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Sources Of Students’ Difficulties With Couples And Moments In Statics

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Conference

2010 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Teaching Statics

Tagged Division

Mechanics

Page Count

13

Page Numbers

15.1074.1 - 15.1074.13

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/16198

Download Count

55

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Paper Authors

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Lucas Passmore Pennsylvania State University-Altoona College

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Lucas Passmore is an Instructor in Engineering at Penn State Altoona. He completed his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics in 2009. He teaches introductory engineering courses and fundamental engineering mechanics courses. His primary research is in the semiconductor device physics field, and he is currently working on the incorporation of a design element to engineering technology strength of materials course.

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Thomas Litzinger Pennsylvania State University

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Tom Litzinger is Director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. His work in engineering education involves curricular reform, teaching and learning innovations, faculty development, and assessment. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of combustion and thermal sciences. He was selected as a Fellow of ASEE in 2008. He can be contacted at tal2@psu.edu.

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Christine B. Masters Pennsylvania State University

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Christine B. Masters is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a PhD from Penn State in 1992.She has been teaching introductory mechanics courses for more than 10 years, training the department graduate teaching assistants for 7 years, coordinating the Engineering Science Honors Program undergraduate advising efforts for 5 years and currently participates in a variety of engineering educational research initiatives.

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Stephen Turns Pennsylvania State University

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Stephen R. Turns, professor of mechanical engineering, joined the faculty of The Pennsylvania State University in 1979. His research interests include combustion-generated air pollution, other combustion-related topics, and engineering education pedagogy. He is the author of three student-centered textbooks in combustion and thermal-sciences. He received degrees in mechanical engineering from Penn State (B.S. in 1970), Wayne State University (M.S. in 1975), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D. in 1979). He can be contacted at srt@psu.edu.

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Peggy Van Meter Pennsylvania State University

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Peggy Van Meter is an Associate Professor of Education within the Educational Psychology program at Penn State where she has been on the faculty since 1996. Her research includes studies of the strategic and meta-cognitive processes that learners use to integrate multiple representations and acquire knowledge that will transfer and be useful in problem solving. She can be contacted at pnv1@psu.edu.

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Carla Firetto Pennsylvania State University

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Carla Firetto is a PhD student in Educational Psychology at Penn State. Before working on her PhD, she earned a B.A. degree from Thiel College in Psychology and Sociology. Her primary research focus is the comprehension and integration of multiple texts. She can be contacted at cmf270@psu.edu.

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Sarah Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Sarah E. Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support for the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Her expertise and research interests relate to the use of think-aloud methodologies to elicit cognitive processes and strategies in assessment and related tasks. In her position, Dr. Zappe © American Society for Engineering Education, 2009 elicit cognitive processes and strategies in assessment and related tasks. In her position, Dr. Zappe is responsible for supporting curricular assessment and developing instructional support programs for faculty and teaching assistants in the College of Engineering. She can be contacted at ser163@psu.edu.

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

Sources of Students’ Difficulties with Couples and Moments in Statics

Introduction

This study was conducted in response to observations of students’ difficulties in understanding and applying moments and couples during our previous work in statics1. Over the past several years, we have been engaged in an interdisciplinary effort to help students understand the proper problem solving skills required to draw free body diagrams, an important element for developing a model of a real problem in statics. Through this effort, we have found that two key problems for students are the conceptual understanding of moments and couples and the ability to apply a moment equation during equilibrium analysis.

We believe that part of the confusion for students results from definitions that are inconsistent across textbooks and courses. In sampling a few textbooks, we found that the terms, moment, couple, and torque, have different definitions, some of which are in conflict with each other. For example, Meriam and Kraige define a couple as the moment produced by two equal, opposite, and non-collinear forces2. Other texts define a couple as a pair of equal, opposite, and non-collinear forces whose moment is defined as the moment of a couple3,4. This was the definition used as far back as 1874, and arrived at using analytical geometry5. Another issue that arises in terminology is the use of the same symbol (M) to represent both a moment and a couple across all texts that we sampled. This seems to create confusion about whether the reaction couple should be included in the sum of moments equation, and also what word should be used to describe it, and what symbol should be used to represent it.

Compounding the issues that students face in engineering mechanics courses, terms such as force, couple, and moment are used in everyday language with meanings that are often very different than the meaning in the engineering domain6. Adding to the confusion generated by these imprecise terminologies in statics are issues that arise in more advanced mechanics courses. In sampling a few mechanics of materials texts, for example, we found that the descriptions of torque, moment, and couple also vary. The internal reactions resisting ‘twisting’ in shafts are referred to as torques7,8,9,10 and moments7 and couples9. In the beam bending portion of the texts, in all cases the internal force is referred to as a ‘bending moment’7,8,9,10, however during bending stress calculations, the internal load is sometimes referred to as a couple8,9. This potential for confusion is further compounded in introductory physics courses where moments of forces are referred to as torques, a term usually reserved in mechanics for axial moments11.

These issues have led us to try and understand why students are confused about the use of moments and couples, and how we might address this in future studies. Here we report on

Passmore, L., & Litzinger, T., & Masters, C. B., & Turns, S., & Van Meter, P., & Firetto, C., & Zappe, S. (2010, June), Sources Of Students’ Difficulties With Couples And Moments In Statics Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/16198

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