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This article describes the The Civil and Structural Engineering drawing are given through instruction and
departmental strategy for course at UMIST, similar to most they are also assimilated through reading
the Civil and Structural undergraduate engineering courses, well produced drawings.
Engineering course at provides a core module in Engineering
UMIST, together with the The final aptitude on my short list
Drawing for its first year students. Since
practical issues of teaching concerns the ability to use geometrical
the fundamental skills of 1985, when computer aided drafting was
first included in the curriculum, there has information and relationships to create
drawing production and
design within a CAD been a gradual shift from manual complicated shapes. In traditional
environment. Attention is drafting to CAD. Regimental rows of engineering drawing courses, this
also focused on the use of drawing boards have been replaced with dominated the curriculum; specific
the WWW in the course to open plan CAD suites. Students and techniques and equipment were required
provide exercise material, staff have responded enthusiastically to to produce elliptical curves, hyperboloids
advice for completing the new technology and a new teaching of revolution and all sorts of awkward
assignments and environment for engineering drawing shapes. Thankfully, CAD helps us with
feedback. these and produces results of far greater
classes is now in place.
accuracy than could ever be possible by
The CAD Skills vs Drawing Skills hand. However, there is still a skill level
that must be attained. Simple tasks such
The first year Design course comprises a as transferring a dimension from one
total of 36 contact hours, 24 of which are plane to another, or bisecting an angle,
taught through CAD, the remaining 12 still require a modicum of thought.
hours concentrating on hand drawing and Indeed, one of the great benefits of CAD
sketching. However, things do not is that there are many useful tools for
necessarily change with the introduction generating construction lines and that
of IT. The key graphical and drawing these construction lines can be made
skills required by an engineer remain: visible or invisible according to the user’s
n How to read a 2D drawing and relate wish.
it to reality.
n How to create and layout a drawing Along with the fundamental graphical
using standard views, scales etc. skills that a Civil Engineer must possess,
n To be able to dimension and annotate the use of a CAD program imposes some
a drawing in a systematic manner. extra demands. There is the obvious need
n To be able to generate geometrical to instruct the student in the use of the
constructions for the solution of computer program. The functionality of
graphical problems. specific commands must be explained;
the use of CAD techniques such as object
The first of these skills includes 3D snap and customising the drawing
visualisation, but more importantly the environment need to be taught. Many
ability to link a plan or elevation to the CAD concepts such as use of blocks,
reality on the ground. Practising parametric objects and associative
engineers spend far more time reading dimensions do not exist in a manual
Tim McCarthy drawings than actually creating them, yet drafting world. The CAD skills that we
Department of Civil & this is a skill which is often overlooked.
Structural Engineering
attempt to transfer (in the order of
The second and third skills relate to delivery but not importance) are:
planning a drawing which must convey a
Manchester M60 1QD
certain level of information. The n Insertion of blocks using object
Email: snapping.
tim.mccarthy@umist.ac.uk standard conventions of engineering
n Line drawing, snapping, simple
dimensioning and text annotation.


n Setting up the drawing environment - layers, limits.

n Re-use of components and block libraries.
n File security.
n Construction lines, shapes (circles, ellipses etc).
n More complicated dimensioning.
n Paper space and drawing scales for printing.
n Hatching.
n 3D co-ordinates, views, user co-ordinate system,
rectilinear 3D objects.
n More complicated 3D objects, visualisation tools.

CAD Exercises
During their 24 contact hours for CAD, the students
undertake 5 separate exercises which build up their
skills in both the use of the computer program and their
engineering drawing. There is one demonstration
lecture using a data projector at the commencement of
the course. This introduces the course and the basic
CAD concepts and demonstrates what is required for
the first hands-on session. Subsequently, all classes are
held in the department’s CAD suites. The instructions
for each exercise are available only on the WWW,
which also contains extra help sheets giving tips and
tricks. Fig.1 The original architect's sketch

The first exercise involves the production of a drawing

showing the plan for the refurbishment of one of the
CAD suites. The original drawing of the building is
made available along with an architect’s sketch for the
location of a new wall. The students’ task is to
rationalise the architect’s sketch, the original drawing
with its grid references and what they find on the
ground. The dimensions on the original drawing and
the architect’s sketch are correlated with the ‘as built’
sizes of columns and windows.

