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Integrating Computer Tools Into Sophomore Level Engineering Mechanics Courses

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.608.1 - 6.608.10

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William Haering

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

Session 2793

Integrating Computer Tools into Sophomore-Level Engineering Mechanics Courses

William Haering The Pennsylvania State University – DuBois Campus


Computer tools have been integrated into two sophomore-level Engineering Mechanics courses at The Pennsylvania State University DuBois Campus. Those two courses are strength of materials and dynamics. In the prerequisite statics course, computer tools are not used because the author believes that doing so could compromise the students’ understanding of basic engineering concepts. In strength of materials, the computer tools were directly integrated into the existing course. In particular, the students used Microsoft Excel to graph, numerically integrate, and perform composite moment of inertia calculations. In the dynamics class, the computer-tool integration was accomplished through an additional honors section. In this case, students studied numerical approaches to differentiation, integration, and differential equation solution, and wrote their own programs to perform these operations. It was found that the students used computer tools, even when it was optional. The students are much more likely to use the computer tools when they understood two important facts. Namely, that the tools provide a release from tedious repetitive tasks and the opportunity to solve problems that would be extremely difficult or impossible to solve without them. The decisions about computer tool usage in the courses were based upon the author’s 14 years of experience as a practicing engineer. This experienced included both using and developing computer-aided engineering tools. A number of general concerns and choices relate to the use of computer tools in any engineering class. The general concerns include the aforementioned possible compromise of the students’ basic engineering understanding, plus student computer background and fitting additional content into an already full curriculum. The choices are between general purpose and discipline specific software, as well as between the use of existing applications or the use of programs that the students write themselves.

I. Introduction

The use of computer applications in engineering practice has grown significantly in the past 15 years. At the same time, the nature of computer applications has changed. The mass adoption of desktop personal computers and the development of powerful applications for them have provided many useful alternatives and/or replacements for traditional mainframe applications that have existed since the mid 1960's. At the same time, the need to understand traditional analytical engineering theory and problem solving techniques has not diminished. This presents a dilemma to for instructors teaching basic sophomore-level engineering mechanics courses. Namely, early introduction to computer-aided engineer tools is more important than ever, however, the curriculum of the courses is already full with subject matter that is absolutely

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001,American Society for Engineering Education

Haering, W. (2001, June), Integrating Computer Tools Into Sophomore Level Engineering Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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