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Evidence of Learning Gains in Statics as a Result of Simulation-based Instruction

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Computer Tutors, Simulation, and Videos

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.697.1 - 26.697.11



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Paper Authors

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Christopher Papadopoulos University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Aidsa I. Santiago-Roman University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez


Genock Portela-Gauthier University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Genock Portela is Associate Professor and Associate Director in the Department of General Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. He earned a Ph.D. degree in civil engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (2004). Portela has primary research and teaching interests in structural mechanics, mostly oriented to bridge, earthquake, and wind engineering. In the General Engineering Department at UPRM, Portela serves as President of the Planning and Development Committee and member of the Engineering Mechanics Committee.

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Emmanuel Francisco Oquendo University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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David Candelario Suarez


Christian Gabriel Hernandez-Negron University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Christian G. Hernandez Negron is an undergraduate student in the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus (UPRM). He is pursuing a dual degree of Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Civil Engineering and Surveying Topography from the UPRM, expecting to graduate in May 2015.

Hernandez-Negron has research interest in civil engineering and engineering education. During his studies in Civil Engineering and Surveying in the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM), he had the opportunity of do summer internship and research, assist professors and also being part of the directive board in different Societies and Organizations. His goal when he culminates the B.Sc. studies is contribute by developing new projects for the sole purpose of helping society. He says, “Within my goals there is my need to continue my studies in a Doctor of Philosophy's degree. Every step of the experience in my studies and life fills me with enthusiasm and encourages me to keep going.”

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Manuel Jose Perez-Vargas University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Manuel is a Teaching Assistant with the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez Statics Program under Prof. Christopher Papadopoulos. In this role, Manuel works with students to further improve course comprehension providing all aspects of the Statics course, including course review, practice problems and written exams. Manuel is currently pursuing a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez.

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Evidence of Learning Gains in Statics as a Result of Simulation-Based Instruction Through a project sponsored by the NSF TUES program, we have developed amethodology to incorporate the use of simulation in courses in Statics and Mechanics ofMaterials. The use of simulation is coupled with an introduction to design, including exposure toexcerpts from professional design codes such as ASCE, AISC, ans AASHTO. The use ofsimulation also engages students in thought processes that aim to increase their conceptual andprocedural knowledge of fundamentals such as Free Body Diagrams, sign conventions, solvingequilibrium equations, and verifying reasonableness of a final answer. This paper focuses on results of learning gains from students in Statics. To test thedegree to which this type of education advances student knowledge – both conceptually andprocedurally – a think-aloud interview (see description below1) instrument was designed andadministered to control and experimental cohorts. The think-aloud interview consists of two setsof questions. Set 1 focuses on the analysis of a beam supported by a hinge and a cable, with anexternal load applied. Set 2 focuses on the analysis of a truss with simple supports and givenexternal loads. Within each set, the questions progress in order to reflect ususal problem-solvingstrategies and also in level of abstraction and complexity. After each question, beforeproceeding to the next question, participants are shown a standard accepted answer. This process(1) enables participants to proceed to the next question even if they made a crucial error thatwould otherwise have impeded their progress, and (2) provides an opportunity for participants tooffer a reflection on how their answers compare to the accepted answer. The instrument has so far been delivered to six students from the experimental cohort(i.e., those who received instruction with the simulation-based instruction in Statics), and threefrom the control cohort (i.e., those who received standard instruction in Statics). Thesepreliminary results show gains in student ability to solve problems procedurally and of highercomplexity as a result of simulation-based instruction. However, the results do not yet indicatesimilar gains in conceptual understanding. Nevertheless, on the basis of this preliminary work, ahypothesis has been developed that proposes how experience with simulation can increase astudents’s ability to solve problems of higher complexity, thus accelerating their progress fromnovice to expert. This work is currently in progress and it is anticipated that by the time of thefinal paper, the instrument will have been delivered to 15 student from both the experimental andcontrol groups.1 A think-aloud instrument is a guided set of questions that is answered by a respondent in the presence of a skilledinterviewer. The respondent is asked to continuously explain his/her reasoning to the interviewer. The intervieweris equipped with prompting questions and comments to elicit explanations form the interviewee without biasing theoutcome of the answer. The interviews are typically video recorded and then transcribed into written text format forfurther analysis.

Papadopoulos, C., & Santiago-Roman, A. I., & Portela-Gauthier, G., & Oquendo, E. F., & Candelario Suarez, D., & Hernandez-Negron, C. G., & Perez-Vargas, M. J. (2015, June), Evidence of Learning Gains in Statics as a Result of Simulation-based Instruction Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24034

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