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Comprehensive Course Redesign: Introduction to the Mechanics of Materials

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Mechanics Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.357.1 - 22.357.18



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Paper Authors


Jefferey E. Froyd Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Jeff Froyd is the Director of Faculty Climate and Development in the Office of the Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost at Texas A&M University. He served as Project Director for the Foundation Coalition, an NSF Engineering Education Coalition in which six institutions systematically renewed, assessed, and institutionalized their undergraduate engineering curricula, and extensively shared their results with the engineering education community. He co-created the Integrated, First-Year Curriculum in Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which was recognized in 1997 with a Hesburgh Award Certificate of Excellence. He has authored or co-authored over 50 papers on engineering education in areas ranging from curricular change to faculty development. He is currently an ABET Program Evaluator and a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal on Engineering Education.

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Christian J. Schwartz P.E. Texas A&M University

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Cris Schwartz is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Texas A&M since 2006, with a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He currently leads the INNOMAT research group which focuses on issues that link biology, tribology, and design. This includes extensive work with the friction and wear of orthopaedic biomaterials such as UHMWPE, the connections between surface properties in tactility of polymer materials, and the modes of skin friction and damage. He is a licensed professional engineer and an engineering consultant. As a senior research engineer at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) from 1998 to 2003, he served as a project manager, mechanical designer, and technical investigator, and holds three patents. He is a faculty member of the Polymer Technology Center, the Institute for Innovation and Design in Engineering, and the Biotechnology Program at Texas A&M. He has taught in the areas of materials science, mechanics, statistics, tribology, and engineering design and has been recognized for his classroom efforts with the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence (SLATE) and the Peggy L. and Charles L. Brittan 1965 Teaching Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching.

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Kumbakonam Ramamani Rajagopal Texas A&M University

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Dr. Rajagopal is currently a Distinguished Professor and Regents Professor at Texas A&M Uniersity. He holds the Forsyth Chair in Mechanical Engineering and holds joint appointments in the departments of Mathematics, Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Chemical Engineering. He is also a Senior Research Scientist at the Texas Transportation Institute. Prof. Rajagopal obtained an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Mechanics from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.He has received the Archie Higdon Award from the American Society of Engineering Education.

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Comprehensive Course Redesign: Introduction to Mechanics of MaterialsConvergence of multiple patterns necessitates significant new directions in redesigning andteaching courses in the area of solid mechanics for undergraduate engineering students.  Growing applications of polymeric, biological, and geological materials  Promising approaches to teaching  Key differences in behaviors of polymers and biological materials when compared with traditional engineering materials  Lack of understanding of more than one measure of stress and strain and their Relationships to different failure criteria.  Packed CoursesTogether, these patterns require that the mechanics community identify and advocate newapproaches to teaching undergraduate solid mechanics. New approaches to course design andteaching are required to address these multiple challenges.One opportunity for course redesign is the mechanics of materials course taken by sophomoreor junior mechanical engineering students, which is a pivotal course in undergraduate curriculafor mechanical engineers. In redesigning the course, the faculty member that redesigned thecourse, identified a set of learning outcomes by focusing on core ideas for the course and thenused Bloom’s taxonomy to articulate three different levels of achievement:  Level of Achievement  Calculate/identify  Apply/analyze  Evaluate/design  Core Course Ideas  Functional decomposition  Concept of failure and material transitions (yielding, fracture, deformation, buckling)  Stress  Strain  Stress versus strain behavior (elasticity, viscoelasticity)  Multi-axial loading behavior  Specific geometry (e.g., beams, thin wall objects) behaviorWith the learning outcomes established, the faculty member that taught course reorganizedcourse material around a set of five prototypical problems. For each problem, the facultymember presents a scenario in the context of a realistic design challenge, ambiguous desiredoutcomes, and a vague collection of constraints. Then, students offer ideas on how to approachdefining a problem, generating alternatives, and identifying key mechanics concepts that willplay a role in the solution. Here is an example of the problems that have been presented in thecourse:  Students are given the responsibility of designing components in a prosthetic knee joint using a four-bar mechanism. After initial determination of functional requirements for a solution, students decompose the problem further to determine which material transitions (yielding, buckling, viscoelastic deformation, etc.) are central to the propoer performance of the design. This gives the students an immediate indication of the relevance of course content rather than initially presenting the concepts and trying to make a case for why they are important.Assessment is based on quizzes, in-class examinations, in-class presentation of mechanicsconcepts by student teams, and a final examination. On quizzes and exams, each questioncorresponds to a core course idea and a level of achievement. Course grades are assignedbased on patterns of demonstrated learning with respect to a table of core course ideas andlevels of achievement. For example, an “A” could be earned if the student demonstrates level 3achievement (evaluate/design) for at least four core course ideas.Student learning in this innovative course redesign is assessed by performance in the courseand tracking student performance in courses for which the mechanics of materials course is aprerequisite. Results from the project assessment will be presented in the paper.

Froyd, J. E., & Schwartz, C. J., & Rajagopal, K. R. (2011, June), Comprehensive Course Redesign: Introduction to the Mechanics of Materials Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17638

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