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Model Making (And Breaking) In Freshman Statics

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Introduction to Engineering and More

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.920.1 - 9.920.12



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Paper Authors

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Ian Campbell

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

Session 2653

The use of model making (and breaking) in freshman Engineering Statics courses.

Ian Campbell

School of Architectural, Civil and Mechanical Engineering Victoria University of Technology – Australia

Abstract In the Engineering degree programs that traditionally commence with an introductory statics course, instructors typically search for examples and applications that can explain and bring to life the physics and mathematics involved. Laboratory classes designed to reinforce theory via experiments are the norm but are often limited by available time, suitable equipment and other resources. Such classes may be 'tolerable' experiences for students rather than eagerly sought after learning opportunities.

Since 2000, the author has used competitive making (and breaking) of structural models in a first year Engineering statics course for Engineering students at Victoria University as an alternative to traditional laboratory experiments. Models are made from simple low cost materials and are easily assembled. The enthusiasm with which students approach these model making/testing/breaking assignments has convinced the author of their worth and is further reflected by improved grades, reduced drop-out rates and a strongly enhanced level of positive student motivation.

Models must be made within tight specifications and are accompanied by a comprehensive documented report. Competitive testing (i.e.‘breaking’) of models takes place during an end of course session. Model assessment is based on structural efficiency achieved, measured as the ratio of breaking load to model mass. During a testing in front of the assembled class, the instructor has a unique opportunity to utilise the many and varied failure modes exhibited by models, as a ‘real time’ teaching and learning experience. Relevant linkages can also be made to future courses such as material science, structural analysis, structural design and serviceability. In one semester, high efficiency models are identified and students are offered an opportunity to further improve their models for an annual model making/breaking competition offered to freshman Engineering students from across Australia. In 2001 and 2002, Victoria University students as taught by the author won this competition.

1. Introduction The author’s underlying philosophy of Engineering education has been formed over many years and is “experience and practice” (wherever possible) within the teaching program after all the key distinguishing characteristic of professional Engineers is the successful design of practical solutions to real problems. In 2001 the author replaced all laboratory experiments within the two semester freshman Statics course “Solid Mechanics A”, with a program of competitive model making and breaking. The course applies to students from Architectural, Building, Civil, Mechanical and Robotic Engineering,

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright c 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Campbell, I. (2004, June), Model Making (And Breaking) In Freshman Statics Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13785

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