For Statics and Mechanics of Materials, I developed a Balsa Bridge
Design Competition. The learning objectives included applying
skills to an open-ended design problem, incorporating "real world"
factors in the design, developing creativity, practicing collaborative
learning, improving hands-on skills, and developing their analytic
abilities via feedback from testing of their product. Both
classes used the same basic rules and
design envelope. Statics students built trusses; Mechanics of Materials
students built beams. The goal was to maximize the ratio
Load / (Cost and Weight). The design envelope
pick amongst 5
foundation points to both encourage creativity and avoid obvious
solutions. I competed against the students with
restricted rules--if the class average performance was 50% or better of
my own, the entire class got extra credit. This encouraged
collaborative learning as they were collectively competing against
me as opposed to each other.
In the first year, a typical truss bridge held ~200 lbs and weighed
~0.2 lbs. In the second year, truss bridges typically
lbs at similar weights.
Beam bridges held roughly twice that, but with more weight.
Students were highly engaged in the projects, probably reflecting the
desire in many, myself included, to create and practice what they have