Impact of Upgrading Equipment for Strength of Materials Labs on Student Perceptions, Motivation, and LearningAbstractAn important component of teaching introductory Strength of Materials (Mechanics ofMaterials) concepts to undergraduate engineering and technology students is the inclusion oflaboratory experiments, which give the students the opportunity to conduct tests and collect dataon the materials to obtain relevant properties. These laboratory experiments also allow studentsto observe firsthand the behavior of materials under different loading conditions, thereby givingthem a greater physical feel for these different behaviors. The equipment used to perform small-scale, desktop experiments can range from simple set-ups constructed using every day materialsavailable at a local hardware store to more sophisticated and expensive apparatus manufacturedby companies specializing in educational lab equipment. One question of interest to facultywhen faced with the decision of selecting the apparatus to be used for these small-scaleexperiments is whether student perceptions, motivation, and learning in the course are affectedby the sophistication and quality of the equipment used to conduct the experiments.The purpose of this study is to collect and evaluate data to determine if using more sophisticated,higher quality experimental equipment results in improved student outlooks and learningcompared to using simple set-ups constructed from every day materials purchased at a hardwarestore. Data collected includes student feedback obtained from short, written surveys about theeffectiveness of the laboratories performed with higher quality desktop equipment. Theusefulness of the higher end set-ups for improving student understanding of key concepts isevaluated by analyzing student performance on related examination questions for a cohort whoused more expensive apparatus versus a cohort from the previous year who used simpleexperimental set-ups. In addition, the impact of the laboratory equipment quality andsophistication on student perceptions and motivation for the overall course is studied by lookingat course rating information obtained from these two cohorts. Perceptions of the lab instructorson the advantages and disadvantages of using the more expensive versus less expensiveexperimental set-ups are also presented. The results of this study provides insights on whetherupgrading equipment for Strength of Materials labs helps improve the educational experience ofstudents for the overall course and whether those benefits appear to justify the costs of makingsuch upgrades.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



Originally presented at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposistion 2015

Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

Civil Engineering Technology Environmental Management and Safety (CAST)


RIT – Main Campus