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Learning Modules For The Statics Classroom

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Improving Statics and Dynamics Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.813.1 - 8.813.7



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Paper Authors

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Anna Dollar

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Paul Steif

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

Session 2268

Learning Modules for the Statics Classroom

Anna Dollár, Paul S. Steif

Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Department Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056 /

Department of Mechanical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Mechanical integrity, which remains an essential requirement for a vast array of technologies, new and traditional, is strongly rooted in the basic subjects of mechanics. The success of students in a wide range of courses in mechanical, civil, and manufacturing engineering is conditioned on the degree to which students have genuinely absorbed and "own" the ideas of elementary Statics. Statics instruction has been reasonably successful in teaching students to use the derived equations and to manipulate quantities mathematically. Students generally learn to solve problems in which the modeling is largely implied by standard symbols in problem diagrams. However, where Statics is finally relevant to engineering practice, instruction has been notably unsuccessful. Many faculty are disappointed with the extent to which students are able to use Statics in the analysis and design of real systems and structures which they confront in their subsequent education [1, 2], and later in their professional careers.

In our accompanying paper [3], we have argued that a new instructional approach needs to be adopted if students are to successfully apply Statics outside the classroom. We suggested that a root cause of student difficulties is a failure on the part of the student to relate the symbols of mechanics to what they represent. The meaning of the symbols of Statics is so elusive because the forces that relatively rigid, inanimate objects exert on one another, e.g., the forces between contacting parts of a machine, do not seem real to most students. Unfortunately, Statics instruction, as judged by virtually all textbooks, usually focuses primarily, if not exclusively, on the mechanics of machines and structures. Statics becomes purely a mathematical exercise when it deals with unreal forces.

As explained in more depth in [3], our new approach delays the treatment of machines and structures and instead focuses initially on situations in which the forces of interest are readily perceivable. Such forces include those that students exert with their own hands, as well as forces that are evident by virtue of the perceivable deformations and motions associated with them. We take advantage of people’s strong intuitive sense of how to balance objects in various ways by hand and how to balance themselves. All the basic concepts of Statics, including forces, moments, couples, static equivalency, free body diagrams and equilibrium are all introduced in the

Dollar, A., & Steif, P. (2003, June), Learning Modules For The Statics Classroom Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11870

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