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Dynamics in One Week

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Bringing a Different Perspective

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Andrew R. Sloboda Bucknell University Orcid 16x16

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Andrew Sloboda is an Assistant Professor at Bucknell University where he teaches a variety of mechanics-based courses, including statics, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, system dynamics, and vibration. His research interests lie primarily in the fields of nonlinear dynamics and vibration.

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Introductory undergraduate dynamics in mechanical engineering covers a wide range of topics including kinematics, kinetics, and energy- and momentum-based analysis, for both particles and rigid bodies. Due to this breadth, students can complete a dynamics course and have only a rudimentary understanding of the how all of the topics are connected and, perhaps even more importantly, why they are important to the study of systems in motion. Students’ lack of a “big picture” view of dynamics is often exacerbated by the way dynamics topics are typically arranged in textbooks. For example, many texts and courses begin with a focus on finding velocities and accelerations via kinematics without making an argument for why this is important and without making any connection to students’ prior knowledge, such as the force balances they learned in statics.

Due to these concerns, the author has structured dynamics in a fundamentally different way: using a spiral curriculum. Central to this approach is teaching the most fundamental topics of dynamics in the first week: kinetics, kinematics, and computer simulation. This teaching takes place in the context of rectilinear motion using examples that extend across all three topic areas. This gives students an overview of the course, allowing them to make connections between what can seem like isolated topics. It also makes the course more robust; students learn the big ideas early on, and the rest of the course develops these ideas for cases of increasing complexity.

Exciting examples that students can relate to are used to teach the material which helps motivate student learning. The examples highlight how the major topics are tied together and why each could be important in solving a larger problem. By teaching kinetics before kinematics, students receive a more natural introduction to dynamics that ties back to their experience with statics. Kinematics then naturally follows as being necessary for determining how something moves. Computer simulation is likewise shown to be necessary if equations cannot be solved in closed form.

Students surveyed after taking the “dynamics in one week” curriculum indicated that the examples were appealing, that it was valuable for the examples to connect across the fundamental topics, and that the one-week format helped them to understand the relationship between kinetics, kinematics, and simulation. This demonstrates that this new arrangement for teaching dynamics is effective and worthy of further development.

Sloboda, A. R. (2021, July), Dynamics in One Week Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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