Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Tribute to my Mentor, Prof. Tada-aki Tanabe

Prof. Tada-aki Tanabe, the founder of the NU Concrete Lab in 1981
 Prof. Tada-aki Tanabe was my mentor when I took my M.Eng. and D. Eng. programs at Nagoya University, Japan. In 1988, I applied for a Monbusho scholarship to pursue a Master's Degree in Japan. I didn't know any professor in Japan and fortunately, I was accepted by one great professor at Nagoya University in the Concrete Laboratory. I completed my M. Eng. degree in 1991 and then passed the entrance exam for D. Eng with Prof. Tanabe again as my mentor. After three years of academic and research work, I graduated D. Eng. in 1994.

After 23 years, the former students of Prof. Tanabe organized a reunion and a forum as tribute to the great mentor of the Medai Concrete Lab on Aug. 5, 2017. Incidentally, Prof. Tanabe is turning 77 years old this year. It was a happy and momentous event for me as I met my former colleagues in the Tanabe Concrete Lab - foreign students,  Dr. Denzil (Sri Lanka), Prof. Farahat (Egypt), Dr. Yu (China), Prof. Wu (China), Dr. Gupta (India) and Japanese colleagues which includes the present head of the Concrete Lab., Prof. Nakamura and batchmates, Mr. Kannan and Mr. Takatsuji.  I met also foreign graduates now professors from Bangladesh and the new graduates of the Concrete Lab under Prof. Nakamura.

The foreign students had a chance to present a tribute to Prof. Tanabe and an update of their research and professional activities. In my case, I shared my activities after graduating from Nagoya University in 1994 - my teaching tasks at De La Salle University, my networking activities with Nagoya University and other Japanese Universities and the research themes of my students' researches. My story ends with the following slide stating that "it's not just my story but also the story of the legacy of a mentor, Prof. Tanabe" who has passed his "genes" to a new generation of researchers. I summarized the principles that I give credit to my mentor below: 

Finally, I presented my last slide with the quotation, "A truly great mentor is hard to find, difficult to part with and impossible to forget." In Japanese, "Idai na shi wa, mitsukemuzukashiku, hanare muzukashiku, wasure muzukashii - 偉大な師は、見つけ難く、離れ難く、忘れ難し。

Here are memorable slides of the message of Prof. Tanabe during the forum on Aug. 5, 2017.

Here are memorable photos before and after the NU Concrete Lab Forum 
Dinner hosted by Prof. and Mrs, Tanabe (4 Aug 2017)
Prof. Tanabe and Dr. Gupta - Happy Moments!

The Alumni and Students of NU Concrete Lab (50 + strong) gave tribute to Prof. Tanabe

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Tweaking De La Salle's CEO Priniciples for the MIllinenial Teacher

In my recent post, I featured power point slides based on the book, De La Salle, CEO (2004) by Napoleon G. Almonte. The slides are the ten corporate leadership principles that can be practically be applied by leaders and managers of organizations. As I reflected on my power point slides, I realized that Almonte’s list is more suited for leaders, managers and administrators. This may be the reason that there is little positive feedback from our faculty especially the young teachers – the millennial teachers when I share the slides at Facebook. “Millennial teachers” is defined hare as teachers teaching the Generation Y Millennials (born between 1981 and 1999) and onwards.  I need to tweak (“adapt” is a better word but “tweak” seems appropriate especially when applied to “millennial” teachers) Almonte’s list of 10 CEO leadership principles so that they become relevant and more appropriate to the millennial teacher. The same 10 principles are adapted but tweaked to be suited to a teacher. The “tweaking” of the 10 principles are personal and based on my experience as a university teacher for more than twenty years.

Read/download the article on the "Ten Tweaked Principles of De La Salle for the Millennial Teacher" at  TWEAKING De La Salle’s 10 CEO Leadership Principles for the Millennial Teacher by andyoreta6332 on Scribd

Monday, February 27, 2017

10 Leadership Principles of De La Salle for the present times

 St. John Baptist De La Salle was the founder of the Lasallian schools and the community of Lasallian brothers and educators with the order F.S.C. (Fratres Scholarum Christianarum).  St. De La Salle is the patron saint of teaches because he was the pioneer in the training and formation of lay teachers during his time. That's what I know only about De La salle after teaching at DLSU for more than 20 years. 

