Teaching rigid body mechanics using student-created virtual environments

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper describes a recent effort to use student-created virtual environments to teach rigid body dynamics to electrical and computer engineering senior-level undergraduates and first-year graduate students. Many of these students have no background in dynamics except for their freshman year physics course. The approach described here relies on students creating their own virtual environments, takes roughly four to Ave weeks of instruction, and therefore fits within the scope of other courses that may require electrical and computer engineering students to be familiar with dynamics. The background required only consists of basic linear algebra and ordinary differential equations. By the end of the pilot class, the majority of students were able to expertly model and animate high degree-of-freedom systems, such as slip-steered vehicles, helicopters, submarines, balancing unicycles, motorcycles, and puppets. A core component of the learning philosophy is that by providing students with a venue for creating their own virtual labs, they are able to promote their own learning. This paper summarizes the basic material presented to students, some of the virtual environments they chose to implement with only minimal guidance, and three instruments used to assess the effectiveness of the class architecture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2007 American Control Conference, ACC
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007
Event2007 American Control Conference, ACC - New York, NY, United States
Duration: Jul 9 2007Jul 13 2007


Other2007 American Control Conference, ACC
CountryUnited States
CityNew York, NY

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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