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Statics A Special Case Of Dynamics, An Alternative Approach To Teaching Mechanics

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Improving Statics and Dynamics Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1028.1 - 8.1028.9

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Paper Authors

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Ann Anderson

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Ronald Bucinell

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

Session 2268

Statics as a Special Case of Dynamics, An Alternative Way of Teaching Mechanics

Ronald B. Bucinell, Ann M. Anderson Union College Department of Mechanical Engineering Schenectady, NY 12308


For the past 8 years Union College has been teaching a course in the kinematics and kinetics of particles and rigid bodies. This course replaced the traditional statics and dynamics course sequence that use to be taught to mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering students at Union College. More recently this single course has been divided into two courses, one in particle mechanics and one in rigid body mechanics. Using this approach, students are shown that statics is a simplified case of dynamics. Free body and mass/acceleration diagrams, hands on laboratory exercises, and design projects are used to illustrate this relationship. A summary of the success of the course being taught this way is presented.


Engineering students are traditionally introduced to topics in engineering mechanics through trimester courses in statics and dynamics. This is true throughout the United States and the World with few exceptions. During the reform of the Union College Engineering Curriculum that took place in the mid 1990s [1], the rational for introducing students to mechanics in this fashion was called into question. Since statics can be considered a subset of dynamics, is there a pedagogical benefit to introducing students to the subject of mechanics from this perspective? Before this question can be answered it is instructive to look back in the history of mechanics, and more importantly engineering mechanics, and see why the statics and dynamics course sequence is so thoroughly entrenched in engineering curricula throughout the world.

Complete histories of mechanics can be found in several references [2-6]. An abridged version is presented here for the purpose of understanding how the teaching of mechanics has evolved in engineering education. The history of mechanics dates back as far as the Egyptian mathematician Euclid (365-300 B.C.). Euclid’s contributions to mathematics were essential to the advances in Newtonian mechanics. The Greek scientist Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) is credited with deriving the law of equilibrium of a lever which was later refined by Archimedes (287-212 B.C.). Between Aristotle and Galileo some argue that there were only minor contributions to mechanics. These contributions included the studies of planetary motion by Copernicus (1473-

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright @ 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Anderson, A., & Bucinell, R. (2003, June), Statics A Special Case Of Dynamics, An Alternative Approach To Teaching Mechanics Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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