After attending a spiritual retreat with my co-faculty of the CE Department with Br. Michael Broughton, FSC as the facilitator, I came to understand who De La Salle is. I become interested about his life that I searched for books about him at the DLSU library. I found the book, De La Salle, CEO by Napoleon G. Almonte which is about 10 leadership principles that can be practically be applied by young leaders, teachers and managers of organizations. I contacted the author earlier asking him where the book can be purchased. According to him it is under revision for the 2nd edition but until now there is no copy available. I even suggested that to the President of DLSU Manila to share this book to all faculty and administrators because I believe very few (students, teachers, staff and administrators of DLSU) really know De La Salle.

 I was surprised that in our library there are reading rooms in honor of Philippine heroes and Lasalian scholars BUT there is no reading corner or room about the founder, Sr. John Baptist De Lasalle. The DLSU library has an archive of De La Salle but the books are not easily accessible. I suggested to the library and to the DLSU administrators to create one so that students, teachers and staff will get to know more about De La Salle. There was positive feedback but still I am still looking forward for the De La Salle Corner where reading materials, video and even a live La Salle brother is there to talk about St. De La Salle.

 What are the principles that the modern day teacher and administrator can learn form De La Salle  that he/she can apply in the modern times. While there is no reading room yet about De La Salle, I produced these slides to share the life and leadership of principles of De La Salle. I apologize to the author if his sale for the 2nd edition maybe affected negatively. But I think this is a promotion of the book. It's about time we get to know and apply these principles in our daily life. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Scholarly Teacher

The SoTL Scholars of DLSU - advancing scholarly research in engineering education!
In my paper (Oreta 2015) that was published in the ASCE Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, I presented my concept of the "Evolution of an Engineering Educator" below.
The Level 3 teacher which I referred to as the "Scholarly Teacher" practices the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning or SoTL.  SoTL sees teaching as “intellectual work, as a process of inquiry, as research that employs the same criteria as other forms of disciplinary research and an ongoing investigation that is made public and shared with others, peer reviewed and published” (McKinney 2007).  The ultimate objective of SoTL is to add to the literature on teaching and learning so that the shared knowledge adds to the productivity of the faculty. Usually a teacher engages in SoTL when he wants to understand how students learn in the classroom and when he wants to discover “how learning can be improved by improving teaching” (McKinney 2007).  There is a range of possible research strategies and methodologies that can be considered under SoTL. Among these strategies include: (a) course portfolio and reflections, (b) interviews and focus groups, (c) observational research, (d) questionnaires, (e) content analysis, (f) secondary analysis, (g) experiments and quasi-experiments, (h) case studies, and (i) multi-method studies.  

The teaching faculty in engineering schools are equipped with technical know-how but they may lack the skills and tools on education research. To engage the faculty in scholarly writing about teaching and learning, universities must encourage and support SoTL by organizing seminars and must provide incentives for scholarly outputs on SoTL.

Hence last March 4, 2016, the Quality Assurance Office of DLSU Gokongwei College of Engineering which I head as director organized SoTL Seminar-Workshop for interested GCOE faculty members. I first presented the summary of my paper on "Engineering Educators must evolve, too!" to help the faculty realize that continuous improvement in teaching is very important. I also presented conferences on engineering education and journals where the faculty can submit scholarly papers on SoTL. The resource person on SoTL was Dr. Raymund Sison, CCS Professor and University Fellow who introduced the SoTL framework which he proposes for DLSU and the fundamentals of SoTL. Actually it was from Dr. Sison that I heard about SoTL when I was appointed as the college representative in the SoTL committee organized by Dr. Sison. The ASCE paper was actually written after attending  several SoTL sessions. 

