This online tutorial allows students to construct free body diagrams (Part I) and to write equilibruim equations (Part II). Students can practice constructing free body diagrams for beams, frames, machines, and trusses, and develop equilibruim equations for beams, frames, and trusses. The site provides 112 practice problems, 45 of which are contained within the free body diagram section.
Free body diagrams are constructed by dragging appropriate reactions from a panel to the empty diagram. Equilibrium equations for forces in the x and y directions and moments are entered into an equation box. Students can then click on a "check" button to see if their solution is correct in either section.
An overview of how to use the tools for both Part I and Part II is included in the Introduction section. Movie clips are provided to demonstrate how the process of diagram construction and the process for entering equations are performed.
For this tutorial, instructors can elect to have their class be able to participate in a "side note" option so that they can enter notes on problem solutions as they figure them out, so that the notes could be used for study/review at a later date. Additionally, instructors can also choose to have email assistance available from the tutorial creators for students.
This interactive e-book is designed to allow undergraduate engineering students to assess ability to create free-body diagrams and test their equilibrium equations skills for rigid bodies.
Type of Material:
This is an online e-book providing a tutorial for constructing free body diagrams and equilibrium equations.
This tutorial would be a good companion set of material to a student in Statics or Structures I who would like extra practice to prepare for an exam. It would also be useful to help students better understand concepts, provided they already have a decent understanding of the material. (A student who is "lost" would not be an appropriate user of this e-book).
This e-book could also be used by instructors to demonstrate construction of free body diagrams to students.
No special requirements.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The goal of this tutorial is to provide students with additional resources to practice drawing free body digrams and developing equilibrium equations for beams, frames, and trusses.
Target Student Population:
The target population for this tutorial would be engineering majors in Statics courses, or civil engineering students in the beginning structures course.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Students should be fairly knowledgeable on these subjects before attempting to use the tutorial. The help provided when an incorrect answer is given is very basic. (Ex. Too many forces, too few forces, Incorrect equation, try again.) Even if students had access to the email help availalbe through the tutorial creators, several hours must be allowed for email responses. This tutorial would be frustrating for those students who do not already have a fairly good grasp of these concepts.
The content of this e-book is excellent for providing Statics and Structures I students with additional practice in developing free body diagrams and equilibrium equations. The various type of problems provide a diverse group of problems for students to explore. The free body diagrams provide a nice visual tool for students so that they are able to gain experience with these concepts in a new way (rather than simply classroom lecture). So many engineering students tend to be visual learners, that this tool should be quite valuable in furthering their understanding of the concepts. The number and types of examples provided are more than adequate. Problems progress in difficulty through each section, giving students the opportunity to start with more basic problems and work their way up to more challenging ones.
I think this tutorial would be more effective if there was a general overview of both drawing free body diagrams, and writing equilibrium equations. This would allow the e-book to be useful to an even broader range of students. As the text is now, students must be fairly competent in both subjects in order to use the tutorial.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The visual tool for the free body diagrams is excellent. This could be easily used in a Structures or Statics course by the instructor to provide additional examples through a visual method in an effort to appeal to a broader spectrum of learners. If this was used as a teaching tool, it would also make it easier for students to then use the e-book on their own, as many of the pitfalls encountered by a new user would already have been explained. Both the free body diagram tool and the equilibrium equation editor could be used in a classroom setting to encourage student engagement. Students could volunteer to try their solution for the class,
or could be selected to do so.
The instructor demonstrating this tool must be very familiar with the e-book and must have practiced solving multiple problems of varying difficulty before presentation to a class. There are many features and requirements not readily grasped when viewing the movie clips that demonstrate the use of the tools. This would also not be an appropriate tool for a student to "teach themselves" as not enough information is provided either for the background material to these topics, or for the use of the tools.
Solutions need to be available for students after a limited number of unsuccessful attempts at solving the problems. Students may get frustrated if they cannot determine the solution.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The basic premise for the use of these tools is fairly readily apparent. The media clips should provide a base level of understanding for students/faculty to use the tools. The click and drag functions makes the program easy to use.
Many aspects of the tools were not easily understood. For instance, there are no explicit instructions about changing labels (a very important component of the free body diagram tool). The media clip does show labels being changed for applied forces, however, the clip proceeds so rapidly, that it is easy to miss this concept. In the introductory text, the need to change lables is mentioned briefly. This requirement could be easily overlooked, thus causing students much frustration.
It is also not clear that you are actually able to sum moments about any point you choose in the equilibrium equation section. This also may be a source of frustration to users. Additionally, the way in which equations must be entered should be more explicitly defined. Finally,
more feedback is needed when there is an incorrect solution.
Other Issues and Comments:
This tool can be a very effective "extra" for students fairly competent in development of free body diagrams and equilibrium equations. It also can be used very effectively in the classroom to provide an additional method of learning to appeal to a wider variety of student learning styles.
The explanation for how to used each of the tools should be expanded. This might be accomplished simply by using more complex problems in the demonstration clips and slowing down the clip play rate. However, it would probably be more effective to also provide more detailed written instructions and examples for using both tools.
The online tutorial could also be appropriate for a wider variety of learners if background information about both topics was provided. In particular, it would be helpful to provide an example diagram of loading and support conditions so that students could use this as a reference when attempting to solve problems.
Additionally, the "help" provided is very vague. I imagine students could easily become frustrated when they repeatedly get a comment like "too few forces." More detailed "hints" helping to lead them to the correct solution would be more beneficial.
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