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Introducing Simple Harmonic Motion – A Teaching Module in a First-Year Engineering Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Christopher Horne P.E. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Orcid 16x16

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Since 2011, Dr. Horne has been a Lecturer at NC AandT State University and East Carolina University. He currently teaches freshman a course in problem solving using MATLAB. He combines twenty years’ experience in management and engineering with a passion to help students learn STEM-related material. He is a licensed professional engineer and holds masters and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University and North Carolina AandT State University, respectively. His current research is in novel pedagogical methods for enhancing student learning of math and engineering. He also does research in non-linear fiber optics and electromagnetics.

Dr. Alexandra Kurepa is professor of mathematics at NC AandT State University where her research focuses on the effects of active learning on students’ perception of mathematics through their engagement, satisfaction, and perceived performance in the class.

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Alexandra Kurepa North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

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This work-in-progress describes a unique teaching method used for explaining Simple Harmonic Motion (SHM) to engineering and mathematics students in the COVID-19 learning environment. First Year Engineering Student (FYES) retention and overall success is predicated on their recent academic success in high school. Too often a struggling first semester student has limited knowledge of how a mathematical equation relates to a physical concept, for example, SHM. Student-centered active learning, in which students are asked to “do” something beyond listening and note taking, as this paper suggests, should be used in STEM courses, especially during the COVID-19 learning environment.

A freshman engineering student typically takes Algebra/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus or Calculus where functions are presented. They often do not make the ‘link’ between an equation and the physical system. The teaching method used for explaining SHM uses the sine wave function, MATLAB, a smartphone as well as the new experiment along with lessons learned. Through practical lecture material on wave motion and hands-on experimentation, during the COVID-19 learning environment, freshmen student learning is enhanced. Survey results from a freshmen engineering course are compared against upperclassmen in mathematics courses and the overall response is favorable.

Course modules were taught in the Problem Solving for Engineers course for freshman and in the mathematics department two courses: Applied Mathematics and Partial Differential Equations for upperclassmen in Fall of 2020. The Problem Solving for Engineers course teaches students how to apply mathematics to the real-world including problems encountered in everyday life. Most of the students are considered underrepresented.

Students were surveyed on their understanding of SHM including the frequency, period and the meaning of a sine wave function. SHM was conceptualized in terms of a mass-spring system using a Smartphone to measure displacement and acceleration. Survey results indicate that 'hands-on' exercises are necessary to increase the learning effectiveness of freshmen and understanding of SHM. Student feedback on the hands-on experiment was positive among 94.5 % of the students.

The authors would like to present the paper as a poster.

Horne, C., & Kurepa, A. (2021, July), Introducing Simple Harmonic Motion – A Teaching Module in a First-Year Engineering Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37385

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