Prof. Raymund Sison (right) is presented with a Certificate of Appreciation for being the resource speaker in the GCOE SoTL Seminar-Workshop held last March 4, 2016

After the seminar, a workshop was conducted wherein each participant shared his/her idea of a possible SoTL project or paper. Dr. Sison gave comments on how to improve their proposals. Interesting proposals were presented such as Innovative teaching of  Engineering Ethics and Laws  the use of virtual reality in ChE , simulating a CNC machine, pair-wise or cooperative problem solving in Surveying and real-world problems in Structural Analysis. The college is really rich with faculty members who are innovative in their teaching and who can become scholarly teachers. The participants which are named as GCOE SoTL Scholars hopefully will  champion SoTL in the college and their respective departments. May this activity serve as an impetus to revive the Master of Engineering Education program at GCOE and offer a PhD on Engineering Education in the future.


> Oreta, Andres Winston C. (2015). "Engineering Educators Must Evolve, Too!," Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Online Publication Date: 30 Mar 2015 online edition, To appear in print on Sept 2015, ISSN (print): 1052-3928 and ISSN (online): 1943-5541, Publisher: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 
>McKinney (2007). Enhancing Learning through Scholarship of Teaching and Learning - The Challenges and Joys of Juggling, Anker Publishing Company, Inc.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Tour of Nagoya University and the City

Engr. Rodolfo "Mac" Mendoza, now a Doctoral student at Nagoya University, Graduate School of Civil Engineering guides us on a tour of Nagoya University and the city.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quantifying the Environmental Impacts of Standard Bridge Designs

 “A Proposed Methodology for Quantifying the Environmental Impacts of 
Structural Elements of Standard Bridge Designs”
 A thesis prepared and submitted by:
Kevin Lawrence M. Atienza
Carla Maria B. Gonzalez
Jorge Jason K. Joaquino
Mitchel Krisia R. Martinez 
April 2015 

To take into account the environmental sustainability aspect of bridge designs, the study presented a methodology to numerically measure the amount of emission different bridges produce. The researchers gathered a total of eighteen bridge plans of various structural systems such as Reinforced Concrete Deck Girder (RCDG), Pre-stressed Concrete Deck Girder (PCDG), Reinforced Concrete Slab, Steel Girder, and Reinforced Concrete Box Culvert (RCBC). Each plan included a bill of quantities that summarized the type of material and the amount used upon construction. Using LCIA database Ecoinvent v3.1, quantities were translated into corresponding environmental impacts namely Acidification, Eutrophication, Global Warming Potential, Photochemical Oxidant Formation, Stratospheric Ozone Depletion, and Depletion of Abiotic Resources. Numerical results were divided by the total area of the bridge leaving one square meter of bridge area as the functional unit of choice.

To normalize these values, each environmental impact equivalent was divided by the largest value, which was produced by the RCBC bridge design. An Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) was conducted to produce the weighting factors of each impact. The normalized values were then multiplied by their corresponding weighting factors and added up to produce an Environmental Impact Score (EIS) that was used to rank and compare the environmental performance of each bridge. In this particular study, the RCDG bridge design generated the lowest score with a value of 0.451, thus indicating that it produced the least amount of impact. On the other hand, the RCBC bridge design produced the largest amount of impact with an EIS of 0.825. Through the proposed methodology of conducting a Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) and producing an EIS, structural engineers will be able quantify the environmental impacts of different bridge structural systems and in turn apply sustainability in the decision making of future bridge projects.

Special Acknowledgement: 
DPWH Staff and Engineers for sharing bridge data, 
Dr. Mike Promentilla (DLSU ChE Dept) for guidance in the AHP procedure

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Call for Support - The 6th ASIA Conference on Earthquake Engineering (6ACEE 2016- Cebu City, Philippines)

The 6ACEE returns to the Philippines and will again be hosted by ASEP on  September 22-24, 2016 on the occasion of its anniversary and the 3rd anniversary of the 2013 Bohol Earthquake. The orgainizers plan to hold the 6ACEE at a venue in Cebu City. The theme of the 6ACEE is "Bridging Theory and Practice in Earthquake Engineering for Enhancing Community Resilience."

