Many university engineering programs require their students to complete a senior capstone experience to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after graduation. Such capstone experiences typically integrate knowledge and skills learned cumulatively in the degree program, often engaging students in projects outside of the classroom. As part of an initiative to completely transform the civil engineering undergraduate program at Clemson University, a capstone-like course sequence is being incorporated into the curriculum during the sophomore year. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) program, this departmental transformation (referred to as the Arch initiative) is aiming to develop a culture of adaptation and a curriculum support for inclusive excellence and innovation to address the complex challenges faced by our society.
Just as springers serve as the foundation stones of an arch, the new courses are called “Springers” because they serve as the foundations of the transformed curriculum. The goal of the Springer course sequence is to expose students to the “big picture” of civil engineering while developing student skills in professionalism, communication, and teamwork through real-world projects and hands-on activities. The expectation is that the Springer course sequence will allow faculty to better engage students at the beginning of their studies and help them understand how future courses contribute to the overall learning outcomes of a degree in civil engineering.
The Springer course sequence is team-taught by faculty from both civil engineering and communication, and exposes students to all of the civil engineering subdisciplines. Through a project-based learning approach, Springer courses mimic capstone in that students work on a practical application of civil engineering concepts throughout the semester in a way that challenges students to incorporate tools that they will build on and use during their junior and senior years.
In the 2019 spring semester, a pilot of the first of the Springer courses (Springer 1; n=11) introduced students to three civil engineering subdisciplines: construction management, hydrology, and transportation. The remaining subdisciplines will be covered in a follow-on Springer 2 pilot.. The project for Springer 1 involved designing a small parking lot for a church located adjacent to campus. Following initial instruction in civil engineering topics related to the project, students worked in teams to develop conceptual project designs. A design charrette allowed students to interact with different stakeholders to assess their conceptual designs and incorporate stakeholder input into their final designs.
The purpose of this paper is to describe all aspects of the Springer 1 course, including course content, teaching methods, faculty resources, and the design and results of a Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) survey to assess students’ learning outcomes. An overview of the Springer 2 course is also provided. The feedback from the SALG indicated positive attitudes towards course activities and content, and that students found interaction with project stakeholders during the design charrette especially beneficial. Challenges for full scale implementation of the Springer course sequence as a requirement in the transformed curriculum are also discussed.
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