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The Military Tank – An Example For Rigid Body Kinematics

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Teaching Mechanical Systems: What's New

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1244.1 - 15.1244.13



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Walchko United States Military Academy

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

The Military Tank – An Example for Rigid Body Kinematics


Rigid body kinematics in an undergraduate dynamics course is typically a challenging area for undergraduate students to master. Much of this difficulty stems from the inability to “see” or physically comprehend the motion of multiple rigid bodies. Couple this rigid body motion with the context of reference frames, and the students “sight” and understanding of the motion becomes even more clouded. Numerous examples and demonstrations exist to aid in this understanding of motion and rigid body kinetics, however, the military tank is one of the best examples for many aspects of rigid body kinematics covered in an undergraduate dynamics course. Nearly every student can picture, in his or her mind, a military tank and the motion of the chassis and the independent motion of the turret atop this chassis. It is this easy vision which allows the military tank to become such a powerful model for student understanding of rigid body kinematics in an undergraduate engineering course. The military tank is useful to show kinematic concepts of relative velocity, rotating reference frames, relative motion, and instantaneous centers of rotations. The military tank is a single example that an instructor can thread through two-dimensional kinematics, as well as, three-dimensional kinematics.

1. Introduction

One of the most difficult concepts for students in an undergraduate dynamics course is that of rigid body kinematics. The geometry of rigid body motion, a topic most students are familiar with from undergraduate physics, takes on additional complexity as one introduces angular velocities and accelerations of rigid bodies. Couple this with the fact that the majority of students in an undergraduate dynamics course just completed an undergraduate statics course free of motion, and the result is clouded confusion and inability to understand what is really happening to the rigid body. Dynamics is a course best taught with demonstrations and videos of the motion of rigid bodies. Unfortunately, textbook pictures require the student to imagine the motion of these rigid bodies from a still picture with limited depth perspective. For new students just entering the engineering discipline, the ability to imagine this motion can be quite difficult depending upon the student’s limited engineering experience and intuition. This topic of the “novice” college student has been investigated by numerous researchers, but Wankat and Oreovicz comment that when solving problems, students in general are not proficient at strategy, interpretation, and generation.1 It is this interpretation that a “good” model or demonstration can assist with. Most engineers tend to be primarily left-brain-oriented, which is mainly involved in verbal analytical thinking.2 The right hemisphere of the brain mainly processes visual and perceptive thought, and its mode of processing involves intuition and leaps of insight. Since engineering education is predominantly left-hemisphere oriented, fostering the student’s use of the right side of the brain becomes an integral part of successful learning. Adams identified a perceptual block that students encounter where they have difficulty seeing various aspects or ramifications of a problem.3 It is important to get past this block because visual learning techniques increase the student’s comprehension and learning.4 Engineering educators facilitate such visual learning through pictures, images, and demonstrations. Educators desire to get the right brain involved, thus increasing conceptual understanding and perceptive abilities.

Walchko, J. (2010, June), The Military Tank – An Example For Rigid Body Kinematics Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15718

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