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The Impact of the Physics, Statics, and Mechanics Sequence on Student Retention and Performance in Mechanical Engineering

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 11

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kathryn Anne Wingate Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Kathryn Wingate started as an Academic Professional in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering in the summer of 2014. She received a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BS in Astronomy from the University of Illinois in 2005. After graduation she went to work for Northrop Grumman Space Technology in Redondo Beach, California. In her time at Northrop Grumman Kathryn served as a material scientist specializing in the failure analysis of microelectronics on several defense satellite programs. In 2009 she left industry to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado, where her research focused on the development of novel biomaterials for cardiovascular tissue engineering. At the GWW School of Mechanical Engineering, Kathryn teaches the junior level Machine Design and senior level Capstone Design courses, as well as advises the BSMS students.

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Aldo A. Ferri Georgia Institute of Technology

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Al Ferri received his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University in 1981 and his PhD degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 1985. Since 1985, he has been a faculty member in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, where he now serves as Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies. His research areas are in the fields of dynamics, controls, vibrations, and acoustics. He is also active in course and curriculum development. He is a Fellow of the ASME.

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Karen M. Feigh Georgia Tech

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Karen M. Feigh is an associate professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia
Institute of Technology. Her research interests include cognitive engineering, design of decision
support systems, human-automation interaction, and behavioral modeling. She teaches courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level on topics including flight dynamics, cognitive engineering, and human-automation interaction.

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Engineering curricula are known to be challenging because they require high-level technical knowledge, critical thinking, and creative problem solving skills. The curricula are characterized as having long pre-requisite chains because high-level material requires understanding of core engineering knowledge, which in turn rests on a wide spectrum of math and science courses. In mechanical engineering, one of the critical pre-requisite chains involves the so called “mechanics sequence,” which runs from Physics to Statics and then to Mechanics and Dynamics. This paper examines how performance in these key classes affects students’ persistence in engineering, as measured by GPA at graduation and time-to-graduate. It is found that Statics has the largest impact on the academic success of struggling mechanical engineering students. While some students can overcome poor grades in Physics, struggles in Physics often foretell continued problems throughout the mechanical engineering curriculum.

Wingate, K. A., & Ferri, A. A., & Feigh, K. M. (2018, June), The Impact of the Physics, Statics, and Mechanics Sequence on Student Retention and Performance in Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31111

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