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Initial Results of Introducing Design and Simulation-Based Instruction in Mechanics of Materials

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Teaching Mechanics of Materials

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.753.1 - 24.753.18

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Paper Authors


Christopher Papadopoulos University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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Christopher Papadopoulos is an associate professor in the department of general engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM). He earned B.S. degrees in civil engineering and mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University (1993) and a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics at Cornell University (1999). Prior to coming to UPRM, Papadopoulos served on the faculty in the department of civil engineering and mechanics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Papadopoulos has diverse research and teaching interests in structural mechanics, biomechanics, appropriate technology, engineering ethics, and engineering education. He is PI of two NSF-sponsored research projects and is co-author of Lying by Approximation: The Truth about Finite Element Analysis. Papadopoulos is currently the program chair-elect of the ASEE Mechanics Division and serves on numerous committees at UPRM that relate to undergraduate and graduate education.

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Aidsa I. Santiago-Román University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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Genock Portela-Gauthier University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

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Initial Results of Implementing Simulation Based Instruction in Mechanics of Materials This paper describes results of an NSF-sponsored project in which simulation tools arebeing incorporated into the instruction of Statics and Mechanics of Materials. The use ofsimulation is being used to vertically integrate these two courses and to enable students toapproach elementary design problems that are not normally characteristic of problems in abeginning mechanics course. Last year initial results were reported from the first cohorts to complete the Staticscourse. These cohorts have recently completed or are currently taking the subsequent course inMechanics of Materials. The subject of this paper will be to report initial results from thecohorts’ experiences in Mechanics of Materials. The paper will describe in detail several exercises and modules that were created for theMechanics of Materials course that incorporate the use of simulation tools. Examples of suchproblems include the study of the distribution of stresses on surfaces under conditions of “simpleshear” and “bearing” stress (concepts introduced at the beginning of the course) and study of thebending, twisting, and shear in a C-channel. In each of these cases, pre-programmed FE modelsare provided that enable the students to identify stress values at certain locations. Exercisesfurther require the students to compare the results from the simulation with results that theywould have obtained from standard formulae. In particular, students will encounter the fact thatthe standard bending and shear stress formulae, developed for certain prismatic sections, do notapply to the C-channel. To introduce students to design, a project has been developed in which the students mustdesign a cantilevered beam and an alternative cantilevered truss to span a certain gap and supportcertain loads. Both maximum stress and deflection constraints are given, and students are askedto reflect on the reasonableness of each alternative that they develop. A mixture of handcalculations and FE simulation are used to evaluate key stresses and displacements. As this work is ongoing, the initial results that will be reported in this paper will bequalitative and based primarily on feedback from student surveys. A future study, based onthink-aloud interviews, will be conducted to determine differential learning gains betweenstudents exposed to this method and a control group that received standard instruction.

Papadopoulos, C., & Santiago-Román, A. I., & Portela-Gauthier, G. (2014, June), Initial Results of Introducing Design and Simulation-Based Instruction in Mechanics of Materials Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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