1R17. Engineering Mechanics: Statics. - AP Boresi and RJ Schmidt (Dept of Civil and Architec Eng, Univ of Wyoming, PO Box 3295, Laramie WY 82071-3295). Brooks/Cole, Pacific Grove CA. 2001. 683 pp. ISBN 0-534-95152-X. $104.95.

Reviewed by G Rega (Dept di Ing Stutturale e Geotecnica, Univ di Roma La Sapienza, Via Antonio Gramsci 53, Roma, I-00197, Italy).

The present book deals with most of the classical topics of statics commonly addressed in introductory texts of engineering mechanics. The material is organized in 12 chapters. After a review of basic concepts of mechanics (Ch 1), the book introduces the concepts of force and other vector quantities in Chapter 2. Equilibrium of a particle is addressed in Chapter 3, mostly based on geometrical reasonings. Equilibrium of a rigid-body in a two-dimensional and a three-dimensional framework is addressed in Chapters 4 and 5, respectively, by introducing vector algebra tools when they are needed, and by progressively generalizing concepts and principles of statics. Much of the rest of the book is devoted to application of the principles in the analysis of structural and mechanical systems. Chapter 6 deals with trusses, while Chapter 7 considers simple structures (frames and cables) and basic devices used in machines and simple mechanisms. Distributed forces and the concept of centroid of a body are addressed in Chapter 8, whereas fluid statics and friction are presented in Chapters 9 and 10, respectively. The last two chapters are devoted to the analysis of beams and shafts and, respectively, to an introduction to work principles as an alternative method for solving statics problems. Short appendices provide basic reference materials of algebra, geometry, and inertia.

The book adds to several existing texts in engineering mechanics. So, one might wonder: What’s new with respect to the existing ones? The answer would be: a worthing-explicitly stated perspective of effectively teaching and consciously learning mechanics.

As a matter of fact, the authors’ intention in writing the book, and the related objectives, are given in explanatory addresses to the instructor and the student: “….to provide a thorough, rigorous presentation of mechanics, augmented with proven learning techniques…, …to present the topics thoroughly and directly, allowing fundamental principles to emerge through applications to real-world problem…, …to integrate learning principles and teaching techniques” that instead of focusing “exclusively on technical principles,” as common to texts in engineering mechanics, can provide the students with “effective study habits while they learn mechanics.”

The authors identify the instructor’s task as that of cultivating “students’ interest, while educating them in the fundamentals and broad applications of mechanics.” As a first way to accomplish this task, they choose to smoothly introduce concepts and principles of mechanics as motivated by the need to solve real-world problems. Accordingly, they emphasize concepts, derivations, and interpretations of the general principles by presenting the simplest and most elementary derivations that are consistent with the demand of rigor. At the same time, they apply concepts and derivations in a lot of example problems taken from everyday engineering practice. A huge number of basic technical systems from engineering mechanics is addressed throughout the book, by either directly solving them or proposing them to the students as homework problems. The book is also illustrated with many nice photographs and drawings.

As a second way to accomplish the task, the authors propose a structured approach to reading and learning along the lines of a formal procedure—the so-called SQ3R study-reading method—that has proven effective in improving textbook reading comprehension. It actually consists of allowing the student to develop a global view of the course material one chapter at a time, to deal with manageable pieces of the overall material, and to finally review it as a coherent whole. Practical tools are suggested for accomplishing these goals: to sequentially survey, question, read, recite, and review the contents of each chapter. This should allow the student to progressively move from a general idea of what is discussed in the chapter, to identifying what he/her should learn from its reading, to actually reading the chapter and reciting its major ideas, up to consistently reviewing all of its material. According to this framework, the authors also furnish a number of learning aids within each chapter: a look forward, survey questions, key terms, key concepts, learning objectives of each section, checkpoints, chapter highlights, homework problems, review questions, computer problems, and design problems. The final objective is helping the student to develop effective study habits by adding structure and discipline to his/her routine. A twofold criterion seems actually to underlie the authors’ effort: globally improving the student’s problem-solving abilities, while highlighting that conceptual understanding of mechanics is as important as problem solving.

The authors dwell upon the advantages obtainable in attacking new problems through a systematic application of the proposed strategy. Actually, this (present) European reviewer, who used to emphasize concept of mechanics through a systematic approach and to deduce applications from general principles/situations, is tempted to feel this formal reading-and-learning methodology is a bit naive. He would even wonder whether such a diversified amount of learning aids would actually result in scattering the reader’s study habits rather than critically structuring them. But these are likely awkward doubts which do not adequately account for the American educational system towards which, it’s worth noting, the European system is now moving, too. In contrast, it is worth emphasing the effort made by the authors to deal with mechanics in such a way to develop in the student a critical attitude of mind while clearly linking mechanics to problems from the real world. Of course, the practical experience will show whether the proposed methodology actually helps to improve the students’ comprehension of mechanics.

Anyway, it must be stressed that we are dealing with a new valuable textbook to be strongly recommended to teachers of undergraduate courses in civil, architectural, and mechanical engineering.