LEARNING THROUGH A HANDS-ON ACTIVITY USING A PBL APPROACH
This paper reports the project developed by students of the 4th semester of Civil Engineering Program at Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo which has used the basic concepts of Mechanics of Rigid Bodies (MRB) course taught in classroom. In order to adopt the principles of the approach Project Based Learning (PBL) the professor whom teaches this course proposes the development of a project which the theme, in the two last years, was the Da Vinci’s Self-Supporting Bridge. The history tells that Da Vinci designed four types of bridges. The design of this bridge was the most simple and ingenious of them. The design of Self-Supporting Bridge was developed from 1485 to 1487 attending the request of his patron Cesar Borgia, and it was necessary simple assembly without woodworking skills by the troops. The design is held together by its own weight without requiring any ties or connections. The development of this project was part of the assessment process in the course. The students of the class were divided in teams with six members each one to set up the bridge. The project was developed in three steps. The first one was a bibliographic research on the issue. In the second step began the hands-on activity with the building of a prototype where test and analysis were made to understand the structures behaviour as result of a downward applied force. In the third step the hands-on activity was the bridge building in an enlarged size with the necessary adaptations related to the prototype, seeking to follow the original design, and under the condition of to allow and tolerate the weight of several people passing along the bridge. The materials used were wood cylindrical pieces with the appropriated sockets. All the pieces were prepared by the team and each step with the description of the building and assembly processes were reported in a video available on You Tube. Finally, the students answered questioned through two questionnaires applied to them to obtain their opinions and perceptions on the project. A closed questionnaire based on Likert’s scale and an open questionnaire where they could analyse all the aspects involving their participation in the project and what suggestions they had to do to improve the experience. In addition, the students could tell how the PBL approach help them in the teaching/learning process.