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Sophomore Year Project Design In Mechanics Of Materials

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Improving Mechanics of Materials Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1012.1 - 7.1012.8



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Paper Authors

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Kevin Sutterer

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Session 2468

Sophomore-Year Project Design in Mechanics of Materials Kevin G. Sutterer, P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Introduction Civil Engineering students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (R-HIT) begin to learn open- ended, project-based design in a first year civil engineering design course where groups of 3-5 students work for outside clients on a simple civil engineering project. In their Junior year, students participate in a three-course structural engineering sequence (1) where they design a proposed 2 to 3-story campus structure, beginning with design of foundations and preparation of a geotechnical report, and followed by a concrete frame design and steel frame alternative in two subsequent courses. As seniors, civil engineering students work in teams of 3-5 students on a year-long design project for an outside client that produces a quality “real world” engineering work. In other junior and senior year classes, students also complete projects of varying complexity. However, formal design of an engineered system has not been a part of any of the required courses for civil engineers in the sophomore year. Rose-Hulman’s academic year uses the quarter system and pushes students to begin engineering course work by the end of their freshman year. By the Winter Quarter of their sophomore year, civil engineering students are enrolled in Mechanics of Materials, having already completed course work in Engineering Statics and Engineering Dynamics. Thus, by the middle of their sophomore year, they have acquired most of the tools necessary for some simple quantitative engineering system design.

By the sophomore year, engineering students can also begin to experience “burnout” with their courses and often express a desire to get on with some “real engineering.” Retention can be a particular challenge at this stage of engineering students’ college career. Regardless of whether retention becomes an issue, student motivation can be a problem. Students who are excited about the work they are doing are usually better learners, so poorly motivated students taking fundamental engineering mechanics courses provides a poor foundation for learning specialized engineering design in the junior and senior year. The author has also observed that incoming civil engineering juniors are not well prepared to tackle the open-ended design work that is expected in their upper division courses. This paper describes the author’s ongoing effort to excite and educate civil engineering sophomores about the engineering design process by challenging them with an open-ended structural system design as part of their Mechanics of Materials course. It should be noted that although the course described herein is mostly populated by civil engineering students, 15-25% of the class also often consists of mechanical engineering students who are taking the class out of sequence with their mechanical engineering curriculum.

The author has found the “backward” design process described by Wiggins and McTighe (2) to be helpful in curriculum review and revision. Backward design consists of a staged approach to curriculum design, consisting of 1) identify desired results, 2) determine acceptable evidence, and 3) plan learning experiences and instruction. To identify desired results, curriculum

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Sutterer, K. (2002, June), Sophomore Year Project Design In Mechanics Of Materials Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10770

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