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An Online Database And User Community For Physical Models In The Engineering Classroom

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Physical Models and Other Interactive Tools

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.207.1 - 11.207.17



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Paper Authors


Ronald Welch U.S. Military Academy

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Colonel Ronald W. Welch is an Associate Professor at the United States Military Academy (USMA). He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia. COL Welch received a BS degree in Engineering Mechanics from USMA in 1982 and MS and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1990 and 1999, respectively.

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James Ledlie Klosky

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J. Ledlie Klosky is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Maryland. Dr. Klosky received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1987 and 1988, respectively. He earned a Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1997.

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

An Online Database and User Community for Physical Models in the Engineering Classroom


The Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy (USMA) has partnered with McGraw-Hill to develop a web-site that will list many of the physical models and hands-on-demonstrations currently used at USMA to teach introductory courses in Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Material Science, Thermodynamics, Fluids, Heat Transfer and Structural Analysis. McGraw-Hill approached West Point because of the number of papers written and presented at ASEE and other venues on the use of physical models to include the ASEE Best Zone paper in 20031.

This paper will present information about the web site – Hands-On Mechanics, the process to develop the web site, the vetting and management process for inclusion of physical models by the faculty at West Point, and how faculty at other institutions can add physical models and participate in the site as it grows. Each physical model has a description of the model, the theoretical background, pictures and/or video of the set-up and use of the demonstration, a parts list (or order location), cost, and building plans, as well as that something extra about other courses where the physical model can be used or how to insert greater insight or drama into the classroom using the model or demonstration. Course assessment data will be provided to demonstrate the impact of physical models on student learning.

The basic concepts in mechanics courses must be driven home if students are to comprehend their follow-on courses. For most students, particularly visual and sensory learners, classroom demonstrations are essential to understanding these “abstract” concepts. Students crave concrete experiences when confronting engineering topics for the first time; in a sense, they say “Don’t TELL me, SHOW me!”

I. Introduction

Physical models are a great way to both educate and motivate the student and can greatly improve student learning. Sound innovative? Sounds new? Not really; these types of techniques were in use at the United States Military Academy and nearly every other engineering institution at the beginning of the 20th century (Figure 1). Hands-on models were once the cornerstone of every class in mechanics, but today many classrooms are equipped with only a textbook, chalkboard (if lucky), and a computer projection system. Is this enough? Not hardly! How can faculty in today’s classrooms foster an atmosphere that is more conducive to student-centered learning? They can start by using hands-on physical models that stimulate learning in their students.

The research and literature supporting the highly successful ASCE ExCEEd Teaching Workshops (ETW) 2, 3 highlights the importance of physical models when covering pedagogy on

Welch, R., & Klosky, J. L. (2006, June), An Online Database And User Community For Physical Models In The Engineering Classroom Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--642

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