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Mom In Action

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Improving Mechanics Courses

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1078.1 - 12.1078.8

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Paper Authors


Madhukar Vable Michigan Technological University

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Associate Professor, has research interest in computational mechanics. He is a Fellow of Wessex Institute of Great Britain. He was named MTU Distinguished Teacher in 1998 and Distinguished Faculty Member from the Michigan State in 1999. He is author of ‘Mechanics of Materials’ and ‘Intermediate Mechanics of Materials’ textbooks published by Oxford University Press. He is developing a stress analyzer called BEAMUP, details of which can be found at his webpage.

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William Kennedy Michigan Technological University

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Director, Michigan Technological University Center for Teaching, Learning, and Faculty Development, has research interest in higher education pedagogy. He was Professor of Communications at Kettering University prior to joining the faculty at Michigan Tech. While at Kettering, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Charles L. Tutt, Jr. Innovative Teaching Award. He has published extensively in the area of pedagogical design, innovation, and experimentation.

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

MOM in Action 1. Introduction

The application of mechanics of materials continues to grow beyond aerospace, civil and mechan- ical engineering where it originated from the need for analysis and design of structures. Metallur- gical engineers have long used mechanics of materials concepts as metal has been, and still is, the dominant material of choice in engineering design. Chemical engineers need the concepts as poly- mer composites and plastics usage continues to grow in engineering design. Geological engineers need the concepts for explanation of earthquakes and other geological phenomena. Foresters need the concepts as wood, like other biological tissues, becomes stronger during growth under stress. Biomedical engineers need the concepts for stress analysis of human tissues and implants.

One approach to address the growing list of applications of mechanics of materials is to fragment the body of knowledge and teach the fragment needed in individual disciplines. The increased duplication of the resulting dedicated courses will further stress the over burdened engineering curriculum, stretch faculty resources to cover more courses, and defeat the need for interdiscipli- nary education and research.

A better alternative to the above approach is to teach a common mechanics of materials course that covers the basic concepts and demonstrate the variety of applications of concepts through numerical examples and problems. Such an approach raises several educational challanges. One such challenge is student motivation for studying mechanics of materials concepts and then remembering them for future use. This challenge of motivation and memory can be partially addressed through development of modules called ‘Mechanics of materials in action’ or briefly ‘MOM in Action’. This paper describes two ‘MOM in Action’ modules and how these modules address the issues of motivation and incorporates insights on human learning.

2. Student motivation

The mechanics of materials course serves as a pre-requisite for many courses in machine design and structures. The course content of mechanics of materials is well established and any signifi- cant changes in the content would require redesign of curriculum in many engineering disciplines. However, if the course is to meet the needs of structural analysis as well as the needs of other dis- ciplines, then the presentation and development of principles and concepts will have to have greater generality. Mathematical generalization is an effective, compact way of organizing large amount of information. But intrinsic to any generalization is the increase in abstraction. Engineer- ing students have a predisposition towards applied work and an increased emphasis on abstraction might have detrimental effect on motivation to learn the concepts.

Educators have long known and neuroscientists confirm the idea that repeatedly experiencing new ideas leads to deeper encoding of those ideas and improves the likelihood of successfully retrieving and using the learned material across domains1. By repetitive use of the general princi- ples to specific cases the students can be repetitively shown the underlying structure and patterns and thus enhance student learning and the accuracy of conceptual retrieval. By using heuristic arguments and problems designed specifically to be solved by inspection and using experimental

Vable, M., & Kennedy, W. (2007, June), Mom In Action Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

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