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Pushing and Shoving: Improving Student Understanding of Support Reactions with Hands-on Demonstrations

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Your Best in 5 Minutes: Demonstrations of Hands-On and Virtual In-Class Teaching Aids

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Tonya Lynn Nilsson P.E. Santa Clara University

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Tonya Nilsson is a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University (SCU), where she regularly facilitates pedagogical training for other faculty. Prior to joining SCU, Tonya was an Associate Professor at CSU - Chico.

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Laura Doyle Santa Clara University

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Dr. Laura Doyle is a lecturer in the Civil Engineering Department at Santa Clara University where she teaches undergraduate courses in civil engineering. Before coming to SCU, Laura was a post doctoral scholar for the John Muir Institute of the Environment at University of California, Davis where she used multi-dimensional models to examine water quality of the San Francisco Bay Delta system. She earned her masters and doctoral degrees in environmental fluid mechanics at UC Davis

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Understanding support reactions and developing an intuitive feel for what behavior each connection type (fixed, pinned, bearing, etc.) actually represents remains a continuing challenge for statics students. To improve students’ grasp of this important concept, 3D connections are introduced via a highly active class session that requires students to move in pairs through five stations to physically interact with common supports. Students are provided an activity sheet that guides them through the stations. For each station, the activity sheet includes images of real-life applications of the connection type, the common schematics/drawings used to represent the connection type in statics problems, and the start of a free body diagram, FBD, where the student is directed to draw their perceived support reactions after interacting with and loading the demo. To further reinforce their knowledge gain, students are required to reflect and indicate where they have seen this connection type outside of the classroom. The demos are followed by four 3D examples where students work in their pairs to draw the FBD. A survey conducted in five statics courses taught by the authors found that 75.3% of student respondents (n = 78) indicated this activity was helpful in their understanding of support reactions with only 9.1% saying it had no impact and 15.6% indicating it was only a little helpful.

Nilsson, T. L., & Doyle, L. (2019, June), Pushing and Shoving: Improving Student Understanding of Support Reactions with Hands-on Demonstrations Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33216

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