To the Instructor
Hello, and welcome! I began the process of writing this first-edition of Statics: A Student-Centered Approach in Summer 2023 as an OER (Open Educational Resource). The goal of this online learning platform goal is to make Statics as easy to teach and learn as possible. It is now August 2023, and this site is roughly 75% complete at this time. I will continue to work on it in Summer 2024.
Please rest assured that despite my informal writing style, quirky sense of humor, and my love of visual communication, this is not a "watered-down" Statics course. My goal has been to develop a resource that is designed in such a way that the topics feel intuitive and are fast for students to learn. Learning styles have changed, and our post-pandemic technophile students live in a social culture that is very different from my college experience in the 1990s. The audience for my resource is the modern undergraduate student; I see this resource as student-centered.
The site is still under development. You are welcome to browse, but note that this is a work-in-progress and is subject to change. My goal is to complete the project by the end of Summer 2024.
🟦 Course Pacing
The course has been designed as 18 lessons, each roughly equal in length. Each lesson corresponds to two contact hours, so the curriculum in total equals 36 contact hours.
I typically teach Statics in the summer as a five-week course: 2 hours per day times 4 days per week times 5 week equals 40 contact hours, plus a final exam. Here is my general recommendation for pacing the course as a five-week summer course.
Week 1: Welcome/Introduction, Effective Communication + LE01, LE02, LE03
Week 2: LE04, LE05, LE06, LE07
Week 3: LE08, LE09, LE10, Midterm Exam
Week 4: LE11, LE12, LE13, LE14
Week 5: LE15, LE16, LE17, LE18, Final Exam
🟦 A Visual and Spatial Approach
While it is possible to teach Statics in a theoretical and abstract manner, I prefer to teach the course with visual and practical examples. This is why I have titled my materials Seeing Structures. My 2D and 3D visualizations help students bridge the abstraction of engineering theory with the practicality and purpose of real-world engineering practice. They also help scaffold spatial analysis skills and provide an example that students can emulate in order to develop an ability to communicate graphically.
While Seeing Structures (this site) is the hub of my materials, my animated 3D models and video tutorials have separate homes online. My repository of 3D, interactive, animated models for Statics is posted here and my playlist of companion YouTube video tutorials for Statics is here.
It is my love of graphical / visual communication that has made my materials impactful for my students, and it is for this reason that I wish to share my work with the engineering education community.
🟦 Topical Applications
Over the years, I have reviewed many Statics syllabi for transfer credit. Through that experience, I have come to understand that the specific topics and examples emphasized in each Statics course generally align to the academic and professional preparation of the instructor. Different universities, different departments, and different individuals cover different topics.
I am a structural engineer: all of my academic preparation and professional experience lies within the construction industry. More specifically, the vast majority of my work has been related to the design and analysis of building structures. That work directly informs my teaching practice.
That said, I do recognize that students from a variety of majors take this course. For that reason, I have made an effort to provide examples in topical areas that are representative of the broad spectrum of majors in my class.
Here is my general philosophy and approach to developing this teaching and learning resource:
I place a very strong emphasis on fundamental concepts:
constructing accurate free-body diagrams (FBDs)
conceptualizing and predicting the behavior of simple machines (e.g. pliers)
calculating beam reactions and constructing shear and moment diagrams
disassembling and cutting complex structures into solvable FBDs; problem-solving strategies
computing centroids and (area) moments of inertia
I include (but do not heavily emphasize) trusses; cables; fluid statics; effects of friction; and the analysis of complex machines, structures, and frames. I feel that these topics are better suited for in-depth explorations in subsequent discipline-specific courses (e.g. Structural Theory for Civil majors, Machine Design for Mechanical majors, etc.).
Finally, I emphasize the utility of two-dimensional (2D) analysis. Three-dimensional (3D) vector statics is certainly included but not heavily emphasized.
🟦 Course Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
Effectively communicate numeric solutions through use of engineering notation, proper sign conventions and units, and three to four significant figures;
Create free-body diagrams from loading diagrams by replacing common connections and components (e.g. springs, pulleys, cables, pins, rollers, fixed connections, surfaces with friction, etc.) with the forces (and force couples) they exert on the free-body;
Apply Newton's Third Law to illustrate how forces (and force couples) are transferred from one component to the next;
Manipulate vectors and vector fields in 2D and 3D as required to simplify and solve Statics problems;
Apply the equations of equilibrium to assess whether or not a particle, member, or structure is in a state of static equilibrium; or to solve for unknown reaction forces or unknown internal forces on a free-body;
Compute the centroid and the moments of inertia (second moments of area) for a cross-sectional area; calculate principal moments of inertia with Mohr's Circle.
Write equations that express internal normal force, shear force, and bending moment in beams as a function of position; graphically construct shear and moment diagrams.
🟦 Two Systems of Units
In the United States, engineers must be fluent in both U.S. Customary Units (foot, pound, etc.) and S.I. Units (meter, Newton, etc.). I have included both systems in this resource. I don't like having to teach two different systems of measurement in a single course, but I also can't rationalize omitting either one. Thank you for your patience and understanding.