The Free Body Diagram Module in Statics-Power, the Engineering Statics Software from Actus Potentia for Self-Paced and Personalized Learning

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Free Body Diagram is an indispensable analytical tool that is used by a wide class of scientists and engineers. Actus Potentia’s module on free body diagram provides unlimited, guided practice on drawing and analyzing free body diagrams to help students become experts.

Free Body Duagram

Knowledge Schema for Free Body Diagram

I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- ... in love with free-body diagrams... - Neil Armstrong

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Free Body Diagram is an indispensable analytical tool that us used by a wide class of scientists and engineers. Actus Potentia’s module on free body diagram provides unlimited, guided practice on drawing and analyzing free body diagrams to help students become experts.

All problems in mechanics, equilibrium, and structural analysis begin with the drawing of free body diagrams. Typically, undergraduate students from all disciplines of engineering take a course on Engineering Statics within the first three or four semesters of their program. The main component of this course is the drawing of free-body-diagrams. Free-body-diagrams are an essential tool in determining the supporting forces and moments of a truss, or a frame, or a machine and determining the interactive forces and moments among the various components of a truss, or a frame, or a machine.

The Free Body Diagram Module within the Statics-Power software is a self-paced, interactive learning environment that provides immediate feedback to students in the form of hints and correctness for the analysis of trusses, frames, and machines. The software can be used also as a structural design tool that can identify collapsible and indeterminate trusses, frames, and machines.

For a student, the study of free-body-diagram must lead to the following generalized and required competencies:

  •     Ability to apply the principles of equilibrium.
  •     Ability to apply Newton’s Third Law.
  •     Ability to draw free-body-diagrams in new and unfamiliar static and dynamic situations.
  •     Critical and creative reasoning ability to design non-collapsible trusses, frames, and machines.

The purpose of this software is to place the students in a structured, problem-based learning environment so they can develop the required competencies. The software installed on a computer will act as a private tutor that demonstrates the essential knowledge base and will evaluate student performance by identifying their mistakes and by providing feedback so the students can rectify their mistakes.

Among the concepts associated with free-body-diagrams, students often have difficulty with the following:

  •     Application of the action-reaction concept in Newton’s Third Law when two or more objects interact through a connection accomplished by inserting a pin.
  •     Identification of two-force members, in a structure, that leads to substantial simplification in the calculation of the interaction among the members of the structure.
  •     Identification of collapsible and indeterminate structures.
  •     Development of a strategy for the calculation of interactions where the equilibrium equations (force and moment balance) are deployed on a strategically chosen sequence of individual members combined with the simultaneous deployment of equilibrium equations on a group of members.
  •     Mathematical modeling of clamped, pin, and roller support with appropriate reactive forces and moment.

The software specifically addresses these five issues. In addition, the software satisfies the following requirements.

  •     The procedure for the analysis, the associated diagrams, and calculations in the software mimics the work that the students are required to do on paper, in an Engineering Statics course.
  •     The foundation required to interact with the software and to understand the feedback provided by the software is high-school level physics. This foundation is identical to the pre-requisite for an Engineering Statics course.

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Ambar Mitra
Actus Potentia
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