An Interactive Dynamics Learning Course

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics; Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology


An Interactive Dynamics Learning Course Abstract: The key course of Dynamics, taught in all Engineering and Engineering Technology (ET) curricula, coversa broad spectrum of foundational concepts, such as velocity, acceleration, force, energy, impulse, and momentum. It is well-recognized that Dynamics is a fundamental building block for many subsequent courses such as Machine Design, Applied Fluid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, and Heat Transfer. Engineering programs often focus on theory and conceptual design, while ET programs emphasize the applications of these principles. However, in Engineering and in ET, successful learning of Dynamics demands several interrelated skills on the part of students, beginning with spatial visualization, a clear grasp and application of physical concepts in various settings, followed by mathematical skills. These skills, if developed harmoniously, should lead to the successful development of problem-solving skills in Dynamics. However, in our consistent experience, students struggle with spatial visualization as well as physical concepts, which blocks further progress in their learning. At two engineering universities, Dynamics courses (MET ---- and MET ---, respectively) are high-enrollment, high-impact sophomore METcore courses. 2004-2013 GPA data for MET courses offered at --- confirm the statement made by Magill[1] that Dynamics is “one of the more difficult courses that engineering students encounter during their undergraduate study. ”Dynamics is essentially the study of motion, but textbooks and whiteboards, the traditional classroom teaching tools, cannot capture this motion. MET --- and MET --- have traditionally been taught in “chalk and talk” mode, where the instructor presents three, 50-minute lectures per week. For the majority of the class duration, students passively take notes on theory and example problems presented by the instructor, while about ten minutes might be devoted to questions and answers. In this way, students are not actively engaged in the learning process. To try and remedy these deficiencies, we plan to develop an interactive class that will essentially transform the lecture-intensive course into an “Interactive Dynamics Learning Course” (IDLC) that will a. directly address the hands-on learning approach of ET students, b. enable students to clearly visualize particle and rigid body motion and forces, which they struggle with in traditional classes, c. enhance their comprehension of key physical concepts, and therebyd. improve their problem-solving skills and comprehension of the subject. To study the impact on student learning in the IDLC, a pilot study will be conducted. A four-bar mechanism will be designed and a manipulative model fabricated that students will directly work with in the spring 2014 semester Dynamics course at one of the universities. Plexiglas would be used to build the linkage, making it lightweight and relatively inexpensive. The linkage will have a base to allow the device to rest on a table, and have a handle which will be used for inputting the motion at the motor joint. This pilot study will allow students to explore the relative motion and forces at different points of the linkage by adjusting the lengths of the various links. They will also be able to trace the path of the rocker joint on paper. In addition to the devices, simulations (e.g., based on Working Model 2D, SolidWorks, or others) of the linkage will also be made available on the course web-site. These simulations will be accessible even outside regular class times, and will substantially help to fix the concepts in the students’ minds. To evaluate the success of the intervention, a pre-and-post- IDLC statistical assessment of the improvements in student comprehension and problem-solving ability will also be conducted.

Publication Title

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition