America is built on small and large feats of public works engineering that, although often taken for granted, affect almost every aspect of our daily lives. So how can we celebrate these marvels of utilitarian infrastructure and use them to teach public audiences about the engineering principles, materials, and human innovations that make them possible? This case study will share how one project addressed these questions by leveraging informal learning strategies, multi-agency collaborations, and new media technologies to explain the history and engineering of one of the world’s most recognizable public work sites: the Golden Gate Bridge. This paper will first discuss the nature of public works projects in general as visible examples of engineering for public benefit and chronicle the development and installation of outdoor exhibits designed to explain factors (historical, engineering, and environmental) that influenced the Golden Gate Bridge’s design and construction. The exhibit includes photographs, text panels, interactive components, and Quick Response (QR) codes linked to additional web-content and language translations - all of which provide on-site visitors, as well as online and school-based audiences, the freedom to direct their own learning. The paper will also share findings from a small international conference that brought pioneers of this field from around the globe together to discuss other iconic public works projects and their experiences leveraging these sites for public education and a professional development course for public works professionals designed to increase professional awareness and elevate the outreach capacity of other sites. Finally, research and evaluation data collected throughout the project from university student participants, public works professionals, and public audiences, will provide a broader view of the project’s impact, lessons learned, and illustrate the inherent potential these projects offer as vehicles for engineering education and broad public engagement.
Shannon Weiss, David Heil, and Thalia Anagnos. "Public Works Projects as Vehicles for Engineering Education and Outreach" ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition (2013): 23.1010.1-23.1010.19.