An Integrated Approach for Engineering Mechanics and Design

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


As part of a major curriculum update undertaken over the last three years, the United States Military Academy at West Point has implemented a new course sequence in statics, mechanics and material science. This sequence involves teaching an introductory engineering course, CE300, to both engineering majors and non-majors, followed by CE364, a mechanics + material science course that is taken by those students majoring in Civil or Mechanical Engineering. The sequence integrates statics, mechanics of materials and a lesson block on material science; information that is traditionally separated across two or more courses, making it difficult for students to form the key connections between statics, mechanics and materials that are the bread- and-butter of the working engineer. Through tight coordination of these two courses, significant advances have been made in student attitudes, capabilities and, perhaps most importantly, engineering perspective.

This sequence, CE300 + CE364, was created in response to curriculum changes arising from the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering’s slow-loop assessment process and a desire on the part of the Academy to implement a complete revision of the undergraduate engineering experience for non-engineering majors. CE300 – Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanics and Design became the first course in engineering for both majors and non-majors. This large change in the earliest part of the student’s engineering experience suggested two questions - could this course truly serve both engineering and non-engineering students and could the tight coordination of the two-semester pair of courses be effectively implemented? This paper explores these questions, the answer to which we believe is a resounding “yes!” CE300 is now the first course of a two-course sequence in basic statics and solid mechanics and builds the foundation in mechanics and design for all civil and mechanical engineering majors.

The key finding of this effort, expanded on in this paper, is that by combining statics with introductory mechanics of materials, CE300 now includes exciting elements of design that are not generally taught in a traditional statics course. For instance, where students were previously constrained to answer only what forces acted on the members of a truss, they can now attach something more physical to that computation and get the feeling of accomplishment that comes with actually designing something by choosing an appropriate a material type and size for the truss member based on stress and/or deformation requirements. The second course in the sequence was originally CE364 – Mechanics of Materials and although it maintained its original name, the content now includes a more in-depth coverage of mechanics of materials and an introduction to material science, content that had previously been simply missing from the civil engineering curriculum. The result is a well-blended sequence of courses that provides an exciting introduction to engineering and gives engineering students the opportunity to begin the exciting process of design within the first five weeks rather than waiting for follow-on courses. This paper discusses the approaches and content of both courses as well as the linkage between the two. Assessment data related to student achievement and perceptions is also analyzed, and suggestions for further improvement of the sequence are included.

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