Full Session with Abstracts

500651 - Using experiential learning to engage undergraduates in structural fire engineering

Friday, April 26
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Bayhill 31-32

The current practice in structural engineering is to use prescriptive code requirements in the International Building Code (IBC) to determine the required amount of fire protection on each member in a structure. However, since the late 1990s, motivated by several real building fires in the United States, significant research has contributed to a performance-based approach to structural fire engineering. This approach consists of structural engineers designing for the imposed loads due to a fire and efficiently and effectively determining the required fire protection on each member to ensure an increased level of safety within the building during a fire, and potentially decreasing the cost of construction. For engineers to design for fire they must have a fundamental understanding of the behavior of structures at elevated temperatures. Currently, our structural engineering curricula includes gravity loads (live, dead, snow, rain) and earthquake loads. The curricula is therefore falling short in preparing students for the tasks they will be faced with in industry.
Research has shown that experiential learning environments prepare students for modern-day challenges in engineering and improves the retention of engineering students. The tradition of teaching engineering in the manner that theory comes before practice inhibits students from having a deep learning experience that mirrors professional practice. Laboratories have been shown to provide students an effective avenue to integrate and synthesize knowledge, develop problem solving skills, and learn how to collaborate with others.
The author developed hands-on and experiential learning activities that teach structural fire engineering at an undergraduate level. These activities fit into already existing content within the current undergraduate curriculum and therefore do not add time or courses to the already packed and aggressive undergraduate civil engineering curriculum. These activities include measuring material properties of steel at elevated temperatures and in post-fire conditions, experimentally validating char rate approaches within the code, and calculating design capacities of steel columns during a fire.

Erica C. Fischer

Assistant Professor
Oregon State University

Erica Fischer, PhD, PE is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. Dr. Fischer’s research interests revolve around innovative approaches to improve the resilience and robustness of structural systems affected by natural and man-made hazards. She has participated in post-earthquake reconnaissance team missions in diverse regions including Haiti, Napa, California, Italy, and, most recently, Mexico City. Dr. Fischer performs research on a variety of different structural systems including steel, timber (CLT), composites (concrete-CLT and steel-concrete), and thin shells subjected to hazards such as earthquakes and fires. She is one of the founders and co-chairs of the EERI Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance Team (VERT), and an active member of the EERI Younger Members Committee, the ASCE/SEI Sustainability Committee, Fire Protection Committee, and Composite Construction Committee. Dr. Fischer has experience as a practicing structural engineer and holds a Professional Engineering license in the states of Washington and California.


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