Students investigate how mountains are formed. Concepts include the composition and structure of the Earth's tectonic plates and tectonic plate boundaries, with an emphasis on plate convergence as it relates to mountain formation. Students learn that geotechnical engineers design technologies to measure movement of tectonic plates and mountain formation, as well as design to alter the mountain environment to create safe and dependable roadways and tunnels.
Students learn about one method used in environmental site assessments. They practice soil sampling by creating soil cores, studying soil profiles and characterizing soil profiles in borehole logs. They use their analysis to make predictions about what is going on in the soil and what it might mean to an engineer developing the area.
Students learn the basics about soil, including its formation, characteristics and importance. They are also introduced to soil profiles and how engineers conduct site investigations to learn about soil quality for development, contamination transport, and assessing the general environmental health of an area.
Students apply their knowledge about mountains and rocks to transportation engineering, with the task of developing a model mountain tunnel that simulates the principles behind real-life engineering design. Student teams design and create model tunnels through a clay mountain, working within design constraints and testing for success; the tunnels must meet specific design requirements and withstand a certain load.