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Truss Projects as Aids in Visualizing Internal Forces: Student Perceptions versus Achievement

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD X: First-Year Design with Projects, Modeling, and Simulation

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1554.1 - 22.1554.9



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Paper Authors


Matthew Whiteacre Texas A&M University

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Matthew Whiteacre has taught in the Freshman Engineering Graphics program at Texas A&M for the past 27 years, rising in the ranks from being a graduate assistant to his current position of Assistant Department Head of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University.

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Jeffrey M. Otey Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Truss Projects as Aids in Visualizing Internal Forces: Student Perceptions versus AchievementThe Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University received a grant from theNational Science Foundation entitled, “STEPS: Retention Through Applied Physics,Engineering, and Mathematics.” in order to decrease freshmen attrition. A project orientedcurriculum, used to reinforce the interdisciplinary nature of math and physics with engineering,was installed in introductory freshmen engineering classes. The Freshmen Engineering Programwas divided into three tracks, reflecting the academic priorities of each department. Themechanics track (primarily aerospace, civil, and mechanical engineering) instituted a project thatexamines the topic of statics by analyzing a truss of student design using Magnastix, aneducational product made up of magnetic sticks and steel spheres. Student teams were givenbasic minimum requirements to fulfill, but truss design was open ended. Requirements includeda testable physical and mathematical model. Other project requirements included calculation oflive load capacity and a comparison to actual failure load, examination of the factor of safety,construction cost, and completion of a report that discussed discrepancies between theoreticaland actual failure load.At project’s end, optional student surveys were collected about the value of the truss project(from student perspective) and whether students reported increased confidence as they enterfuture engineering mechanics courses. This paper discusses survey results that reflect studentattitudes about the perceived value of the project as an aid in visualizing internal forces and acomparison of grade point averages in college-wide statics classes before and after incorporationof the truss project.

Whiteacre, M., & Otey, J. M. (2011, June), Truss Projects as Aids in Visualizing Internal Forces: Student Perceptions versus Achievement Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18698

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