Laboratory exercises inverted

27.01.2021, by Ursula Müller and Benjamin Rieger

Normally, a laboratory practical course in the field of geotechnics works like this: Prof. Dr. Thomas Benz first imparts knowledge in the field of soil classification or questions of rock mechanics. He explains the purpose and procedure of certain experiments. He is assisted by laboratory assistant Benjamin Rieger. Then the students tinker with the experimental set-up with their own hands, carry out the experiment and subsequently evaluate the results. All this is done in small groups. The students test their technical skills, gain "hands-on" experience and everyone learns from their own mistakes and from those of the others.

For Corona's sake, the whole thing has now been turned around: each student gives a presentation on a standard experiment from home as part of an online event and gives "stage directions", so to speak, to the professor and his lab assistant. A camera in the lab records their actions, which are controlled by verbal instructions from the students. This almost has the character of a pantomime performance!

While things are usually rather dusty and tedious in the lab (the word "labor" comes from Latin and means "work"), the Corona crisis releases further artistic creativity in lab assistant Benjamin Rieger. Since April, in addition to the technical reproduction of "live transmissions", he has also been practicing the production and editing of explanatory videos on special additional devices or experiments!

However, one crucial learning step remains the same for the students - regardless of the pandemic: After often weeks of experiments, the devices "spit out" EXCEL documents. These data are analysed in detail by the students, evaluated and corresponding classifications are made. In this way, the budding engineers continue to develop their understanding of practical-technical contexts and their ability to make judgments, as they always have, so that they can later make the right decisions on construction sites.