The three acre field lab offers the Auburn University McWhorter School of Building Science a unique opportunity to incorporate hands-on experiential learning to complement and enhance our classroom lectures. The field lab is not just a glorified “trade school” to teach field construction techniques but meant to provide a learning environment where lessons can be reinforced by doing instead of just hearing. There are objectives developed for each class and measurement of the success in those objectives.
We are using the field lab to conduct lab exercises for our Wood/Steel Structures class where we erect a steel structure, form for concrete elevated pan slabs and concrete walls, stick frame storage sheds that are donated to Habitat for Humanity and the Alabama Rural Ministries. For the Soils/Concrete Structures class, lab exercises include installing various types of erosion control silt fences as well as designing, forming and pouring concrete beams and concrete furniture. The field lab allows our Safety courses to learn field safety practices by doing those practices and ensuring the proper controls are in place on our field lab “jobsite” and in all the lab exercises we conduct.
We hope to find ways to incorporate lab exercises to almost all the courses in our curriculum and if the learning process is greatly enhanced, we plan to share our findings with other construction schools. We also hope to host a national Constructionarium based on commercial construction but patterned after civil construction competitions conducted in Europe.