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Connection between mathematical and visual approaches in engineering classes

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.333.1 - 23.333.12



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Paper Authors


Pyoyoon Hong P.E. Southern Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Pyoyoon Hong is an assistant Professor in Architecture Department at Southern Polytechnic State University. Dr. Hong earned the Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, the M.S. in Structural Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, the M.S. in Architectural Engineering from Pusan National University in S. Korea, and the B.S. in Architectural Engineering from Pusan National University in S. Korea.

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Connection between mathematical and visual approaches in engineering classes AbstractIt is essential that engineering students develop both quantitative and qualitative understandingof engineering concepts and principles. Although accuracy and reliability in solvingquantitative problems is necessary, a qualitative understanding is required in applying conceptsand principles to real-world problems, especially to innovative or unconventional ones. Itbecomes questionable whether the students have developed the adequate understanding ofengineering principles if the students are not able to neither understand what underliesquantitative problem-solving procedures nor interpret the solution in physical form.In 12 years of teaching, it was my most frustrating experience to see many bright students in mystructural classes, capable of solving complicated quantitative problems, fail to answer onseemingly simple qualitative questions. Engineering students in my classes seemed to pay moreattention to problem solving technique without being attentive to the underlying concepts.Traditional engineering textbooks and lectures may have been pushing students toward problem-solving more than toward conceptual understanding. When engineering principles are reduced toa series of calculation without apparent link to physical phenomena of particular interest, theybecome miserably boring subjects. The engineering students must actively engage in procreativemental activity coupled with interpretation of personal observation and experience in order todevelop the genuine understanding of engineering concepts and theories that underlies real-worldphenomena. But if engineering students remain as passive listeners in classes, such activity israrely induced.In an effort to find balance and connection, and increase awareness of the interrelationshipbetween quantitative and qualitative understanding in the structures classes, a unique teachingmethodology has been developed and used in the engineering classes at Southern PolytechnicState University. The content, sequence and rationale are described in this paper in some detail.The following elements were used as teaching tools to assist the students to enhance theirconceptual understanding of structural principles:  Parallel use of 3-dimensional modeling software with other class contents  Interactive, game-like simulation computer programs with focus on structural behavior rather than calculation details  Open-ended questions and projects for creative thinking  Connecting bending moment diagrams with structural shapes  Paring difficult quantitative problems with simple qualitative questions  Construction toys for eye-opening  Structural case studies of historical, modern or sophisticated-looking buildings  Small-scale physical model projects for entire structures and structural members  Study of rationale behind structures that are found from nature and explicitly used in precedent architecture  Educational structural analysis software with graphics user interface  Qualitative quiz show contest - "Weakest Link gives Jeopardy"  Parametric sensitivity test of structural formulae using different font sizes  Graphical methods of structural analysis  Preformatted case notes with graphics to link calculation to physical interpretation  Real-world problem-solving workshopReviews received over the last 4 years reveal that students (average age of 19-20, with a male-female student ratio of roughly 70:30) give strong approval for these approaches. Interactivesimulation software and model projects rank highest, 3-dimensional modeling sessions rank thesecond and the quiz show contest rank the third.

Hong, P. (2013, June), Connection between mathematical and visual approaches in engineering classes Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19347

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