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A Low-Cost Project Course to Enhance Learning in a Statics and Strength of Materials Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Technology Design I

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.60.1 - 22.60.13

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Paper Authors


Charles G. Drake Ferris State University

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Professor, Mechanical Engineering Technology,
Ferris State University,
Big Rapids, Michigan.

M.S., Mechanical Engineering,
Michigan Technological University.
B.S., Mathematics,
Lake Superior State University.

12 years in Product Development, R & D,
Reynolds Metals Company (now ALCOA).
Richmond, Virginia.

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A Low Cost Lab Project Course to Enhance Learning in a Statics and Strengths of Materials CourseA lab-oriented course has been created to supplement lecture instruction in statics and strengthsof materials. The course provides a multitude of hands-on experiences with associated problemsolving experience. The primary goal in initiating the course was to give students more problemsolving experience with a secondary goal of hands-on experiences that will build intuition.BackgroundSecond year students in Mechanical Engineering Technology take a four-credit lecture course instatics and strengths of materials during their fall semester. Prerequisites for the lecture courseinclude pre-calculus and college physics. The lecture course includes two-dimensional statics,stress and deformation for common loadings, and combined loadings with Mohr’s circle.Fastener design and column buckling are introduced. Such courses are often challenging, firstdue to the nature of the subjects themselves and the students are only beginning to develop theiraptitudes in mathematics-based problem-solving.Faculty created the one-credit lab based course to provide more problem-solving experience inthese very important subjects.Overview of the Lab-Based CourseOver twenty-five activities were developed. Nearly all involved low-cost hands on experiences.Each activity included a worksheet for data, observations, free-body diagrams, and problemsolving.The statics portion of the course included activities relating to units, scaling, vectors, concurrentforces, pulley systems, beam reactions and stability, dry friction, belt friction, trusses, and thehuman arm. Low-cost readily-available equipment included engineers’ scales, protractors,pulleys, spaghetti, and torque wrenches. Purchased equipment included five high-qualitycommercial force gauges with ranges of 100 lb/500 N, 20 lb/100 N, and 176 oz/50 N.The strength of materials portion of the course involved tensile strength, fastener shear, shear andtensile modulii, and torsional deformation. Low cost materials used included soft aluminumwire, solid aluminum rivets, and foam material. A commercial torsional deformation device waspurchased; this was supplemented with two student-build torsional deformation devices.Near the end of the semester a frame design project was done on paper. This project wascomplete with stability, frame member selection, and fastener analysis. A load rating for thestructure was established.Finally multiple exercises with MDSolids™ were used to complete the course.ConclusionsThe two-hour sessions were busy, but most work was completed during the lab times. Studentreaction to initial offerings of the course have generally been favorable. Most have rated theactivities high in terms of enhancing their understanding. A frequent complaint has beenevening labs and not completing everything within two hours.Direct assessment of student learning between students taking the subject lab class along with thelecture has not been done. This is in part due to the effects of different instructors and the factthat non-MET students in the lecture course are typically juniors or seniors in other programswhile METs are sophomores. The lab course is required for MET students only. There may bean opportunity for comparative assessment in the near future.

Drake, C. G. (2011, June), A Low-Cost Project Course to Enhance Learning in a Statics and Strength of Materials Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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