ASEE Zone 2 Conference 2017

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A case for the inclusion of structural dynamics in undergraduate structural engineering programs

Final Paper
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Undergraduate structural engineering programs at their core are generally limited to studying the linear elastic behavior of structural systems under static loads. This knowledge is essential, giving students a fundamental understanding of the field of structural engineering. However, to obtain a holistic and complete picture of the field, it is necessary that students are exposed to the inelastic behavior of structural systems under dynamic loads. This is even more relevant in small, rural, teaching-focused satellite campuses of major schools that have a significant population of lower income, first-generation students who do not intend to pursue graduate degrees, possibly due to financial reasons or due to a lack of exposure to the possibility of doing so. In this light, this paper presents a case for the inclusion of two basic structural dynamics courses as electives in an undergraduate structural engineering program. They have been recently included as novel and unique additions to the undergraduate program at Purdue University Northwest. The paper also describes the theoretical content of these courses, along with a description of a creative “project” component that requires students to apply their theoretical principles to a problem in the area of earthquake resistant design, using a state-of-the-art software. The course offers students an excellent opportunity to go beyond the minimum amount needed at the undergraduate level, thereby giving them an edge in a competitive employment market. It provides students with a passion for structural engineering an opportunity to advance their knowledge in this area, without having to incur the financial and time related costs of a master’s degree. It also helps teaching-focused schools offer a unique program that differentiates itself from standard programs, helping them to stay competitive in a market with abundant educational choice. Finally, teaching more advanced material helps to motivate and challenge faculty in teaching-focused schools.


Niranjan Desai    
Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Purdue University Northwest
United States


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