The ASIA Conference on Earthquake Engineering (ACEE) was founded in 2004 during the term of Engr. Rannie Ison as ASEP President and Cesar Pabalan as VP & conference  chair. My DLSU Co-faculty, Joseph Manalo, being the ASEP director and technical committee chair then discussed with me possible themes for the conference. I suggested a thematic international conference where we will invite international experts and professors as members of the scientific committee. We decided the theme on Earthquake Engineering and I quickly emailed my contacts in Japan and other countries such as Prof. Kazuhiko Kawashima (TIT), Prof. Fumio Yamazaki (Chiba U), Prof. Tadaaki Tanabe (Nagoya U), Prof. Panitan (Chula U), Prof. Penung (AIT), Dr. Solidum (PHIVOLCS), Dr, Pacheco (Vibrametrics) and  Prof. Pan (NUS)  for them to be members. Dr. Pacheco suggested many contacts to be members of the international advisor committee. Their favorable responses led to the birth of  the ACEE in 2004. A brief history of the ACCE is summarized below:

  • 1ACEE: Diverse Cultures, One Common Goal - Seismic Hazards and Loss Mitigation  in  Asia,” March 5-6, 2004, Venue: Manila, Philippines, Organizer: ASEP, (
  • 2ACEE: Seismic Hazards Mitigation Through Research, Education and Technology, March 10-11, 2006, Venue: Manila, Philippines, Organizer: ASEP,  (
  • 3ACEE: Disaster Risk Reduction and Capacity Building for Safer Environments,” Dec. 1-3, 2010, Venue: Bangkok, Thailand,Organizer: Asian Institute of Thailand and Engineering Institute of Thailand
  • 4ACEE: In commemoration of the First Anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku Pacific Earthquake,” March 6-8, 2012, Venue: Tokyo, Japan,Organizer: Center for Urban Earthquake Engineering (CUEE), Tokyo Institute of Technology, Joint Conference with 9CUEE, (
  •  5ACEE: ”Earthquake Engineering for Resilient Communities,” October 17-18, 2014, Venue: Taipei, Taiwan, Organizer: National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) and National Taiwan University (NTU), (
Strategies on how to increase the participation of interested stakeholders from various Asian countries- civil engineers, structural engineers, seismologist, DRRM experts and advocates - must be explored. One suggestion is to involve the various professional organizations interested in earthquake engineering from the various Asian countries to be supporting organizations of the 6ACEE. Hence, we call on these organizations such as the Japan Association on Earthquake Engineering (JAEE), Engineering Institute of Thailand and the professional organizations from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Taiwan, China, Korea and even Australia and New Zealand to support the 6ACEE.

Friday, April 3, 2015

OBE3 Team: Promoting Effective OBE in the Classroom

 "Outcomes-Based Education for Engineering Educators" or OBE3 started in April 2012 when the Dr. Pag-asa Gaspillo, President then of the Philippine Association for Technological Education (PATE) invited us to design a seminar-workshop to promote OBE to PATE faculty members. The team, composed of  Dr. Manuel Belino, Engr. Efren Dela Cruz and I, designed the course entitled "Effective OBE in the Classroom." The seminar-workshop primarily targets the teachers who are the ones delivering the courses of the engineering curriculum. The course is principally concerned with improving the quality of  the teaching and learning process in the classroom. Accreditation is secondary, because if the teachers can effectively practice OBE in the classroom, then the present requirements on accreditation which based on OBE can be easily achieved.

The seminar workshop on "Effective OBE in the Classroom" consists of the following lectures:
  • Understanding OBE. Why OBE? Global Trends. Designing your PEOs. - Dr. Manny Belino
  • What are Student Outcomes? - Dr. Manny Belino
  • Writing Course Learning Outcomes and Course Design - Dr. Andy Oreta
  • Using Various Assessment Tasks - Dr. Andy Oreta
  • Introducing a Variety of Teaching and Learning Activities - Engr. Efren Dela Cruz
  • Designing an OBE Syllabus - Engr. Efren Dela Cruz
The workshops consists of the ff:
  • Writing the Program Educational Objectives (PEO) for a specific Program
  • Curriculum Mapping
  • Writing Course Learning Outcomes for a Course You Teach
  • Converting your syllabus to OBE format
The seminar-workshop usually takes one and a half days. One day for the lectures and at least half day for the workshop. The expected outputs of the seminar-workshop are draft PEOs of a program, Sample curriculum mapping and syllabi in OBE format. Accomplishing these main outputs involves the application of all the topics discussed in the lectures. Hence, the seminar-workshop is really outcomes-based where the participants are expected to apply the OBE principles in the design of the syllabus of the a course they teach.

