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Bridge Design Project: A Hands On Approach To Statics And Strength Of Materials Learning

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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

Design Education in Manufacturing Programs

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Page Count


Page Numbers

14.289.1 - 14.289.9



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Paper Authors


Guanghsu Chang Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Dr. Guanghsu A. Chang is an associate professor of the Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering Technology Department at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His research interests involve the study of robotic applications, manufacturing automation, Design for Assembly (DFA), and Case-Based Reasoning (CBR) applications. He holds both MSIE, and Ph.D. degrees from University of Texas at Arlington.

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William Peterson Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Dr. Bill Peterson is currently an associate professor and chair of the Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering Technology Department at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He holds a BIE from Auburn University. He spent twenty years in industry prior during which time he earned an MBA and managed engineering, manufacturing, and plants in a wide variety of industries. He has spent the last 16 teaching industrial and manufacturing engineering, engineering management, and the management of technology. He is current program chair of the IE Division of ASEE and a director in two other divisions. He is past president of SEMS and ASEM.

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

Bridge Design Project: A Hands-On Approach to Statics and Strength of Materials Learning


An obstacle for Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MET) students who are trying to learn Statics and Strength of Materials is their lack of involvement in their learning process. These students sit passively as instructors demonstrate concepts or, when solving the problems, are not active learners. In order to avoid this behavior, a bridge design project offers an interactive approach to engage students in the learning process. This paper provides some of the guidelines of a bridge design project that can be useful in active learning. Several project management skills are also integrated throughout the project. This paper describes our experience in developing the bridge design project.


Research has shown that project-based learning is an exceptionally effective learning activity. Many university professors today accept this learning environment to transform passive learning into active learning in their classrooms [1]. In order to find better ways of involving students in their learning process, we introduced the Bridge Design Project into our MET 322 Statics, Dynamics, and Mechanics of Materials course. With this bridge design project, students learn more material, retain the information longer, and enjoy the class activities more. The bridge design project allows students to explore many statics topics in the classroom with the help of the instructor and other classmates, rather than on their own.

The bridge design project is one of active learning techniques used in this course to encourage students do more than simply listen to a lecture. They are building a bridge to prove their ideas and to demonstrate what they have learned from the course. After researching, processing, and applying information from websites, simulation software, and field trips, students are ready to share their ideas with team members. After dividing the students into teams (5 students/per team) and assign each a different role, they must work to design, construct, and test their team’s bridge.

In order to make the bridge design project realistic, students have to practice project management skills and learn how to allocate and control the following resources: (1) $25,000 budget (2) construction time – 4 hours, and (3) building materials – straws, hot glues... etc.

Overview of Statics, and Strength of Materials Course Many Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MET) curricula include both statics and strength of materials courses. These courses typically focus on different force systems and analysis of structures, which often involve a lot of formulas and theoretical concepts. The bridge design project attempts to provide student opportunities to practice their statics and strength of materials knowledge by designing, building, and testing a bridge based on the course concepts. At present, about 80 students at Minnesota State University (MSU), Mankato are involved with the project every year. All of the students are given a good foundational of concepts, principles and

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Chang, G., & Peterson, W. (2009, June), Bridge Design Project: A Hands On Approach To Statics And Strength Of Materials Learning Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5281

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