Studies show that teaching mathematics using an application-oriented, hands-on approach helps students grasp and understand the topics much better as compared to a lecture-based mathematics course. Starting Fall 2016, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) offers such a course loosely based on the Wright State University model to engineering students placed in pre-calculus courses. Throughout the course, students are introduced to engineering problems and applications that rely on concepts of mathematics. This course has lecture, recitation and laboratory components. The lecture provides an overview of relevant topics in engineering analytical methods that are most heavily used in the core sophomore-level engineering courses. These topics are reinforced through solving problems in a lab environment. For the first two offerings of ENGR101 at NJIT, the lab projects done were virtual simulations (on computer). Starting Fall 2017, we started moving gradually towards more hands-on physical labs. This paper will discuss a new hands-on lab project that is being introduced this semester to help students understand the concept of two-dimensional vectors. A model of a human arm has been designed to demonstrate the application of two-dimensional vectors and calculation of reaction forces. The same model can also be used to demonstrate the application of the law of cosines to measure the bicep muscle length and applications of direct and inverse kinematics for a two-link robot. The model consists of two 3D printed rigid links connected by a pin, a 3D printed bucket, stand, weights, and a string. The string connecting the two links represents the muscle. One end of the string is attached to a bucket, which when loaded with weights causes the arm on the opposite end of the string to move. Knowing the weight added to the bucket, the component string tension and joint reaction forces can be calculated. Use of a simplistic model that must be manually loaded and measured provides a visual demonstration of the concepts and applications of mathematics as discussed in the lecture as well as presented in the textbook. The model has the additional advantage of being inexpensive as it is 3D printed in- house. We plan to assess the effectiveness of this activity using student surveys. We also look forward to gathering feedback from other conference attendees about this hands-on lab exercise and hope to refine it further for future semesters.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.