Understanding the Costs and Benefits of Using 3d Visualization Hardware in an Undergraduate Mechanics-statics Course

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Journal Title

36th Annual Frontiers in Education, Conference Program, Vols 1-4: Borders: International, Social and Cultural


The work presented in this paper focuses on our Mechanics-Statics course. When solving 3D free-body diagram problems, students often have difficulty in interpreting the spatial layout of structures when problems are presented on the written page or on a chalkboard/whiteboard. Our method projects free-body diagrams on a 3D display where they can be rotated or translated. Students were tested on their ability to recognize whether 3D vectors acting on the diagrams had components in the positive or negative x, y, and Z axes. The diagrams were modeled from 2D drawings from standard textbook homework problems. The control for this experiment was students viewing the model in this classic sense. To date we have quantitative and qualitative data from three different semesters of the course. The contributions of this work include an assessment of how much is gained by teaching statics using virtual reality hardware and an analysis of students' abilities in interpreting free body diagrams presented in different formats.

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