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Efforts to Improve Free Body Diagrams

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Teaching Methods for Engineering Mechanics Courses

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Kate N. Leipold Rochester Institute of Technology

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Ms. Kate Leipold has a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology. She is currently lecturer of Mechanical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She teaches graphics and design classes in Mechanical Engineering, as well as consulting with students and faculty on 3D solid modeling questions. Ms. Leipold’s area of expertise is the new product development process. Ms. Leipold’s professional experience includes three years spent as a New Product Development engineer at Pactiv Corporation in Canandaigua, NY. She holds 5 patents for products developed while working at Pactiv. Ms. Leipold’s focus at RIT is on CAD and design process instruction.

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Sarilyn R. Ivancic Rochester Institute of Technology

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It is frequently noted within the mechanical engineering department that students in Statics, and in following courses, are underperforming in their ability to create well-crafted free body diagrams (FBDs). The instructional faculty were charged to identify pedagogical methods to improve student performance in Statics and the retention of key concepts.

Two novel approaches were implemented over the 2016 academic year.

A pneumonic device to remember the key components of free body diagrams was developed and demonstrated consistently in class. The device is referred to as “The ABC’s of FBD’s”. The first four letters of the alphabet identify an item that must be included in FBDs. The letter “A” stands for “All reactions and applied loads”, “B” stands for the “Body”, “C” stands for the “Coordinate System” and “D” stands for “Dimensions”. It is then stressed that the equilibrium equations or “E” comes after you’ve established “ABCD”. The results of this pneumonic device were immediately noticed on the next exam as the amount of forgotten FBD components dropped significantly.

The second pedagogical method developed and implemented was a game based off of “Paper Telephone” which is used during review days. The game emphasizes the connection between the free body diagram and the equations of equilibrium. Faculty observed that this game facilitated students working together to correct FBDs and equilibrium equations while providing a platform to share best practices.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the inclusion of these two new pedagogical methods focused on good free body diagram practices has aided in the retention of FBD components in follow on courses. For the draft paper, scans of exams containing graded FBDs from before and after the implementation of these methods will be compared to evaluate the effectiveness of the methods described.

Leipold, K. N., & Ivancic, S. R. (2018, June), Efforts to Improve Free Body Diagrams Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30365

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