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A New Approach To Teaching Mechanics Of Materials

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Teaching Mechanics of Materials and General Mechanics Education

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Page Count


Page Numbers

14.71.1 - 14.71.11



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Paper Authors

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Habib Sadid Idaho State University

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Richard Wabrek Idaho State University

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

A New Approach to Teaching Mechanics of Materials


Mechanics of materials is one the most fundamental topics in a number of engineering disciplines including civil and mechanical. This course introduces concepts associated with the behavior of elastic solids subject to applied loads and provides tools for the analysis and design of structural and machine components. The number of equations introduced in this course is limited; however, the importance of these equations in analysis and design cannot be overstated. These equations which relate applied forces to the stresses within and deformation of solid bodies are introduced throughout the course allowing students to conduct stress analyses and design simple components.

Traditionally, the load-deformation equations are taught in a specific order, allowing students to comprehend and apply one equation at a time. In general, some of the more important equations such as flexural and shearing stress formulas are introduced at the end of the semester. This does not provide adequate time for students to implement the equations in problems dealing with the combined loading conditions so common in engineering practice.

We propose a revised organization of the topics in mechanics of materials that will introduce all of the basic equations early in the semester along with combined loading. This will be followed by an extended treatment of the analysis and design of more complex structural and mechanical components and systems subject to combined loading.

To determine the effectiveness of this revised approach, we have compared its student learning outcomes with those from the traditional approach. Based on a limited sample, the revised approach leads to a better understanding of combined loading.


Traditionally, Mechanics of Materials at the introductory level covers a number of topics in an order to make it possible to students to understand the theory and apply it in analyzing and designing simple structural and machine components. Most of the homework assignments in this course are simple analysis and design problems. Often, many homework problems are accompanied by answers, making it easier for students to arrive at a solution without a through comprehension of the theory or its applications to real world problems. Most of the time, students do not have an opportunity to design a complex system, that requires the synthesis of several analytical techniques. As a consequence, students do not have a comprehensive picture of the design process including: material selection, load-path design, load determination, systematic component design, and design codes.

Sadid, H., & Wabrek, R. (2009, June), A New Approach To Teaching Mechanics Of Materials Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5745

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