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Instrument for Assessing Skills related to Free Body Diagrams in a Sophomore Engineering Mechanics Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Assessment & Grading in Mechanics

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Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Dr. Kristi J. Shryock is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received her BS, MS, and PhD from the college of engineering at Texas A&M. Kristi works to improve the undergraduate engineering experience through evaluating preparation in mathematics and physics, incorporating non-traditional teaching methods into the classroom, and engaging her students with interactive methods.

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John Haglund Texas A&M University, Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Commonly, engineering faculty members who teach a sophomore engineering mechanics course find that the ability of students to idealize a mechanical system and draw its free body diagram (FBD) is a threshold concept that once mastered can change the way a student progresses through the discipline. While there are inventories available related to engineering mechanics, there is not one solely focused on the intricacies of FBDs of mechanical systems and the inclusion of all independent constraint forces and moments, a crucial skill in engineering. The goal of this study is to develop and validate an instrument for FBDs containing both free response and multiple-choice questions. The objectives in this study include the ability of a student to: properly identify and isolate the system; account for correct constraint forces and moments; utilize Newton's third law; indicate external and internal forces; apply friction when appropriate; identify bodies in motion properly; designate cables, normal forces, and two force members correctly, and specify the effect of gravity correctly.

The instrument developed as part of this study was administered to a set of students taking a typical sophomore mechanics course at a large public institution during fall 2016, along with a smaller group of students used in a pilot study during spring 2016. The paper will describe: 1) details on the FBD instrument developed, along with a grading rubric used related to student performance; 2) the set of learning outcomes that was generated; and 3) results from over 420 students who took the pre-test and post-test, including assessment of the instrument related to consistency and reliability. The intent of the paper is to clarify answers to two questions: 1) What do engineering faculty members expect students to know and be able to do related to free body diagrams during a sophomore mechanics course; and 2) To what extent do students satisfy these expectations. After administering the instrument and analyzing the results, faculty members have a better idea of the skill set of their students and can adjust course instruction. Further, there will be evidence to examine the extent to which students are prepared related to free body diagrams at the end of a core engineering science course.

Shryock, K. J., & Haglund, J. (2017, June), Instrument for Assessing Skills related to Free Body Diagrams in a Sophomore Engineering Mechanics Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28542

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