THE CONSTRUCTION OF “ARTIFACTS”, PHYSICAL HAND MADE DEVICES, AS AN EDUCATIONAL METHOD IN CIVIL ENGINEERING
The paper describes the experience of educational innovation made during three academic years in civil engineering courses through the construction of physical devices made by students themselves. Instead of IT related issues in education, we propose a physical approach to the matters related to civil engineering: structural engineering, hydraulics, mechanics, etc. The goal of this exercise is the stimulation of parts of the brain that normally remains passive during the working process with computers. It has been well proven than the use of hands involves contact with reality and demands a new approach of stimulating creativity.
Teams of students develop an "artifact", which is a different concept from the "static model" approach, as it is a flexible device that shows the logic of operation, construction, application or use.
The students themselves should develop the idea, choose their own materials, build the device, document the process and expose the piece to be discussed in class together. The key aspects of the exercise are: teamwork, working directly with materials, solving difficulties and common mistakes during the process. All projects are documented in a video that is uploaded in YouTube in a public visible playlist.
The experience in general is very fruitful and diverse. During all the mentioned steps, it has been shown that there are many similarities to the real processes of civil engineering phases: design, construction and subsequent adaptation to problems which occur during execution and final performance.