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Does Physics Really Need to be a Prerequisite to Statics?

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Teaching Statics: What and How?

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Amir H. Danesh-Yazdi Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Danesh-Yazdi is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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Aimee Monique Cloutier Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Phillip Cornwell Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Phillip Cornwell currently teaches at the United States Air Force Academy and is an Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1989 and his present interests include structural dynamics, structural health monitoring, and undergraduate engineering education. Dr. Cornwell has received an SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award in 1992, and the Dean’s Outstanding Teacher award at Rose-Hulman in 2000 and the Rose-Hulman Board of Trustee’s Outstanding Scholar Award in 2001. He was one of the developers of the Rose-Hulman Sophomore Engineering Curriculum, the Dynamics Concept Inventory, and he is a co-author of Vector Mechanics for Engineers: Dynamics, by Beer, Johnston, Cornwell, and Self. In 2019 Dr. Cornwell received the Archie Higdon Distinguished Educator Award from the Mechanics Division of ASEE.

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Depending on the university, General Physics I, where students are usually introduced to mechanics at the collegiate level, may or may not be a prerequisite or co-requisite for students taking Statics. At first glance, requiring the successful completion of a first-year physics course for students to take Statics seems logical. After all, it is in Physics where students are introduced to the concept of free-body diagrams (FBDs) and Newton’s 2nd law, and this knowledge should, in theory, help students be successful in Statics, a class that uses these ideas extensively. While the intent of the Physics requirement is clear, our anecdotal observations do not support the assertion that students with a college Physics background are better prepared for Statics than students without this background. Regardless of the background, students are often ill-prepared for the challenges of Statics. In fact, in some instances, students who have taken a first-year Physics course tend to engage in poor practices in drawing FBDs in Statics since these practices are often taught in Physics. Our aim with this paper is to investigate whether students who have taken Physics prior to Statics are more successful than students who have not taken Physics. We plan to assess students’ overall performance in Statics and their ability to draw FBDs at institutions where Physics is not a prerequisite or co-requisite to Statics and at institutions where Physics is a requirement for Statics.

Danesh-Yazdi, A. H., & Cloutier, A. M., & Cornwell, P. (2020, June), Does Physics Really Need to be a Prerequisite to Statics? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34476

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