After the 2012 PATE seminar-workshop, the OBE3 team was invited to conduct similar lectures and workshops in various schools like Colegio de San Juan De Letran, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Capiz State University and Northwestern Samar University. At the start of the seminar-workshop, there was resistance from the participants. For them adjusting to OBE is an additional burden. However, after Dr. Belino's inspiring lecture on Why OBE?, the participants realize the need to go to OBE, otherwise the engineering graduates will not be globally competitive. After the activity, the team hopes that the participants can effectively apply the OBE principles in the classroom. The saying, "It is only by doing that we learn" should always be in the minds of the teachers for them to understand and appreciate OBE.

Capiz State University (2013)

Collegio de San Juan De Letran (2014)
Northwestern Samar State University (2015)

"Effective OBE in the Classroom" is only the 1st Moduleof the OBE3 Seminar-Workshops. The 2nd module is "Outcomes-Based Assessment of an Engineering Program" which involves the continuous improvement of a program by assessing the student outcomes.

For more information about OBE3, email: 
O-Dr. Andy Oreta -

B-Dr. Manny Belino -
E-Engr. Efren Dela Cruz -

Friday, June 6, 2014

Useful Ideas from the Felder-Brent Workshop on Effective Teaching for OBE

Hotel Puteri Pacific, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
I attended the Effective Teaching for Outcomes-Based Education Workshop last May 20-21, 2014 at Hotel Puteri Pacific, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The resource persons were the OBE experts,  Prof. Richard Felder, Ph.D. ChE and Prof. Rebecca Brent, Ed.D of the North Carolina State University. The workshop was very informative and educational. I have been teaching for more than 20 years in the university, yet I didn't realize that I have been doing bad practices in some cases and there many good practices that I should have applied tomake my teaching and students' learning more effective. I would just list the useful workshop ideas that I learned in the seminar-workshop and I intend to apply them in my future teaching activities.

Brent (2nd from left) and Felder(3rd from left)

1. You can get more feedback from "active learning" and "questioning." Felder and Brent demonstrated during the workshop how active learning can be done effectively in the classroom. In active learning, students do things in class related to the course. During the workshop, Felder asked the participants to group in pairs or three members. Then he pose a question or problem which the group must discuss within a few minutes (from one minute to three minutes depending on the problem). One member is tasked to record the group's output from the short discussion. Felder then asked selected members from various groups about their outpus. In about ten minutes, we got various answers and suggestions from the participants. He compared active learning strategy to individual questioning where in the teacher asked the whole class and then look for volunteers. In this case, you will find very few students willing to answer your question because most of them are shy or passive.

Why does this strategy work? Felder says students when they have interaction with fellow students, they get engaged in the activity. And when the teacher asked for their answers, the students are less shy because what he/she is sharing to the class is a group output not only his/her own. The students are awake during the short active learning activity and participate in the group discussion because they want to be prepared for an answer in case the teachers calls them. Don't worry about the noise students make during the group discussion. It's worth it than a quiet class where learning doesn't take place.

Useful idea: In a 90-minute lecture, students get bored if the teacher is the center of the teaching-learning process. Students should be more actively engaged. Short active learning activities during the 90-minute class is effective - it makes students awake, get them engaged and thinking and the activity also promotes collaborative learning.

