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Keep Them On The Edge Of Their Seats: Bringing Drama Into The Engineering Classroom

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Tools of Teaching

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.777.1 - 7.777.13



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Hanus

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Allen Estes

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Session 1815

Keep Them on the Edge of Their Seats: Bringing Drama into the Engineering Classroom

Joseph P. Hanus, Allen C. Estes United States Military Academy, West Point


The role of the teacher in the classroom is often likened to the actor engaging an audience in the theatre. Joseph Lowman1 states that, “College classrooms are fundamentally dramatic arenas in which the teacher is the focal point, like the actor or orator on stage.” Wankat and Oreowicz2 further state, “All lectures are performances.” A teacher can be competent without performing, but “the ability to stimulate strong positive emotions in students separates the competent from the outstanding teacher”1. Humor, spontaneity, variety of activity, animated delivery, enthusiasm for the subject matter, and the presence of drama in the classroom can help foster such emotions. It may appear difficult upon first glance to imagine how one brings drama and flair into the engineering world of derivations, complex equations, and code requirements. It takes more imagination than a class on law or history, which seem to lend themselves better to dramatic effect. Wankat and Oreowicz 2 contend that dramatic effect in the realm of engineering is natural because “there is an inherent drama and majesty in the ability of theory to predict and occasionally miss the behavior of the real world.” The Statics and Dynamics course at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York, has made drama an integral part of the course and the cornerstone for several lessons. This paper presents three specific lessons that effectively use drama to excite students and enhance their learning. Several key components are identified for each lesson that were critical to developing the desired drama effect during the lesson. These components could be used in any course to develop drama in the classroom to equally develop a stimulating learning environment.

Statics and Dynamics Course Background

Statics and Dynamics, course number EM302 at USMA, is a three credit-hour engineering mechanics course that is offered both fall and spring semesters in the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department. The course encompasses traditional rigid body mechanics: Statics, Kinematics and Kinetics. The course is required for all civil, mechanical and electrical engineering majors. It is an elective for several other engineering programs, to include systems and environmental engineering. Also, unique to the West Point academic system, non- engineering students may be required to take the course. All USMA students, regardless of their major, are required to complete a five-course sequence in an engineering field. EM302 is the first course in the majority of the engineering field sequences. As a result of this unique situation, EM302 has been carefully designed to appeal to a broad base of learning styles for engineering and non-engineering majors. Drama is a key to the success of engaging this broad student base and plays a critical role in the three specific lessons outlined in this paper. Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Hanus, J., & Estes, A. (2002, June), Keep Them On The Edge Of Their Seats: Bringing Drama Into The Engineering Classroom Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11113

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