Teaching Vibration to university undergraduates

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R. D. Adams


This paper provides a description of an undergraduate course on vibration, given to second and third year students at Bristol university in the UK. The course, and my teaching philosophy, were developed over more than 30 years. The lectures were given in two 20-hour courses which were supported by an equal number of examples classes. Students were provided with a series of question sheets which contained questions from previous examination papers. In addition, laboratory classes were provided to give the students “hands on” experience on how to excite, control, measure, and to interpret various vibrating systems. The first set of lectures began with the analysis of a single degree of freedom system, adding different forcing functions and more degrees of freedom. The second set of lectures introduced continuous systems, consisting of bars, beams, and plates. The limitations of reality, particularly boundary conditions, was emphasized. Wherever possible, some artifact was taken to the lecture amplify the mathematics. I have interleaved into the presentation some of my teaching philosophy and how it is important in a heavily mathematical subject such as vibration to teach rather than to try and impress the students as to how clever is their lecturer. Finally, if the lecturer does not enjoy giving the lectures, the students will not receive that “extra” which distinguishes a good lecture from a bad lecture, and also distinguishes a good lecture from reading a text book.

Article Details

Author Biography

R. D. Adams, University of Bristol

Emeritus Professor of Applied Mechanics

Department of Mechanical Engineering

University of Bristol


Formerly Visiting Professor

Department of Engineering Science

University of Oxford