to analyze the measured response. Students were able to access, interpret, evaluate, and exchange relevant technical information via the Internet thereby bringing major experimentation into geotechnical engineering classes. In order to ensure successful development and implementation of the multi-institute educational model, a preliminary implementation was conducted in the fall of 2011 at two of the three universities. Students at one university involved in this trial were undergraduate research students, while those participating at the second one did so as part of a soil mechanics and foundations class. The close interaction with undergraduate research students helped in identifying potential problems at early stages and allowed for timely corrections as the second university's class progressed. This paper presents the results and lessons learned through early implementation. It focuses on explaining centrifuge technology, the tools used to build the model, testing logistics, and methods adopted to resolve obstacles encountered during execution of the module. The student survey indicates that the developed module successfully addresses an important educational gap - students' lack of understanding of the strong relationship between soil laboratory testing, system design, and field performance. The survey also highlighted the fact that students did appreciate the practical nature of the project. The educational module was revised and successfully implemented in the spring of 2012 at the three universities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2013
Event120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2013Jun 26 2013


Other120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAtlanta, GA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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