Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

Dr. Tyler Ley, Oklahoma State University

2018 Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University

The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University is Dr. Tyler Ley, professor of civil engineering and the Gilbert, Cooper, W&W Steel Chair at Oklahoma State University.  His 20 years of experience as a professional engineer in design and construction, coupled with his creativity and passion for teaching, have earned him top ratings among OSU students.

“Dr. Ley is an extremely engaging lecturer – one never naps during his presentations,” said Engineering Dean Paul Tikalsky. “He combines a deep understanding of the material with humor. Five minutes with Tyler will convince you that concrete is the best and most beautiful building material in the world!”

In his teaching, Ley presents information verbally, graphically and kinetically to help students grasp difficult concepts. “I often use stories from history that involve important engineering milestones to introduce a topic with a human connection,” Ley said.  Next, he presents data with graphs and tables to illustrate the topic analytically. Finally, he uses a prop or simple experiment to demonstrate the concept in action.

To help students understand the cement hardening or hydration, Ley has had students act out different molecules, cement grains and reaction products to simulate the process. Their engineering play can be seen online at hydrationtheater.com. “This annual event has become something my students love doing,” Ley said.

Former student Katelyn O’Quinn said Ley often challenges students to competitions where they design, build and test different structures – such as a beam made with concrete and wire hangers – to test concepts they learn in class. He also takes students on construction tours to observe real-world applications of engineering principles.

“At the end of class, we had a large design project that required us to incorporate all we had learned into one building design,” O’Quinn said.  “This use of all different types of learning created an enjoyable environment that made learning fun, while still challenging and effective.”

To promote engineering to future generations, Ley started an after-school program, “Engineering is Everywhere,” in 2012 for Stillwater fifth-graders. He collaborated with OSU’s education department to develop hands-on curriculum and videos, which he shares with hundreds of students each year through his website www.engineeringiseverywhere.com.  He has also created a YouTube channel, found at www.tylerley.com, to teach people about engineering and concrete. 

Ley is also a prominent researcher and is a primary author of a new national design specification to create durable concrete infrastructure.  He has developed design tools and equipment for concrete construction used around the United States and in several other countries.  He has previously been awarded the National Science Foundation Career Award, American Concrete Institute Faculty Achievement Award, OSU Regents Research Award, Marlin J. Knutsen Award from the American Concrete Paving Association, and was named a Global Ambassador by the American Ceramic Society.

“Tyler Ley is exactly the kind of creative thinker and educator that Oklahoma needs to lead our efforts in educating tomorrow’s innovators and solving today’s problems,” Tikalsky added.