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Fundamentals 1

Intro to Mechanics

Over the last 30 years I have taught (or attempted to teach!) Mechanics to a  variety of years in Mechanical Engineering degree courses, from Foundation year to Masters level.  It has successively disappointed me, and subsequently appalled me, as to the level of awareness of Mechanics in students completeing their A Level education in the UK.  The restrictions of the time devoted to Mechanics in the A Level syllabus, and the ability of students to avoid Mechanics and Calculus within the A Level syllabus has now reached frightening proportions.  How can anyone study Mechanical Engineering,for which Mechanics is the obvious core subject, without a reasonable preparation at School?  However, this is the situation we find ourselves in.  The statistics are incredible, of the students taking A Level Mathematics and Physics 70% are taught by teachers who have not graduated in the relevant subjects.  Furthermore, of that 70%, a further 70% have no degree in STEM subjects.  So overall about 50% of A level students are taught by completely unqualified teachers.  Contrast this with the position in Scotland where teachers are required to by Law to have a relevant qualification to teach a given subject!!!

We are therefore in England faced with a situation that our A Level students are, from the State Sector (this is not true of some of those students from the Private Sector), largely completely unequipped for degree study in any branch of Engineering or Physical Science that requires advanced mathematics (Calculus) and Mechanics.  In my darker moments this leads me to the conclusion that we sould not ask for Maths and Physics at A Level  to take Engineering, but that we should take intelligent students (however that is defined!) and teach them advanced mathematics and physics from scratch at University - at least most of the staff teaching them will have a grasp of the subjects!

This is completely anectdotal, but nonetheless true, on a recent Accreditaion vist for the IMechE, whilst talking to students and asking the question "what did you find good about the course" a Foundation Year student answered "Mathematics".  Somewhat surprised by this, I asked what he meant - the response was very illuminating.  He said the his teacher did not understand about the last 20% of the GCSE syllabus, and she could not cope with the A Level syllabus at all.  He considered that his C grade at A level was quite good as he had had to teach himself - I concurred!  His resonse was conditioned by the fact that at University, being taught Mathematics by someone who understood the subject, he found it quite simple!!!!

I have tried to embody this in what I teach, and in particular to try to embed in students a FUNDAMENTAL understanding of Mechanics.  Whether you consider that so, or not, in contained in the following pages.

This website is under development, and additional pages will be added in future - inforned comments are always welcome. Use the link below to go to web pages containing pdf's of notes etc.


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