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Reinventing The Teaching Of 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

Improving Statics and Dynamics Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1050.1 - 9.1050.16

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Paper Authors

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Anna Dollar

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Paul Steif

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

Session 1368


Anna Dollár, Paul S. Steif

Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Department Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056 /

Department of Mechanical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Learning in the subject of Engineering Statics deserves significant attention. First, Statics lays the foundation for subsequent courses, namely Dynamics and Strength of Materials, both of which rely heavily on free body diagrams and on recognizing the combined effect of forces. While there are new ideas which are emphasized in engineering dynamics, instructors in this subject inevitably find that some of students’ difficulties are rooted in ideas from Statics, such as free body diagrams and working with forces. One of the most fundamental concepts in strength of materials is that of internal loads and its relation to external loads. This idea is wholly within the domain of Statics, yet a concept inventory for mechanics of materials currently under development rightfully points to this as one of its core concepts1. Second, Statics, together with these courses, forms the basis for much engineering design and practice. Again, instructors in engineering design2 lament the difficulties students have in using Statics for the purpose of their course. In sum, all is not well with instruction in Statics.

It appears that the ideas of Statics, if learned at all, are often not learned in ways that would enable their extension beyond the course. Many Statics problems are, at least superficially, set in a context of engineering applications and hardware, as evidenced by the problems in many Statics textbooks. Nevertheless, students tend to be largely focused on arriving at a mathematical solution, with little attention paid to how the solution is related to the physical context of the problem. Perhaps this is not surprising given strong emphasis on mathematical manipulation evident in the early chapters of most Statics textbooks. One instance where the practicalities of the actual engineering hardware beg to be considered is that of the mutual forces exerted by bodies connected in various ways. Yet, even here, textbooks largely reduce the treatment to a set of tables which students have no recourse but to memorize.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Dollar, A., & Steif, P. (2004, June), Reinventing The Teaching Of Statics Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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