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First Encounters: Statics as a Gateway to Engineering

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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

Mechanics, Hands-on Demo - Show & Tell!

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Page Count


Page Numbers

23.600.1 - 23.600.15



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Paper Authors

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Sinead C. MacNamara Syracuse University


Joan V. Dannenhoffer P.E. Syracuse University

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Joan Dannenhoffer is Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University. She received her M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut and M.B.A. and B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is a Professional Engineer in the State of Connecticut. Her research interests are in engineering education pedagogy, especially in implementing active learning strategies in large classes. She currently teaches Engineering Statics, Mechanics of Solids, and Civil Engineering Materials.

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First Encounters: Statics as the Gateway to Engineering CultureThis paper describes ongoing efforts at ______ University to re-engineer the traditionalstatics course. This course forms part of a larger NSF funded project aimed at increasinginnovation and creativity in engineering curricula. The principal aim of the overallproject is to find strategies to foster and reward creativity in engineering students.At ______ University, as at many institutions, statics is typically taken in the fall ofsecond year for civil, environmental, mechanical and aerospace engineering students. Theonly engineering course that the students have taken before statics is the first yearcornerstone course, an experience that is dwarfed by the rest of the first year load of basicscience and mathematics pre-requisite courses. The statics classroom can be one of thefirst true acculturation experiences for these future engineers. This is one of the firsttimes these students are amongst only their departmental peers and are being taught by aprofessor from their home department. Thus, the statics course has a significant role toplay in setting the tone for the years to come, and in introducing students to engineeringculture.This paper describes a pair of statics courses taught to civil and environmentalengineering students at ________ University. These courses take a variety of approachesto inculcating engineering values and skills in the students. Issues such as the importanceof understanding underlying assumptions, the value of conservative assumptions, thevalue of sketching and diagrams in engineering communication, the difference betweenprecision and accuracy, and basic knowledge about the products of the profession and itsrole in society, are all addressed. These courses have been taught for two iterations and athird is underway. An evaluation team from the School Education has designed anevaluation plan to identify what if any effect the courses have on students’ perceptions ofengineering. This paper presents the results of this evaluation, alongside studentperformance data, student response data and faculty observations.   1  

MacNamara, S. C., & Dannenhoffer, J. V. (2013, June), First Encounters: Statics as a Gateway to Engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19614

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