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The Mechanics Project: A Pedagogy of Engagement for Undergraduate Mechanics Courses

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Alternative Methods of Teaching and Learning Mechanics

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Keith D. Hjelmstad Arizona State University

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Keith D. Hjelmstad is President's Professor of Civil Engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University.

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Amie Baisley University of Florida

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Amie Baisley is a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Florida. Her teaching and research interests are centered around the sophomore level courses that engineering students take and how changes in those courses can impact student learning and retention.

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The Mechanics Project was founded just over eight years ago at Arizona State University. The objective of the project was to improve the learning experience in the sophomore level mechanics courses (statics, dynamics, and deformable solids). We have designed and implemented an engaged learning environment that encourages students to discover and explore the foundational engineering concepts in these courses more deeply, emphasizing ‘why’ as much as ‘how’ in the learning process. The courses associated with The Mechanics Project are designed around two-week modules that comprise four active recitation periods, one lecture, and one assessment. Most of the class time is spent in a highly engaged student-centered recitation environment, staffed by an instructor and a team of undergraduate teaching assistants. This structure allows the students to have a more individualized learning experience in a supportive environment. The frequent assessments make examinations less stressful and mastery-based grading allows each student to monitor their progress on achieving the individual course learning objectives. A course survey, administered each semester, shows a high level of student satisfaction with the instructional elements that make up the course structure. This paper will describe the details of the course design and document some of the outcomes.

Hjelmstad, K. D., & Baisley, A. (2020, June), The Mechanics Project: A Pedagogy of Engagement for Undergraduate Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35346

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