skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 10, 2024

Title: An active learning approach to teach distributed forces using augmented reality with guided inquiry

Mastering the concept of distributed forces is vital for students who are pursuing a major involving engineering mechanics. Misconceptions related to distributed forces that are typically acquired in introductory Physics courses should be corrected to increase student success in subsequent mechanics coursework. The goal of this study was to develop and assess a guided instructional activity using augmented reality (AR) technology to improve undergraduate engineering students' understanding of distributed forces. The AR app was accompanied by a complementary activity to guide and challenge students to model objects as beams with progressively increasing difficulty. The AR tool allowed students to (a) model a tabletop as a beam with multiple distributed forces, (b) visualize the free body diagram, and (c) compute the external support reactions. To assess the effectiveness of the activity, 43 students were allocated to control and treatment groups using an experimental nonequivalent groups preactivity/postactivity test design. Of the 43 students, 35 participated in their respective activity. Students in the control group collaborated on traditional problem‐solving, while those in the treatment group engaged in a guided activity using AR. Students' knowledge of distributed forces was measured using their scores on a 10‐item test instrument. Analysis of covariance was utilized to analyze postactivity test scores by controlling for the preactivity test scores. The treatment group demonstrated a significantly greater improvement in postactivity test scores than that of the control group. The measured effect size was 0.13, indicating that 13% of the total variance in the postactivity test scores can be attributed to the activity. Though the effect size was small, the results suggest that a guided AR activity can be more effective in improving student learning outcomes than traditional problem‐solving.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Computer Applications in Engineering Education
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This evidence-based practices paper discusses the method employed in validating the use of a project modified version of the PROCESS tool (Grigg, Van Dyken, Benson, & Morkos, 2013) for measuring student problem solving skills. The PROCESS tool allows raters to score students’ ability in the domains of Problem definition, Representing the problem, Organizing information, Calculations, Evaluating the solution, Solution communication, and Self-assessment. Specifically, this research compares student performance on solving traditional textbook problems with novel, student-generated learning activities (i.e. reverse engineering videos in order to then create their own homework problem and solution). The use of student-generated learning activities to assess student problem solving skills has theoretical underpinning in Felder’s (1987) work of “creating creative engineers,” as well as the need to develop students’ abilities to transfer learning and solve problems in a variety of real world settings. In this study, four raters used the PROCESS tool to score the performance of 70 students randomly selected from two undergraduate chemical engineering cohorts at two Midwest universities. Students from both cohorts solved 12 traditional textbook style problems and students from the second cohort solved an additional nine student-generated video problems. Any large scale assessment where multiple raters use a rating tool requires the investigation of several aspects of validity. The many-facets Rasch measurement model (MFRM; Linacre, 1989) has the psychometric properties to determine if there are any characteristics other than “student problem solving skills” that influence the scores assigned, such as rater bias, problem difficulty, or student demographics. Before implementing the full rating plan, MFRM was used to examine how raters interacted with the six items on the modified PROCESS tool to score a random selection of 20 students’ performance in solving one problem. An external evaluator led “inter-rater reliability” meetings where raters deliberated rationale for their ratings and differences were resolved by recourse to Pretz, et al.’s (2003) problem-solving cycle that informed the development of the PROCESS tool. To test the new understandings of the PROCESS tool, raters were assigned to score one new problem from a different randomly selected group of six students. Those results were then analyzed in the same manner as before. This iterative process resulted in substantial increases in reliability, which can be attributed to increased confidence that raters were operating with common definitions of the items on the PROCESS tool and rating with consistent and comparable severity. This presentation will include examples of the student-generated problems and a discussion of common discrepancies and solutions to the raters’ initial use of the PROCESS tool. Findings as well as the adapted PROCESS tool used in this study can be useful to engineering educators and engineering education researchers. 
    more » « less
  2. This complete evidence-based practice paper discusses the strategies and results of an introduction to mechanics course, designed to prepare students for introductory-level physics and other fundamental courses in engineering, such as statics, strength of materials, and dynamics. The course was developed to address historically high failure (DFW) rates in the physics courses and is part of a set of interventions implemented to support student success in a college of engineering and computer science. The course focuses on providing in-depth understanding of Newton’s Laws of motion, free-body diagrams, and linear and projectile motion. Because it focuses on a limited number of competencies, it is possible to spend more time on inquiry-based activities and in-class discussions. The course framework was designed considering the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, to provide students with learning opportunities in 6-day cycles: (i) day 1: a pre-class learning activity (reading or video) and a quiz; (ii) day 2: in-class Kahoot low-stakes quiz with discussion, a short lecture with embedded time for problem-solving and discussion, and in-class activities (labs, group projects); (iii) day 4: homework due two days after the class; (iv) day 6: homework self-reflection (autopsy based on provided solutions) two days after homework is due. The assessment of course performance is based on the well-characterized force concept inventory (FCI) exam that is administered before the intro to mechanics course and both before and after the Physics I course; and on student performance (grades) in Physics and Statics courses. Results from the FCI pre-test show that students who took the introduction to mechanics course (treatment group) started the physics course with a much better understanding of force concepts than other students in the course. The FCI post-test shows better normalized gain for the treatment group, compared to other students, which is also aligned with student performance in the course. Additionally, student performance is significantly better in statics, with 25% DWF rate compared to 50% for the other students. In summary, the framework of the course, which focuses on providing students with in-depth understanding of force concepts, has led to better learning and performance in Physics I, but importantly it has also helped students achieve better performance in the Statics course, the first fundamental course in civil and mechanical engineering programs. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Background

    Undergraduate students consistently struggle with mastering concepts related to thermodynamics. Prior work has shown that haptic technology and intensive hands‐on workshops help improve learning outcomes relative to traditional lecture‐based thermodynamics instruction. The current study takes a more feasible approach to improving thermal understanding by incorporating simple mechanical objects into individual problem‐solving exercises.


