Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Dr. Brian P. Self


This thesis focuses on a year-long project of implementing active learning in undergraduate dynamics courses at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from 2012-2013. The purpose is to increase conceptual understanding of critical dynamics concepts and to repair misconceptions of the students. Conceptual understanding in Dynamics is vital to understanding the big picture, building upon previous knowledge, and better understanding the behavior of engineering systems. Through various hands-on activities, students make predictions, test their conceptions, and solve real world problems. These active learning methods allow students to improve their learning of Dynamics concepts. Education research on active learning is present in Physics and Mathematics disciplines, yet is still growing in Engineering.

Four Inquiry-Based Learning Activities (IBLAs) and two Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs) are discussed in this thesis. Inquiry-Based Learning Activities feature student prediction and experimentation in which the physical world acts as the authority. On the other hand, Model-Eliciting-Activities prompt students to solve real world problems and deliver results to a client.

From the results, some activities yield an increase in conceptual understanding, as measured by assessment items, while others do not yield a significant increase. These activities not only help to promote conceptual gains, but also to motivate students and offer realistic engineering contexts. In conclusion, the six total IBLA and MEAS will continue in practice and be improved in their implementation.

This thesis work will contribute to engineering education research of active learning methods, and improve the undergraduate dynamics curriculum locally at Cal Poly.