Engineering DynamicsTerry Berreen
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Monash University
This interactive CD-ROM has 43 problem frames in Engineering Dynamics covering particle motion, rigid body motion and vibrations. The problem frames are spread over ten sub-topics with up to seven problems in each. It is easy to navigate via a convenient grid on the right and bottom of the screen to any sub-topic and to any problem.
Each problem contains an introduction, theory, solution and simulation. The introduction describes what is known and then poses the question to be solved. Help is given to the user by suggesting an approach or approaches to solving the problem. The theory section describes definitions and concepts. If more than one theory frame is required this is clearly indicated. The solution details the equations and method of solving the problem. In any of these sections audio is included and this was non-intrusive and in fact quite informative and authoritative. In some sections the diagrams change in conjunction with the audio.
The simulations make use of Working Model, a modelling tool that is widely used in engineering schools in the United States and can be used to create models of mechanical systems. These simulations show a working model and the plotting of the solutions. Parameters can be varied and the simulations run to determine the effects of parameter variation. Each problem would take some running and re-running, as initially it is difficult to watch the model behaviour and the plotting at the same time. However with experience at using the simulations this can be achieved. Anyway there is a button to stop and then restart the simulation at any time.
The simulations are excellent and these virtual experiments should certainly improve understanding of the underlying concepts. The problems are real life situations and should certainly appeal to students and teachers.
There are four appendices that can be pulled down at any time to aid in the problem solution. These are Basic Equations in Dynamics, Section Properties (that has the best moment of inertia and moment of area interactive tabulation, containing 20 shapes, that I have experienced), Conversion Factors, and Fundamental Topics in Mathematics.
There is also a book button, which allows the reader to select from eight textbooks on dynamics with cross-references to the problems in the interactive program. Commonly used textbooks in engineering dynamics such as Meriam-Kraige, Beer and Johnston, and Hibler are included.
This is a most useful interactive series of problems. The simulations and overall structure are excellent. The only criticism and a familiar one with technical material from the United States is the use of British units in about half of the problems. This could be partly overcome with the use of the Conversion Factors Appendix but the use of slugs for mass and force in pounds would be most confusing to Australian students so versed in SI units. This difficulty spoils for the Australian market an otherwise excellent interactive CD-ROM in Engineering Dynamics. Because of this its use may be restricted to teachers for use as lecture demonstration material.
UniServe Science News Volume 16 July 2000
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