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ASEE-SE Annual Conference 2022

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Hurricane- & Pandemic-Resilient Instructional Engineering Labs Enabled Via Portable Kits

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused the four-month closure Tulane University displacing about 100,000 Louisiana students. Despite Tulane's physical shuttering, its distance learning programs persisted. The global pandemic of 2020 and spontaneous switch from in-person to online instruction forced institutions teaching engineering laboratory classes to adopt multi-modal platforms for experiments. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, which strike the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts annually, similarly necessitate students to evacuate or seek shelter when universities are in a hurricane’s path and must close. As Katrina showed, hurricanes can cause university closures of days, weeks or even months. After campus reopening, damage to the infrastructure might make classes and laboratories inaccessible to students. The multimodal flexibility developed in response to the pandemic can be leveraged to make hands-on lab-based instruction resilient against natural disasters and even future pandemic lockdowns. On July 7, 2021, Hurricane Elsa made landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast prompting University of XYZ to close. Elsa caused significant flooding in Beach City, FL which trapped residents, including XYZ students, in their homes. That semester, Fluid Mechanics teaching lab kits engineered for remote instruction, hybrid instruction, and/or in-person instruction were deployed to replace the brick-and-mortar Fluids lab setup. The kits are designed for modularity, are light-weight, and are economical and durable. Despite being trapped in their homes due to hurricane induced flooding, students were able to successfully conduct Fluids lab experiments and submit class deliverables on time. Anecdotal comments from students who took the Fluids laboratory class at XYZ demonstrate effective implementation of kits and enabling of students to continue on track toward academic goals despite University XYZ being shuttered by a hurricane.

Devangi Gaikwad
University of Florida
United States

Sean Niemi
University of Florida
United States

Matthew Traum
Engineer Inc.
United States


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