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Incorporating IMU Technology to Demonstrate Concepts in Undergraduate Dynamics Courses

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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

Dynamic Pedagogies for Engineering Dynamics

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Rachel Vitali University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Rachel Vitali is a doctoral candidate in the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of Michigan, where she also received her B.S.E. in 2015 and M.S.E in 2017. Her research interests include computational and analytical dynamics with applications to wearable sensing technology for analysis of human motion in addition to incorporating technology into undergraduate courses for engaged learning.

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Noel C. Perkins University of Michigan

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Noel Perkins is the Donald T. Greenwood Collegiate Professor of Engineering and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He earned his PhD at U. C. Berkeley in 1986 (Mechanical Engineering) prior to joining the faculty at Michigan. His research interests draw from the fields of computational and nonlinear dynamics with applications to the mechanics of single molecule DNA and DNA/protein complexes, wireless inertial sensors for analyzing human motion, and structural dynamics, topics on which he has published over 150 publications in archival journals and conference proceedings.

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Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Associate Professor of Education, and Director and Graduate Chair for Engineering Education Research Programs at University of Michigan (U-M). Dr. Finelli is a fellow in the American Society of Engineering Education, a Deputy Editor of the Journal for Engineering Education, an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education, and past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE. She founded the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering at U-M in 2003 and served as its Director for 12 years. Prior to joining U-M, Dr. Finelli was the Richard L. Terrell Professor of Excellence in Teaching, founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering University.

Dr. Finelli's current research interests include student resistance to active learning, faculty adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, the use of technology and innovative pedagogies on student learning and success, and the impact of a flexible classroom space on faculty teaching and student learning. She also led a project to develop a taxonomy for the field of engineering education research, and she was part of a team that studied ethical decision-making in engineering students.

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Dynamics is historically challenging for students to understand and to transfer class concepts to new contexts. These challenges may partly derive from traditional large lecture style teaching methods that emphasize lecturing, note taking, and textbook problem solving. In this study, we are introducing a new way to present dynamics concepts through engaging experiments that employ inertial measurement units (IMUs). With the recent proliferation of IMUs, it is now financially feasible to incorporate conceptually rich experiments in large lecture courses thereby skirting the need for dedicated (brick and mortar) laboratory facility.

The purpose of this study is to increase student conceptual understanding in dynamics by developing an intervention to the traditional teaching approach through a systematic scaling up of IMU experiments as part of a large lecture class. The first level of this intervention, detailed here, consists of instructor-created, instructor-led experiments that are demonstrated in class. The experiments focus on several commonly misunderstood concepts identified by the authors of the Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI), a validated instrument that probes conceptual understanding of engineering dynamics. The kinematic data provided by the IMUs (acceleration and angular rate) expose these commonly misunderstood concepts in the assignments following the experiments. The intervention was implemented in a semester of an introductory dynamics course and compared to an offering in a prior semester. We measure the impact of the intervention on student conceptual understanding via potential gains on the DCI.

The first experiment consists of an IMU rigidly attached to a slider free to slide along a rotating arm, thus providing the necessary conditions to study Coriolis acceleration. The second experiment consists of a wheelchair with IMUs attached at three locations: outer perimeter of a wheel, hub of the same wheel, and back of the chair. Comparing measurements from the sensors on the wheel reveals basic rigid body kinematic concepts, whereas comparing measurements from the wheel to those from the chair exposes rolling without slipping and Newton’s second law.

We have control data from 131 students across 3 sections in 1 semester of no IMU-based experiments, and we are completing the first level of the intervention (354 students across 7 sections in 2 semesters). However, the results from one semester of this intervention (instructor-created, instructor-led experiments) suggest in-class experiments improve student conceptual understanding in only a limited way. This first intervention level maintains the same traditional type of learning environment with an instructor describing the concepts exposed by the experiments. However, students will be more participatory in the next two subsequent levels of intervention: 1) instructor-created, student-led experiments and 2) student-created, student-led experiments. We expect to see more learning gains as students have greater opportunity to engage with the experiments and reflect on how their measurements expose course concepts. This paper will include more detailed descriptions of the experiments and the corresponding assignments as well as a comparison between the instructor-created, instructor-led intervention group and the control group.

Vitali, R., & Perkins, N. C., & Finelli, C. J. (2018, June), Incorporating IMU Technology to Demonstrate Concepts in Undergraduate Dynamics Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30646

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