2. Initiate opportunities where the students start thinking. Students should not be passive learners but active learners. As stated earlier students learn more on active learning. Before coming to class, review your notes and examples. Think of questions that you may pose to the students and apply active learning to make them think during the lectures. Use varied and challenging questions so that student can apply the lower and higher thinking skills. Instead of using "Is that clear?" or "Any questions?", ask questions similar to the photo below such as "What if I use a different section?", or "How could we improve the process?"

Asking varied questions make students apply the various thinking skills
(PPT slide form the Felder-Brent Workshop).

I applied this active learning in the first meeting of my class in Theory of Structures I (TSTRUC1). I want to review the students on the principles of Statics of Rigid Bodies (STATICS) and Mechanics of Deformable Bodies (MEDEFOR) which are prerequisite courses in TSTRUC1.  So I posed the question below and asked the students to discuss with their partner their answer to the problem for only ONE MINUTE.

Active learning activity in TSTRUC1 - Meeting No. 1

During the one-minute activity, the students get engaged in the discussion, the class obviously was noisy but they are awake. After one minute I called on students randomly from various pairs and I got good answers from the various groups. I have been doing this in my class in TSTRUC1 during the first meeting but in the past they do it individually. I got better, faster and more answers this time when I use pairings. Among the responses given were: type of material, available material, available equipment, allowable stress, weight of person, number of persons, span length, cross-sectional shape, temperature, environment, site, soil type, cost and budget. From the data gathered, I discussed the basic procedure of designing a simple beam bridge using their data and the principles of structural design using concepts from STATICS and MEDEFOR only. Span length, soil type as support and total load (weight and number of persons) are needed to model the bridge and solve the reactions, maximum shear and bending moment. The cross-sectional shape is necessary to determine the moment of inertia and location of the centroid of the section. The type of material is important to make an estimate on the allowable stress and the modulus of elasticity (E) of the beam bridge. The site and its environment are important if you are consider other environmental loads (temperature, wind, seismic, flood, etc). And finally, the budget becomes a constraint to your design as it will limit the cost of the bridge. The activity was very informative and new to them as they were introduced on how theory is applied to a real world civil engineering problem. About ten minutes were used effectively to review basic concepts in STATICS and MEDEFOR.

I shared this blog to Prof. Felder on June 7, 2014 and he immediately sent me this reply (June 8). 

Dear Andres,

Thanks so much for sharing the blog entry with me. It really pleases Rebecca and me that you got as much as you did from the workshop and you put it to use in your teaching that quickly. The beam bridge exercise is excellent. I wish my statics professor had done something like it when I was taking the course many years ago.

Congratulations too on an outstanding blog. Your students are lucky to have you as a resource.

Best regards,


Richard Felder
Hoechst Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering
North Carolina State University

Monday, October 21, 2013

Addressing Safety & Sustainability of Infrastructures in Hazard-Prone Countries

Keynote Paper delivered at Nagoya University's
International Forum on CE Infrastructure Technology Transfer, 31 August 2013
“Civil Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their duties.” This is one of the fundamental canons of the Code of Ethics of Civil Engineers. The task of a civil engineer includes provision of safe, reliable and comfortable infrastructures for housing, transport, communication, water supply and sanitation, energy, commercial and industrial activities to meet the needs of a growing population. Today, there is an increasing demand for civil engineers to focus their efforts on the protection and preservation of the environment. With the increase in severity and frequency of natural disasters that devastated both developing and advanced countries,  planning, design and construction of infrastructures that are safe for people and at the same time reduce their impact on further deterioration of the environment becomes a major challenge. Civil engineers who are experts in the various fields of specialization in structural engineering, transportation engineering, water resources engineering, geotechnical engineering and construction engineering must embed in their tasks disaster risk reduction especially in hazard-prone regions – for when they do this, they not only address safety but also sustainability – two important issues for maintaining the balance and harmony between the built and natural environment.
Living in hazard-prone regions. Achieving safety and sustainability is a major challenge in regions or countries that are vulnerable to adverse natural hazards like earthquakes, typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, drought and tsunamis. The vulnerabilities of the built environment to a hazard depend on the safety provided and sustainability features. The disaster will have impacts on both the built and natural environment.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Greener Designs of Buildings using the Structural Sustainability Index

Sustainability is a concern that must also be addressed by structural engineers. Structural engineers must be able to discriminate as to which materials and processes would have a lesser impact to the environment, and to coordinate with the other stakeholders of the structure. The concept of the study is to enable the structural engineer to analyse the sustainability of structural systems in a quantifiable manner. 

