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Real Life Examples In A Solid Mechanics Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Simple Classroom Demonstrations for Mechanics

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Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1015.1 - 15.1015.9



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Paper Authors


Scott Kiefer Michigan State University

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Scott Kiefer has spent the past ten years teaching mostly undergraduate courses in mechanics and mechatronics. He started his career at the University of Puerto Rico--Mayaguez, moved to Tri-State University, and is currently at Michigan State University. His BS is in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin--Platteville, and his MS and PhD are also in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University.

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

Real Life Examples in a Solid Mechanics Course


Research has indicated that a good percentage of students who are dropping out of engineering are doing so because they have either lost interest or actually come to dislike studying it. This paper describes an effort to better connect students to engineering by incorporating lecture materials into a Solid Mechanics course that use example problems that students encounter in their every day lives. For example, rather than drawing a picture of an axial load being applied to a steel bar to talk about axial stress and strain, a pair of iPod headphones is shown and a discussion moderated about what kind of load would be needed to break them and how much would they stretch. The real life examples adopted in this course were first created by Eann Patterson as part of a National Science Foundation sponsored project to change the undergraduate mechanical engineering curriculum and make it more attractive to a diverse group of students. Specifically, this paper critiques the adaptation of five real life examples taken from the original project. Student response to the lecture material was measured by specific survey questions about the real life examples, survey questions about the course as a whole, interviews, and standard student course evaluation forms.

1. Introduction

A considerable amount of attention has been given to the retention of engineering students in recent years. In fact, most universities with engineering programs are currently taking major steps to boost student retention in engineering according to Dean, Anthony and Vahala.1 There is also evidence that many students leave engineering because they have become disillusioned or have lost interest in studying it.2 Seymour and Hewitt concluded that students who left science and engineering often did so because of the structure of their educational experience and the culture of the discipline.3 In the past, many students have come to the university with some mechanical engineering background from their hobbies or experiences working with cars or other machinery. The students of today tend to lack some of these experiences that connect them to engineering making it more difficult to keep them interested while teaching them basic engineering principles.

In an attempt to boost retention by better connecting with today’s engineering students, eight universities participated in a National Science Foundation sponsored project to change the undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Curriculum to make it more attractive to a diverse community of students.4 One of the efforts of this project was to develop application-based lesson plans that would use real life examples to demonstrate basic engineering concepts. Specifically, Eann Patterson developed a set of example problems that could be used in an introductory solid mechanics course.5 This paper provides an instructor review of five of these examples along with student responses to the lecture material in the form of surveys and student interviews. The specific examples used are given in the table 1.

Kiefer, S. (2010, June), Real Life Examples In A Solid Mechanics Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15845

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