Murphy Award winner: Fred Mannering

April 11, 2013  

Fred Mannering

Fred Mannering, the Charles Pankow Professor of Civil Engineering, is a recipient of the 2013 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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Six exceptional teachers have been selected as recipients of the 2013 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy. This week, Purdue Today will feature a profile on each of the recipients. Today, we focus on Fred Mannering, the Charles Pankow Professor of Civil Engineering.

Helping students understand that many unexpected life experiences -- even playing a video game -- can make them better engineers is paramount to Fred Mannering.

To illustrate nonacademic endeavors' teaching potential, Mannering occasionally shows students stored replays of races from MotoGP, which is a series of Xbox 360 motorcycle racing games. Mannering, a longtime fan of the games, uses the replays to demonstrate the various 3-D elements of highway design.

"Encouraging students to think and to learn from all aspects of life provides a seed for the creativity and innovation that will make their professional careers more successful and rewarding," Mannering says. "It's important for students to realize that learning does not stop once they step out of the classroom."

Students find Mannering effective and encouraging, they say, because he lectures with a liberal dose of humor and illustrates his points with YouTube and movie clips. Mannering also uses a review technique in the style of the television show "Jeopardy!" to keep his students engaged.

"I believe that the style of shifting my lectures with variations in emphasis, subject matter and communication media keeps students alert and motivated to learn," Mannering says.

Mannering may like to keep his classroom interactions lighthearted, but he is also the author of a seriously influential civil engineering textbook. Called "Principles of Highway Engineering and Traffic Analysis," the book is in its fifth edition and is taught in engineering schools across the U.S. and the world.

The textbook has evolved significantly since he first wrote it in 1989, Mannering says, but it still employs the same example-driven approach to learning that the professor uses in his own classrooms.

Maintaining a fun and positive atmosphere makes Mannering a favorite teacher of many students on campus, according to many of his course evaluations.

"Professor Mannering's enthusiasm and passion for the course is obvious and enjoyable in every lecture," one student writes. "He does a great job at making classes very interesting and enjoyable. I actually look forward to attending [his] lectures."

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325,

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