Improving Undergrad Education in Civil & Building Engineering through SCPS and Real-world Problems

Kevin Han
Assistant Professor
NC State University

Need: Education research and theory show that active learning increases student learning and motivation. However, Civil and Building Engineering (CBE) addresses problems that are large-scale or not available locally, limiting hands-on experiences in the classroom. Additionally, CBE is often viewed as “low-tech”, which makes recruitment and retention difficult. Guiding Question: Through design-based implementation research (DBIR) this exploratory project develops SCPS for building science and structural analysis, answering the following questions: 1) How do students’ interest, motivation, and engagement vary? 2) How does SCPS affect student ability to sense and predict CBE problem solutions? 3) How does exposure to sensing technology and data science aspects of SCPS affect students’ perceptions of CBE, particularly the low/high tech nature of the field? Outcomes: This project proposes to use available and affordable modern technologies to enhance the student-learning experience. Real-world CBE problems will be brought into undergraduate classrooms through interactive digital visualizations of important CBE systems that are driven by students’ actions using affordable sensing technologies, including smartphones, cameras, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. The developed educational tools, or student-centric cyber-physical systems (SCPS), will promote active learning as students interact with SCPS in real-time. These tools will also introduce students to cutting-edge sensors for smart infrastructure, increasing interest and STEM recruitment/retention. The project generates theory to guide the transition for next-generation SCPS tools across multiple STEM fields. Broader Impact: Lessons learned in the context of CBE can be shared with other fields, leading to a broad national impact. The SCPS tools will also be used in outreach efforts at K-12 public schools. Current progress: The proposed SCPS tools are developed and tested for the usability and further refinement in year 1 and 2. The developed SCPS will be tested and assessed at two large public research universities in year 3.


Youngjib Ham, Texas A&M, College Station, TX; Tamecia Jones and Jason Patrick, NC State University, Raleigh, NC