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Piloting i-Newton for the Experiential Learning of Dynamics

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies: Mechanical Engineering and Control

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1228.1 - 26.1228.9



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Paper Authors


Julianne Vernon University of Michigan, College of Engineering

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Julianne Vernon is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, the College of Engineering, researching and assessing the redesign of the first year engineering experience. She received her bachelors of engineering in chemical engineering from the City College of New York and her doctorate degree at University of Florida in Environmental Engineer. She has experience developing international and national research experience for STEM majors. Her interests include course development to increase engage learning for first year engineers.

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Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli, Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering and research associate professor of engineering education at University of Michigan (U-M), earned B.S.E.E., M.S.E.E., and Ph.D. degrees from U-M in 1988, 1989, and 1993, respectively. Prior to joining U-M in 2003, she was the Richard L. Terrell Professor of Excellence in Teaching, founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering University. In her current role, she coordinates faculty and TA professional development in the College of Engineering, conducts rigorous engineering education research, and promotes the growth of engineering education both locally at UM and nationally. Dr. Finelli's current research interests include evaluating methods to improve teaching, studying faculty motivation to change classroom practices, and exploring ethical decision-making in engineering students. She also has established a national presence in engineering education; she is a fellow in the American Society of Engineering Education, is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education, and past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE.

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Noel C. Perkins University of Michigan

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Noel Perkins is the Donald T. Greenwood Collegiate Professor of Engineering and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He earned his PhD at U. C. Berkeley in 1986 (Mechanical Engineering) prior to joining the faculty at Michigan. His research interests draw from the fields of computational and nonlinear dynamics with applications to the mechanics of single molecule DNA and DNA/protein complexes, wireless inertial sensors for analyzing human motion, and structural dynamics, topics on which he has published over 150 publications in archival journals and conference proceedings.

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Bradford G Orr University of Michigan

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Piloting  i-­‐Newton  for  the  Experiential  Learning  of  Dynamics      Newtonian  dynamics  is  the  foundation  for  STEM  education  that  starts  in  middle  school  and  progresses   through   high   school   and   college.   A   solid   understanding   of   Newton’s   laws   is  critical   for   students   pursuing   degrees   in   engineering,   physics,  and   chemistry,   as   well   as   in  most   life   sciences.   Students   seem   proficient   at   reciting   Newton’s   law   with   ease;   however,  few   are   able   to   apply   these   laws   to   natural   and   engineered   systems.   This   disconnect   in  students’   conceptual   understanding   may   be   linked   to   fundamental   misconceptions   of  Newton’s  laws  and  to  an  abundance  of  over  fabricated  examples.  Hands-­‐on  laboratories  that  feature   real   measurements   could   allow   students   to   probe   the   dynamics   of   realistic   systems,  thereby   strengthening   their   conceptual   understanding.   However,   the   prohibitive   cost   of  equipment  and  dearth  of  laboratory  space  limits  these  options.    Our   project   aims   to   overcome   these   challenges   by   utilizing   a   new,   highly-­‐portable   and  inexpensive   technology,   which   we   call   interactive-­‐Newton   (i-­‐Newton),   that   can   engage  students   in   the   experiential   learning   of   dynamics   outside   the   confines   of   the   traditional  teaching  methods.  We  hypothesize  that  including  i-­‐Newton  based  instructor  demonstrations  and  student  experiments  in  undergraduate  physics  and  engineering  courses  will  positively  impact  students’  conceptual  understanding.  As  a  result  of  having  a  stronger  understanding  of   the   fundamental   concepts,   we   hypothesize   that   this   will   also   increase   students’   self-­‐efficacy  and  their  intention  to  persist  in  the  major.    We   introduced   i-­‐Newton   experiments   in   two   sections   of   PHYS   161:   Introductory   Honors  Physics   -­‐   Laboratory   and   two   sections   of   ME   240:   Introduction   to   Dynamics   and   Vibrations.  Students   in   these   four   course   sections   comprise   our   intervention   group.   For   purposes   of  comparison,   we   established   a   control   group   which   consisted   of   students   enrolled   in   three  sections   of   ME   240   in   which   i-­‐Newton   was   NOT   introduced.   Students   in   both   the  intervention  and  control  groups  were  asked  to  complete  a  series  of  instruments  to  provide  data   for   assessing   the   impact   of   i-­‐Newton.   First,   to   measure   the   impact   on   students’  conceptual   understanding,   we   used   validated   concept   inventory   instruments.   Students   in  PHYS   160   completed   the   Force-­‐Motion   Concept   Evaluation   (FCME)   at   both   the   beginning  and  end  of  the  course,  while  students  in  ME  240  completed  the  Dynamics  Concept  Inventory  (DCI)  at  the  end  of  the  course.  Additionally,  students  in  both  courses  completed  a  modified  version   of   the   Longitudinal   Assessment   of   Engineering   Self-­‐Efficacy   (LAESE)   survey.   The  LAESE   is   a   validated   instrument   that   measures   engineering   self-­‐efficacy,   course   specific  self-­‐efficacy,  intention  to  persist  in  the  field,  and  feelings  of  inclusion.    For  this  paper  we  will  describe  i-­‐Newton  in  detail  and  present  findings  about  the  impact  of  i-­‐Newton  on  students’  conceptual  understanding,  self-­‐efficacy,  and  intention  to  persist  in  the  major.   In   particular,   for   conceptual   understanding,   we   will   compare   item-­‐by-­‐item   gains   in  FCME   data   from   the   beginning   to   the   end   of   the   PHYS   161   courses,   and   we   will   compare  these  gains  to  historical  trends.  For  ME  240,  we  will  compare  end-­‐of-­‐course  DCI  data  for  the  control   and   the   intervention   groups   on   an   item-­‐by-­‐item   basis.   To   assess   the   impact   on  students’  self-­‐efficacy  and  intention  to  persist  in  the  major,  we  will  compare  relevant  LAESE  data   from   the   beginning   to   the   end   of   the   term   in   each   intervention   class,   and   we   will  compare  gains  between  the  control  and  intervention  groups.  We  will  conclude  by  describing  our   plans   for   a   broader   implementation   of   i-­‐Newton   and   offering   suggestions   for   others  wishing  to  use  similar  approaches  to  experiential  learning.    

Vernon, J., & Finelli, C. J., & Perkins, N. C., & Orr, B. G. (2015, June), Piloting i-Newton for the Experiential Learning of Dynamics Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24565

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