2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Project-based Learning in a Forensic Engineering Course

Presented at Multidisciplinary Efforts in Upper-level Courses

Forensic Engineering is a multidisciplinary field which focuses on the art and science of engineering in the jurisprudence system [1]. The responsibilities include not only an investigation into the physical and technical causes of an accident but also the gathering of evidence, summarizing opinions in a report and providing testimony related to the case. The nature of the profession lends itself to instruction through projects and case studies. A quick survey of forensic engineering courses shows that most are taught at the graduate level in civil engineering departments with an emphasis on failure mode of facilities and transportation infrastructure [2].

Faculty at XXXXXXX University, in collaboration with a forensic engineer have co-taught an upper-level undergraduate forensic engineering course biennially through the biomedical engineering department. The course is unique because it does not specifically deal with a particular area of practice but rather focuses on the investigation and litigation process that forensic engineers follow in their profession. The involvement from a forensic engineer as the adjunct faculty allows for scheduling of various other forensic engineers from different areas of practice, as speakers during the course. The results is a multidisciplinary course that covers a range of topics such as biomechanics of accident injury, failure of implants, human factors, accident reconstruction, fire/explosions and civil structures. Case studies are presented in each lecture and students learn how these investigations contribute to the law, engineering design, safety, and economics.

The activities and course structure is specifically designed to develop skills that are necessary for careers beyond forensic engineering, which include the application of the scientific method, deductive and inductive reasoning, organization of facts, forming of opinions and specifying bases for opinions. A key component is to practice the effective oral and written communication, manage client relations, and project management. Each lecture includes a presentation which is followed by a hands-on activity pertaining to the area of discussion. Students have three main projects that include the investigation of a crashed car and an the claimed injury, summarizing the evidence of an actual forensic case and a final project that requires the complete investigation and litigation process of a mock accident situation. Student feedback from the previous first offering was extremely positive. The exact activities have also been modified to encourage student participation and engagement in classroom.

[1] Carper, K. L. (Ed.). (2000). Forensic engineering. CRC Press.
[2] Delatte, N. J., & Rens, K. L. (2002). Forensics and case studies in civil engineering education: State of the art. Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, 16(3), 98-109.

  1. Dr. Mansoor Nasir Lawrence Technological University [biography]
  2. Dr. Eric G Meyer Lawrence Technological University [biography]
  3. Brian Thomas Weaver PE Explico Engineering Co. [biography]
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