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A Multi Functional, Smart, Flexible, Vertical, Cantilevered Beam Experiment To Improve Undergraduate Education

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Enhancing Mechanics Instruction

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.64.1 - 13.64.14



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Paper Authors


Gangbing Song University of Houston

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Gangbing Song is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston and is the Director of the Smart Materials Laboratory

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Mithun Singla University of Houston

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Mithun Singla is an electrical engineering graduate student at the University of Houston.

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Christy Chang University of Houston

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Christy Chang is a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Houston

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Richard Bannerot University of Houston

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Richard Bannerot is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston. His research interests are in the thermal sciences and engineering education, especially heat transfer, alternative energy, thermal system design, and design education. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Multifunctional Smart, Flexible, Vertical, Cantilevered Beam Experiment to Improve Undergraduate Education


This paper presents the development and application of a smart, flexible, vertical cantilevered beam system for experimentation and demonstration of vibration system modeling as a reinforcement to undergraduate dynamics education. Focusing on the difficult concepts of transfer functions and frequency domain based analysis, the beam system aids students in grasping basic vibration system concepts by allowing them to analyze and manipulate real system data collected through a simple and inexpensive piezoceramic-based data acquisition and actuation system. Students observed and analyzed the dynamic responses of a flexible aluminum beam subjected to various input signals to draw conclusions and relationships between system input and system response through the use of Bode diagrams, relationships often difficult for students to appreciate without experimental experiences. Results from post-demonstration student surveys indicate that the students found the demonstrations of the flexible beam system to be exceptionally effective in improving and motivating learning in their courses, with 94% of student responses rating the beam system as “effective” or “very effective” in various aspects of the demonstration.


A common limitation of traditional engineering education is the weakness of presenting theories and techniques in a way that students can link to real-world experiences or pre-existing intuition. For many students, the largest obstacle to full comprehension of course material is a disconnect between the lecture-based teaching style traditional in engineering and the student’s own experience-based learning style 1,2,3. For those students, course concepts are not completely understood until they are able to see or experience the concept implemented in the real world. One such instance occurs in the teaching of system dynamics, where multiple methods of modeling and interpreting a system’s dynamics and responses are taught2,4. While Ordinary Differential Equation (ODE) modeling and time-based representation of system responses are approachable by most students due to their familiarity with ODE and the intuitiveness of time- based domain, students have a difficult time understanding the transfer function modeling of a system and frequency domain analysis. Due to little previous exposure to and limited real-world experience with these two subjects, students struggle to conceptualize the subjects and their advantages in data and systems analysis. However, education research in engineering has shown that experience-oriented labs and demonstrations are effective at bridging the gap between abstract concepts and true knowledge in students with experience-based learning styles5,6. Development of demonstrations to target these subjects would dramatically help students in their understanding of transfer function modeling and frequency domain analysis, giving them a real- world experience to reference.

Song, G., & Singla, M., & Chang, C., & Bannerot, R. (2008, June), A Multi Functional, Smart, Flexible, Vertical, Cantilevered Beam Experiment To Improve Undergraduate Education Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3722

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