Advances in artificial intelligence, and an ongoing labor shortage, have construction companies using drones and robots on their sites. And the University of Arizona is looking to add classes on these technical advances to its civil engineering program.
Sundt Construction Inc., for instance, is using drones to photograph and map sites to provide clients with exact information on a project's progress.
Dean Papajohn, UA associate professor of practice for civil and architectural engineering and mechanics, embraces robotics technology and is working to keep students current to industry standards by introducing them to drones and their role in earthwork measurements, thermal mapping and traffic patterns.
“We’ve got to prepare our students for what’s next,” he said. “I don’t see, at least in the near future, where robotics and artificial intelligence are going to take over ... but we’re moving more in that direction.”
Papajohn was a civil engineer manager with Pima County’s Department of Transportation when he met with UA CAEM staff. The county was interested in hiring civil engineering students with backgrounds in construction – but the department lacked the expertise, and money, to build a construction curriculum.
The private sector stepped up and funded the UA's construction engineering management emphasis in the undergraduate civil engineering degree, and Papajohn came aboard as a full-time professor in 2015.