Engineering Statics In Physics Classes

A Project of Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh Area High Schools

Principal Investigator: Professor Paul Steif, Carnegie Mellon University

Other Contributors:

Janet Waldeck, Pittsburgh-Allderdice High School

Mark Skinner, Shady Side Academy

Drew Haberberger, Mt. Lebanon High School


This project has developed curricular resources to build new lessons for physics courses, lessons that high school physics students have found interesting and motivating. Virtually all elementary physics courses cover Newton’s laws of motion. Newton’s laws of motion find rich application in engineering. Professor Steif has worked for many years to help students in engineering statics courses connect Newton’s laws of motion with aspects of everyday life. Many of those lessons can be made accessible to high school students without the complex mathematics typical of engineering courses. In collaboration with Pittsburgh-area high school physics teachers, we have recast the topics and intuitive approach developed for engineering statics into instructional activities that can be readily incorporated into elementary physics courses. Read more here on this approach [Download .pdf].

The topics from engineering statics have been formulated into 5 units, each consisting of experiments, modeling, and discussions. This project seeks ultimately to provide a full set of resources needed for physics teachers to incorporate these topics effectively into their own physics classes.

This work is only partially completed. This web site offers current versions of documents relevant to these lessons. We try to provide both descriptions of the activities and worksheets on which students can record results, do modeling, and analysis. The documents are editable MS-Word files, enabling instructors to break them apart and tailor them to their own liking.


UNIT 1: Forces in 1D

Teacher Narrative [Download .docx].

Student Worksheet [Download .docx].

Assessments [Download .docx].

UNIT 2: Forces in 2D

Teacher Narrative [Download .docx].

Student Worksheet [Download .docx].

Assessments [Download .docx].

UNIT 3:Moments

Teacher Narrative [Download .docx].

Student Worksheet [Download .docx].

Assessments [Download .docx].

Sample Homework (Draft) c/o Shady Side Academy [Download Sample Homework].

UNIT 4:Equilibrium with Forces and Moments

Teacher Narrative [Download .docx].

Student Worksheet [Download .docx].

Assessments [Download .docx].

Sample Homework (Draft) c/o Shady Side Academy [Download Sample Homework 1, Download Sample Homework 2, Download Sample Homework 3, Download Sample Homework 4].


Currently under development


Master list of materials [Download .xlxs].

Constructed Apparatuses

Truck (Units 2 and 4)

Truck Image

Truck Engineering Drawings [Download .pdf].

Moment Apparatus (Unit 3)

Moment Apparatus Image

Moment Apparatus Engineering Drawings [Download .pdf].

L-shaped bar (Units 3 and 4)

L-shaped bar Image

L-shaped bar Engineering Drawings [Download .pdf].

Tipping Stand (Unit 4)

Tipping Stand Image

Tipping Stand Engineering Drawings [Download .pdf].

Tipping Stand Base (Unit 4)

Tipping Stand Base Image

Tipping Stand Base Engineering Drawings [Download .pdf].

Lifting Robot (Unit 5)

Lifting Robot Image

Lifting Robot Construction [Download .pptx]

See Video of Lifter

Motorized Vehicle Robot (Unit 5)

Motorized Vehicle Image

Motorized Vehicle Robot Construction [Download .pptx].

See Video of Hill Climber

Wall Climbing Robot (Unit 5)

Wall Climbining Robot Image

Wall Climbing Robot Construction [Download .pptx].

See Video of Wall Climber