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A Visual, Intuitive, and Engaging Approach to Explaining the Center of Gravity Concept in Statics

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Daniel Raviv Florida Atlantic University

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Dr. Raviv is a Professor of Computer & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University. In December 2009 he was named Assistant Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

With more than 25 years of combined experience in the high-tech industry, government and academia Dr. Raviv developed fundamentally different approaches to “out-of-the-box” thinking and a breakthrough methodology known as “Eight Keys to Innovation.” He has been sharing his contributions with professionals in businesses, academia and institutes nationally and internationally. Most recently he was a visiting professor at the University of Maryland (at Mtech, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute) and at Johns Hopkins University (at the Center for Leadership Education) where he researched and delivered processes for creative & innovative problem solving.

For his unique contributions he received the prestigious Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, the Faculty Talon Award, the University Researcher of the Year AEA Abacus Award, and the President’s Leadership Award. Dr. Raviv has published in the areas of vision-based driverless cars, green innovation, and innovative thinking. He is a co-holder of a Guinness World Record. His new book is titled: "Everyone Loves Speed Bumps, Don't You? A Guide to Innovative Thinking."

Dr. Daniel Raviv received his Ph.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1987 and M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in 1982 and 1980, respectively.

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Daniel Ryan Barb Florida Atlantic University

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Daniel Barb is an undergraduate student studying Mechanical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University. He spent six years in the United States Navy working in a nuclear power plant aboard a fast attack submarine.

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A Visual, Intuitive and Engaging Approach to Explaining the Center of Gravity Concept in Statics

Due to the prevalence of statics in day-to-day life, most people have an intuitive knowledge regarding the interaction of forces around them. Despite this, many students tend to struggle with statics in classroom settings. The equations and mathematics can be overwhelming and frustrating, in part since they are not visual or intuitive enough and are missing the connection to daily, real-world experiences.

Today’s students in classroom settings also have a plethora of distractions available to them. If students feel bored or frustrated with the material, often times they will browse the Internet on their laptop or pull out their phone. They learn differently, more visually and intuitively, and they have a short attention span. To make them pay attention in class, the material and presentation methods should be visually clear, intuitive and engaging.

This paper focuses on an example-based and engaging approach for teaching a specific statics concept, namely center of gravity. To teach these concepts, the paper shares supplemental tools to utilize during instruction. These include picture-based examples, such as balanced objects and animals; objects for students to attempt to locate the center of gravity, such as a banana or a donut; and try-it-yourself ideas to use with students such as standing up from a chair without leaning forward. The point of this approach is to provide students with easy to understand examples that translate bookwork to real life and help in comprehension of the material. When using these examples students tend to understand the concept of center of gravity more clearly. This more intuitive understanding allows them to be successful when introduced to equations and calculations associated with the topic.

The examples have been introduced to 54 students in a regular classroom setting. At the end they were asked to fill out a survey. Major findings are that student surveys conducted at the end of the topic presentation showed very positive feedback from students and also indicated that this learning method aligns well with their preferences. Survey results also show that students understand the importance of statics concepts as future engineers. The students generally felt that it is important to visualize statics and for statics to be introduced to them using visual examples.

Our survey results also show that students are mixed in their opinion of learning statics through traditional presentations, specifically using PowerPoint presentations and reading textbook chapters. We believe that visual and engaging, example-based learning is effective for teaching today’s students and that the use of similar methods can be employed throughout the entire statics course in order to enhance students’ comprehension experience.

It should be noted that this method of teaching is meant to be supplemental in nature and not to replace existing textbooks and other teaching and learning material and methods.

Raviv, D., & Barb, D. R. (2019, June), A Visual, Intuitive, and Engaging Approach to Explaining the Center of Gravity Concept in Statics Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32017

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