Engineering Mechanics: Statics, 7th Edition
Book Preface
Engineering mechanics is both a foundation and a framework for most of the branches of engineering. Many of the topics in such areas as civil, mechanical, aerospace, and agricultural engineering, and of course engineering mechanics itself, are based upon the subjects of statics and dynamics. Even in a discipline such as electrical engineering, practitioners, in the course of considering the electrical components of a robotic device or a manufacturing process, may find themselves first having to deal with the mechanics involved.
Thus, the engineering mechanics sequence is critical to the engineering curriculum. Not only is this sequence needed in itself, but courses in engineering mechanics also serve to solidify the student’s understanding of other important subjects, including applied mathematics, physics, and graphics. In addition, these courses serve as excellent settings in which to strengthen problemsolving abilities.
Philosophy
The primary purpose of the study of engineering mechanics is to develop the capacity to predict the effects of force and motion while carrying out the creative design functions of engineering. This capacity requires more than a mere knowledge of the physical and mathematical principles of mechanics; also required is the ability to visualize physical configurations in terms of real materials, actual constraints, and the practical limitations which govern the behavior of machines and structures. One of the primary objectives in a mechanics course is to help the student develop this ability to visualize, which is so vital to problem formulation. Indeed, the construction of a meaningful mathematical model is often a more important experience than its solution. Maximum progress is made when the principles and their limitations are learned together within the context of engineering application.
There is a frequent tendency in the presentation of mechanics to use problems mainly as a vehicle to illustrate theory rather than to develop theory for the purpose of solving problems. When the first view is allowed to predominate, problems tend to become overly idealized and unrelated to engineering with the result that the exercise becomes dull, academic, and uninteresting. This approach deprives the student of valuable experience in formulating problems and thus of discovering the need for and meaning of theory. The second view provides by far the stronger motive for learning theory and leads to a better balance between theory and application. The crucial role played by interest and purpose in providing the strongest possible motive for learning cannot be overemphasized.
Furthermore, as mechanics educators, we should stress the understanding that, at best, theory can only approximate the real world of mechanics rather than the view that the real world approximates the theory. This difference in philosophy is indeed basic and distinguishes the engineering of mechanics from the science of mechanics.
Over the past several decades, several unfortunate tendencies have occurred in engineering education. First, emphasis on the geometric and physical meanings of prerequisite mathematics appears to have diminished. Second, there has been a significant reduction and even elimination of instruction in graphics, which in the past enhanced the visualization and representation of mechanics problems. Third, in advancing the mathematical level of our treatment of mechanics, there has been a tendency to allow the notational manipulation of vector operations to mask or replace geometric visualization. Mechanics is inherently a subject which depends on geometric and physical perception, and we should increase our efforts to develop this ability.
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January 14, 2016 
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