CIVL 411


Course Title and Number

CE 250: Soil Mechanics and Foundations

Catalog Description

Soil properties, tests, classification.  Analysis of soil stresses, consolidation, shear strength, lateral pressures, and ground water movement.  Related design consideration involving spread footings, piles, retaining walls, and slopes.  Use of programmable scientific calculator required.


CE 20, CE 150, ENGL 1 and CE 102 (may be taken concurrently)
By Topic:  Computer applications including word processing and spreadsheets; fluid mechanics; basic writing skills; and procedures in conducting laboratory experiments.

Textbook and Other Required Material

B.M. Das (2002)  Principles of Geotechnical Engineering
J.E. Bowles (1992)  Engineering Properties of Soils and Their Measurement

Course Objectives

The objectives are to:

  • Provide students with a general understanding of the nature of soil and rock; where it came from and how to classify it for engineering purposes.
  • Improve student knowledge of common soil mechanical properties.  
  • Develop student understanding of the distribution of stresses within soil masses both from self weight and externally applied loads.  
  • Introduce the mechanics of the movement of water through soil (seepage and consolidation)
  • Present the basic concepts of the design basic soil related structures.
  • Improve student familiarity with laboratory procedures, methods for clear reporting of experimental procedures, and evaluation of experimental results.
Topics Covered
  • Origin of Soil and Grain Size
  • Weight-Volume Relationships, Plasticity and Structure of Soil
  • Subsoil Exploration
  • Classification of Soils
  • Soil Compaction
  • Permeability
  • Seepage
  • In Situ Stresses     
  • Stresses in a Soil Mass
  • Compressibility of Soil
  • Shear Strength of Soil
  • Lateral Earth Pressure
  • Retaining Structures
  • Slope Stability
  • Soil Bearing Capacity for Shallow Foundations     
  • Landfill Liners and Geosynthetics     

Students completing this course will be able to:

  • Classify soils for engineering purposes
  • Differentiate soils by their properties
  • Calculate the stress distributions in a soil mass
  • Determine retaining wall dimensions to meet sliding and rotational stability requirements
  • Determine footing sizes for a given load to meet settlement and allowable bearing pressure criteria
  • Conduct laboratory experiments and evaluate the results
  • Develop clear reporting methods
  • Analyze the movement of water through soils due

Class/Laboratory Schedule

Three 50 minute lectures plus one 3 hour laboratory each week.

Laboratory Topics:

  • Volumetric-Gravimetric Relationships     
  • Water Content Determination     
  • Field Collection of a Soil Sample     
  • Particle Size Analysis  Mechanical Method 4
  • Particle Size Analysis  Hydrometer Method     
  • Liquid and Plastic Limits of a Soil     
  • Soil Classification     
  • Compaction Test  Standard Proctor test only     
  • In-Place Soil Density  Sand-cone method only     
  • Direct Shear Test  Cohesionless soil     
  • Consolidation Test  Cohesionless soil     
  • Triaxial Test -      

Contribution of Course to Meet the Professional Component

Engineering Sciences
Engineering Design

Relationship of Course to Program Objectives

The course supports the achievement of the following ABET program outcomes and objectives: (reference Engineering Criteria 2000, Criterion 3)

  • Ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering.
  • Ability to design and conduct experiments as well as to analyze and interpret data.
  • Ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.
  • Knowledge of contemporary issues.
  • Ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

The course supports the achievement of the following CE program objectives:

  • Provide a broad-based education in engineering sciences and design.
  • Provide a rigorous, well-balanced, comprehensive and contemporary curriculum stressing fundamentals common to many fields of civil engineering.
  • Develop skills of written communication and critical thinking, which are important to a successful professional life.
  • Daily homework assignments, collected weekly for numerical grading and written feedback.  
  • Weekly laboratory reports for numerical grading and written feedback.
  • Occasional unannounced quizzes.
  • Frequent in-class cooperative/interactive example assignments
  • Two 1-hour midterm exams and one 2-hour comprehensive final exam.
  • Weekly laboratory reports for numerical grading and written feedback.

Prepared by

Tonya Emerson