Advancing Computational Knowledge and Skill Through Computing Projects in Sophomore-level Mechanics Courses

Keith D. Hjelmstad, Amie Baisley

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The desire to graduate students with more advanced computational knowledge has become a hot topic in curriculum design. One route to do that is through integration of computing in the foundational mechanics courses (statics, dynamics, and solid mechanics). The implementation of computing projects in these sophomore-level courses has resulted in computing becoming an integral part of those courses at our institutions. This shift has changed the mindset in both students and faculty, greatly expanding the range of problems that students can explore at the sophomore level. Computing projects offer the ability to introduce more open-ended problems in the mechanics courses where students can think about certain concepts more deeply. It also provides the opportunity to introduce important ideas of numerical analysis in a way that makes those techniques immediately relevant. The projects also encourage students to get more creative, in courses often viewed as skill development, by seeking means to verify their codes and then use those codes to explore the target problem without the encumbrance of tedious hand calculations. Requiring that each student write a full technical report for each project pushes the students to make connections between theory and results and it gives the instructor a window into the depth of their learning. In our implementation, each of the three courses requires four to six computing projects during a semester that involve problem formulation, coding in MATLAB, exploration using the code, and writing a final report. The level of inquiry and documentation for each project goes far beyond what we typically see in the standard handwritten problem solutions that have long been the stock and trade of these courses. Each course has its own unique set of projects that focus on various mechanics concepts. The paper will discuss the types of projects implemented and observed student outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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