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Enhancing Student Learning Through Pre-lab Assignments and Virtual Reality/Simulation Components in the Strength of Materials Laboratory Experiments

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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

Materials Division Technical Session 3

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Afshin H. Zahraee Purdue University Northwest

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Afshin Zahraee is currently an assistant professor at Purdue University Northwest and finished his PhD in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology this past summer. He received his Master of Science in Structural Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Chicago, Illinois and Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Afshin’s research is in the areas of fatigue, material life prediction, and structural condition assessment and health monitoring. He served as the President for Chi-Epsilon civil engineering honor society (IIT Chapter) and is an associate member of ASCE, ASME, and ASEE.

Afshin has 7 years of teaching experience as a visiting faculty, an adjunct faculty, and as a Teaching assistant. He has taught a wide variety of classes including Statics, Dynamics, Strength of Materials, Hydraulics, Soils and Foundations, Structural Analysis I and II, and Reinforced Concrete Design. He has won IIT’s ASCE Teaching Assistant of the Year Award in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Afshin also had experience in industry working with the “Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat” where he worked on funded projects to compare different structural systems performance when made of steel vs. concrete. He also worked as an intern at Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for two summers. Part of his work at IDOT involved collection and analysis of aggregates from different queries and sending reports to headquarters in Springfield, Illinois.

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Applied Strength of Materials is an important foundation course for several engineering and engineering technology programs such as Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Engineering Technology. Over the past 18 months, the authors has developed and taught a set of Laboratory Experiments for this class at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), using a range of different learning and teaching methods, to enhance and improve the student learning in this core technical course.

Laboratory experiments, using different methods, have been employed and examined to enhance student learning. Development of Virtual Reality (VR) experiments has received NSF support and several VR experiments have been developed for on-line or physical delivery [1] [2] of the Strength of Material courses. Also, low-cost experimentations have been developed to accommodate and enhance student understanding for on-line delivery of material via Blackboard of this laboratory-based course [3][4]. A combination of simulation and physical laboratories have been used by some authors to make-up for lack of experimental equipment [5]. However, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) laboratories have been used in those instances. This is not suitable for sophomore students in engineering technology programs as FEA is generally offered as an elective to juniors and seniors in most programs.

This paper explains how a combination of VR/simulation experiments, simple software application, and physical laboratory experimentation was developed and used in the Applied Strength of Materials Course at Purdue University Northwest (PNW). The three methods were used for the same experimentation in every lab session. The effects of adding pre-lab assignments, which includes pre-developed simulations or VR experimentation, and its combination with live, physical laboratories, and computer software, on student learning are discussed. The implementation of several learning methods for each laboratory experiment suggested that this three-prong combination has improved student understanding of Applied Strength of Materials Course at PNW.

Zahraee, A. H. (2020, June), Enhancing Student Learning Through Pre-lab Assignments and Virtual Reality/Simulation Components in the Strength of Materials Laboratory Experiments Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34576

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