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Almost 200 local female high school students attended the all day event Saturday, February 9th at Widener University. There were 18 different lab sessions offered throughout the day, each focusing on a different discipline of engineering, and the students could choose to attend 4 sessions. Kolleen Backlund assisted in the Soils and Foundation Design (Geotechnical Engineering) session focusing on shallow foundation design. In this session, the students designed spread footings based on the unconfined strength of clayey soil samples they compacted and performed strength testing on. The students saw that as the soil's strength increases the required footing size for a load decreases. This is because weaker soils require larger spread footings which distribute the load over a wider area resulting in a lower bearing pressure. As the soil's strength increases it can handle larger bearing pressures and smaller footing sizes.
The moisture contents of the soil samples were also varied to understand how the moisture content of a soil sample affects the soil's strength. In general, a soil's strength increases as the water content increases until the optimum moisture content is achieved. As the water content increases past the soil's optimum moisture content, the soil's strength decreases. The students were also able to determine the optimum moisture content of the soil.
In addition to learning more about Geotechnical Engineering, the lab sessions provided an opportunity for students to address concerns they have about pursuing engineering in a more informal setting.