College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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EPISODE: The Engineering Physics Department Newsletter


Featured Articles

Nuclear R&D earns major DOE support

UW-Madison to play key role in nuclear energy comeback

Storing the sun, in salt

2009 teaching award recipient: Michael Plesha

Large-scale nuclear materials study

In Memoriam:
Millard W. Johnson Jr.

Regular Features

Message from the Chair

Department News

Faculty Profile:
Francesco Volpe

Student News

Alumni News



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2009 teaching award recipient:
Michael E. Plesha

Michael E. Plesha (Larger image)

Decorative initial cap College of Engineering faculty and staff awards for 2009 were presented at the fifth annual Spring Appreciation Celebration held May 5. Recipients of the College of Engineering annual awards each receive privately funded stipends and permanent recognition on a plaque in Engineering Hall. Each winner is chosen by a committee of his or her peers. Recipient of the James G. Woodburn Award for Excellence in Teaching is Professor Michael Plesha.

Front cover of the "Engineering Mechanics: Statics" book

(Larger image)

Professor Michael Plesha wrote the book — literally — on statics. (It’s called Engineering Mechanics: Statics; McGraw-Hill, 2009, with co-authors G.L. Gray and F. Costanzo.) But he didn’t stop there.

Nearly a decade ago, Plesha began teaching Statics (EMA 201). With an enrollment of up to 350 students a semester, the introductory course had a reputation for dry content and uninspired delivery. His goal was to transform the course and excite students about statics, the study and analysis of structural equilibrium.

Since then, he has added character, dimension and relevance to this large-scale lecture course, incorporating real-life engineering design problems, introducing applications to such emerging areas as nanotechnology, and developing a series of animations—and videos, in progress— that students say improve their understanding of statics concepts. In addition, he implemented “clicker” response pads that not only provided him real-time feedback about student comprehension of the material, but also promoted interaction among students as they discussed answers with their classmates.

“Frequent student interaction and dialogue in lectures created an atmosphere that is both challenging and motivating,” says a former student.

Plesha’s modern, 21st-century textincorporates meaningful design discussions, comprehensive treatment of free-body diagrams, structured problem-solving approaches and problem-based introduction of new mechanical concepts. Plesha and his co-authors are plowing new pedagogical ground with problem-solving methodology that helps students learn mechanics concepts and transfer that knowledge to practical engineering applications, says William Stenquist, McGraw-Hill Higher Education senior sponsoring editor. “Plesha’s statics book will be at the forefront of engineering education in the U.S. and throughout the world,” he says.


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Date last modified: Friday, 24-July-2009
Date created: 24-July-2009