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Development And Assessment Of Hands On And Visualization Modules For Enhancement Of Learning In Mechanics

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.186.1 - 4.186.27

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Paper Authors

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Robert Borchert

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David Yates

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Daniel Jensen

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

Session 1368

Development and Assessment of Hands-on and Visualization Modules for Enhancement of Learning in Mechanics Robert Borchert, Daniel Jensen, David Yates United States Air Force Academy / United States Air Force Academy University of Colorado at Boulder


Engineering mechanics education is currently undergoing a transformation from strictly lecture based education to a format where a variety of innovative learning techniques are used. Both new techniques for enhancing student learning as well as concrete data establishing the effectiveness of these techniques are needed. This paper builds on previous work using innovative teaching tools by developing and assessing our current use of two tools: computer based visualizations and hands-on demonstrations and experiments. These tools were used in our Fall 1998 Engineering Mechanics core course which is taken by all cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, regardless of their major. The hands-on tools are low-cost, interactive experiments designed to enhance understanding of specific abstract concepts. The visualization content consists of finite element based stress results displayed in color formats. Both the hands-on and the visualization tools are designed to emphasize aspects of stress analysis which our students have traditionally found difficult to grasp. Evaluation of the enhancement in student learning, brought about by use of these tools, has been accomplished by a variety of assessment techniques. Next, the assessment results are correlated with the student’s Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as well as the type of “learner” they are, as measured by the VARK learning style inventory. Results indicate that the hands-on and visual content overall enhances the learning experience. Specifically, it is rated highly by the MBTI “N” type students, but not as highly by the MBTI “S” types. However, both S-types and N-types benefited from it in their ability to solve problems. VARK K-types gave the hands-on and visual content the highest rating of any student “type” we studied.

1. Introduction

The Fundamentals of Mechanics course (Fall semester 1998) at the United States Air Force Academy was used as a testing ground for introducing and assessing the effectiveness of visual and hands-on learning aids using photoelastic materials and the finite element method (FEM). The course combines statics and strength of materials at an introductory level for all students regardless of major. Typically, the concepts of stress caused in objects by torsion, bending, and combined loading are among the most difficult for students to grasp. For these topics, “enhanced learning modules” were developed to bring visualization and hands-on learning aids into the classroom experience. A complete description of these special modules is presented in the context of a learning styles environment.

Several means of assessment were used to learn whether the module-based lectures provided extra value to the learning experience in general and for specific types of students. Three of twenty-one sections of the class (61 of 429 students) were used to conduct this study. Student response to lessons was collected throughout the semester via one-minute surveys. Immediately

Borchert, R., & Yates, D., & Jensen, D. (1999, June), Development And Assessment Of Hands On And Visualization Modules For Enhancement Of Learning In Mechanics Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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