A problem-centered approach to dynamics

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2 Scopus citations


When teaching dynamics, one of our goals is to expose future engineers to a variety of real-world problems and modern engineering tools. Historically, we have done this via example problems worked in class and homework problems we assign to the students. On the other hand, the theory associated with new ideas was always presented the way it is done in the most popular textbooks, that is, we would just jump into derivations with minimal motivation as to why these new ideas were needed. Our exposure to the literature on problem-based learning prompted us to experiment with it in a studio environment with small numbers of students. Unfortunately, this required two faculty in every class and, as a result, was very labor intensive. Therefore, we wondered if new material could be introduced in a more contextual fashion (i.e., introducing a problem whose solution is best obtained using ideas that are developed as the problem is solved) to capture the motivational effect of problem-based learning, but in a more standard setting. This paper describes, via a number of examples, this approach to the introduction of new ideas that we call problem-centered. We also relate our experience in teaching dynamics this way, in lectures delivered electronically and in lectures delivered on the chalkboard, to large classes and small, and to honors and non-honors students. Finally, we present anecdotal evidence that the approach, at the very least, captures the interest of the students. While we have no data comparing the performance of students taught the way we used to teach dynamics with the performance of students taught in this problem-centered fashion, we feel it is important to report that problem-centered approach can be used with success in a variety of settings, where success means that it doesn't get in the way of the amount of material that can be taught and that the students' interest in the material is enhanced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2008
Event2008 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Pittsburg, PA, United States
Duration: Jun 22 2008Jun 24 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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