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Dr. David Dinehart Presents Structural Engineering Expertise in Chile

Dr. David Dinehart, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, traveled to South America this October to share his expertise in structural engineering principles to mitigate earthquake damage with the people of Santiago, Chile, who experienced a devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake in February. Dr. Dinehart made the trip through the College of Engineering’s Partnership for Global Faculty with the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH), which allows for an exchange of faculty members and brings Ph.D. candidates from USACH to the College of Engineering to complete their studies. Once they finish their work at Villanova, they will rejoin USACH as faculty.

Dr. David Dinehart at USACH

“It was an extraordinary experience for me on all levels, and it was an honor to be invited to present my research. Professionally, I learned from experts in Chile and was able to share advances that we have developed here,” says Dr. Dinehart, who specializes in designing infrastructures sound enough to withstand seismic loading. Outside the classroom and laboratory, he often looks for ways to translate his expertise into community service.

Dr. Dinehart not only discussed engineering with colleagues at USACH, but he also brought his knowledge to possible future engineers in the fifth grade class at Villa Maria Academy (VMA) in Santiago. His daughter Abigail, a fifth grader at VMA’s sister school in Immaculata, Pa., is currently studying earthquakes in her science classes. The father-daughter duo saw an opportunity to bridge these two classroom experiences, so she traveled with him to Chile to help prepare and teach a lesson on using engineering techniques to reduce serious earthquake damage.

Abigail Dinehart with students from Villa Maria Academy in Santiago, Chile.

"Via Skype, I was able to simultaneously teach the girls in Chile and the U.S. some basics about earthquake engineering. Following the lesson, student teams were given 30 minutes to construct a 5-foot tall cross that could stand on its own, using only newspapers and masking tape. The girls completed the activity, and then we reconnected from each classroom to compare the success of the designs, which were very similar,” says Dr. Dinehart. After the activity, Abigail shared her experiences at VMA in the United States with her Chilean peers.

The VMA class in Santiago connected with their counterparts in the U.S. via Skype.

“The day at VMA was definitely a high point of the trip,” says Dr. Dinehart. “I have become active in middle school engineering education in the last year. My graduate students and I launched NovaCANE (Villanova Community Action by New Engineers) last year and successfully implemented a Structural Engineering Club for sixth graders at St. Martin of Tours in Philadelphia. This program has continued and now includes a Green Engineering Club for the seventh grade class run by graduate students and seniors focusing on water resources and chemical engineering. We also launched a version of this club at St. Edmond's Academy in Wilmington, Del. We plan to expand to VMA next year and are considering a club at VMA Santiago, as well.”

For more information about NovaCANE or opportunities to get involved with engineering service, contact Dr. Dinehart at

Dr. Dinehart and Abigail led a hands-on engineering project in which students built freestanding newspaper crosses.
Dr. Dinehart and Abigail led a hands-on engineering project in which students built freestanding newspaper crosses.