Full Session with Abstracts
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.