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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 4/5
PROCEEDINGS OF THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING COMPUTING
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Paper XXV.1

The Use of Microcomputers for Self-Teaching of Civil Engineering Principles

H. Aktan*, S. Khasnabis* and A. Gupta+

*Department of Civil Engineering, Wayne state University, USA
+Electronic Data Systems, General Motors Corporation, Michigan, USA

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
H. Aktan, S. Khasnabis, A. Gupta, "The Use of Microcomputers for Self-Teaching of Civil Engineering Principles", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Civil and Structural Engineering Computing", Civil-Comp Press, Edinburgh, UK, pp 279-285, 1987. doi:10.4203/ccp.4.25.1
Abstract
As a part of a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the International Business Machine Corporation (IBM), a project to establish a microcomputer laboratory was undertaken at the Civil Engineering Department, Wayne State University, Detroit. The primary objective of this project is to prepare an education and training program for computer literacy for civil engineering students at an early stage in their curriculum. A secondary objective is to test the feasibility of using computers for 'self-teaching' of civil engineering principles. The paper describes the software development effort, with an emphasis on the 'self-teaching' aspect, such that students can learn the basic civil engineering principles while being trained in the use of microcomputers. Specific software development efforts to be reported in this paper include the following:
  • Structural Analysis - The concept of moving loads and influence lines in the analysis and design of truss type bridges with multiple spans.
  • Geometric Design - The concept of computation and measurement of sight distances, relative to specific object and eye heights in the design and analysis of parabolic vertical curves.
  • Transportation Systems - The concept of network optimization, 'sources' and 'sinks' in the maximization of system flow.
In the light of the 'self-teaching' emphasis, the software packages are designed in a menu-driven mode where students must make certain basic assumptions and choose initial parameters in order for the analysis to be started. The programs do not necessarily pre-suppose the user having the knowledge of the engineering principles. On the other hand, one of the objectives is to help generate such knowledge in the student's mind. In case of unrealistic assumptions or incorrect data specifications, appropriate messages are delivered and the user is guided to specify correct input data. The process, although somewhat iterative in nature, is designed to impart the knowledge of basic civil engineering principles, enabling students to learn from their own mistakes, while concurrently developing an expertise in the use of micro-computers.

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