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Soil Mechanics Fundamentals

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My intent in writing this textbook is to present accessible, clear, concise, and contemporary course content for a first course in soil mechanics to meet the needs of undergraduates not only in civil engineering but also in construction, mining, geological engineering, and related disciplines. However, this textbook is not meant to be an engineering design manual nor a cookbook. 

It is structured to provide the user with a learning outcome that is a solid foundation on key soil mechanics principles for application in a later foundation engineering course and in engineering practice.

 By studying with this textbook, students will acquire a contemporary understanding of the physical and mechanical properties of soils. They will be engaged in the presentation of these properties, in discussions and guidance on the fundamentals of soil mechanics. 

They will attain the problem-solving skills and background knowledge that will prepare them to think critically, make good decisions, and engage in lifelong learning.

The  primary  unit  of  measure  used  in  this  textbook  is  the  US  customary  system  of  units. However, ASTM standards require certain tests, for example, for particle sizes of soils, to be conducted using SI units (International System of units). Therefore, wherever necessary, SI units are used. An SI version of this textbook is also available.

Contemporary methods:The text presents, discusses, and demonstrates contemporary ideas and methods of interpreting the physical and mechanical properties of soils that students will  encounter  as  practicing  engineers.  In  order  to  strike  a  balance  between  theory  and practical applications for an introductory course in soil mechanics, the mechanics is kept to a minimum so that students can appreciate the background, assumptions, and limitations of the theories in use in the field. 

The implications of the key ideasare discussed to provide students with an understanding of the context for the applications of these ideas. A modern explanation of soil behavioris presented particularly in soil settlement and soil strength.  These  are  foremost  topics  in  the  practice  of  geotechnical  engineering. 

 One dimensional  consolidation  is  presented  in  the  context  of  soil  settlement  rather  than as a separate topic (Chapter 7). The shear strength of soils is presented using contemporary  thinking  and  approach.  In  particular,  three  popular  failure  criteria—Coulomb, Mohr-Coulomb, and Tresca—are discussed with regard to their applications and limitations. 

Students will be able to understand how to use these criteria to properly interpret soil  test  results  and  understand  the  differences  between  drained  and  undrained  shear strength. Some common applications of soil mechanics principlesare presented to introduce students to and to inform them on the practical importance of studying soil mechanics. 

Pedagogy and design directed by modern learning theory:The content and presentation of the chapters are informed by modern theories of how students learn, especially with regard to metacognition. Learning outcomeslisted at the beginning of each chapter inform students what knowledge and skills they are expected to gain from the chapter.

 These form the bases for the problems at the end of each chapter. By measuring students’ performance on the problems, an instructor can evaluate whether the learning outcomes have been satisfied. Definitions of key termsat the beginning of each chapter define key terms and variables that will be used in the chapter. Key pointssummaries throughout each chapter emphasize for students the most important points in the material they have just read. Practical examplesat the end of some chapters give students an opportunity to see how the prior and current principles are integrated to solve “real world type” problems. 

The students will learn how to find solutions for a “system” rather than a solution for a “component” of the system. Consistent problem-solving strategy:Students generally have difficulty in translating a word problem into the steps and equations they need to use to solve it. 

They typically can’t read a problem and understand what they need to do to solve it. This text provides and models consistent strategies to help students approach, analyze, and solve any problem. Example problems are solved by first developing a strategy and then stepping through the solution, identifying equations, and checking whether the results are reasonable as appropriate.