New construction science lab allows integration of technology and teaching

The UTSA downtown campus continues to innovate with the addition of the new Bartelett Cocke General Contractors Teaching and Research Laboratory. The Department of Construction Science, part of the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, will utilize the new technology and classroom to increase students’ understanding of construction industry techniques and virtual design. The research laboratory has a general teaching section with 30 seats and a teaching area for senior courses and graduate courses with a 12-seat limit. Both sections have interactive projector monitors that allow students and professors to analyze data, such as peer reports and geotechnical analysis reports.

“This is interactive; in our program we cover about 60 different software packages and we already have a good reputation of producing high tech students in construction,” said Yilmaz Hatipkarasulu, chair of the UTSA Department of Construction Science. “This area is actually adding to that, not a lot of schools can actually teach at this level, with this many software packages, and information technology. What we do is semi built in (and) a little bit different take on construction education.”

Professor Hatipkarasulu explained that the new laboratory projectors assist in marking up data in real time to identify important steps in construction science. For instance, students can identify what is underneath the ground and accurately compare different mathematical models while marking specific areas in data reports that need attention, such as a soft clay foundation.

“We start looking at these on a smaller scale — that’s number one. Number two, most of the time what happens is when things like this are in 3-D models everyone is sitting behind a table and everyone tries to point out a particular issue, that’s the problem,” said Hatipkarasulu. “With this, what you do here, is mark it up, and it’s large enough and close enough so it’s semi-immersive, and it’s interactive, you’re not limited to 2 dimensional directions.”

Combined, the new technology and the available up-to-date theoretical data is designed to give UTSA construction science students a competitive edge in the construction industry. The laboratory assists in generating construction plans before physical construction to identify potential problems to minimize risks. Students in the capstone course will use the new equipment to compete in the Associated Schools of Construction competition, where construction students work on a simulation of an actual construction project and compete to get the job.

“Since we are covering some up to date information during school, when our students graduate, they’re ready,” said Hatipkarasulu. “Typically, construction students either choose a business or construction business or a construction field route. In the last few years we have students go into IT departments and construction companies — we actually create a career path for them.”