The architect’s sketch is printed out from the web page

(Figure 1) and updated by hand. When all the data has
been gathered, each student produces a revised drawing
using AutoCAD. A default drawing is downloaded
from the web page. This contains all the blocks
required to assemble the finished drawing, together
with the grid lines but not the grid numbers. At this
point the exercise is essentially one of inserting blocks
at the correct location, scale and layer. Simple
dimensions and annotations are added. After 2 two
hour sessions, most of the students have completed this
exercise. Those in difficulty are identified in the
second session and receive extra help from the

Fig.2 Exercise involving the creation of an auxiliary view


ambitious second exercise which requires three 2 hour

CAD sessions plus some private study time. Before the
final CAD session, the whole year group attends a
“Masterclass” on the exercise in one of the multimedia
lecture theatres. Here we concentrate on the CAD
techniques and how to order operations for efficient
drawing production; the class is run with considerable
audience participation.

The scheduling of the masterclass towards the end of

the exercise was adopted as a result of feedback from
the student questionnaires. The original plan was to
give a demonstration, working through the exercise at
the beginning. This did not achieve learning objectives
as too much new material was introduced before the
students were sufficiently experienced to appreciate the
subtleties. Once the students have encountered the
problems they can contribute more to the interactive
class and derive more benefit. They also have enough
time afterwards to implement what they have learnt.

The content of the second exercise concerns the

Fig.3 Guidance on geometric construction creation of an auxiliary view and developed surface for
a contrived hexagonal structure (Figure 2). Many of the
frequently used drawing commands are introduced in
this exercise; the web page gives step by step guidance
on the geometric construction (Figure 3). The students
are told to include as many dimensions as would be
required to manufacture the auxiliary view and the
developed surface. The main drawing skills learnt
during this assignment include the transfer of
dimensions by construction lines, developments and
dimensioning. The main AutoCAD skills learnt are
object snapping, trimming and extending lines and
dimensioning. The biggest difficulty encountered by
the students is in dimensioning the auxiliary view
adequately. Once they have submitted their work, a
number of possible solutions (Figure 4) are posted on
the web for discussion at the next tutorial.

This is advantageous for the tutor in that the assessment

of submissions is easy. It is possible to detect which
students are not using the CAD techniques correctly
since any minor error in the construction will lead to
incorrect dimensions in the final views. Unlike the first
exercise where everyone achieves the same level, this
exercise allows for different levels of excellence. Of
Fig.4 Student work posted onto the web for discussion course there is an absolutely correct solution. However,
very few achieve perfection. Feedback from this
The response from the students is usually very
assessment is given via the WWW and at the next
enthusiastic at this stage. They have developed a
tutorial; each individual is coached by the
degree of confidence and are ready for the more
demonstrators on how to correct the mistakes.


