INTRODUCTION TO CASE STUDIES
Many of the key technical principles that civil engineering students should learn can be illustrated through case studies. For example, professors have discussed the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge failure, and other well-known cases with students in Statics, Mechanics of Materials, and other courses. These cases help students:
- Grasp difficult technical concepts and begin to acquire an intuitive feel for the behavior of structures and the importance of load paths and construction sequences,
- Understand how engineering science changes over time as structural performance is observed and lessons are learned,
- Analyze the impacts of engineering decisions on society, and
- Appreciate the importance of ethical considerations in the engineering decision making process.
In a survey conducted by the ASCE Technical Council on Forensic Engineering (TCFE) Education Committee in December 1989 about a third of the 87 civil engineering schools responding indicated a need for detailed well-documented case studies. The response from the University of Arizona said ASCE should provide such materials for educational purposes and the response from Swarthmore College suggested ASCE should provide funds for creating monographs on failures that have occurred in the past (Rendon-Herrero 1993).
The ASCE TCFE conducted a second survey in 1998, which was sent to all Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited engineering schools throughout the United States (Rens et al, 2000). Similar to the 1989 survey, the lack of instructional materials was cited as a reason that failure analysis topics were not being taught. One of the unprompted written comments in that survey was a selected bibliography is needed on the topic, which could be accessed via the Internet.Another comment went on to say The best things TCFE can do are (1) Provide instructional materials to make it easy for a teacher to incorporate failures in their courses (2) provide internet materials so instructors can give self-guided homework assignments Still another responder to the 1998 survey indicated need published case studies such as project designs, failures, evaluations, etc.
This website has been developed to meet that need, with the support of the National Science Foundation.
ABOUT THE ASCE TCFE EDUCATION COMMITTEE
In response to several well-publicized engineering failures, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Technical Council on Forensic Engineering (TCFE) was established in 1982. The purpose of the TCFE is to:
- Develop practices and procedures to reduce failures
- Disseminate information on failures and their causes, providing guidelines for conducting failure investigations
- Encourage research and education in forensic engineering
- Encourage ethical conduct in forensic engineering practice
In addition to the board of directors executive committee, the TCFE consists of 6 units:
- Forensic Engineering Practice
- Dissemination of Failure Information
- Technology implementation
- Practice to Reduce Failures
The Committee on Education encourages universities to include forensic engineering and failure case studies in civil engineering education. The mission of the Committee on Education is to develop resources to meet educational needs and to implement education programs. There remains a void in forensic engineering education. This committee encourages the inclusion of forensic engineering topics and failure case studies in civil engineering education, at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as continuing education programs. The committee also recommends activities to promote and advance the educational objectives of colleges and universities. Finally, the committee acts as a source of referral for educational material with a forensic engineering emphasis. This web page has been developed with the cooperation of the committee.
The ASCE TCFE web page is www.ascetcfe.org