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Interactive Problem Solving For Mechanical Engineering On The World Wide Web

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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

6.637.1 - 6.637.10

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Paper Authors

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Gregory Kremer

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Bhavin Mehta

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

Session 1520

Interactive Problem Solving for Mechanical Engineering on the World-Wide-Web Gregory G. Kremer and Bhavin V. Mehta Ohio University


The world-wide-web has established its place in computer-based education due to its great advantages in terms of access, distribution, communication, and timeliness of feedback. However, software for internet-based applications is still far behind that for PC based applications in many respects, most notably in the types of interactive experiences available and in techniques for dealing with mathematical equations and symbols. Researchers at Ohio University are developing a web-based Interactive Problem Solver (IPS) with numerous Java applets and applications that attempt to address some of the limitations of existing web-based educational tools, especially with regards to interactivity. Rather than merely allowing students to change parameters and see the effect on a system response without ever having to “get their hands dirty” developing and solving the equations, the IPS attempts to implement the key features of an intelligent tutoring system (active learning, forced reflection, targeted feedback) by requiring “unguided” student inputs and returning instant formative feedback in both textual and visual forms. The IPS is a student-centered environment for learning Dynamics on the world- wide-web in which the student controls various details of the problems that will be solved, creates free body diagrams by pointing and clicking to select systems and to place forces, enters symbolic equations representing the mathematical model, solves the mathematical model using available computational software, and evaluates the physical realism of the solution. Students are given immediate feedback in direct response to their inputs at every step in the problem solution, but rather than being given the solution they are given hints for discovering what they did wrong and how to correct it. Additionally, tools for assessing student learning and for assessing the impact of the IPS on student learning are integrated within the IPS.

I. Introduction

The most appropriate method of presenting material in an engineering course depends on many factors, but two of the main considerations are the intellectual maturity level of the students and the desired objectives or outcomes of the course. Although students in entry-level mechanical engineering courses have been through the Calculus and Physics sequence, they are often unprepared for the “new thinking” required to solve engineering analysis problems. The process of reading a description of a physical situation, deciding which analytical theory applies, converting the physical situation into a solvable mathematical model, solving the model, and finally visualizing the forces and motions to evaluate the physical realism of the solution can be a daunting task. It was theorized that an educational tool that provided a problem-solving framework would be a useful educational supplement for helping entry-level engineering students develop the skills and the mindset for solving engineering analysis problems. Details of the development of that framework can be found elsewhere.1,2 For practical purposes, it was determined that the framework would be most useful if it was implemented in a form similar to

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

Kremer, G., & Mehta, B. (2001, June), Interactive Problem Solving For Mechanical Engineering On The World Wide Web Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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