MecMovies, instructional software created at the University of Missouri-Rolla to illustrate hard-to-visualize engineering concepts, has been picked to receive a 2006 MERLOT Classics Award and the Editors’ Choice Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources.
The awards will be presented Aug. 10 at the MERLOT International Conference in Ottawa, Ontario.
Each year, MERLOT, the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, confers Classic Awards to one outstanding resource from each of 15 disciplines. The Editors’ Council, composed of editorial board leaders, further reviews the classics awardees and selects MERLOT Editors’ Choice award winners to represent exemplary models for all educational disciplines.
Dr. Timothy Philpot, associate professor of interdisciplinary engineering at UMR, created MecMovies with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. From games to animations, MecMovies does more than just show pictures, Philpot explains.
“There are a lot of things in Mechanics of Materials that are hard to visualize,” Philpot says. “Sometimes if you’re trying to illustrate these concepts with just chalk on a blackboard, it’s hard to get the point across. In 10 seconds with something like this, you can pretty clearly show what’s going on. The animated movies communicate in ways you can’t really duplicate in the classroom.
“However, MecMovies is much more than just a slide show. About half of the movies are interactive, and this allows students to focus on particular topics and skills that are necessary in order to be successful in the course.”
Available online at web.mst.edu/~mecmovie/index.html, MecMovies guides students step-by-step through a large number of examples commonly used in Interdisciplinary Engineering 110, the Mechanics of Materials course. The software allows students to interactively test their understanding of course concepts with relevant questions and exercises followed by immediate feedback. The questions are dynamically generated and give a different set of numbers each time, allowing students to repeat the exercises as needed.
The interactive exercises and games focus students on specific skills that are often trouble spots in the course, Philpot says. “It’s funny. When you put a game in front of students, even simple games, they want to get 100 percent,” Philpot says. “It’s not good enough for them to sort of know it. They want to get perfect scores. What more could you ask for?”
Other UMR researchers who worked on MecMovies and related projects include: Dr. Richard Hall, professor of information science and technology and associate dean for research in the UMR School of Information Science and Technology; Dr. Ralph Flori Jr., assistant dean of engineering for pre-college and undergraduate programs for the UMR School of Engineering; and Dr. David Oglesby, professor emeritus of interdisciplinary engineering.
This isn’t the first time MecMovies has been recognized for the impact it can have on the classroom. The National Engineering Education Delivery System (NEEDS), a digital library of learning resources for engineering education, awarded Philpot with its 2004 Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware. The award recognizes high-quality, non-commercial courseware designed to enhance engineering education.
“I won the prize in 1998 as well for MDSolids, another educational software program for Mechanics of Materials,” Philpot adds. “Thousands of people all over the world use it and it’s now being used throughout the nation in the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering curriculum. It’s cool to sit at my computer and get email from South Africa, New Zealand or Brazil — from professors and students who find the software to be a really helpful tool in their classes.”