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Existing Physical Structures Help Civil Engineering Students Understand Structural Analysis
Civil Engineering students taking Structural Analysis often struggle with the concept of load tracing and how to properly model structures using a computer program. Load tracing is the ability to determine how dead and live loads get distributed from the floor to the supporting beams and girders, and eventually to columns. Examples in text books can help, but are often limited to one bay and not a complete structure. Additionally, using computer programs to analyze structures are only as good as the model input by the user. In order to improve the understanding of civil engineering students in a Structural Analysis class, three existing structures on campus were used to emphasize load tracing and computer modeling. The three structures were an exterior walkway between two buildings, a tied arch pedestrian bridge and a switch back lobby stair in the engineering building. The structures were chosen since they were easily accessible by the students and had clear, exposed structural elements without cladding. Survey results from the students indicate that using these existing structures helped them understand the concept of load tracing and structural modeling.