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An Online Engineering Statics Problem Set System

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Technology in Mechanics Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.178.1 - 25.178.9

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Paper Authors


Franco Capaldi Merrimack College

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Franco Capaldi obtained his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at MIT in 2005. He teaches at Merrimack College in Andover, Mass., and has previously taught at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Penn.

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Development of a platform for non‐structured mechanical engineering homework submission Since  the  late  1990’s,  there  has  been  an  explosion  of  web  based  platforms  for  the  submission  and grading  of  homework.  There  are  many  advantages  to  online  homework  submission  including  (1) students  obtain  immediate  feedback  and  (2)  they  can  be  used  to  randomize  questions  and  eliminate blatant  cheating.  Many  online  homework  systems  such  as  WebAssign,  CAPA,  and  Blackboard  offer  a wide range of question types such as multiple choice question formats, fill in the blank, and numerical answer evaluation. However, in the field of engineering, obtaining the correct answer is only part of the learning process. Students must learn to present their methodology in an appropriate manor, use clear and annotated diagrams, and they must learn to pay strict attention to notation and significant figures. Repeating this process over many homework problems encourages the development of a thorough and systematic  thought  process.  Current  systems  are  incapable  of  evaluating  methodology  or  the presentation  of  a  solution.    In  addition,  the  student  enters  a  single  number  or  selects  a  single  answer from several choices and doesn’t pay much attention to notation or the thought process leading to the solution. As an alternative to the current systems, we will discuss the creation of a web based platform which  allows  for  students  to  present  the  steps  involved  in  their  solution  using  correct  notation,  and obtain automatic and specific feedback at each step. The program is able to grade the homework in a systematic manner dependent on not only the correctness of the answer, but also on the presentation of  the  solution  methodology.  In  addition,  when  learning  to  solve  a  problem,  a  student  might  form  a hypothesis  on  solution  methodology.  With  current  web  based  systems,  the  student  does  not  obtain feedback on  these hypotheses until they form the  solution and  enter it into  the system.  At that  point they may have taken several additional steps and have not obtained any feedback. Therefore, they do not  know  which  step  was  in  error.  The  presented  platform  allows  students  to  test  any  intermediate hypothesis  and  obtain  feedback  while  solving  the  problem.  They  may  precede  step  by  step,  obtaining feedback  along  the  way.  The  application  of  the  platform  to  a  statics  course  will  be  demonstrated  and sample questions will be presented.   In the end, students must be presented with problems that help them  form  their  thought  process.  Current  online  homework  problems  do  not  do  this.  The  proposed system is the first step in correcting a problem with online homework submission in engineering higher education.  

Capaldi, F. (2012, June), An Online Engineering Statics Problem Set System Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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