Civil engineering class incorporates realistic simulation; prepares students for industry

June 17, 2014

PC100028

The civil engineering program at CU-Boulder encompasses a number of educational objectives that place great value on the interests of the students. One such objective is to help graduates prepare for and find employment in the industry upon graduation.

To accomplish this objective, many professors within the program include hands-on activities in the classroom so as to introduce students to situations and experiences they may encounter once in the workforce.

Matthew Morris, instructor of civil engineering, is one such professor. Morris teaches Introduction to Construction (CVEN 3246), a lower division civil engineering course that focuses on a broad range of concerns, activities and objectives of people involved in the construction industry.

In order to demonstrate how those within the industry tend to such concerns, activities and objectives, Morris incorporates an interactive simulation into his curriculum. The simulation involves dividing the students into two groups, designers and contractors, and requiring the groups to collaborate on the construction of a structure using traditional methods.

“The relationship between the groups is intentionally kept at ‘arms length’ to demonstrate a traditional construction delivery system known as design-bid-build,” Morris said. “The students quickly learn that it’s quite difficult to build a real structure based on … limited communication.”

According to Morris, the purpose of the simulation is to expose students to a traditional procurement method, which, although prevalent in the construction industry, continues to pose communication problems. After such exposure, students tend to conclude the traditional method to be inefficient, Morris said.

To counteract complications associated with the traditional method, Morris introduces other construction methods throughout his course, such as design-build and CM at Risk and Integrated Project Delivery, which encourage open communication, faster construction, and better collaboration between groups.

At the end of the course and upon completion of the simulation, Morris and his students test the group structures by loading them with weights to determine which structures best meet predetermined performance requirements.

By incorporating a realistic simulation and introducing possible solutions to current industry problems, Morris works to fulfill the program’s educational objectives and prepare his students for life after graduation.