ASPIRE is a quarterly magazine published by PCI in cooperation with the associations of the National Concrete Bridge Council. The editorial content focuses on the latest technology and key issues in the Concrete Bridge Industry.
Issue link: http://www.aspiremagazinebyengineers.com/i/532296
A PROFESSOR’S PERSPECTIVE Do We Teach or Do They Learn? The devil is in the details by Dr. Oguzhan Bayrak, University of Texas at Austin This year marks the fifteenth year of my teaching career at the University of Texas. Prior to joining the University of Texas, I taught a few structural concrete design classes to civil engineering students at the University of Toronto and to students at the school of architecture at Ryerson University. Whereas the topics of my classes were reasonably similar, I was able to observe different learning patterns exhibited by engineers and architects at an early stage in my teaching career. I had to use different explanations, perspectives, and teaching techniques when teaching architects than those I had previously used for engineers. Architects and engineers possess different sets of talents and backgrounds. During my formative years as an educator, I witnessed first-hand that structural engineering education was a function of the audience and that it was a complex task. This early teaching experience proved to me that an effective teacher is one who thoroughly knows her/his subject matter and takes the time to prepare lectures and classroom presentations that are well suited for the audience. With that preamble, I will focus on teaching bridge engineering at the University of Texas. I had not had the opportunity to teach a bridge engineering class until Spring 2015 semester, despite the fact that I have spent a great majority of my career at the University of Texas conducting research on a variety of topics that relate to concrete bridges and bridge engineering. As I write this article, we are nearing the end of the semester and it is an opportune time for me to take a step back and reflect on the semester from a teaching and learning point of view. More specifically, I will focus on designing reinforced concrete bridge substructures using the strut-and-tie method (STM). In designing reinforced concrete foundations and bridge bents, one must separate disturbed or discontinuity regions (D-regions) from Bernoulli or beam regions (B-regions). While using legacy methods (for example, sectional design methods for shear, flexure, and the like) in designing B-regions is appropriate, their use in designing regions where plane sections do not remain plane (that is, D-regions) is not advisable. Naturally, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications acknowledge this fact and include detailed provisions to be used for the application of this method in bridge design. However, to the best of my knowledge, most structural designers have been reluctant to use STM in designing bridge substructures. This reluctance can be understood to a great extent by considering the relatively recent introduction of this technique in our design specifications. This reluctance can be further explained by considering the tremendous flexibility offered by STM. In other words, this design technique is considerably less regimented than our legacy design techniques and therefore it leaves a substantial amount of room for creativity and a perceived element of risk coupled with that freedom.