In designing a house, or any structure, there are three things commonly considered by the structural engineer. Namely: safety, serviceability and cost. Safety and serviceability ensure that the structure can fulfill its intended purpose by satisfying code requirements on strength, ductility and deflections. Addressing economy, on the other hand, requires value engineering to produce an optimum design with reasonable cost. There is now an increasing concern about the environmental impact of structures. Sustainable design of houses must be pursued to address this concern. But what parameter may be used to guide structural designers to make their structures “greener”?

In an undergraduate thesis, the environmental impact of the structural systems and envelope of selected housing units for a middle class family in the Philippines using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) was conducted.  The five environmental impact parameters: (a) Global Warming Potential, (b) Ocean Acidification, (c) Abiotic Material Depletion, (d) Energy Use, (e) Human Toxicity were assessed considering the manufacturing and disposal stage as the system boundary in the LCA study. A  “Structural Sustainability Index” or SSI which produces a single score aggregating the five impacts was derived by assigning weights based on an expert’s survey for each environmental impact indicator. The SSI can be used for ranking houses based on environmental impact and can be used as a parameter to guide structural engineers in comparing various design alternatives and selecting  “greener designs”.

The image below is a poster submitted to the ASEP Student Research Competition during the 16th ASEP International Conference held on May 23-25, 2013.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Open Ended Problems in Mechanics of Materials

Problem solving is one learning activity that is extensively employed by engineering educators. “Problem-solving is defined as a process used to obtain a best answer to an unknown or a decision subject to some constraints” (Mourtos 2004). Through problem solving students learn to apply the theoretical equations in both hypothetical and real-world scenarios. Assigning problem sets provides students the opportunity to test their understanding of the theory and concepts. The type of problems assigned to students addresses various levels of thinking and outcomes. Traditionally, problems are designed with given parameters and students are required to determine an unknown quantity. The solution usually involves substitution of known values to an equation to solve for the unknown parameter. Problems of this type are said to be “close-ended.” Close-ended questions usually have a unique answer and the procedure of obtaining the answer is limited or straight-forward. Close-ended problems address lower levels of thinking (based on Bloom’s taxonomy) like “remembering”, “understanding” and “applying” and some higher mode of thinking like “analyzing”.

To address higher levels of thinking like “evaluating” and “creating” and transformative outcomes experienced in the real-world, “open-ended” questions should also be included in the problem sets. Sobek and Jain (2004) emphasized the need for open-ended problems. “Employers look for engineers who are effective at solving open-ended problems. Engineering accreditation demands evidence that students can tackle open-ended problems proficiently.” Open-ended problems address considerably the student outcomes on “an ability to recognize, formulate, and solve civil engineering problems” and “an ability to engage in lifelong learning.” Open-ended questions are usually ill-defined and there may be more than one valid approach to obtain the solution. As a matter of fact, the solution may not be unique because of varying assumptions made regarding some parameters. Mourtos (2004) noted in their study that “traditional exercises (close-ended) found in most engineering texts, although useful, do not adequately prepare engineering students for real-world problems. Students seem to have great difficulty approaching these (open-ended) problems; however, they also seem to enjoy the challenge and perform reasonably well if given proper guidance.”

Problem : If you were to install a
steel Z-purlin, which arrangement
would you choose to maximize the
moment capacity of the section?

In the problem sets in my structural analysis course, open-ended problems are given. The problem shown about a Z-purlin is related to analysis of beams due to unsymmetrical bending which is similar to a problem by Singer. Deciding on the most effective set-up of the Z-section whether upright or inverted would require application of concepts in moment of inertia, equilibrium, bending moment and elastic bending stress analysis. There are various ways of determining the more efficient arrangement of the Z-section. You may compute which arrangment has the larger moment capacity. You can assume a moment and compute the maximum stresses and compare.


