Forensics and Case Studies in Civil Engineering Education: State of the Art

by Norbert J. Delatte, (M.ASCE),
Kevin L. Rens, (M.ASCE),

Part of: Perspectives in Civil Engineering: Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the American Society of Civil Engineers


This paper reviews the state of the art in the use of forensic engineering and failure case studies in civil engineering education. The study of engineering failures can offer students valuable insights into associated technical, ethical, and professional issues. Lessons learned from failures have substantially affected civil engineering practice. For the student, study of these cases can help place design and analysis procedures into historical context and reinforce the necessity of lifelong learning. Three approaches for bringing forensics and failure case studies into the civil engineering curriculum are discussed in this paper. These are stand-alone forensic engineering or failure case study courses, capstone design projects, and integration of case studies into the curriculum. Some of the cases have been developed and used in courses at the United States Military Academy and the Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham, as well as at other institutions. Finally, the writers have tried to assemble many of the known sources of material, including books, technical papers, and magazine articles, videos, Web sites, prepared PowerPoint presentations, and television programs.

Subject Headings: Case studies | Forensic engineering | Engineering education | Failure analysis | Students | Curricula and extra curricula | United States armed forces


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