    This study tests the impact of simple mechanical objects on learning outcomes (specifically, problem‐solving performance and conceptual understanding) for third‐year undergraduate engineering students in a thermodynamics course across a semester.


    During the semester, 119 engineering students in two sections of an undergraduate thermodynamics course completed three 15‐min, self‐guided problem‐solving tasks, one section without and the other with a simple and relevant physical object. Performance on the tasks and improvements in thermodynamics comprehension (measured via Thermal and Transport Concept Inventory scores) were compared between the two sections.


    Students who had a simple, relevant object available to solve three thermodynamics problems consistently outperformed their counterparts without objects, although only to statistical significance when examining the simple effects for the third problem. At the end of the semester, students who had completed the tasks with the objects displayed significantly greater improvements in thermodynamics comprehension than their peers without the relevant object. Higher mechanical aptitude facilitated the beneficial effect of object availability on comprehension improvements.


    Findings suggest that the incorporation of simple mechanical objects into active learning exercises in thermodynamics curricula could facilitate student learning in thermodynamics and potentially other abstract domains.

    more » « less
  4. Security is a critical aspect in the design, development, and testing of software systems. Due to the increasing need for security-related skills within software systems and engineering, there is a growing demand for these skills to be taught at the university level. A series of 41 security modules was developed to assess the impact of these modules on teaching critical cyber security topics to students. This paper presents the implementation and outcomes of the first set of six security modules in a Freshman level course. This set consists of five modules presented in lectures as well as a sixth module emphasizing encryption and decryption used as the semester project for the course. Each module is a collection of concepts related to cyber security. The individual cyber security concepts are presented with a general description of a security issue to avoid, sample code with the security issue written in the Java programming language, and a second version of the code with an effective solution. The set of these modules was implemented in Computer Science I during the Fall 2019 semester. Incorporating each of the concepts in these modules into lectures depends on both the topic covered and the approach to resolving the related security issue. Students were introduced to computing concepts related to both the security issue and the appropriate solution to fully grasp the overall concept. After presenting the materials to students, continual review with students is also essential. This reviewal process requires exploring use-cases for the programming mechanisms presented as solutions to the security issues discussed. In addition to the security modules presented in lectures, students were given a hands-on approach to understanding the concepts through Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs). MEAs are open-ended, problem-solving activities in which groups of three to four students work to solve realistic complex problems in a classroom setting. The semester project related to encryption and decryption was implemented into the course as an MEA. To assess the effectiveness of incorporating security modules with the MEA project into the curriculum of Computer Science I, two sections of the course were used as a control group and a treatment group. The treatment group included the security modules in lectures and the MEA project while the control group did not. To measure the overall effectiveness of incorporating security modules with the MEA project, both the instructor’s effectiveness as well as the student’s attitudes and interest were measured. For instructors, the primary question to address was to what extent do instructors change their attitudes towards student learning and their teaching practices because of the implementation of cyber security modules through MEAs. For students, the primary question to address was how the inclusion of security modules with the MEA project improved their understanding of the course materials and their interests in computer science. After implementing security modules with the MEA project, students showed a better understanding of cyber security concepts and a greater interest in broader computer science concepts. The instructor’s beliefs about teaching, learning, and assessment shifted from teacher-centered to student-centered, during his experience with the security modules and MEA. 
    more » « less
  5. A multidisciplinary service-learning project that involved teaching engineering to fourth and fifth graders was implemented in three sets of engineering and education classes to determine if there was an impact on engineering knowledge and teamwork skills in both the engineering and education students as well as persistence in the engineering students. Collaboration 1 paired a 100-level engineering Information Literacy class in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with a 300-level Educational Foundation class. Collaboration 2 combined a 300-level Electromechanical Systems class in Mechanical Engineering with a 400-level Educational Technology class. Collaboration 3 paired a 300-level Fluid Mechanics class in Mechanical Engineering Technology with a 400-level Elementary Science Methods class. Collaborations 1 and 3 interacted with fourth or fifth graders by developing and delivering lessons to the elementary students. Students in collaboration 2 worked with fifth graders in an after-school technology club. While each collaboration had its unique elements, all collaborations included the engineering design process both in classroom instruction and during the service learning project. Quantitative data were collected from both engineering and education students in a pretest/posttest design. Teamwork skills were measured in engineering students using a validated teamwork skills assessment based on peer evaluation. Each class had a comparison class taught by the same instructor that included a team project, and the same quantitative measures. Engineering students who participated in collaboration 1 were evaluated for retention, which was defined as students who were still enrolled in the college of engineering and technology two semesters after completion of the course. Engineering students also completed an evaluation of academic and professional persistence. For the engineering students, none of the assessments involving technical skills had significant differences, although the design process knowledge tests trended upward in the treatment classes. The preservice teachers in the treatment group scored significantly higher in the design process knowledge test, and preservice teachers in collaborations 1 and 3 had higher scores in the engineering knowledge test than the comparison group. Teamwork skills in the treatment group were significantly higher than in the comparison group for both engineering and education students. Thus, engineering and education students in the treatment groups saw gains in teamwork skills, while education students saw more gains in engineering knowledge. Finally, all engineering students had significantly higher professional persistence. 
    more » « less