Soil Engineering for Non-Soils Engineers and Technicians


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Course Overview

This fundamental, hands-on course will give you a working knowledge of soil behavior and concepts related to applied soil engineering. You'll understand concepts and visualize concepts and solutions rather than rigorous mathematics, theory, and research.

Who Should Attend?

  • Technicians and inspectors
  • Project engineers and managers
  • Architects and landscape architects
  • Facility engineers and physical plant staff
  • Geologists and earth scientists
  • Civil and other engineers
  • Construction personnel
  • Industry tech/sales representatives
  • Public works professionals
  • Engineers-in-training
  • Attorneys and mediators

This course is intended for those who have no formal geotechnical education but are working in this field and need to develop an understanding of the basics. You will learn concepts and solutions rather than rigorous mathematics, theory, and research.

Course Outline

Day 1  

Welcome an Couse Introduction

  • Review of soil properties and applications
  • General soil behavior, structure and fabric
  • Soil classification via USS, USDA, OSHA
  • Testing standards for soil properties
  • Typical soil properties

Soil Investigations, Boring Logs, Reporting, and Specifications

  • Scoping the field investigation
  • Understanding soil and rock core logs
  • Interpreting soils reports
  • Incorporating reasonable soil specfications

Demonstration of Field Classification and Testing of Soil Samples

  • Sheloy tube and SPT samplers
  • Classification demonstrations
  • Field tests of strength

Vertical Earth Pressures and Stresses

  • Total and effective stresses
  • Distribution of loads to undying layers
  • Effects of water table fluctuactions
  • Dynamic effects on soil

Soil Strength and Foundations

  • Types of strength, shear strength, module, unconfined compression, California Bearing Ratio
  • Angle of internal friction and cohesion
  • Foundation bearing capacity
  • Class studies and examples of strength parameters used in design practice

Day 2  

Importance of Water in Soil

  • Measuring of estimating soil permeability
  • Seepage forces and buoyancy effects
  • Application to compaction control, pavement design, foundation and wall design, dewatering

Lateral Earth Pressures on Walls and Basements, Trenches, and Bracing

  • Active, passive, and at-rest lateral earth pressures
  • Effects of water on earth pressures
  • Backfill compaction and soil reinforcement
  • Trenching and bracing procedures

Class Project

How and Why Soil Compresses and Settles

  • Causes of settlements
  • Allowable amounts of settlement
  • Methods to control and mitigate settlement
  • Foundation design based on settlement

Soil Compaction and Field Control

  • How to compact soil (sands and clay)
  • Laboratory and field test procedures
  • Compaction specifications and acceptance criteria
  • Freeze-thaw and shrink-sell cycling and implications

Excavation Support

  • Interpreting soil type for OSHA compliance
  • Methods to determine stability and safety
  • Design excavation support systems

Applications of Geosynthetic in Soil

  • Reinforcement, filtration, erosion control
  • Specificatiosn and test procedures

Soils Trivia and Adjournment


“Great overview of all aspects of soils engineering…instructors demonstrated great enjoyment for subject material - made class very enjoyable!”

Paul V. MacHalek, General Service Administration

“Great overview of soils.  Great refresher course! Also helped with applying theory with the actual application.

 Amber Stoffels, BNSF Railway

“Very professional, friendly and knowledgeable instructors.”

Chris Beyer, USBR

“Really appreciated case studies, anecdotes, rules of thumb, tables, photos, and references in handouts, and excellent presentation style — thanks!”

Julia Grim, USD-NRCS 

“Best course I have attended…Very well done. Will recommend to others.”

Jeff Sharp, Pierce County, WA

“Great balance of instructional methods - screen, overhead, photos/videos, lab demonstrations, and…the jokes!”

Chris Meyer, Sargento

“This course has helped me understand the concepts that the engineers are talking about.”

 Howard Wade, Abbott

“The Soils Magician was a true highlight of the course. My face hurst from laughing.”

 David Sipple, P.E., Neenah Foundry

“I’m a mechanical engineer in a position that requires lots of civil and electrical engineering knowledge. For the civil info, this class helped tremendously to widen my knowledge base…The presenters were both very entertaining and knowledgeable and kept my attention. Delivered this info in a way that was extremely easy to understand.”

Mandy Wipf,  WAPA 

“This class reinforces construction ideas and methods for correct engineering solutions.”

 Curt Hora, P.E., Iowa Army National Guard

“Great humor!  Excellent speakers. Currently have a contractor forcefully proposing “hydraulic compaction” with flooded sand. Now I have some reasons to explain to owner why not to use this.”

Tred Schnoor, Schnoor-Bonifazi Engineering


William Likos

William Likos, PE, is the Gary Wendt Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Likos’ expertise is in the area of geotechnical engineering, with particular emphasis on unsaturated soil mechanics and expansive clay behavior. Unsaturated soil mechanics is widely considered one of the most important frontiers in geotechnical engineering, with historical applications in slope and excavation stability, foundation engineering, and expansive soil hazards and emerging applications in waste containment, energy, and sustainability. Dr. Likos has established himself as a national leader in this area by publishing one of the first textbooks dedicated to the subject, publishing extensively in the top refereed journals, and serving in leadership roles on national committees. 

James Tinjum

Dr. James M. Tinjum, PE, is responsible for outreach, research, and continuing engineering education in the areas of geotechnical, geoenvironmental, and energy geotechnics with an emphasis on transmitting practical research applications directly to the engineering community. Over the past 15 years, he has specialized (consulting, expert support, and research) in foundation investigation, monitoring, and research into foundations for wind turbine generators. 

Upcoming dates (0)

Take this course when it’s offered next!

Program Director

James Tinjum

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