Empty Handed Demonstrations for Engineers: Think Inside the Box

Publication Date



American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference Proceedings


Recently there has been much emphasis on the inclusion of technology to improve student learning in engineering and this has proven to be very effective in a variety of engineering courses. The objective of this paper is to supplement technology-based education by teaching fundamental concepts using "empty-handed" demonstrations. This instructive technique is defined as one that is accomplished by using whatever is typically available in or near traditional classrooms and by simulating concepts with students and/or faculty as system components. The defining feature of this strategy is that it does not require special equipment or software to clarify fundamental engineering concepts. Empty-handed demonstrations are dynamic, illustrative and interactive, and increase course effectiveness. Forms of active learning that engage the students beyond lecture have been shown to have lasting value in the students' memory (Bransford et al., 2000; Felder & Brent, 2003). Our ambition is to generate a conference session to demonstrate, share, compile, and catalog some of these no-tech teaching tools. Our secondary objective is to stimulate engineering educators to think "inside the box" of the classroom and realize that, with some ingenuity, the world around us is replete with modeling and teaching opportunities. This paper provides several examples of empty-handed demos from a variety of engineering disciplines describing the goals, materials and set up, implementation strategies, and the inspiration and lessons for each demonstration.


Conference Paper


Electrical Engineering

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