Teaching the Superposition Method with Internet-Based Instructional Software


In the Mechanics of Materials course, one method used to determine beam deflections and support reactions for statically determinate and indeterminate beams is based on the concept of superposition. To help explain the theory and art of the superposition method, a series of 14 animated movies has been developed that present examples and strategies for applying superposition principles to common types of beams. To evaluate its effectiveness, experiments were conducted in which the customary lectures were replaced by use of this instructional software. Students who used the superposition software were compared to students in five other Mechanics of Materials sections on the basis of (a) score on a superposition problem included in the common final exam, (b) total score on the common final exam, and (c) a survey questionnaire consisting of a number of subjective rating items. Those students who used the superposition software were statistically comparable to the other students on all these outcome measures. In addition, there was evidence that low ability students benefited from the software in the form of increased motivation, in comparison to students in some of the other sections.

Meeting Name

2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition (2004: Jun. 20-23, Salt Lake City, UT)


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Second Department

Business and Information Technology

Third Department

Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Animated movies; Beam deflections; Lectures; Superposition method; Animation; Boundary conditions; Cantilever beams; Computer software; Deflection (structures); Internet; Problem solving; Statistical tests; Students; Textbooks; Teaching

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2004 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2004