A return to the "Rules of Thumb" in Maritime Engineering for digital native students
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SourceProceedings of ICERI2016 Conference 14th-16th November 2016, Seville, Spain: 1522-1531
Engineering and technical degrees are difficult to teach and, consequently, have always been characterized by a large number of academic failures. That is the reason why different methodologies have been applied to classes of similar content in different countries . Among these methodologies, it is noteworthy to mention audio/visual resources as a useful tool to improve the teaching of coastal engineering , which means more students that pass the coastal engineering courses . Moreover, use of GPS and Google Earth have also shown to be useful tools to improve the learning process . Nevertheless, the authors have not found anything about the use of “rules of thumb” as a better way for students to improve their comprehension of the basic knowledge of an engineering subject. This paper shows the teaching experience on Maritime Engineering for undergraduate students of Civil Engineering in the School of Engineering at the University of Seville (Spain). The application of new information technologies in classrooms and advanced training in the use of finite element software tools and programming languages gives our students extremely powerful tools for solving very complex engineering problems with excellent results. However, the enormous effort invested by the students in acquiring this advanced knowledge and to be up to date in using and commanding on these technologies leads them to focus their main efforts, attention and skills just toward the numerical resolution of the problem, the efficiency of the implemented algorithm, and the programming language difficulties. This puts aside the essential and the critical sense of the accuracy of the results obtained by the algorithm. The students do not get the physical ‘feeling’ of what’s happening in the algorithm. We have included a teaching sequence in our lesson programs that always starts with an historical review of the different approaches used by engineers in their times in order to solve engineering problems from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century to today. This method makes the students to appreciate the importance and wits required by those men in the past in facing a difficult task when they didn’t have a PC or powerful software. The “rules of thumb” in engineering become a powerful tool for the digital native students which helps them make sense and enjoy the study and programming when they finally find out that their algorithm responds with reasonable accuracy and orders of magnitude to the result expected beforehand. Simply applying "rules of thumb" and well-known approximations of the past, perhaps obsolete from a technical point of view, will help the student learn the process. Some examples will be given in this paper in order to show the use of these “rules of thumb” or simplified models in class for teaching Maritime Engineering subject. Among them: the dimensionless stability number of Vicente Negro  for the design of the armour layer blocks in breakwaters, the Iribarren’s wave drawings , the US Army Corps of Engineers Shore Protection Manual Graphs and plates, etc.