Innovative approach to teaching applied structures courses

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

Publication Date



Developing new ways for teaching structures courses to engineering students, in addition to those in an alternate major (construction management, architecture, etc.) is a staple in the curriculum. One of the most common techniques used by instructors to demonstrate various concepts is by using props. While those can be effective, instructors are looking for a more digital approach that students can learn and replicate on their own. Current cohorts of students are incredibly tech savvy, and have the ability to quickly understand how to use computer programs, and the like. The advantages of knowing computer-aided applications include; increasing students' credentials while adding skills needed to attract future employers, and that students can call upon these tools in their future (after college) for help with finding the solution to a difficult problem. Firstly, this paper presents the methodology used to develop interactive images, using SolidWorks and Microsoft PowerPoint to help students better visualize and understand concepts associated with structures courses. Next, the paper discusses the effectiveness of these tools by providing the results of two student surveys. The first survey asked a cohort of students currently enrolled in a structural analysis course to rate their understanding of a list of topics associated with structural analysis and previous engineering mechanics courses. That cohort of students was then presented with a limited subset of digital animations developed using SolidWorks and Microsoft PowerPoint and was asked to complete the same survey again. One month of time existed between the two surveys. The difference in the two surveys showed an increased level of understanding in every assessed category, based on the students' perception and attitude towards the interactive images. A direct assessment of exam grades also displayed the effectiveness of these tools.



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