Civil & Environmental Engineering students and recent graduates entering the field of construction management lack an effective learning tool for gaining a deep, experiential understanding of managing a construction project. The Bucknell Project Management Flight Simulator provides students with a complex but mediocre learning experience. A better educational tool is needed. There are no commercially available products on the market, nor have other universities developed the teaching tool needed.
The solution should meet as many of the following goals as possible:
- The work product should provide as realistic a simulation of the process of managing a construction project as possible, ideally a commercial building construction project (as opposed to a bridge, highway, dam or residential building project).
- The work product should be easily usable by Bucknell Civil Engineering students, either on their personal PC or on a Bucknell lab PC.
- The simulation should be so compelling (i.e., fun to use) that students will want to use the simulations more often that the minimum number established by the instructor.
- The simulation should be so effective at helping the user learn important project management principles that Bucknell alumni will recommend that it be used within the construction firms in which they work.
- The simulation should be stand-alone, that is, not require a special software and not require an instructor to guide the user through the simulation.
- The end product should be relatively easily enhanced by the client, either by the client himself, or a civil engineering student performing a research project or independent study, or by a Comp Sci-Eng student hired by the client.
- Users will need to use a Windows platform as the project client and few civil engineering are familiar with or possess the Linux operating system.
- The program should be readily imaged on all engineering PC labs.
- Users should not be able to alter the code to achieve a higher score. (Like Captain Kirk at the Starfleet Academy, competitive Bucknell students will do whatever it takes to win!)
- Computer operations should be nearly invisible. That is, users should not have to wait while the system chugs through operations.
- The program should record the results of each round of simulation in way that can be accessed by the user and shared with the instructor.
- The client has spent a LOT of time working with Bucknell students creating the Bucknell PMFS. As such, there is an understandable feeling of sunk costs and loyalty to the existing PMFS.
- The more accurate a portrayal of the “real world” of managing a building construction project, the better.
- The more easily users can connect the project management causal loop diagram created by the client with the work product, the better.
- The more attractive the end product is for a user in industry (not a current Bucknell student), the better.
- A direct tie to the critical path method schedule underlying the virtual building through Microsoft Project is desired.
- It is assumed by the client that a graphic-intensive experience similar to The Sims will be more compelling than a merely static image-based simulation.
Resources, Intellectual Property, and Licensing
There is an existing PMFS that was created over a 12-year period using Ithink system dynamics software (which is sister software to Stella). This simulation can be used through a Netsim portal that is hosted by Bucknell ( PMFS can be accessed through http://www.students.bucknell.edu/projects/PMFS/The_PMFS_at_Bucknell_University/The_PMFS.html.)
The existing PMFS may be a valuable resource to the senior design team in that it:
- Captures the desired level of “real world” simulation
- Indicates an acceptable level of accurate causality between the variables in the simulation
- Reflects thousands of hours of effort by past Bucknell students and the client
- Has been demonstrated to be an acceptable (but not ideal) simulation by both students and industry practitioners
The client is on campus, very motivated to achieve an excellent work product, and familiar with senior design project goals. As such, the client should prove to be a highly engaged client and an effective resource for communicating the project management principles that should underlie the simulation. Note: The client has spent a LOT of time working with Bucknell students creating the Bucknell PMFS. As such, there is an understandable feeling of sunk costs and loyalty to the existing PMFS. However, if a better end product can be achieved by completely abandoning it and starting from scratch, so be it!
Bucknell has purchased copies of the outdated versions of Ithink and Netsim that was used to create the current PMFS. The client is willing to purchase new versions of these programs if needed.
The client has never sought to protect the intellectual property of the existing PMFS and does not intend to stake IP rights to the work product for his own benefit. However, it would be appropriate to pursue IP rights for Bucknell in case the end product ends up being used at other universities or within for-profit companies.
Point of Contact
- Prof. T. Michael Toole, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Bucknell University