Following the second exercise, the students have program (with a superb CAL CD-ROM) and a more
acquired the basics on use of AutoCAD. Many move sensible price. However, Autodesk continue to operate
on to the final three exercises in advance of the main a very expensive educational policy compared with its
cohort, making use of the web material and also the main rival, Bentley Systems. While the people who
AutoCAD Learning Assistance CAL package which employ our graduates continue to look for AutoCAD
comes with Release 14. Exercises 3, 4, and 5 require skills, we will try to deliver just that. We review the
only one 2 hour session each and deal with paper space, situation each year in light of ever dwindling budgets.
user co-ordinate systems and 3D constructions.
Drawing layout, planning and dimensioning are The provision of course material via the WWW works
reinforced. Although only one session is required for quite well. A factor in this is that the students do all
most students, two sessions are allocated. This enables their CAD work on the PC and so the web is always
the slower students to keep pace. More advanced available. The fact that students can never forget their
students have the freedom to explore 3D visualisation handout is a real benefit. Since they store their
and rendering or to concentrate on other studies. drawings on the fileserver, they cannot forget their
floppy disk now either. The Web pages are produced
Logistics using Microsoft Frontpage (though most of the material
was originally saved as HTML from MS Word) and are
We have been running the Engineering Drawing and sent by FTP to UMIST’s web server.
Design course in this mode since 1995. Class sizes are
typically 65-70. Due to the number of seats in the CAD Printing and plotting have always presented difficulties.
suite, the class is divided in two. One half has a CAD Now that we use A4/A3 laser printers for black and
session while the remainder have a one hour hand white output and A4 colour inkjet, we have eliminated
drawing class. This results in two CAD sessions being the poor quality of output we previously obtained from
run per week (and two hand drawing classes). For the the pen plotters. The move to Windows NT has also
first two CAD exercises, we have a student:tutor ratio given us a more robust print queuing system.
of 5:1. A ratio of 10:1 is needed for the final three
assignments. Feedback
A greater number of demonstrators are used during the Student questionnaires are issued each year. The
first half of the course to allow sufficient support for IT response is always very positive. We try to react to
as well as drawing and CAD. For many students, this is criticisms and suggestions and to move the subject
their first intensive encounter with computers. With forward. Two examples of this reaction are the
improvements in IT provision in schools and at home, scheduling of the masterclass during the second
this situation improves each year. By providing a high exercise and the replacement of one exercise a couple
number of demonstrators in the early weeks, we are of years ago. Surprisingly, the students do not object to
able to address not only CAD issues but also the myriad the material being available only via the web. Many
of general user IT problems. This has the advantage in students choose to print out some or all of the material
the medium term of increasing the self sufficiency of but none have expressed any dissatisfaction with this.
the students. In other courses, students have objected to free
handouts being replaced by web pages.
Currently, the CAD suites are organised in 3 clusters on
2 floors. This has not helped the tutoring staff but has The ultimate test is how the students build on their own
not hindered the students. We have plans to merge 2 of skills and use the CAD and drawing techniques during
the clusters and to concentrate them all on one floor. the rest of their course. Many other modules require
This will tie in with the PC upgrade programme and the production of drawings. The surveying course uses
UMIST’s move to using the Windows NT environment. mapping software that outputs DXF files that can be
imported into AutoCAD. In the second year design
The cost of hardware and software is a real issue and course, the students use an analysis package that also
limits the development of the CAD course. When generates DXF files. These help students to appreciate
AutoCAD 13 was released, it was ridiculously the value of data interchange and encourage them to
expensive and meant that many universities stayed with continue using CAD. Most students produce their third
Release 12. With Release 14 came a much better and fourth year design project drawings in AutoCAD.


We have now incorporated a 3D visualisation exercise Summary

for third year structural engineering students in
The purpose of this article is to share the UMIST
response to a demand for a refresher and top up CAD
experience of teaching engineering drawing via CAD
and outline our use of the WWW. You may read this
Feedback from staff is also important. While students and say “that’s nothing extraordinary” and you would
now produce a better looking drawing, we still have to be right. We have not attempted anything elaborate
monitor the content as much as before, if not more with our web pages (there are many super web sites
diligently. With the move to drawing production by with all sorts of interactive JAVA gismos). Rather than
CAD we have undoubtedly seen a reduction in the apply a technology push, we have attempted to use
manual draughting skills for large drawings. Students some of the available technology to remodel the course
are no longer adept at engineering lettering or stencil in a modest and sustainable way.
use. Colleagues often debate the pros and cons of this The content of the CAD course has evolved over a
situation. With some dissenters, the general view is that number of years. I believe it is possible to create
the move to CAD for drawing production is in the same exercises which achieve the two learning objectives (i)
category as using word-processors instead of structured development of CAD skills and (ii)
handwriting. There is still a need for decent engineering drawing techniques. It is important that
handwriting but a near illegible scrawl is no longer a one addresses the CAD skill as an amalgam of
barrier to professional success. There is still an commands, drawing environment, and sequencing of
undeniable need for professional engineers to be able to operations. Simply teaching the commands does not
document evidence graphically and to explain ideas in work. What we teach at UMIST is how to produce
pictures. Many such tasks are more efficiently done by engineering drawings using CAD.
hand, on a sketch sheet, whiteboard or even the
The WWW material for the AutoCAD course can be
legendary back of an envelope.
found from the Departmental web site: http://
www.umist.ac.uk/UMIST_CIVENG/ (select the
WWW Teaching Resources link followed by 130
Design 1).


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