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Active Learning

What is Active Learning?

Active Learning is anything that students do in a classroom other than merely passively listening to an instructor's lecture. Research shows that active learning improves students' understanding and retention of information and can be very effective in developing higher order cognitive skills such as problem solving and critical thinking.  The goal of this project is to reduce the attrition of STEM students by utilizing student-active pedagogies (student-to-student and student-to-teacher) that have been proven effective in promoting retention and cultivate an appreciation for the role of engineering in everyday life.

The following Interactive Lecture Demonstrations were presented by Professor Maria Garlock as part of the CEE262 engineering course at Princeton University (2016-2017).


Physical Demonstration of the Eiffel Tower’s Shape

This is an in-class kinesthetic activity where students investigate how tall structures with a wide base (like the Eiffel Tower) versus a narrow base (like the Washington Monument) resist lateral forces. Through experiencing the differences physically, the students can understand the effects wind loads have on structures and their shapes.

From the lecture: The Eiffel Tower and The Washington Monument


The Human Cantilever Model of The Forth Bridge

This is a kinesthetic activity in which students interact with a physical model to understand the behavior of a cantilever bridge, based on a ‘human cantilever’ demonstration of the Forth Bridge devised by bridge engineer Benjamin Baker.

From the lecture: Eiffel’s Bridges, Eads Bridge, and Baker’s Firth of Forth Bridge


What Really Caused the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster?
Physical Demonstrations of Flutter and Torsion

This is a series of in-class demonstrations to help students understand the concepts of aero-elastic flutter and torsional resistance, and the import ance of these concepts in the design of long span bridges.

From the lecture: Wind, Suspension Bridges, and the Verazzano Narrows Bridge


Teaching Reinforced Concrete with Sponges

This is an in-class demonstrate that uses scrubbing sponges and Styrofoam to help students understand how a reinforced concrete beam works, and the role of tension and compression in a reinforced concrete beam.

From the lecture: The Origins of Reinforced Concrete: Robert Maillart


Physical Demonstration of Flying Buttresses in Gothic Cathedrals

This is an in-class activity where students physically model a flying buttress in order to understand the flow of forces and their importance in gothic cathedrals.

From the lecture: The Gothic Cathedral and the Skyscraper


How An Outrigger Works

Interactive Lecture Demonstration on "How an Outrigger Works" presented by Professor Maria Garlock for the CEE262 engineering course at Princeton University (2016).

From the lecture: The Gothic Cathedral and the Skyscraper


Demonstration of Shear Walls and Moment Frames

This is a demonstration to the class on how shear walls and moment frames can be used to stabilize buildings subject to lateral loads.

From the lecture: Fazlur Khan and Concrete Buildings


Demonstrating Buckling with a PVC Pipe

This is a demonstration in class so that students understand the concept of buckling and how a shorter column can take significantly more compressive load than a taller column.

From the lecture: Fazlur Khan and Steel Buildings


Resonance Resonates: Predict, Experience, Reflect (The BOSS Model)

This teaching tool is called the Building Oscillation Seismic Simulation (BOSS) model, a pedagogical physical demonstration developed by the American Geophysical Union and revised by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) consortium. Since the blocks are all the same weight, the only difference between the four "buildings" is the stiffness, as represented by the heights. All four "buildings" are placed on a two-by-four, which is mounted on a set of wheels.

From the lecture: Earthquakes and Ethics


Relating Curvature and Stiffness with a Paper Cantilever

This is an in-class activity that uses a piece of paper and candy such as Hershey’s Kisses to demonstrate how curvature can generate stiffness, and to help students understand the important role of shape and form in the stiffness of a structure.

From the lecture: The German vs. Spanish Tradition of Thin-Shell Roof Forms


Stiffness Through Curvature

This is an in-class activity that tests the strength of an egg shell to demonstrate how curvature in shell structures can generate stiffness, and to help students understand the important role of shape and form in the stiffness of a structure.

From the lecture: Félix Candela and the Hyperbolic Paraboloid


Teaching Efficiency in Ribbed Forms with Paper Vaults

This is an in-class activity that uses a piece of paper and weights to demonstrate how ribbing in a vault is an efficient form, and to help students understand the important role of corrugations and form in the stiffness of a vault.

From the lecture: Pier Luigi Nervi and the Italian Tradition of Ribbed Vaults