Learning from the World Trade Center Collapse – Use of a Failure Case Study in a Structures and Materials Laboratory Course

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2015

Publication Title

Journal of Engineering Technology


The use of failure case studies has been shown to benefit technical, professional, and ethical student learning outcomes in undergraduate education. Recently, incorporation of failure case studies into undergraduate civil engineering, civil engineering technology, construction management, and architecture curricula has been facilitated by the development of educational resources as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. This paper outlines the approach utilized to incorporate the World Trade Center Collapse case study into a junior-level Structures and Materials Laboratory course in an engineering technology and construction management program, identifying the technical and professional component outcomes supported by this case study. Assessment techniques utilized to evaluate technical comprehension of the building performance, as well as to evaluate the impact of this case study on student’s interest in the engineering profession, are presented and discussed.


This paper received the Engineering Technology Division’s Best Paper Award for 2015. Originally published in the ASEE proceedings, it is being reprinted here for the edification of the ET community. Reprinted with permission.

Support for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation under the project “Developing Case Studies in Failures and Ethics for Engineering Educators,” project number DUE 0127419 and “Implementation and Assessment of Failure Case Studies in the Engineering Curriculum,” project number DUE 0919487.