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Initial Data From A Statics Concept Inventory

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Improving Statics and Dynamics Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.733.1 - 9.733.10



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Paper Authors

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Paul Steif

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1368

Initial Data from a Statics Concept Inventory

Paul S. Steif Carnegie Mellon University


Engineering Statics is a pivotal course in a number of engineering disciplines. Statics lays the foundation for subsequent courses, namely Dynamics and Strength of Materials. Moreover, Statics and these follow-on courses are the basis for engineering design and practice. Instruction in Statics is worthy of significant attention.

While a variety of topics and problems are addressed in typical Statics textbooks, problems focusing on interactions between connected bodies are particularly important. This class of problems, which takes students significantly beyond what they learn in physics, offers experience that is most relevant to applying Statics to practical engineering systems. Recent work by the author1 has set out to identify and organize the conceptual content of Statics, with particular focus on those concepts that underlie multi-body Statics problems. Four clusters of concepts were proposed, along with a set of skills for implementing those concepts. While mathematical skills, (e.g., resolving and combining forces and computing moments due to forces), are needed for Statics, for our purposes here they are not a part of the conceptual content of Statics. The concepts and skills were then mapped to a set of typical errors which students are observed to make. The relationships to concepts and misconceptions in freshman Newtonian mechanics in physics2-4 were discussed.

We seek an efficient and accurate means of measuring student understanding of these concepts. Ideally, we would be able to detect which concepts are well in hand, and for concepts that are not understood, whether there is evidence of a consistent misconception. To this end, the development of a concept inventory has been undertaken. There has been some work along this direction by others relevant to Statics5,6, as well as for a variety of engineering and related subjects7, although there has not yet been an attempt at a complete inventory in the case of Statics.

Concepts of Statics

The conceptual content of Statics is subtle and can be viewed on a number of levels. It should be the goal of the mechanics education community ultimately to understand student conceptions of Statics at the most fundamental level, and to determine how those conceptions can explain various observations of student performance. This is not an easy task and will require much time and effort. In one effort to organize the central concepts of Statics, Steif1 has proposed viewing concepts as forming four clusters as follows:

C1. Forces are always in equal and opposite pairs acting between bodies.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Steif, P. (2004, June), Initial Data From A Statics Concept Inventory Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13849

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