Meet Drexel’s New 10-Foot-Tall Teaching Tool

Drexel's new steel teaching tool.

Just in time for the beginning of the new academic year, Drexel University has a noticeable new teaching tool on campus.

Standing nearly 10 feet tall and situated outside the Bossone Research Enterprise Center, opposite the Center for Automated Technologies, the steel teaching sculpture installed Sept. 15 is a welcome addition for Drexel’s engineering students. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the structure offers Dragons a chance to get hands-on when studying the various members and connections found on any steel building or bridge.

“We can send students there and actually have homework assignments revolving around this steel sculpture, and it will also be a point of pride and reinforcement,” said Abieyuwa Aghayere, PhD, the College of Engineering professor who helped make it possible. “When you talk about something in class, the student can come to the sculpture and say, ‘Oh, that’s what the instructor was talking about, I can see it more clearly now.’ Every typical connection and every typical member in any steel building is in that sculpture.”

The same structure exists on more than 170 college campuses around the world, though Drexel’s will be the first in Philadelphia, according to the American Institute of Steel Construction, which encourages its use as a valuable teaching aid. Aghayere has been hoping to bring one to Drexel since he came to the University in 2009. He finally saw an opportunity in January when he and his colleague, Yared Shifferaw, PhD, met with a local steel fabricator, Joe Messner Jr., president and CEO of JGM Inc., who offered to help realize his vision. Michelle Yurko of the University’s Office of Institutional Advancement and Kimberly Miller and Nancy Trainer of Drexel Facilities helped with the internal processes to get the project off the ground.

The sculpture, which Drexel left unpainted to preserve the color of raw steel, might look like the incomplete work of a confused engineer, but it contains everything that a student needs to learn about the fundamental elements of steel construction. Aghayere and his colleagues in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering already have plans to use it for instruction in courses including “Structural Steel Design,” “Structural Analysis” and “Structural Design I.”

“When I’m talking about something in the classroom, I draw it on the board, but I want it to come to life for my students,” said Aghayere. “I want them to feel it and see it.”

Aghayere said the sculpture goes right to the roots of education at Drexel.

“It’s about really connecting the dots between what is taught in the classroom and what exists in real life,” said Aghayere. “I’m excited for the students, because I believe Drexel has a great civil, architectural and environmental engineering program and this will be a great addition to it.”