Mourtos, N. et al. (2004). “Open-ended problem solving skills in thermal-fluids engineering,” Global Journal of Egg Education, UICEE

Sobek, D and Jain V. (2004). “The Engineering Problem Solving Process: Good for Students?” Proc.2004 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference & Exposition

NOTE: An updated version of this article - "Challenging Students' Thinking Through Open-ended Problems" was published as e-notes in The Philippine Engineering Education (Vol. 1, No. 1, Sept 2013) - the official news magazine of the Philippines Association for Technological Education (PATE).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Using Visual Gobbets in Teaching

A gobbet is “an extract of text, a passage of literature, an image, a cartoon, a photograph, a map or an artifact provided as a context for analysis, translation or discussion in an assessment” (Chan 2008). “The student’s task is to identify the gobbet, explain its context, say why it is important, what it reminds them of or whatever else you would like them to comment on” (Biggs and Tang 1999). Gobbets are usually used for assessment.

I used "visual" gobbets in my class in Theory of Structures and Earthquake Engineering. Here are some examples.

In my first meeting in Theory of Structures-I, as my review of basic concepts in Statics and Mechanics of Deformable Bodies, I displayed an image of a beam bridge  and posed the problem to the students: “if you are required to design a simple beam bridge to cross a river, what information would you gather to accomplish your task and how would you use the information?

A Gobbet on Simple Beam Analysis & Design
 The responses from this gobbet include span length, beam material, weight of the person(s), number of persons crossing the bridge at one time, shape and size of the beam, soil type at the beam ends and cost. After listing their responses, I asked them on how the items in the list will be used in the analysis and design of the beam bridge. From this exercise, the students were able to reflect and learned about the relationship of the listed items to concepts in Statics and Mechanics of Deformable Bodies.

A beam bridge can be modelled as a simple beam with length, L and the weights represented as concentrated loads
Analysis means solving for reactions and maximum internal forces – moment and shear
The type of material will specify the material strength (allowable stresses) and mechanical properties (modulus of elasticity)
Designing the beam means determining the shape and size of the beam
• Various types of design can be done for comparison (strength, cost)

Another gobbet in my Earthquake Engineering class was included in an exam to assess the students’ understanding of structural failure due to earthquakes. This is an exercise on post-earthquake evaluation usually conducted by structural engineers (ASEP) after the occurrence of an earthquake. The students are shown photos of a building damaged due to earthquake. A description of the observed damage is also given. The students are required to assess the condition of the building based on the photos and description and recommend the appropriate post-earthquake posting (Safe, Limited Entry or Unsafe).

 "Safe", "Limited Entry" or "Unsafe"?

The third example of a gobbet exercise which I called “Scaling an Earthquake” was applied in the Earthquake Engineering course. One of the learning outcomes of the course is familiarization with the PHIVOLCS Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS). A series of photos were displayed to the class and the following problem was posted: “You are tasked to determine the intensity of the earthquake using PEIS. Assign the intensity scale for each photo. Explain your answer.” In this exercise, the students have to read and understand carefully the descriptors for each intensity scale in PEIS and relate them to the photos. 
Rate the Intensity Scale of this Earthquake
Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (1999). Teaching for Quality Learning at University, McGraw-Hill Open University Press
Chan C. (2008) “Assessment: Gobbets”, Assessment Resource Centre, University of Hong Kong []: Available: Accessed: 8/27/2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What is a soft story?

One of the requirements in my undergraduate course (STEQUAK) at DLSU is a group research related to earthquake engineering. The group has to present their topic orally using multimedia - powerpoint slides and a short video. The group of Gian Panaligan, Jerome Sy, Jospeh Oropel and Janelle Ong created a video about their topic, "How can we improve the seismic performance of a building with a soft story?" The language used is Filipino and their acting is very natural. A good story about a "soft story." Watch and enjoy.

Our last meeting - STEQUAK (Earthquake Engg) Class

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Theory of Structures: An Introduction

Here is a powerpoint slide show of my lecture on the introduction to the Theory of Structures.