Physical and computer demonstrations in enhancing student understanding of structural mechanics courses
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Structural Engineering, a highly technical discipline, includes foundation knowledge for a range of engineering professions and is traditionally restricted by rigorous accreditation requirements. Focused in this paper are fundamental and analytical courses in structural engineering and mechanics. These courses are generally perceived by most students as challenging at times due firstly to complicated theory and analysis concepts covered and secondly the difficulties associated with visualising how structures behave when subjected to loads. In order to help students visualise the behaviour of structures and to better understand difficult and abstract concepts, complex methodologies and computational procedures, we have endeavoured to produce a series of scaled-down physical models, hands-on demonstration and digital animation tools as visual aids, with explanations of the matching concepts and calculations being covered. This approach has been highly valued by all students. Despite the difficulty of structural mechanics content, students still find these courses challenging but also interesting and enjoyable which contributes to motivating students and maximising their learning abilities, as evident in student evaluations. This paper presents the methods used at Griffith University and the learning objectives behind them. In view of the positive feedback received from the students, this paper concludes that future research will be undertaken to quantify the efficiency of using visual demonstrations in structural mechanics courses.
Proceedings of the 2011 AAEE Conference
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Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy