Design and Application of a Beam Testing System for Experiential Learning in Mechanics of Materials

ABSTRACT

Research shows that students can significantly improve their understanding and retention of topics presented in an engineering course when discussions of theoretical and mathematical approaches are combined with active-learning exercises involving hands-on physical experiments. In this paper, the design and application of a beam testing system (BTS) to promote experiential learning in mechanics of materials are discussed. Students in the experimental group were given the opportunity to verify their analytical predictions on two separate projects by conducting experiments using the BTS, whereas those in the comparison group only performed the analysis part. Based on statistical analysis of the performance of the two student groups on a common exam problem, the experiential learning is found to have a positive but limited impact. Moreover, the students’ responses to an anonymous survey indicate that the students in the experimental group generally had a higher degree of satisfaction with the class projects than those in the comparison group.

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R. Warsi Sullivan
Mississippi State University
Miss. State, MS

M. Rais-Rohani
Mississippi State University
Miss. State, MS

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