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Effective use of an Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Design and Manufacture of Tools to Assist in Teaching Strength of Materials

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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

Mechanical Engineering (ME) Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.465.1 - 23.465.22



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Paper Authors


Jacob Lee Finley

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Jacob Finley came to the University of Southern Maine in spring 2010. He is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Finley became fascinated with mechanical properties of materials after taking a class with Dr. Ghorashi and observing the applications of the subject. He then teamed up with this professor and developed a way of demonstrating complex concepts in solid mechanics with easy to understand hands-on test set ups. Finley has always thoroughly enjoyed working on hands-on projects built from conception to execution. The main issue he addresses in his current research is developing ways to demonstrate mechanical behavior of structures and to measure the mechanical properties of materials to students in a way that is easy to understand.

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Mehrdaad Ghorashi P.E. University of Southern Maine

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Dr. Ghorashi is a member of the ASME and the ASEE. He is a licensed professional engineer in Maine and the author or co-author of more than 50 journal or conference papers. In 1995, after receiving his first Ph.D. on dynamics of structures under moving loads, he joined the Mechanical Engineering Department of Sharif University of Technology. In 2004, Dr. Ghorashi moved to Canada where he worked in Carleton University as a postdoctoral fellow. He also taught or co-taught a few courses at Carleton for which he received the Best Professor Award from the Carleton Student Engineering Society. In 2006 he decided to earn a second Ph.D. He studied the dynamics of nonlinear rotating composite beams with embedded actuators and graduated in 2009. In September 2009, Dr. Ghorashi joined the Department of Engineering in the University of Southern Maine. He teaches strength of materials, statics, dynamics, machine design, machine dynamics, control systems and composites on a regular basis.

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Effective use of an Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Design and Manufacture of Tools to Assist in Teaching Strength of MaterialsIn the strength of materials course in a bachelor degree program of Mechanical Engineeringstudents need to learn a lot of new concepts and formulations about the way materials andstructures behave. Obtaining this information is critically important if they want to becomesuccessful engineers. Traditionally, these concepts have been taught in lectures using diagramsand formulations as well as referring students to textbooks. While these are all vital resources forthe students, when they are integrated with hands-on experiences a significant progress inachieving the learning outcomes is achieved. Observation has shown that even a brief hands-onexperience goes a long way. Some students who get bored in a lecture setting, after gaining apersonal experience related to the subject, suddenly become the most interested ones! A teachercan then use this momentum for helping students understand the related theories and formulationsas well. The reason is because students observe that what they study in the lectures is not justintangible theory—the final outcomes, in fact, have realistic meanings that can be tested, touchedand seen. Such experiences also provide a means for comparing theoretical and experimentalresults.In order to address the mentioned need for hands-on experience, a summer undergraduateresearch fellowship was awarded. The principal objective of this award was to design and buildteaching aids for the Strength of Materials course. As a result of this fellowship, among otheractivities, two devices have been designed, fabricated and tested. The first one has been developedfor measuring the modulus of elasticity and Poisson’s ratio of a few metallic samples. Thesematerial properties have been obtained in a bending test by measuring the normal strain using twostrain gauges located along and perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of a beam member made ofthe materials of interest. Performing this experiment provides a long-lasting understanding forstudents about what the physical meanings of modulus of elasticity and Poisson’s ratio are. Inanother part of this research, a test setup was built to demonstrate a very fundamental theorem, i.e.Maxwell’s Reciprocity theorem. This test provides students with a physical understanding of thistheorem and helps them understand what it really means and if it is, in fact, valid. Both of thementioned devices are currently being used by students as a part of a hands-on lab that isintegrated with the course.

Finley, J. L., & Ghorashi, M. (2013, June), Effective use of an Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Design and Manufacture of Tools to Assist in Teaching Strength of Materials Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19479

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