Courses Developed or Revised


Engineering Mechanics 212 — Dynamics

Starting in the Spring of 1997, Prof. Costanzo began collaborating with Prof. Gray (Penn State Engineering Science and Mechanics Department) to enhance introductory mechanics courses by introducing modern engineering tools and collaborative learning into the classroom. The under- graduate dynamics course E MCH 212 for students in the College of Engineering was completely revised and offered accordint to a studio-based approach. The revised course was dubbed “Inter- active Dynamics” covered the same material as the traditional course but presented it so as to engage students in a collaborative environment in which all students have easy access to an array of technological tools. Students use these tools to:

• analyze data (often generated in real time in class); • observe graphic representations of the data; and
• construct as well as interact with simulations.

In Interactive Dynamics, students spend large portions of their class time learning actively by

  • working in small collaborative groups to analyze physical phenomena (sometimes captured

    on videotape);

  • using elements of numerical analysis to study and visualize the motion of objects; and presenting their findings in graded reports required to be professionally written.

Interactive Dynamics is therefore a guided, inquiry-based learning environment where all the ac- tivities are designed to develop and sharpen the engineering skills of the students as well as their critical thinking and communication.

The project has also included the assembly of a new classroom containing 40 computers arranged in a manner to allow students to work individually or in teams of 2–3 students. The room also had a workstation for the instructor, and computer-video projector. This new learning environment was designed to support a guided, inquiry-based, hands-on learning process. Student learning was made active by letting students be both the suppliers and the receivers of information, that is:

  • students collect the information to be learned in various ways, including (simple) real exper- iments, Internet resources, making and/or viewing videos, and computer simulations;

  • students analyze the gathered information using a variety of computer tools including motion analyzers, computer graphics tools, and virtual laboratory experiment simulations;

  • students present the outcome of their analysis using spreadsheets and word processors.

The role of the course instructor was largely limited to guiding the students’ inquiry. The instruc- tor’s leadership is exerted by channeling the students’ inquiry through a sequence of learning units referred to as activities that include a set of experiments, real or virtual, designed to introduce topics as research tasks.


Physics 201 — General Physics (Mechanics)

Professor Costanzo was a member of a team of faculty in the College of Engineering working on a General Electric sponsored program including a collaboration with faculty in the College of Science. They contributed ideas for the enhancement of Physics 201 and team-taught a section of Phys 201 during the Fall 1997 semester.


Engineering Mechanics 213 — Strength of Materials

Professor Costanzo was member of a team of faculty in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics for the introduction of Design Projects in E MCH 13. The team-work was coordinated by Professor N. J. Salamon. Professor Costanzo contributed problem statements for two Design Projects.


Virtual Laboratory

In 1998 Prof. Costanzo received an NSF CAREER award, entitled “Sculptured Thin Films: Non- Linear Nanomechanics and Homogenization for a New Class of Engineered Thin Composites with Evolving Nanostructures,” for the theoretical and numerical determination of the mechanical prop- erties of nano-engineered thin films. As required by NSF, any CAREER award must include a sig- nificant effort in developing new course materials related to the scientific component of the project. As part of the educational component of his CAREER award, Prof. Costanzo has developed a project called a Virtual Laboratory. The Virtual Laboratory is a computer-based simulation envi- ronment for material characterization, that is, a piece of software that allows a student to perform, on a computer, virtual experiments similar to those necessary to find the constitutive properties of a material. The essential feature of the program is to easily visualize the stress and deformation response of a material specimen subjected to an assigned load history. The Virtual Laboratory offers support in the teaching of those Engineering Mechanics courses dealing with the behavior of materials, such as E MCH 13 (Strength of Materials), E MCH 215 (Mechanical Response of En- gineering Materials) and more advanced courses such as E MCH 408 (Elasticity and Engineering Applications) and E MCH 471 (Engineering Composite Materials). At the graduate level the Vir- tual Laboratory will find applications in E MCH 546 (Theory of Viscoelasticity and Applications) and E MCH 540 (Introduction to Continuum Mechanics).


Dynamics Concept Inventory

Between 2002 and 2010, Professor Costanzo was a member of a five-member team of faculty mem- bers at various institutions for the creation of the Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI) test. This test has been designed so as to provide a quantitative assessment tool for measuring the conceptual understanding of students taking sophomore-level dynamics (a required course for most engineering majors). The DCI has been developed under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation through the Foundation Coalition at the Arizona State University. The DCI has been developed using sophisticated methods and it has undergone scientific validity and reliability trials and, as of January 1, 2005, has been made available for nation-wide distribution.


Engineering Mechanics 516 — Mathematical Theory of Elasticity

Prof. Costanzo has implemented substantial course content renewal starting with the offering dur- ing the Spring 2008 semester. E MCH 516 has been a course that was typically devoted to an analytical treatment of the Theory of Elasticity and its applications to traditional structural me- chanics problems such as fracture and composites. In the Spring 2008 semester he revised the course content to better support the goals of his department and better prepare graduate students explore cutting edge applications of the Theory of Elasticity in bio-medical applications. The course was refocused toward the development of the field equations using general curvilinear coordinate systems for nonlinear elasticity and large deformations as well as the discussion of the constitutive modeling of soft tissues as can be found in the modeling of muscle and arterial tissue response. The enrollment in the course increased over previous semesters and was fairly regularly attended by one faculty in the Penn State Mechanical Engineering and, once the applications portion of the course started, by a faculty in the Penn State Mathematics Department. The course was well received although perceived as being very challenging from the mathematical viewpoint.


Engineering Mechanics 560 — Finite Element Analysis

At Penn State this course has been taught starting from traditional applications in structural mechanics (beams, isotropic linear elasticity) and heat transfer. This emphasis resulted in the perception on the part of many students that the finite element method (FEM) is synonymous with structural mechanics without any awareness that the FEM is generally applicable to any system of partial differential equations, regardless of the field of application. Furthermore, by focusing on traditional applications with well known closed-form solutions, this course did not provide students with any notion of numerical accuracy and the know-how to estimate convergence rates regardless of the availability of closed-form solutions. I have revised this upper-level course to focus on partial differential equations in general. Informed by the approach presented in the book by Prof. Hughes of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, I have introduce basic notions concerning Sobolev spaces, convergence, mixed and penalty methods for constraints such as incompressibility, along with the discussion of solvability concerns for constrained problems. Students applied these notions in projects of their choice.