The Virtual Classroom

The study of hydraulics and hydrology is a necessary part of civil and environmental engineering. There are a number of textbooks available to the undergraduate student in these areas of engineering science. But it is difficult to find an introductory text that will cover both hydraulic and hydrologic engineering in a clear and concise manner. Presently, computer modeling is widely used in the environmental and civil engineering profession. A number of these programs are used to determine flooding potential of streams, roads, parking areas, etc. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has encouraged the use of two such programs: “Flood Hydrograph Package (HEC-1),” and “River Analysis System (HEC-RAS).” It is virtually impossible to find the instructions on the use of these programs in an introductory course in Water Resource Engineering, thus placing a burden on those teaching hydraulics and hydrology to the undergraduate engineering students.

Approximately a decade ago, the course in Water Resource Engineering (CE 142) (hydraulics and hydrology is introduced to junior civil engineering students in this course) at the Cooper Union was revised to include a three hour laboratory and problem solving weekly session. In order to incorporate the use of the latest techniques in this course, projects in urban storm water runoff and flooding were assigned. The HEC-1 and HEC-2 programs were used to determine drainage in the students’ projects. HEC-RAS is basically the windows version of HEC-2. It was clear from the beginning that the students needed more than an introduction to the use of these two programs to be able to conduct waterdshed runoff and backwater curve computations. Longer and longer periods of time were necessary to instruct the students in the use of these necessary tools. This took valuable time away from the laboratory hydraulic experiments conducted as part of the required course. At this time, the module was developed as a learning aid in the proper use of both programs: HEC-1 and HEC-RAS.

The Virtual Classroom project’s goals were to revise CE142 so that the modules could be used as a learning tool in or out of the classroom, thereby freeing up class time and allowing students’ progress to be reviewed in classroom problem sessions.