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Dynamics Course For Sections With Both Civil And Mechanical Engineers

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Course Innovation II

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.455.1 - 13.455.9



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Paper Authors


Yusuf Mehta Rowan University

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Dr. Mehta is an Associate Professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rowan University. His research and teaching interests include pavement materials and design, service learning, and transportation safety. Dr. Mehta has published several technical and educational papers in leading professional organizations.

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William Riddell Rowan University

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William Riddell is an Assistant Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rowan University. His research and teaching interests include design, structural mechanics, transportation safety, energy efficiency and clean energy generation. Prior to Rowan University, he worked for the US Department of Transportation Research and Special Program Administration, and was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Mechanics of Materials Branch at NASA Langley Research Center.

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

Dynamics Course for Sections with both Civil and Mechanical Engineers Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to present the pedagogical technique for a dynamics course taught to both civil and environmental (CEE) and mechanical (ME) engineering students. In this course, the instructor utilizes a combination of both problem-based-learning and traditional lectures. The students learn the concepts by solving example problems from the book without looking at the solutions and then these concepts are reinforced by solving problems of a broad range of difficulty provided at the back of the chapter from the textbook. The dynamics course is taught once a year to both CEE and ME majors. From the viewpoint of the students, dynamics appears to be only tangentially useful to the civil engineering majors, whereas the immediate use is more readily apparent to the mechanical engineering majors. In addition, the topics that are relevant to mechanical engineers may not necessarily be as relevant to civil and environmental engineers. To address this problem the instructor identified the concepts that are relevant to students from each major, for example, energy methods for CEE students and momentum methods for ME students. The course objectives, learning outcomes and assessment data are presented.


As the label implies, problem-based learning (PBL) is an educational approach where learning is initiated through an ill-structured problem. PBL is necessarily interdisciplinary: By addressing real-world problems, students are required to cross the traditional disciplinary boundaries in their quest to solve the problem. One of the primary features of PBL is that it is student-centered. “Student-centered” refers to learning opportunities that are relevant to the students, the goals of which are at least partly determined by the students themselves 1. This does not mean that the teacher abdicates her authority for making judgments regarding what might be important for students to learn. Rather, partial and explicit responsibility is placed on the students for their own learning. Assignments and activities that require student input presumably increases the students’ motivation to learn.

A common criticism of student-centered learning is that students, as novices to a subject, cannot be expected to know what might be important for them to learn. The literature on novice-expert learning does not entirely dispute this assertion. However, it also emphasizes that students come to a course, not as the proverbial blank slates, but as individuals whose prior learning can greatly impact their current learning2. Often, students have greater content and skill knowledge than faculty, and they themselves anticipate. In either case, whether their prior learning is appropriate is not the issue. Irrespective of the state of their prior learning, it can both aid and hinder their attempts to learn new information. It is therefore imperative that instructors have some sense of what intellectual currency the students bring with them.

In a traditional course, instructors introduce students to teacher-determined content via lecture. After a specific amount of content is presented, students are tested on their understanding in a variety of ways. PBL, in contrast, is more inductive, and highly context-specific. Students are given an ill-posed challenge similar to one they might encounter as a real-world practitioner.

Mehta, Y., & Riddell, W. (2008, June), Dynamics Course For Sections With Both Civil And Mechanical Engineers Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3498

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