SE 103 Conceptual Structural Design

Description of the Course

This course is the introductory course to the Civil Structures focus sequence, typically taken in the student's junior year.

Within the AEC field (Architectural, Engineering, Construction), a structural engineer’s primary focus during the Schematic Design phase is to establish the primary structural system and structural design criteria showing locations and types of primary structural elements and materials in the building. They also prepare a summary report that defines the selected primary structural system and rationalizes its selection.

The objective of the course is to introduce students to the “creative” part of the structural design process, specifically the conception of an idea that in the end leads to and meets the functionality, safety, and constructability requirements of a structure. Students will learn the role of a structural engineer in relation to the broader construction team. Students will walk through the schematic design process through weekly labs and homework assignments from an architect’s initial plans of a building. Lab sessions will lead the student into understanding the behavior of different components and how they impact the overall structural response.

Featured Hands-On Lab Experiences

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Using your Engineering Intuition

Teams of students must design a structure with the given materials and design criteria. The goal is to be the tallest structure to survive the earthquake on our shake table. Students explore force transfer systems in this competition to survive and discover how forces travel through buildings to irregularities and weak points to exploit and cause structural failure.

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Reading Engineering Drawings

Students experience looking through a full scale set of building drawings, including disciplines such as Architectural, Civil, Structural, MEP, and Fire Protection. With a list of items to find, students search the set of plans and learn the nuances of engineering drawings, such as properly referencing details, using schedules, terminology, and more.

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Indeterminate Beam Deflections

Civil engineering structures are composed of indeterminate beam systems and engineers must make accurate assumptions regarding how these beams are analyzed. In this lab, students use their experience to draw deflected shapes of continuous beams and then recreate these systems with snap-in boundary condition pieces to visually understand how they perform under loads.

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Stability of Frame Structures

Students experience first hand how a structure feels with completely pinned connections between frame members. They must work as a team to add the least amount of rigid connections or diagonal braces in order to produce a stable structure.

It is harder than it looks!

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Load Path and Design of Slabs

In this lab, students design and construct small-scale slabs that are tested under a distributed area load. Their task is to design a beam or decking pattern that will transfer the load in a particular way, focusing mainly on 1-way versus 2-way load transfer. During the testing portion, load cells surrounding the slabs will determine whether the students successfully achieved their assigned load transfer directions.

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Site Visit

At the end of the quarter, students have the opportunity to visit a construction site on campus and pull everything together that they learned throughout the course. This experience allows students to see structural systems and construction techniques in person, giving them the real life connection to the theory.

In 2019, Clark Construction gave our students a tour of the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood.