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Utilizing Empathy-Based Course Modules to Enhance Student Motivation in Lower Level Mechanics Courses

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Addressing the Human Dimension in Teaching Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics

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Norman Reese P.E. LeTourneau University

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Norman Reese has taught in the engineering technology department of LeTourneau University for 6 years. Previously, he worked in industry as an engineer for NASA and later in manufacturing and renewable fuels. In addition to a research focus in design and testing of wheelchairs for developing countries, he is intrigued by student motivation (or lack thereof).

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Many students struggle with motivation in lower level engineering mechanics courses. It’s not unusual for instructors to hear students make comments like “Will this be on the test?”, “Can I borrow the book?”, and “D’s get degrees.” There seems to be an underlying belief on the part of these students that they will not need this information in the future. Thus, they find it difficult to exert the hours of effort necessary to learn it.

As part of a grant-funded three year project, the author developed 15 minute modules which used wheelchair instrumentation to demonstrate the theory presented in various courses. For Physics, the impulse-momentum principle was demonstrated while measuring wheelchair push force and velocity. In Dynamics, push force was compared to an accelerometer mounted on the wheelchair to deduce mass, showing that “F = ma”. In Mechanics of Materials, stress due to impact loading was demonstrated by impacting a wheelchair footrest while strain was observed from an attached strain gage. In each of these demonstrations, the purpose was not only to show how the theory is applicable to “real life”, but how it can be used to help people and change the world. A two question survey was given immediately before and four weeks after each demonstration to measure the students’ understanding of relevance of the course material. Little change was noted in sophomore and junior level engineering courses. However in the freshman Physics courses, the single demonstration raised scores 7%.

Reese, N. (2017, June), Utilizing Empathy-Based Course Modules to Enhance Student Motivation in Lower Level Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29100

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