Evaluating Push Me Pull Me Worksheets

It has been almost a year since we received funding from HESTEM to develop worksheets for the Push Me Pull Me model. In collaboration with professors Lawrence Coates and Iain McLeod we were able to pin point a few of the main areas that would enhance intuitive understanding of structural behaviour while on the other hand format the worksheets in such a way to be versatile and be readily used by educators in structural analysis and design anywhere in the world. The development of the worksheets went hand in hand with the restructuring of the Expedition Workshed website and with the help of Oliver Broadbent of ThinkUp, the worksheets were up and running since December 2012.

The project included worksheets in the areas listed below

  • Line modelling of steel structures
  • Predicting deflections in 2D steel beams and frames
  • The relationship between loads and reactions
  • Reactions and shear force diagrams
  • Bending moment diagrams and shear force diagrams
  • Bending moment diagram and the deflected shape

as well as sign convention, and guidelines for its use in class. Some of these tutorials were used in class, first at Brunel University with year 1 students in the BEng/MEng programme civil engineering with sustainability within the Fundamentals of Structures module. After a brief introduction the students were asked to make predictions on paper about line modelling of real steel structures and then predict deflected shapes and bending moment diagrams. After this, they were asked to review each other’s work using Push Me Pull Me models for guidance.

This format was repeated with Civil Engineering and Geomatics Year 1 and Year 2 students at the Cyprus University of Technology, during their respective Integrated Design modules. At CUT students in class predicted line models for different configurations and used PmPm to verify their results. Next they were asked to predict, on paper, firstly the deflection of loaded structures, then predict qualitatively the support reactions and after that the bending moment diagram for each configuration. After class they were given one of the peer’s work to review using PmPm. The students were assessed less on their predictions (30% of the mark) but mostly on the checks they made through peer-review, gaining extra marks if they provided good explanations when their peers got it wrong. I am still going through the results but despite some very few problems with accessibility on personal computers, the verbal feedback from students was quite positive especially from 2nd years who said that through this visual tool they were able to comprehend the relationship between kinematics and stress resultants much better. With year 1 students I am even more hopeful since they were not yet introduced to bending and shear stress resultants, so I took the opportunity to explain this qualitatively using PmPm, before they would be introduced to it formally in their mechanics class. Having seen only a handful of their peer reviewed work, I was very glad to see students who only 2-hours prior to the PmPm class had no idea about bending moments, could sketch an approximate BMD shape base on the deflected shape of the structure. This gives me hope that students will gain confidence in their understanding of structural behaviour and begin questionaing their quantitative results when they don’t look right.

If you have used PmPm in class as a student, please fill the short questionnaire (10 questions only) on the link below to help us evaluate its effectiveness. If you are a lecturer and used PmPm models in class please pass the link to your students.