Auburn civil engineering professor's book named best-seller

Published: Oct 15, 2008 2:16:21 PM
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David Elton

David Elton

Soils Magic, a book by civil engineering faculty member David Elton, has sold more copies than any other American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) book, exclusive of conference proceedings. It is used by universities, Boy Scouts, public schools and service organizations to explain inexpensive, simple experiments that often have unexpected results. In the book, Elton teaches the principles of soil mechanics in an amusing and insightful way. His Soils Magic experiments have been performed in venues all around the U.S., including the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev.

"I enjoy helping people learn about civil engineering and geotechnical engineering in particular" says Elton. "Soils Magic provides just the right balance of fun and education to get people's attention and teach them."

Elton recently was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant based on Soils Magic. The three-year, $300,000 grant, written with James Hanson of California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo, involves innovative methods and technologies for teaching soil mechanics.

"We're excited to have this project and to be able to develop new ways for students to learn and to involve technology in learning" says Elton. "Dr. Hanson and I have great students that will benefit now, as will those that follow." Their work will be distributed globally and designed for universal access. Soils Magic videos are available on

Elton has worked at Auburn University for 23 years and has taught over 2,000 students, many of whom have seen Soils Magic in his undergraduate laboratory.